Heat may help straighten or curl your hair. But unfortunately, any form of heat on the hair coming from straighteners, curling irons, and even hot water ends up damaging your hair too.
This is because heat degrades your hair’s amino acids. The best way to prevent this is with a heat protectant. It minimizes damage or the degradation of the amino acid tryptophan by preventing the full transfer of heat to the hair’s cortex. According to scientific research, this is how it can help reduce the protein’s heat-induced degradation.
Unfortunately, I knew nothing about this when I started using relaxers a few years ago. My ignorance led to me having fried hair! I have now learned from my mistakes and learned what to do to protect my hair from such damage by using my favorite DIY deep conditioning hair mask.
There is an increased interest in the use of purer products on the hair. Women have now started including natural oils in their hair care. Not many know that oil is not the best option for handling heat damage.
Why use heat protectant spray?
Hair healers are a boon to the hairstyling industry because of the many advantages they offer as a hair healer and protector:
- They are like sunscreen for the hair. They form a layer that covers and protects the hair to prevent heat from reaching the hair’s cuticle.
- Protectants don’t just protect. Their serum also works like a moisturizer that doesn’t let natural hair oils evaporate.
- Protectants prevent hair dehydration and dryness. A layer helps dry hair by covering each strand for hours to replenish the moisture lost during heat styling. They are also easy to apply.
Applying protectants before using a straightening or curling iron makes styling easier because the hair proportions remain intact. The straightening and curling effects also last longer.
Regular application before and after hair coloring or bleaching helps to reduce hair damage. Even natural hair colors have side effects that protectants overcome to make your hair as good as new.
Heat Protectant Sprays Do
- Prevent heat from reaching the hair cuticles and causing irreversible damage and breakage
- Prevent hair from frying while improving the hair’s moisture content
- Work great on all hair types, including curly and coarse hair
- Reduces hair keratin degradation
What are Carrier Oils?
Most of them are vegetable oils extracted from a plant’s fatty portion like seeds, kernels or nuts. But not all oils, like emu and fish oil, come from vegetables.
Carrier oils are also called fixed oils because they are less volatile than essential oils. They can be mechanically cold-pressed, expelled or chemically extracted using a solvent. It’s the cold-pressed oils that are more preferred for retaining high nutritional values.
With most carrier oils carrying lots of organic acids like palmitic, stearic and oleic acids, they are great emollients that nourish your skin and hair.
They are also popularly used in cosmetics, cooking and for diluting concentrated essential oils.
With so many benefits, it’s not unusual to use some of them as heat protectants, right?
What are we looking for In a natural heat protectant?
The characteristics to look for are:
- Nothing with toxic or icky chemicals
- Something that minimizes hair heat damage because you don’t want it breaking, drying or splitting hair
- Something that nourishes and moisturizes hair
- Something with a high smoke point that won’t fry your hair. It’s still not decided whether oils with a high smoke point are useful in heat protectants. This is because, while these oils aren’t automatically considered great heat protectants, they can still transfer heat to the hair’s core.
What does this leave you with? These lovely oils that you may already have at home!
What Oil can I use as a Heat Protectant?
This is the most effective natural protectant and is comparable to the commercially made silicon heat protectants. It’s because shea butter’s thermal conductivity is similar to the thermal conductivity of silicone heat protectants, like dimethicone and Cyclomethicone.
Argan oil is called ‘miracle oil’ because it’s 100% absorbed by the hair. It leaves the hair non-sticky to both protect it against sun damage and repair damaged hair.
Grapeseed, sunflower and olive oils
Grapeseed, sunflower and olive oils are known for their high smoke points. This makes them effectively protect against heat treatments when applied to the hair before using a heat styling tool.
Avocado oil is a great heat protectant when mixed with any of the above oils and applied to the hair.
Refined coconut oil or avocado oils but not the unrefined versions.
What are Smoke Points?
Now you know about oils as heat protectants, it’s time to understand how they protect the hair from dryness and damage. According to chemist Yolanda Anderson, the smoke or burning point as it’s known in chemistry is the temperature where the oil starts smoking, discoloring and decomposing.
Scientists believe that oils shouldn’t be heated past their smoke points. This is when they contain large quantities of free radicals and a substance called acrolein.
According to Anderson, acrolein increases the risks of cancer. The fat tends to get closer to the flashpoint as it degrades. This is when it starts producing ignitable gases, which is why using hot tools on oiled hair can lead to toxic consequences.
