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Bid Adieu to Heat Damage With 8 Hair Protection Tips From the Pros

Photo by Carol Yepes/Getty Images

Let’s face it—much like sun damage to your face, heat damage to your hair health is, to some degree, unavoidable. Even if you don’t own a blow dryer, curling iron, or flat iron/hair straightener, simply strolling through the street on a hot summer’s day can do plenty to your tresses. So while you can’t always prevent heat damage, you can at least protect those hair strands when they come in contact with their enemy.

How to protect hair from excessive heat damage involves much more than spritzing on a heat protectant spray or hair treatment. While that is, of course, important (we’ll elaborate more below), there are a slew of other factors that play a role in hair damage and protection from the heat. We chatted with three longtime experts who shed light on how to keep you from heat-damaged hair that’s parched or broken. They offer eight tips that will help elevate your hair care routine step by step, from the point of wet hair to dry hair and everything between. So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading for the right hair products to keep your hair texture and hair look in tip-top shape while ensuring it stays healthy.

About the Experts:
Joanne Starkman is the founder and president of INNERSENSE ORGANIC BEAUTY.
Philip B. is a hair and scalp expert, and the founder of PHILIP B. botanical hair care.
Tara Simich is the founder and director of MERMADE HAIR.

How to Protect Hair From Heat Damage

1. Use Silicone-Free Hair Care

Using hair care and styling products can be a double-edged sword. You often need them to improve and protect the integrity of your hair—but the more you use them, the more likely it is that their leftover buildup can lead to other issues. So yes, think twice next time you apply a leave-in conditioner, followed by a cream to combat frizzy strands, and coconut oil or other hair oil to lock it all in.

Conventional heat protectant products, for example, “are designed to coat the hair and secure it, much like plastic wrap secures food,” explains Joanne Starkman, founder and president of INNERSENSE ORGANIC BEAUTY. “But that leaves hair unable to absorb moisture. Instead of being protected, hair is parched and in need of vitamins and minerals. It’s then blasted with heat, which further dehydrates and damages it.”

The answer? Look for silicone-free products, as they lead to much less buildup. We love the BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Crème, which includes a triple threat of rosehip, coconut, and argan oils to heat-protect, seal moisture, and condition. 

2. Reduce the Use of Hot Tools

If you’re a naturally curly girlie who wants straight hair, for example, the heatless route won’t be your best bet. Generally, using a hair dryer or hot iron in some capacity is inevitable. But instead of daily touch-ups, try to make one hairstyle take you through several days of wear. Thanks to dry shampoo, silk pillowcases, and innovations like THE SLEEPY TIE, it’s easier than ever to keep styled hair intact (and keep signs of heat damage at bay). It may even be worth the investment to pay a hairstylist to give you a blowout from time to time, since professionally styled hair can last a whole week.

“Using hot tools draws out moisture from the hair and breaks down the structure of the hair,” Starkman says. “It becomes dehydrated and starved for nutrients. The end result is damaged hair that can show up as breakage, split ends, and unwanted frizz.”

Scalp expert Philip B. and founder of his namesake brand advises starting your hot tools at a lower heat setting and building up as necessary. “If you do need to heat style, remember that normal hair can be ironed at 300-380 degrees,” he says. “Thick, coarse, or extra-curly hair can go up to 350-400.”

3. Keep Your Hair Hydrated

If you place already-parched hair under heat, you can’t expect it to suddenly come to life. If you plan to apply heat to the hair, ensure the strands are hydrated, or use a prep spray stocked with nourishing, moisturizing ingredients. Starkman stands by her INNERSENSE ORGANIC BEAUTY Hair Love Prep Spray to set the foundation for styling and priming the hair. It’s formulated with vitamin B and rice protein to restore strength and shine while plumping hair from roots to ends. It also contains baobab and angelica root provide care for thermal, UV, and environmental exposure. Philip B. suggests his PHILIP B. Rejuvenating Oil once a week to lock in moisture and create a natural protective barrier against damage. We personally prep our hair with a weekly application of the TRISSOLA Intense Hydrating Mask. A hair mask not only nourishes and deep conditions natural hair but can also help with elasticity, tangles, hair breakage, and more.

4. Keep Your Body Hydrated 

Water isn’t just good for the skin, gut, and digestive system—it’s an asset to your hair, too. If your strands are hydrated, but your body is parched, it won’t be a match for heat damage. 

“Drinking enough water provides key minerals for the hair and its follicles,” Starkman explains. “I also find that clients who keep their bodies well hydrated tend to have healthy scalps, bypassing issues like dryness, itchiness, or dandruff. These same clients tend to have healthy hair without split ends.”

5. Use a Heat Protectant 

And for the most obvious option, heat protectant spray is always recommended when going in with a styling tool. Tara Simich, the founder and director of MERMADE HAIR opts for her MERMADE HAIR Mermade Mist—a powerful antioxidant elixir that works as a heat protectant and hairspray simultaneously. We’re personal fans of the lightweight, silicone-free LIVING PROOF Restore Instant Protection spray. It can be layered and is recommended for all hair types.   

“Don’t forget to distribute the heat protectant evenly, focusing on front sections, mid-lengths, and the nape of the neck where the hair is more vulnerable,” Simich advises.

6. Let Hair Air-Dry to Slight Dampness

If your hair is freshly washed for styling, let it air-dry up to 80% of the way. 

“When your hair is wet, it’s in its most vulnerable state,” Simich says, suggesting use of her MERMADE HAIR Styling Primer before hitting the heat nozzle. “Apart from the heat protection function, it also dries your hair super fast, which limits its exposure to heat.”

7. Keep Your Hot Tools Up to Date

While you may have a tried-and-true hot tool that’s served you well for years, it may be time for an upgrade. “It’s important to update your favorite hot tool every five years, as the internal heating elements can become compromised after continual use—meaning they aren't as effective,” Simich explains. “This means we start to hold them longer on our hair or we need extra swipes of our straightener to get the same effect as when it was new.” 

8. Conduct Monthly Hair Detoxes

As we noted above, regular application of heat protectant and other hair care products can naturally lead to buildup. Buildup, in turn, leads to the compromised integrity of the hair and allows it to become more easily damaged by heat and other stressors.

“It's crucial to incorporate a detox [or clarifying] shampoo into your routine at least once a month to effectively remove any product buildup that may not interact well with heat,” Simich says. “Product and mineral buildup on your strands may cause your heat styling tools to go rogue and damage your hair, so give your hair a good detox once a month, or invest in a shower filter, which will seriously save your mane.”

When in doubt, we always turn to our trusty OUAI Detox Shampoo, which includes scalp-loving ingredient apple cider vinegar. But remember, you don’t want to overdo it with these types of shampoos, because they can be stripping and drying if used excessively. 

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About the author
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira is a Los Angeles-based beauty writer, who has a passion for hair, makeup, and skincare. She contributes regularly to Mane Addicts and her blog, Skyelyfe. Her work has also appeared on Glossy, People, E!, Sweety High and more.
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Article Last Updated April 23, 2024 12:00 AM