Heat Styling 101: 16 Ways to Safeguard Your Strands
Whether you use a blow-dryer, flat iron or curling iron, damage from heat styling is damage, no matter how you slice it. And brittle strands, split ends and frizz are just a few of the ways it shows up.
But knowing the proper precautions and preventative steps to take to protect your hair from heat styling, especially aging hair, is half the battle when you’re styling your hair with heat. The other half is perfecting your styling skills—and we can help with both!
Keep reading for expert techniques and protective tips approved by the pros, plus our favorite heat protectant styling products designed to not only reverse the damage that’s already been done but also stop future damage in its tracks!
Strengthen Strands in the Shower
Smart hairstyling begins long before your hot tools touch your tresses. Help cut down on damage to your cuticles and strands by reaching for a shampoo and conditioner designed to hydrate and fortify tresses. Our Wake Up Call Shampoo and Conditioner contain bamboo, which is high in silica and mineral content to help strengthen hair strands and support moisture retention. This dynamic duo is also clinically proven to reduce breakage by 98%.
Prep Hair with Heat Protectant Styling Products
Once out of the shower, a heat protectant styling product should be among your go-tos when styling your tresses. Apply it to damp hair before you blow it dry, and again before picking up your curling iron or straightener. Our No Remorse Heat Protection & Taming Spray is a lightweight heat protectant for hair that not only shields and conditions strands with a proprietary blend of vitamin E and nourishing oils—including avocado oil for heat styling protection and argan oil for shine—but also hydrates hair and reduces frizz, making it a good hair protectant from heat.
“One of the interesting things about avocado oil is that it has a very high smoke point of roughly 520 degrees,” says hairstylist Jason Cramer. “Most of your styling tools go up to about 450 degrees, so that means that the avocado oil in this lightweight heat protectant has the ability to withstand higher heats and protect your hair from those tools.”
Don’t Linger Too Long
If you decide a hot styling tool is a must for pulling off your desired look of the day, this is where your technique savvy comes into play. The key is to apply the minimal amount of heat needed for achieving your chosen look. For example, when using a curling iron, don’t hold the curl for longer than necessary—or wind too tightly for that matter. For sleeker styles, go for one pass of your hair straightener to iron out any kinks—at the right temperature a single swipe is all you need and will ensure you’re offering the heat styling protection your strands require.
Try Out Heat-Free Hairstyles
There are plenty of styles that don’t require heat. Updos, chignons and braids are just a few options for damp or air-dried tresses that you can style without heat. They’re also a great go-to when you need to recycle the previous day’s hairstyle and there’s simply no time to shampoo and start over. When you know the right techniques and hairstyling hacks, you can also create curls or waves, straighten your strands and even pump up your hair’s volume without the use of a blow-dryer, curling iron or straightener.
Adjust the Temperature of Your Tools
They call them hot tools for a reason—but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. To protect your hair from heat styling it’s important to remember that not all hairstyling requires your tools to be used at the highest settings—and not all hair types require or can take the highest heats some tools offer. Aging hair that’s fine and thinning is weaker and more prone to damage from heat.
If you’re diffusing curly hair, for example, a lower setting will do just as good a job at drying your curls without scorching your strands. If you have a natural wave, embrace your texture when blow-drying and skip the highest setting, which is best reserved for days you’re after a super-sleek look. 200 to 300 degrees offers sufficient heat that’s safe for most hair types. Fine, thinning hair will benefit from an even lower setting.
Don’t Delay on Damage Control
With most things in life, the sooner you deal, the better—and nothing is more true for your tresses. The faster you begin adding back moisture and addressing those split ends and frizz, the sooner you’ll be on your way back to your healthiest hair. One proactive approach we love is using a daily hair serum designed to nourish the scalp and strengthen follicles in support of thicker, healthier hair. Our Superpower Fortifying Hair & Scalp Serum is the gal for the job!
Do a Weekly Deep Condition
Especially in the winter when hair takes a beating from the elements, a weekly deep conditioning treatment is one of the best ways you can undo damage while preventing it from happening again. Our Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque is another good hair protectant from heat and contains a powerful plant-based butter blend that deeply penetrates and protects strands to instantly smooth and repair dry, brittle and unmanageable hair. It even helps to reduce frizz while adding shine! Got gray hair? Our Silver Lining Purple Butter Masque does all that while also banishing unwanted brassiness.
Keep Up with Your Trims
Split ends are a telltale sign of hair damage that’s due to overuse of hot styling tools. Frequent trims are the easiest way to undo any fraying and return your looks to their former health. Opting for a shorter haircut is another approach to ensure you’re working with your healthiest hair at all times. Shorter hair is newer hair, so it’s more resistant to the harmful effects of high heat.