Note: Smoke point ranges can vary wildly based on different factors. Use these following temperature guides as a starting point. Find more here for more cooking oil smoke points.
|Oils||Fat Smoke Point °F||Smoke Point °C|
|Unrefined sunflower oil||225°F||107°C|
|Unrefined high-oleic sunflower oil||320°F||160°C|
|Extra virgin olive oil||320°F||160°C|
|Macadamia nut oil||390°F||199°C|
|High quality (low acidity) extra virgin olive oil||405°F||207°C|
|Virgin olive oil||420°F||216°C|
|Refined high-oleic sunflower oil||450°F||232°C|
|Extra light olive oil||468°F||242°C|
Using Oils as Heat Protectants
According to The Beauty Brains’ cosmetic scientists and writers, ” heat tolerance or the oil’s smoke point is only one factor to consider, you also have to pay attention to how the product lubricates the hair.”
While you may experiment with oils when looking for DIY heat protection, oils alone can create drag. This may slow down the flat iron passing through your hair to induce more damage.
The proper heat protectants also help offset heat’s drying effects. A moisturizer and glycerin combination helps lock in moisture while a low molecular weight polymer penetrates and prevents heat from cracking cuticles.
Types of Hair Protectants
Most brands keep launching new fragrant hair protectants every day that are classified into two types:
Natural heat protectants
These products contain natural ingredients and are a better option because they have no side effects with use. They generally give good results but work slower than their chemical or synthesized counterparts.
Natural products are always better. Some natural oils that are great natural heat protectants are coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, and castor oil.
Non-natural heat protectants
These products are extensively available on the market and are used in boutiques or spas for hair styling purposes. They are very popular in hairstyling because of the instant results they give, like soft hair in no time at all.
The main reason for using a hair protectant is to prevent problems, which these products may induce in the long run. You can use them if you don’t dress your hair much.
Some examples of non-natural heat protectants
Dimethicone. The most common ingredient used in most heat protectant products is the moisture trapping agent silicone. It keeps hair strands flat to protect from heat and reduce heat conduction to the cuticles to give you glossy, soft hair.
While its high moisturizing levels ensure hair doesn’t frizz, it can make hair greasy at times to spoil the appearance.
DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer
DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer. This is a protectant that coats the hair to create a barrier and is extensively used to quickly detangle the hair.
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein. This is an ideal softener to use when straightening hair because it works by locking moisture in. It’s sprayed onto the hair during permanent hair straightening or smoothing to trap the moisture that may otherwise evaporate with heat styling. It’s also used in sunscreens to increase the lotion’s SPF and works similarly on hair.
Using Silicones as Heat Protectants
According to cosmetic scientist Erica Douglas, aka Sister Scientist, ” oils work like silicones in creating protective barriers from bad things like heat.” While some oils remain intact even at high temperatures, it’s usually the heavier oils that weigh the hair down.
This led to chemists combining synthetic ingredients like silicone with the natural goodness of oils for improved customer experience when using the product.
This is how silicone-based heat protectors give you the benefits you wanted from oils. So in a nutshell, though you may not like to hear it, silicones are the best heat protectants.
Here’s more about it…
Now I don’t like using hair products containing silicones, or ingredients ending with –zane, -cone, -xane or –conol. This is because they just coat your hair and do not let moisture in.
On the other hand, natural heat protectants are a better option, as mentioned earlier. You do need silicones if you are using some intense heat on your hair.
You need natural heat protectant oil for light to medium heat. You will need to use some heavier oil for more coarse or curly hair. Those with straight, fine or thin hair should be careful to not use too much of the oils.
This makes you wonder what you should do if you use silicones or you find out you have used too much oil. Actually, you needn’t worry. You just have to dilute it with 5 parts water to get the oils or silicone out of your hair. Make sure it doesn’t touch your scalp or you could throw your scalp out of condition again!
What Else Can You Do To Reduce Heat Damage for Your Hair?
While good heat protectants are important for reducing hair damage, it’s not the only option you have. There are other things you can do to protect your hair from the heat of hot tools.
It’s not advisable to rely only on heat protectants because your hair will eventually display signs of damage.
2 DIY Heat Protectant Recipes
Here are some of the DIY heat protectant recipes you can try at home. Choose the one that best suits your hair type or texture requirements.
- ¼ cup aloe vera juice
- 2 tsp grapeseed oil
- 2 tsp sunflower oil
- 2 tsp argan oil
- 2-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
- Spritz bottle
- Using a funnel, pour aloe vera juice in a spritz bottle. Then, you can add the 3 oil ingredients. Close the bottle and shake well to combine.
- Spray on your hair length until the product is well coated on your hair. Then up the heat and straighten/curl away!
- Almond Oil (grapeseed or argan oil)
- Coconut oil
- Hair conditioner of your choice
- 250 ml distilled water
- 2-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
- Funnel (optional)
- Spritz bottle
- Pour about 200 ml of distilled water into the spray bottle (do not pour in the whole 250 ml water) while leaving a headspace of 2-3 inches.
