We know heat isn’t great for our hair. You can swot up on heat protection for hair theory and have the best hair straighteners (opens in new tab) on the market but the bottom line is extreme temperatures can be damaging on many levels.
“Problems can, and often do, occur when we heat style,” agrees consultant trichologist Anabel Kingsley. “Heat causes moisture loss – and as blow-dryers and hair straighteners get rather hot, they have the ability to substantially deplete moisture within our hair shaft. Our hair’s elasticity and strength are largely reliant on its water content, so this can cause dryness, brittleness and breakage. The higher the heat, and the longer the heat is applied for, the more likely it is our hair will be damaged.”
That’s the bad news. The good news is that, of course, there are things you can do to help (and that includes sometimes going for heatless styling methods such as dressing gown curls) You may be familiar with the best hair dryers with kind to hair options, plus sprays and creams promising heat protection for hair. You may also have wondered if those sorts of products can really, truly protect us from the searing temperatures of our favourite styling tools?
The answer is yes, a bit. If you straighten your hair at 200°C every single day, no magical mist promising heat protection for hair is going to prevent it suffering some after-effects. Most protectors simply leave a light coating on strands so there is a physical barrier between scorching heat and your hair. This affords you a level of protection, but ultimately can only do so much.
If you really want the best heat protection, the trick is building up your hair's resilience so it can defend itself. Layering up fortifying professional treatments, daily hair care that fills strands with moisture, weekly repair masks and even the right hairbrush will make a difference.
Essentially, getting your hair in the healthiest, strongest, best condition possible before you come at it with hair straighteners will pay dividends at staving off heat damage. Oh, and maybe swap the heated tools and learn how to air dry hair (opens in new tab) when you can get away with it – your hair will thank you for it in the long run.
The best heat protection for hair tips
1. Wash with care
Consistent day-to-day care is what’ll really keep your hair in good nick. If you wouldn’t wash your face with soap, it’s also worth spending a bit more on shampoo without cheap, harsh detergents.
Micellar water gently cleans without stripping, and you can find it in Charles Worthington Everyday Gentle Micellar Shampoo – it’s super-light for fine hair. Alternatively, try low-foaming Schwarzkopf BC Micellar Cleansing Conditioner for thick or textured hair.
2. Strengthen fine hair in the shower
If your hair is fine, heat protectors can feel heavy and make it appear lank after styling, even if you do use one of the best hair dryers for fine hair (opens in new tab). Instead, pick a lightweight smoothing cream and apply it to soaking-wet hair straight out of the shower.
Your hair is more porous at this point so will absorb more of the product to defend itself from within. Wet hair also has a naturally flattened cuticle and the cream will help keep it that way.
3. Use a hair primer
Much like using a face primer before applying make-up is a clever first step, using a hair primer can help smooth the hair's texture, protect it from heat and allow you to style more easily in general, reducing contact with hot tools.
“My ultimate tip is to always use Fudge Blow Dry Aqua Primer before styling,” says celebrity hairdresser Jonathan Andrew.
“The product has so many benefits in getting you better, healthier hair, longer-lasting styling and also protects from frizz humidity and direct heat. This for me is the key to making all your finished looks better."
4. Blow dry with the right brush
“It’s not just heat that can damage our hair when we style, the brush we use can also cause problems,” says Anabel Kingsley.
“Boar bristles are quite coarse and scratchy so can slough off sections of the hair’s outer protective cuticle. Metal pronged brushes are similarly damaging as metal can get very hot, burning both your hair and scalp. Vented brushes are best as they are gentle on your scalp and hair cuticle and allow heat to disperse quickly, ensuring as little heat damage as possible."
5. Book in a bonding treatment
If you dye your hair it will be particularly vulnerable to heat damage. This is because colouring, in particular bleaching, knackers our hair’s internal structure by breaking keratin proteins and the sulphur bonds that join them. Typical repair treatments only smooth over damage but Olaplex is different. Step 1 is mixed in during colouring to protect bonds from breaking in the first place. Step two goes in at the backwash to strengthen further then you can buy Olaplex At Home Treatments to take home, which work more like traditional repair masks and give a nice softness boost.
Olaplex treatment costs around £50 at salons nationwide
6. Give curls a break
Sometimes the only way to avoid heat damage is simply avoiding heat. Curly hair is more susceptible to dryness, as oils find it trickier to travel down textured strands. Add damagingly high temperatures into the mix and it’s even more crucial to take a styling break a couple of times a week.
Spray in It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product to smooth frizz and condition. Pat hair dry, then twist with fingers or let it do its own thing to encourage natural movement.
7. Finish with a fortifying oil
Virtue Healing Oil is pricey but this brand packs so much technology into their products it’s worth investing. This oil contains a unique human keratin complex that is accepted deeply into your hair so it can get to work repairing from within.
Apply it wet if your hair is fine or dry if it’s thicker, for instant silkiness and a long-term strength boost.
As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.