The number one self-inflicted hair related issue that I have seen as a licensed cosmetologist is heat damage. Heat damage does not discriminate by hair type. The tips that I have complied below can decrease the potential of heat damage and therefore help you feel more comfortable when using heat tools.
Understanding heat and its effects
Before delving into heat damage prevention, let’s address what heat does to the hair when the proper precautions are not taken. When hair is exposed to heat higher than 130 degrees Celsius (about 265 degrees Fahrenheit), your hair can respond in many undesirable ways. Here are three of the more common effects of heat damage:
- Breakdown of the cuticle of the shaft—this leads to split ends and major frizz
- Removal of internal moisture from the hair – this leads to dry and brittle hair
- Breakdown of the hair’s cortex—this is where the hair’s pigment and elasticity lives
So, if you have ever noticed stiff hay-like or flat lackluster hair that breaks with ease (and those ungodly split ends) after heat styling your hair this post is for you.
Applying heat to wet hair in 7 steps
Now that we have covered heat and its effects, here are seven steps to take before applying heat to your hair:
- Shampoo your hair with a cleansing shampoo, rinse, and remove as must water as possible.
- Apply conditioner and rinse.
- Remove as must water as possible with a t-shirt and then add leave-in conditioner
- Let your hair air-dry for a few minutes. Allowing your hair to dry a little prior to applying heat helps the cuticle to close, trapping more moisture inside of the hair’s cortex. Type 2 hair: let air dry hair to 60-70%. Type 3 and Type 4 hair: braid and or two-strand twist your hair into 4-6 sections and let your hair air-dry in those braids/twist until 50-60%. This will elongate your curls and help in the stretching process.
- Apply your heat protectant from roots to ends—this should be done for each section. Apply heat protectant to each section. Applying heat protectant to damp hair also acts as a filler and sealant to the hair’s cuticle, resulting in more protection for the hair shaft.
- Blow-dry your hair with a nozzle attachment in small, easy-to-work sections. This will control the hair and prevent damage from tangles and getting too rough. Repeat until you have dried all of your hair.
- Conclude with a cool blast to ensure that the hair does not start to prematurely revert. Cool air on hot hair seals the bond that was created when blow-drying allowing the blow-dry to be more effective. Now you can proceed to style.
If you are going style your hair with a heat tool like a flat-iron or curling iron apply a styling based heat protectant.
Many are unaware about the benefits of using heat protectant prior to flat-ironing or curling our hair with a heating tool. It is equally important to use a heat protectant before blow-drying. Heat from a blow-dryer is just as intense and can cause damage equivalent to a heating tool.
While seven steps may look laborious, think of it as investing in your hair. Like all things in life, it is always best to use heat in moderation. With these steps I found that my clients experienced less heat damage and had longer wear of their heat styles.