Which of these best describes your daily hair routine? A. Throw on a hat or fix a quick ponytail and go. B. Wash, comb through and let air dry on your way to work. Or, C: Wash, condition, blow dry, flat iron and style. If you’re type A, I’m officially jealous. For those of you in the B category, your hair says thanks. If you answered C, honey, we need to talk.
I know, I know: you’ve got that cut that just doesn’t look right without the daily DIY blow out. Or your hair is unruly””it needs powerful, hot wind or a firm swipe with ceramic plates to keep it in line. But what happens when heat tools become a regular part of hair care is a horror story you don’t want your strands to star in. Trust me. Once the damage is done, there’s no going back.
So what do you do if your mane absolutely requires the extra maintenance? Besides brushing up on the basic rules of heat styling (did you ever actually read those instructions that came with your curling iron?), there are plenty of products that help protect against frizz, split ends and breakage brought on by common hair tools. Here’s what I recommend:
The blow dry wars
- Sopping-wet hair takes longer to dry, which means more exposure to damaging heat. Let your hair dry naturally (the longer the better) before breaking out the blow dryer.
- Never, I repeat never, hold the nozzle closer than 6 inches to your scalp. Eight to 10 inches is an ideal distance.
- Dry the most difficult part””the underside””first. If you start at the top, the more delicate outer layer of hair that dries quickly will be overexposed to heat while the under layer takes its time catching up. The best method is to bend over, flip your hair forward and start drying at the base of your neck.
- Don’t aim the nozzle at any one area for too long. Shake the dryer back and forth and keep it moving , giving equal, short amounts of time to each section.
- Before you even flip on the switch, apply a protectant such as Alterna Bamboo Smooth Anti-Breakage Thermal Protectant Spray, which is clinically proven to reduce breakage from heat tools by 87 percent by coating strands with proteins that provide a protective barrier.
- You can also defend against damage with Blowpro Ready Set Blow Express Blow Dry Lotion, a frizz-taming, static-fighting protein blend that’s actually designed to speed up the drying process, shortening the time hair is exposed to heat.
Heat tool hang-ups
- Think dryers are harmful? You won’t know true damage until you try a flat iron or curling iron. These devices heat up to 400 degrees Farenheit and can terrorize your tresses when not used properly. Always. Read. The. Manufacturer’s. Instructions.
- Don’t skimp when picking a heat tool. Cheaper models are made with poor-quality materials known to damage hair, and they often don’t have adjustable settings that allow you to customize use to your hair type. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra money for a professional-grade product, preferably one recommended by a stylist, especially if you straighten or curl often.
- If you have fine or already-damaged hair, use a lower heat setting. For thick or curly hair, higher heat may be needed to get the results you want. Experiment until you find the right temp for your type.
- Use hair clips or a soft elastic bands to section off hair before straightening or curling. Style one section at a time, starting with the under layer. Like drying, if you start at the top and work inward, the outer layer of your hair will become scorched.
- Never, EVER hold a heat tool on any section of your hair for longer than 3 or 4 seconds. Consider yourself warned!
- Protection is paramount. Go heavy duty with Not Your Mother’s Beat the Heat Thermal Shield Spray, a maximum-strength, salon-strength formula that guards hair against moisture loss, with the bonus benefit of providing light hold (so you don’t need extra finishing spray). You could also try FX Flat Iron Heat Memory Spray, which works to protect already-dry hair from heat while locking in conditioning elements for extra shine.
- If you only style with heat tools occasionally, try Dessert Essence Coconut Hair Defrizzer & Heat Protector, a 100% natural, vegan, nutrient-infused serum that acts as a leave-in conditioner, moisturizing hair with jojoba and coconut oils, while also sealing strands with panthenol to protect against heat damage.
The Beauty Boss blogs are compiled by our staff editors Rebecca Chopin and Katie Kaleita, who work closely with the Vitacost.com beauty department experts to bring you the most relevant, up-to-date information on natural beauty and anti-aging tips and trends.