How to Reduce Heat Damage from Flat Ironing Your Hair

Last Updated on January 2, 2023 by Gaga

Flat irons are an extremely popular styling device that helps you get straight glossy hair without leaving your home. However, this styling tool that gives you that glamorous look can cause irreversible damage to your hair. The chances for hair damage increase if you use the appliance inappropriately, or when your hair is not adequately protected. Hair straighteners use extremely high temperatures (up to 450°F), which can fry your hair if you don’t use a heat protectant.

Signs of Heat Damaged Hair

The high heat from straightening irons can damage the cuticle layer, making strands porous and prone to frizz and split ends. Frequent heat straightening can deprive the hair of the vital moisture that keeps your strands elastic and strong.

The high temperatures during flat ironing can also weaken the hair’s internal protein structure, leaving your strands weak and prone to breakage.

Heat damage is hard to undo, and heat-destroyed hair cannot recover from the damage. Cutting it may be your only option to get rid of the damage.

A girl straightening the section of the hair with a flat iron

How to Prevent Heat Damage to Your Hair

Since heat-induced damage is irreversible, it 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 most 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 towel-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 flat-ironing.

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. An additional benefit is that 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 Daily

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 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 make 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.

A beautiful brunette using a flat iron to style her long hair

4. Purchase Quality Appliances

It’s worth investing in a quality appliance that can 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 to be compatible 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 than regular straighteners.

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 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.

Hairdresser holding a hair straightener

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 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 avoiding product waste or build-up.

7. Use Bond Building Products

Bond Building treatments help to repair hair damage from 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. You can also purchase bond-reinforcing products in the form of shampoos, conditioners, leave-in masks, and smoothing serums. Incorporating 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 the chances of heat damage to a minimum.

a fashion woman with heat straightened hair

About the author

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Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.