Chances are, you don’t roll out of bed looking like Sleeping Beauty with perfectly curled hair and smooth tresses. In fact, most of us need a little help when it comes to styling our hair.
Heat styling is both a quick and easy way to achieve your desired look. Whether you’re using hair straighteners, curling irons, tongs or blowdryers, these tools can make your hair problems go away. Or, do they?
Why Are Curling Irons Dangerous?
Apart from being damaging to your hair health, heat styling tools can give your skin third degree burns if you’re not careful. What’s worse, if they come into contact with water, you risk life-threatening electrocution.
But let’s assume that you keep these tools away from both a sink full of water and your lovely skin. Are they still dangerous?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Heat styling tools do make your hair initially beautiful, smooth, and wavy. But they can also leave you with fried and frizzy hair, split ends, breakage and dehydrated locks.
How Do Heat Styling Tools Damage Your Hair?
Your hair is built up of keratin proteins and hydrogen bonds. They make your hair what it naturally is: wavy, frizzy, thick, curly, etc.
Now, when you use heat styling tools, like a flat iron or curling iron, all that high heat strips away these natural oils and proteins. The heat can actually break apart the hydrogen bonds, and literally change the texture of your hair.
So, when your frizzy hair becomes smooth and sleek, it’s because your frizzy hair has been drastically changed – the keratin proteins and hydrogen bonds have been damaged. Plus, the high temperatures dry your hair and leave it parched.
This is why your hair always looks fabulous initially. But when you routinely use heat styling tools, you can really wreak some hair havoc, especially if you have naturally dry, or colored hair.
How to Protect Your Hair When Using Heat Styling Tools
Even though heat styling does damage your hair’s natural proteins and oils, that doesn’t mean you should toss your curling irons in the bin. You just need to be a smart about how you use them. Here are six tips to get you started.
Let Your Hair Air Dry
Allowing your hair to dry naturally gives it a much-needed break from the damages of heat styling. You can apply an anti-frizz serum to keep the frizzies at bay. You can also wash your hair in the evening, and let it dry overnight. Try braids, buns, or rag curls to achieve an effortless wave that is gentle on your hair.
Limit Your Heat Styling
Anna Jackson, a hairstylist based in Chicago, says it’s best to “limit your flat iron / curling iron usage to 1 – 2 times a week.” It’s okay to blow dry your hair more often, but in general, the best way to keep your hair healthy and hydrated is to cut back on how frequently you use heat styling tools.
Instead of always using a flat iron to achieve a slick, smooth look, try different oils, like olive, argan and coconut oil, or anti-frizz serums.
Dry Hair Only!
If you’re pressed for time, it’s very tempting to whip out your straightening or curling iron and work through your damp hair.
This is a big No!
Always be sure to style your hair only when it is completely dry. That’s because your hair is very vulnerable when it’s wet.
Hydrate Your Hair
Whether you are an avid heat stylist, or only use it occasionally, always make sure your hair is well hydrated. You can do this with deep conditioning, or keratin-based treatments. Natural, DIY hair masks that use ingredients like honey, mayonnaise and egg are also wonderful ways to keep your hair moisturized throughout the week.
Always Apply Heat Protection Products
You wouldn’t spend hours in the hot sunshine without some SPF protection for your skin. And it’s no different for your hair. Before exposing your hair to the high temperatures of heat styling tools, be sure to use heat protection, or thermal styling products, like sprays, creams or serums.
Products containing silicone will protect your hair’s natural oils, proteins and hydrogen bonds. Heat protection products don’t just prevent damage, but they help make your hair more shiny, smooth and glossy.
And be aware: if you don’t use products made specifically for heat protection, you can burn the product and cause further damage in your hair.
Sebastian Professional Stylbrid 9 is just under $20.00, and is a multi-use product to protect hair without weighing it down. Another affordable option is Paul Mitchell’s Heat Seal, which leaves your hair soft, smooth and shiny amidst all your heat styling.
Use Temperatures Appropriate for Your Hair Type
If you have fine hair, or naturally dry hair, keep the temperature setting low. It’s true, it may take longer to style your hair, but you will maintain your hair’s integrity during the styling process. If you have thick, wavy, coarse or unruly hair, you might be able to handle higher temperatures.
Always test a small section of hair first. And always keep the styling tool moving to prevent long-term damage. Finally, if you ever see smoke, that means your tool is too hot!
Don’t Settle for Cheap Heat Styling Tools
You might think the beauty industry is trying to rip you off with their pricey heat styling tools. But a high-quality straightener or curling iron is well worth the money, and your hair will be grateful for this investment. Lisa Marie Garcia recommends tools with ceramic, far-infrared, ionic or titanium technology.
Not sure what to purchase? Look for blowdryers that have many adjustments and settings. That’s because everyone’s hair is different, and it’s important for you to be able to make all the necessary adjustments to suit your hair. These settings should include speed, heat and ion output.
Curling and straightening irons should heat evenly, and you should be able to choose the setting, depending on your hair’s thickness and texture. Look for ceramic or tourmaline tools because they offer more protection to your hair. Finally, choose a size and width of the heat styling tool based on the look you’d like to achieve.
If you’re new to heat styling tools, or you’ve been using them for years, be sure to protect your hair to keep it healthy and gorgeous for years to come.