- Now add 2-4 drops of melted/liquefied coconut oil (you can use a dropper for easy use). Same procedure when adding the 4-5 drops of almond oil.
- Squirt 2 dime-sized drops of your favorite conditioner and add to the spray bottle as well. Take precaution not to use too much conditioner as it may work up some excess lather in the bottle spray. Though a little foaming may occur when adding the conditioner, this is not an issue.
- You can also add a bit drops of hairspray (but this is optional). Another option is to add 2-3 drops of dry oil like argan oil or perhaps essential oils like lavender or rosemary oil, but these are all optional.
- Add the remaining 50 ml of distilled water and shake well. Normally, the spray mixture will lather up a bit (it is due to the conditioner being added). But once the mixture has settled down, it will turn to a milky white or a transparent liquid.
How to use the DIY heat protectant
- Make sure you keep the spray bottle at least six inches from hair, so it mists hair evenly. Use your hands to work the spray through your hair until all your hair is evenly coated.
- Avoid spraying on too much of the spray. Too much spray will make your hair wet, which is something you want to avoid. Even if you have thick hair, just two or three squirts is enough product to spread through one section of your hair before using heat on it.
- Before you begin using the heat on your hair, make sure that you give the spray a minute to dry out a bit, especially if you accidentally dampen it too much.
- Once the spray has dried a bit, you’re ready to use the heat on your hair. You’ll be able to create beautiful hairstyles without worrying about damaging your locks.
Hair protection tips worth knowing:
#1. Don’t use hot tools on Unwashed Hair
Unwashed hair usually contains dust, dead skin cells, grime, and even your hair’s natural oils. They are usually found in clumps, and not evenly spread through your hair.
This means that using hot tools on different parts of your hair leads to it receiving different amounts of heat. You end up making multiple passes because your hair doesn’t respond to the styling. This only leads to more heat damage.
#2. Use smoothing shampoos
Women who style hair regularly should use smoothing shampoos containing silicones and polymers that coat your hair even after rinsing it.
The coating not only protects your hair from heat damage but also helps your hair respond better to styling.
While it’s okay to use these shampoos with or without heat protectants, we recommend using less oily heat protectants when doing this.
#3. Never use hot tool on wet hair
Using hot tools on dripping wet hair is a no-no because the extra water quickly fries your hair. So, remove all excess water before using a hot tool. You may wring your hair, shake it, use a microfiber towel, wear a microfiber hair cap or just let it air dry. Your hair may at the most be damp when using hot tools.
#4. Minimize the Use of Hot Tools
The best way to automatically reduce heat damage to your hair is by reducing the use of hot tools and heat exposure. Try to let your hair air dry as much as possible.
Use more non-heat hair curlers or a paddle brush with the age-old 100 strokes technique to straighten hair.
#5. Use the latest hot tools available
If you are one of those women who needs heat to style hair, at least ensure you use the latest tool with the latest technology.
Don’t use hot tools without ceramic technology but focus more on tools using ionic and infrared technologies.
#6. Use the right temperatures to style hair
It’s not necessary to always use the hot tool’s maximum temperature for hair styling purposes. Temperatures above 400 degrees F is usually enough for very thick, coarse and curly hair, which you are not likely to have!
The ideal temperature for your hair is lower than 400 degrees F. This is why it’s better to buy a hot tool that has various temperature settings. This way you can select the ideal temperature for your hair type.
It’s better to start styling your hair at the lowest temperatures. You can then gradually increase it until you find a temperature and balance between the heat used and the speed at which your hair styles.
#7. Always keep the hot tool moving
It’s not advisable to keep the hot tool in a single place on your hair, or even pause it for more than a few seconds. This only leads to that part of your hair getting overexposed to the heat.
A moving hot tool is always better for reducing heat damage.
#8. Don’t style same hair sections more than once
There is a common rule professional hair stylers follow called ‘one and done’. It means you don’t use the hot tool to make multiple passes on a section. This only increases the amount of heat the section receives.
This may be difficult to follow at the start because you need time to find the right styling speed. You’ll be able to master the rule if you are persistent and after a few tries.
It’s not always a natural ingredient that’s the best candidate for the job. You must avoid smoke points for your safety and your hair needs ingredients to combat moisture loss.
There are lots of silicone heat protectants like dimethicone and Cyclomethicone that coat hair well to create a thin water and heat resistant coating.
There are natural oils that work like silicones to effectively protect hair from heat. As Sister Scientist mentions, there are many other products with natural and synthetic ingredients that make healthier and safer heat protectants.
So if you plan to use oil, make sure you also use a lightweight leave-in conditioner or moisturizer. Using only an oil coating will leave you with dry, fragile hair strands.
We recommend using products specially formulated for protecting your hair from possible hair damage. This is because it’s quite difficult to reverse any of the damages inflicted on your hair from heat and hot tools.