If you enjoy styling your hair and often find you are heat treating your hair, be it with a blow dryer, straightening iron or any other tool, you will probably be concerned about heat damage. It is a very common problem with hair styling, and unfortunately, if you are not careful, it can happen very quickly.
We are going to talk you through the warning signs of heat damage, and what to do when you first notice it as well as how to prevent heat damage.
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What Is Heat Damage?
Heat damage occurs when we have applied to much heat or heat for too long to our delicate strands. Even strong and healthy hair is prone to heat damage, so to properly care for your hair, you need to know the warning signs of heat damage. These are the signs to look out for:
- Split ends – one of the most common signs of heat damage. Then ends are understandably the driest areas of our hair anyway, as well as the most likely to tangle, so they are more prone to damage. Keep a close eye on your ends and watch out for any type of split or knot in the strands.
- Dry and rough texture – if the cuticle is damaged, it can expand, meaning the moisture within is released and is no longer able to nourish your hair. This can make your hair feel dry and has a crispy, straw-like feel to it, not smooth and silky as it should be.
- Excessive hair shedding – we naturally lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, but if you suddenly start noticing you are losing more, it could be a result of heat damage at the roots. Take care if you are noticing sudden increased hair shedding, but there may be another reason such as stress, recent weight loss, hormone changes recent illness and surgery.
- Increased frizz – this can be a result of the hair strands becoming more porous due to the cuticles becoming damaged. Frizzy hair is more prone to damage because it is harder for your hairs natural oils to spread down the strands.
- Dyed hair color changes – this is also because the strands are more porous. You may notice that even using the same product your hair turns out a different color to what you are expecting, or you may find that it does not hold onto its color as long as it normally
- Dull – healthy, strong hair should appear lustrous and shiny, even if it is curly. In particular, your hair should appear shinier after you have washed it than before, so if you notice your hair becoming more dull, then there’s a good chance it has got some heat damage.
How To Repair Heat Damage
Now you know the signs of heat damage; you know when you need to stop heat-treating your hair and begin a new regime for your hair. The longer your delay treating the heat damage, the worse it can get, and then you’ll have a tougher job of recovering and may have to resort to more drastic actions.
Change Your Shampoo
Immediately switch to a gentle, nourishing shampoo. Gentle, clarifying shampoos are great, but shouldn’t be used if you have serious heat damage. Also consider changing to using cool or lukewarm water to wash your hair, rather than hot water, and cut down the number of times you wash it where possible. This enables your hairs’ natural oils to nourish the strands.
You want to avoid shampoos containing parabens, silicones and sulfates – particularly with heat damage, but they are good to avoid anytime.
Switch Up Your Conditioner Too
Combine your new gentle shampoo with a protein-based conditioner, which can help to repair damage in the strands by filling in gaps in the hairs temporarily. This helps the strands become a bit more resilient and can prevent further damage while your hair is delicate.
Follow the instructions carefully and don’t leave your conditioner in longer than recommended because this can do more harm than good.
Consider using a deep conditioner regularly. These are conditioners that you leave in after you have washed your hair which provide nourishment and help your hair to stay hydrated. Some of these you can leave in overnight, others are meant to be washed out after 20 minutes or so. Again, follow the instructions closely to prevent further damage. You can make your own deep conditioner if you prefer, using regular household ingredients such as olive oil. Olive oil can be applied to clean, dry hair and left overnight if necessary.
Give It Time To Recover
You probably won’t see results immediately, but after a few weeks or months, it is worth considering whether a restyle may remove the worst of your heat damaged-hair and prevent it from getting worse too. With the exception of split ends, it is worth not doing anything drastic with your hair when you first notice the heat damage. Split ends can be trimmed without affecting your hairstyle too much and this will prevent the splits from continuing up the strands. For heat damage which is further up the strands, give it time before snipping it off and see how it recovers with the right treatments we talked about earlier.
While you are letting your hair recover, wear it in loose styles like a relaxed plait, avoiding any tension from your roots to the ends. Invest in some snag-free ponytails such as the spiral hair ties or cloth-covered elastic bands. These styles will protect your hair from further damage.
Dry It Gently
You want to avoid blow drying your hair for a while, and if you must then make sure you only use the cold air setting. Otherwise, use a microfibre towel and use it to pay or press, never rub your hair to dry it. Alternatively, you could use an old t-shirt as they are very absorbent and gentle.
