Are you a heat abuser–ahem, errah power user?
Well, you are not alone! One Cosmopolitan market research poll found that women (18-24 yrs old) are some serious heat abusers! Nearly 88 percent regularly use blow dryers, 71% use flat irons, and 64% use curling irons to style their hair. And even with so many healthy hair fanatics now opting to go “heat-free” for stretches at a time, with numbers like that, it’s still no wonder that heat damage is so rampant!
Most of us know that the healthiest way to dry the hair is naturally in the air- and the safest way to style it is heat-free. But since going heat-free is not always possible (or fun), we’ll talk about ten ways that you can reduce damage from your heat appliances when you do decide to use them for an occasional blow dry, pressing or heat straightening.
10 Quick Ways to Avoid Heat Damage from Your Heat Appliances:
- Start off Smart. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you even begin! Only use heat appliances on hair that is already in good condition. Damaged hair will always falter with regular heat exposure, and in most cases, give you less than stellar results anyway. Start with hair that has been deep conditioned within the last day or so for best results.
- Know Your Status. Knowing your own heat tolerance is important. Some hair types (usually coarser, thicker, relatively straight, wavy or loosely curly strands) can handle heat styling better than others long term. Just because your sister can fire up her irons daily with very little damage, doesn’t mean that you’re cleared, too. Remember, chemically processing the hair will reduce your hair’s heat tolerance.
- Make it Measurable. Work with appliances, especially flat irons, that have dedicated temperature dials with actual, measurable readings—not just High and Low, or On and Off! This way, you’ll know immediately how much heat you’re working with. Healthy hair burns at just over 450F. (Notice, the emphasis on healthy hair.) This means that if your hair is compromised in any way, you can rest assured that your heat tolerance is much lower than this. If your hair is fine or fragile use temps no higher than the upper 200s or low 300s. If your hair is a medium texture and fairly healthy, 300 to 375 should work. If your hair is coarse (thick strands), you can venture above 350F to the low 400s fairly easily- but with all hair types, start low and work upward until you find a comfortable temperature zone.
- Be Cold. Heat damage is no fun. To prevent burnout, become one with your blow dryer’s cold shot button!
- Suit Up! You wouldn’t walk into a war zone without your protective gear! Always apply a thermal/heat-protectant spray, cream or serum to the hair before heat styling. Silicone based products offer the best heat protection.
- Keep Your Distance. The more direct the heat contact, the more potential for hair damage in the long run. Hold blow dryers about 6 to 10 inches away from your head, and direct the air down the hair shaft—not at the head. Use a diffuser attachment when possible for more even heat distribution. When straightening the hair with an iron, slowly decrease your ironing tension as you move along the hair shaft. The hair nearest the very ends is the most vulnerable to heat damage and has a much a lower heat tolerance- so ease up.
- Keep it Moving. Allowing heat to concentrate or linger in sections will dry your hair faster and/or straighten it better, but it’s a quick way to guarantee high, mid, and low-shaft split ends. Keep your heat source moving! Do not leave heat appliances on the hair for more than a few seconds.
- Let Moisture Work for You. Hair is most fragile when wet, but the moisture in our hair works as a buffer against heat damage by slowing the rate and distribution of heating. Hair that is adequately moisturized will heat more evenly and safely than dry, brittle hair- which heats rapidly and easily deteriorates the fiber. Blow dry your hair on the warmest setting while the hair is dampest, and reduce the blow dryer’s heat and speed as your hair begins to dry. You want to do the blowing when your hair’s moisture content is the highest, and then adjust the heat downward as the moisture leaves your hair. Warm, not hot air is key. It’ll take longer to dry, but you’ll have dry hair that is also quite hydrated in the end.
- Let Your Fingers Do the Talking. Dry your freshly detangled hair in sections and use your fingers, or a wide toothed comb, to carefully stretch, separate, loosen and remove any other tangles while your hair is drying. If you use high-tension heat styling methods such as blowing out the hair with a round brush- do so in moderation, and only if your hair can tolerate it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with serious high and mid-shaft split ends. The curlier your hair, the more your fingers should do!
- Make a Clean Sweep. Never use heat on hair that is dirty or laden with product buildup. Starting with clean, conditioned hair will give you a fresher, longer lasting style! Also, make sure that your flat iron or curling iron plates are clean before running them through your hair. Product crud can easily snag and abrade your hair.
Good luck!!! For more great tips on preventing heat damage, check out The Science of Black Hair book– or this oldie but goodie article: Heat Addict? How to Prevent Heat Damage to Black Hair.