Flat irons are an extremely popular styling device that helps you achieve a straight and glossy look, without leaving your home. However, the same styling tool that gives you that glamorous look can cause irreversible damage to your hair if used in an inappropriate way, or when used on hair that is not adequately protected. Hair straighteners use extremely high temperatures (up to 450°F), which can fry your hair if you don’t provide protection against heat damage.
Signs of Heat Damaged Hair
The high heat from straightening irons can damage the cuticle layer, causing the moisture to escape. Frequent heat straightening can deprive the hair of the vital moisture that keeps your strands elastic and strong.
Applying extreme heat disturbs your hair’s cuticle layer, making strands porous and leading to excessive frizz and split ends.
Heat damage is hard to undo, and heat destroyed hair cannot recover from the damage without cutting.
How to Prevent Heat Damage to Your Hair
Since heat-induced damage is irreversible, it’s is advisable to take proper precautions to prevent the damage from occurring. Here are some tips on how to use a flat iron without compromising the integrity of your hair.
1. Make Sure Your Hair is Completely Dry before Straightening
Your hair is very fragile and susceptible to damage when it’s wet. Flat ironing wet hair can lead to “bubble hair” unless you use a wet-to-dry flat iron. To reduce the amount of heat, consider letting your hair air dry instead of blow-drying it before flat ironing.
If you are busy and need to blow-dry your hair, make sure to thoroughly dry it after washing using a highly absorbent towel. It is recommended to use an ionic hair dryer that helps lock in moisture, reduces drying time, and tames frizz. Blow-dry in a downward motion to make hair as straight as possible before starting the heat straightening.
Wet & dry flat irons are designed to have an option for styling damp hair. The plates have holes or steam vents that remove water from your hair. Drying and styling your hair at the same time can be less time consuming than the traditional heat straightening method.
2. Do not Flat Iron your Hair on a Daily Basis
Flat irons should be used in moderation. Less frequent heat straightening helps reduce the risk of heat damage and gives you healthier hair in the long run. For very fragile hair such as fine, color-treated, or relaxed hair, it is not advisable to use a flat iron more than once a month.
3. Flat Iron Clean Hair
Make sure your hair is clean and properly protected before you start heat straightening. When you apply heat to unwashed hair, styling product residue and dirt could fry on your hair. Before you begin the straightening process, wash your hair using a moisturizing or smoothing shampoo and conditioner. Moisturizing ingredients help protect hair’s natural oils while smoothing components seal the cuticles and makes it easier to achieve a straight, sleek style.
Also, make sure to clean your appliance regularly to remove dirt and product buildup from the plates.
4. Purchase Quality Appliances
It’s worth investing in a quality appliance that will give you sleek hair without causing noticeable damage. High-quality flat irons require fewer passes to achieve the look that you are aiming for.
A professional-grade flat iron with tourmaline-infused ceramic plates is designed to evenly distribute heat and provide faster styling. Tourmaline infused ceramic produces negative ions that seal the cuticle and protect hair from drying out. Be sure that your device is equipped with multiple heat settings, so you can control the heat level in accordance with your hair type.
Vibrating flat irons use a combination of heat and vibration to glide smoothly over the section of the hair. Tiny vibrations reduce pulling and snagging, allowing for easier release of hair. This makes the heat straightening process faster and reduces the possibility of heat damage or breakage. This type of flat iron works best on thick, coarse hair.
Steam flat irons release steam from a built-in water tank to moisten the hair during straightening, so they are less likely to burn your hair.
5. Select Appropriate Heat Settings
Use your flat iron moderately and adjust the heat level according to your hair texture and condition. Fine hair requires lower temperature settings than thick or coarse hair. If your hair is fine, select a temperature below 325°F. For those with medium hair texture and fairly healthy strands, the temperature should range between 300°F to 375°F.
Color-treated and chemically processed hair is more prone to heat damage than healthy hair. Thicker hair can handle temperatures ranging from 360 to 410 degrees. For curly hair, it is advisable to stay below 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Use Heat Protection Products
To minimize heat damage, always use a heat-protectant before straightening your hair. These products fortify the hair with moisture and form a protective layer to defend hair against heat damage. Select a product formulated with natural and organic ingredients, as it will stay in your hair.
A heat protector should be applied to clean, damp hair in order to be absorbed into the hair shaft. Comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb to remove tangles and to evenly spread the product from the roots to the ends. This will enable the plates to glide smoothly and prevent the hair from getting caught.
If you have fine or oily hair, select a lightweight heat defender spray that will leave your hair feeling weightless. The quality nozzle is crucial for even spreading and to avoid product waste or build-up.
7. Use Bond Building Products
Bond Building treatments help to repair hair damaged by heat styling and chemical treatments. You can go to the salon to get a stand-alone reparative bond multiplying treatment or you can use at-home bond reinforcing products that are designed to maintain the result achieved by the salon treatment. There is also a number of bond reinforcing products in the form of shampoos, conditioners, leave-in masks, and smoothing serums. Incorporating some of these innovative products in your hair care routine helps your hair to recover from previous damage and become more resilient to future damage from hot styling tools, chemicals, and environmental stressors.
8. Section your Hair
For an easier and more efficient straightening process, divide your hair into sections and twist them up using large clips. Divide those large sections into smaller, easy to manage portions, based on the size of your plates. Clip up all the sections of hair except the one you have released to work on. Begin from the lower sections of your hair, sliding the iron down the section, and continue to the top focusing on one piece at a time. The section you work on should be small enough to pass between the plates easily. Straightening too much hair at a time may require extra passes which will increase the possibility of heat damage.
9. Keep your Straightening Iron Moving
Keep your hot appliance in constant motion. Don’t let the appliance sit in one spot for more than 3 seconds, as keeping the iron in one spot or running it too slowly will increase the likelihood of heat damage. Try to straighten each section in a single pass. If you need to go through the same section more than once, take a small break between passes to reduce possible heat damage to a minimum.