Only Use Hair Irons on Dry Hair
You know that sizzling sound you sometimes hear when you use a curling iron or hair straightener on strands that aren’t fully dry? Or how about when you spritzed on a heat protectant styling product and immediately ran your flat iron through your strands? When you apply hot styling tools to damp hair, you’re essentially frying it. Why? Because heat turns moisture into steam which can damage your hair as it escapes. Plus, this steam can actually burn your scalp—ouch! Remember, even slightly damp hair is more fragile than hair that’s completely dry, and since aging hair is already highly delicate, why put it at even more risk?
Cut Back on Blow-Drying Time
The less heat you subject your tresses to, the less damage—it’s that simple. To reduce the amount of time your blow-dryer has to work, try to get as much moisture out of your hair as possible in advance. Wrapping tresses in a T-shirt safely soaks up extra water without disturbing cuticles the way a rough towel can. Air-drying for 20 minutes or so is also a terrific technique. If time is of the essence, start drying your strands on a lower temperature, turning up the heat only as a final step to smooth and shape your hair.
Pointing the nozzle down the hair shaft toward the ends helps to avoid direct heat on your hair. “Always aim the nozzle down the shaft of the hair and not up,” says hairstylist Jason Cramer. “This will ensure that the cuticle scales lie flat and that you get a really great finished result that’s silky and smooth with incredible shine from roots to ends.”
Choose Ionic Tools and Tourmaline Plates
Some hair tools have healthier hair advantages and are better at safeguarding your strands from damage when used with hair products that protect hair from heat. Ionic tools and tourmaline plates are words to know! Ionic hair tools emit negative ions, which cancel out positive ions (responsible for opening your cuticles) to re-seal cuticles so the essential moisture your hair needs to stay healthy and hydrated is locked in while excess moisture from humidity is blocked out. This makes ionic tools your go-to for fighting frizz and promoting shine. Negative ions also help to neutralize electric charges that show up as hair static. Plus, they reduce drying time by breaking up water molecules so they evaporate more quickly—and we just talked about the benefits of cutting back on your blow-drying time.
Tourmaline plates are a terrific option for fine, thin hair as well as curly hair, which is super-prone to frizz. They help to seal the cuticle and enhance shine while offering the added benefit of providing even heating so it’s easier to get your desired straightening results with a single pass. Tourmaline is also highly effective at lower temperatures.
Pick the Right Tool for the Job
Styling tools come in all shapes and sizes. And they are each designed to create a specific look. Knowing which tool will achieve the result you’re after is key. Not only will the correct styling tool offer ease in styling, but it will also help ensure you don’t unintentionally do damage. Size especially matters: When you use a hair straightener that’s too slender, for example, you may end up passing it over each section multiple times to achieve the desired result. This exposes your hair to harmful amounts of heat.
Apply Heat Strategically—and Sparingly
The key here is working with what you’ve got—and being smart about how much heat styling you’re using. If you’re going for a textured look and already have natural waves or curls, consider letting your tresses air-dry to protect your hair from heat styling and then applying a curling iron only to the curls that need that extra boost. Prefer a sleeker look? You can still use your hot tools sparingly to achieve your goals while making your hair routine more low-key. Try using your straightener only on the top layer of hair. The natural texture below will also help add body and volume beneath your chic and sleek style.
Don’t Heat Style Dirty Hair
The fact of the matter is that some products may contain ingredients that simply don’t mix well with the high heat levels of a curling iron or flat iron. A better way to refresh or restyle your tresses between washes? Try a noncomedogenic dry shampoo designed to add back some volume to lifeless strands or a curl-reactivating spray like License to Curl: Curl Revival Boost Spray if you have curls that are in need of some reshaping and added bounce.
Accept Mistakes and Move On
Clamped the curling iron too tightly and now you’re left with lines? The worst thing you can do for your delicate, aging tresses when using a hot styling tool is to try to fix a mistake. Passing the iron over the same section of hair a second or third time will likely only make matters worse and can even cause damage. Most hot tool mistakes can only be undone by re-wetting and starting over. Remember, tomorrow is a new hair day and a new opportunity to perfect your technique.
Give Your Tools Some Time Off
Your aging tresses are extra delicate and they require frequent TLC. So try not to overdo it with your hot styling tools, especially if you’re already dealing with damaged hair. We all need a break from time to time, even our tresses. Moderation and a mindful approach are essential, so remembering to give your tresses a break from your blow-dryer and other hot styling tools is one of the best ways you can protect your hair from heat styling.
Tell Us: How do you protect your hair from heat styling? Share in the comments below!
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Better Not Younger offers a wide range of hair products to protect your hair from heat as well as other environmental aggressors. Our No Remorse is a good hair protectant from heat as is our Hair Redemption Butter Masque for repairing hair from heat damage and boosting hydration to help prevent future damage.