Here's What You Need to Know About "Bubble Hair"

You might not know what "bubble hair" is, but if you've used heat stylers on damp or wet hair, chances are that you've dealt with the fallout from it. And if you’ve been inconsistent with using a heat protectant before blow-drying, curling or flat-ironing your locks, then you probably have some heat damage, especially at the ends of your hair. But this damage might not technically qualify as bubble hair. So how can you tell the difference?


Keep reading to learn all about the signs and consequences of bubble hair for your delicate, aging tresses. We discuss whether heat damage causes hair loss and how a heat-damaged hair treatment plan that includes routine trims at the salon and the use of a heat protectant for wet hair are essential in healing your tresses and kicking brittle, damaged hair to the curb!


What Is Bubble Hair?


Bubble hair occurs when extreme heat is applied to wet hair strands. Hair effectively "cooks" when high heat is applied while it is wet. This is why it's so important to your hair health to wait until your hair is completely dry before heat styling with tools like flat irons and curling irons, and to religiously use a heat protectant for wet hair even before blow-drying hair.


Bubble hair contains pockets of air bubbles that result in weakened, brittle strands—and this bubbling of the hair shaft can't be undone. Our hair cuticles lay in a roof-shingle pattern, and when they are singed, the "shingles" lift, compromising the integrity and strength of our strands.


What Are the Signs of Heat-Damaged Hair?


Bubble hair usually presents as hair that feels rough, dry or becomes unmanageable to style. Here are the tell-tale signs of heat damaged hair:


  • Thinning (especially at the ends of hair)
  • Breakage
  • Frizz
  • Flyaways
  • Rough hair texture
  • Hair that feels "crunchy" (especially at the ends)
  • Dullness
  • Split ends


Does Heat Damage Cause Hair Loss?


Heat damage often causes hair thinning and breakage, but it doesn't cause hair loss in the medical sense. In other words, thermal damage to hair doesn't affect hormones or the time spent in anagen, catagen or telogen stages of hair growth.


However! Singeing your locks can make your hair appear thinner over time because damaged, weak strands are more likely to break off with standard brushing and styling. And in some cases, localized alopecia may develop. To help prevent heat damage and thinning hair from heat styling, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using your flat irons and curling irons on a low to medium setting and keeping their use to every other day, at the most.

The temperature of your blow-dryer matters, too. While blow-dryers are designed to be used on wet hair, drying soaking wet hair on the highest setting can lead to bubbles. This is why we always recommend you either gently towel-dry or air-dry your tresses first, or use your blow-dryer on a warm setting to get some of the water out before using a higher setting.


How Can I Protect and Repair Heat-Damaged Hair?


Because heat styling is responsible for bubble hair, there are two ways to protect your hair against it: Style your locks without heat or on lower settings and always use a heat protectant product when applying heat to your hair. Think of a heat protectant for your hair in the same way you think about sunscreen for your skin. Both provide a thin, physical barrier to protect against environmental concerns like UV rays and heat. A good, hydrating heat protectant will flatten and seal cuticles, preventing damage when heat is applied.


But if you've slacked on protecting your hair from heat, there's good news! Our hair regrows, thankfully, so eventually your stylist will be able to snip off the damage. And there are tons of products you can apply to your wet heat-damaged hair to help protect and heal it. Here is our favorite heat-damaged hair treatment lineup of products and styling tips:


  1. Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner

Repairing heat-damaged hair begins in the shower. Because wet heat-damaged hair is brittle, adding a hydrating, repairing shampoo and conditioner like our Second Chance Repairing Duo helps support weakened strands by smoothing and strengthening damaged cuticles and hydrating hair to prevent further breakage.


  1. Moisture-Sealing Butter Mask

One of our favorite products for heat-damaged hair is our Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque. Packed with our proprietary plant-based butter blend, it seals in moisture before you apply your heat protectant to your wet heat-damaged hair to support healthy, strong hair. For extra hydration, post-styling, add a small amount of Hair Redemption as a smoothing cream to ends of hair, as these tend to be driest.


  1. Frizz-Taming Heat Protectant

We always love when our hair products do double-duty, and having a heat protectant that also smooths frizz and flyaways means one less bottle is taking up important real estate on our bathroom shelves! Our No Remorse Heat Protection & Taming Spray, with avocado and argan oils, smooths frizz and can be applied to your wet heat damaged hair after washing it or reapplied throughout the day on dry hair to keep your style looking sleek. Plus, it protects against the hottest heat styler you can throw at it—up to 450F!


  1. Low-Heat Styling

Generally, the heat hot enough to cause bubble hair comes from flat irons and curling irons—but as we mentioned, blow-dryers can definitely cause heat damage. They just don't often cause our hair to bubble because we can adjust the distance we hold the dryer from our hair. And the further out we hold the hairdryer, the more the heat has a chance to disperse.

A lot of mid-to high-end blow-dryers now come with "cool" and "warm" settings, in addition to the standard hot—so take advantage of that! Flat irons and curling irons also have lower heat settings, which are recommended for aging hair, especially that’s fine or thinning. Always start at the lowest setting first to see if that gets the job done—and remember, no more than one or two (max!) passes per section of hair!


  1. Heat-Free Hairstyling

To give your heat-damaged hair a reprieve, try using heatless styling to achieve the look you want. We compiled a list of 17 heat-free hairstyling hacks to work on all hair lengths and textures. Play around with these, and have fun discovering a new heatless go-to style!


And to really treat your tresses—especially if you're dealing with heat-damaged curls—try hair plopping for a no-heat method to define curls and lock moisture into parched tresses. Check out our guide to hair plopping here!



Tell Us: Have you dealt with bubble hair, and what are your favorite products for heat-damaged hair? Share your favorite healing and prevention tips in the comments below!


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