Avoid Colouring It
Just like you are avoiding heat treatments for now, try to stay away from coloring your hair for a while, as this can do similar damage or exacerbate the damage that is already there. Ideally, give it a few months before you color-treat it again, and if it is essential that you color it, go for a gentle, semi-permanent hair dye instead of a permanent one, as they tend not to be so harsh on your hair.
How To Prevent Heat Damage
As always, it is far easier to prevent heat damage than it is to cure it, so from the very first time you straighten or blow dry your hair, consider these methods you can use to treat your hair a bit kinder.
Always Apply Thermal Protection
You should never go anywhere near your locks with a blow dryer, flat iron of hairbrush straightener before applying some thermal protection! Think of it as a protective suit – you wouldn’t hop on a motorbike without one, so don’t heat treat your hair without protection either!
A good heat protectant spray or serum will give your hair a greater resilience against heat damage. Many heat protectants have ingredients including argan oil, vitamins and keratin proteins that can nourish your hair to improve their overall health. Many can also double up as a hairspray to help your style hold so that you don’t need to heat treat your hair every day.
Remove Knots And Tangles Before Heat Treatments
Whether you are blow drying, curling or straightening, the less time you hold the heat to your hair the better, in terms of your hair’s health at least. Therefore it is important to comb through your hair and remove all knots and tangles before you turn on the heat. This saves any knots from getting caught in the appliance and means you don’t hold the heat on one particular area for a long time.
Never Style Damp Hair
Blow drying aside – we’ll talk about that in a moment – never go near your hair with a straightening tool or curling wand unless you have thoroughly dried your hair. Your hair is far more delicate when it is wet and the dampness actually magnifies the heat and can fry your hair quickly, causing irreversible damage.
If you start to notice a crackling or fizzing noise, or any smell when you are straightening or curling your hair, STOP immediately and let your hair dry completely before attempting it again. You will want to be more cautious of that area of your hair when you return to style it with heat.
Blow drying is the exception to this rule, but it is not without its caveats. Before you start to blow dry your hair, remove all the excess water but gently squeezing it out of the strands and then gently blotting it with a towel. Avoid rubbing it as this can cause knots and the friction can result in frizz. Only once you have removed the excess water and applied heat protectant will you want to start blow drying. This minimizes the time required to dry your hair, so your hair is exposed to the heat for less time. Read our review of the top quiet blow dryers next.
Consider A Gentler Alternative
If you are regularly straightening your hair, consider switching to a more gentle substitute for your flat iron. Hairbrush straighteners are far less intense on your hair compared to flat iron, as they typically require a lower temperature and they are quicker to use, so your hair is exposed to the heat for a shorter time. Take a look at our review to find out more.
If you regularly blow dry your hair, consider upgrading your old drug-store model for an ionic hairdryer with infrared heat technology. This ionic technology breaks up water molecules so that they are easier to evaporate and the infrared heat dries the hair from the inside out, meaning less damage to the cuticles.
Prolong Your Style, Don’t Touch Up
Unless you wash your hair every day, or your locks really are like springs, ready to coil up or straighten out soon after you have heat-styled them, you probably don’t need to style them every day. Rather than straightening or curling them on a daily basis to maintain your style, try using some methods to extend the life of your ‘do instead. For example, wrap your hair in a silk scarf to prolong straightened hair, or get come foam curlers that you can sleep in to maintain curls.
If you really do need to style your hair every day, then try using a lower temperature when you do your touch ups. This will be gentler on your hair, but is still very effective at prolonging your hairstyle.
Eat A Healthy Diet
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and it sure isn’t an old wives’ tale. A poor diet can wreak havoc on our hair and skin but eating the right foods can make the world of difference. Make sure you are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as proteins. Try to eat a balanced diet and cut out processed foods and saturated and trans-fats, but eat a good amount of healthy fats.
- Vitamins – citrus fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat
- Protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and soy
- Iron – liver, fortified breakfast cereals, pulses, whole grains
- Zinc – oysters, other seafood, dairy, fortified breakfast cereals
Eating a healthy diet means providing your cells with the right nutrients to make their cell processes more efficient and successful. This means that the hairs that grow should be structurally stronger and the processes that keep the hairs healthy are improved and maintained, therefore increasing your resilience against heat damage.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Unless you stay hydrated, there is no way your hair is going to stay hydrated! Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water each day as an absolute minimum. This keeps your cells working efficiently, along with your healthy diet, so that your hairs are strong and healthy.
These tips should help you recover and prevent further damage to your hair. It is always worth taking good care of it to maintain its health, because it is so much easier to prevent harm than fix it. If you have found any other ways of helping heat damaged hair, let us know in the comments!