We’ve all heard about the damage that heat does to hair, so much so that we buy heat protecting sprays before using blow dryers and curling irons. We’ve also all seen the results of fried hair, and we definitely want to avoid that happening to us. You may be wondering why heat damages hair and what exactly ‘damage’ means. In this article, we’ll discuss how heat is damaging to hair, what it means for your current head of hair and what you can do to reduce the effect of heat while using your digital flat iron. What Is Heat-damaged Hair?
If you’ve ever smelled burning hair from your hairdryer or come across a clump of hair in your flat iron, you’ve noticed the effects of hair damage. While there are other ways to damage your hair, such as chemical treatments, heat damage is much more common, probably because using heated tools is much more common.
If you’ve gone a bit overboard on the hot tools, you might find that your hair feels much coarser than usual and that it breaks much more quickly. It also looks dull and lifeless
The result can range from a slightly frizzier texture to complete breakage and hair loss, and the more times you use heating tools on your hair, the more likely it is your hair will suffer severe damage.
What Does Heat Do to Your Hair?
So why exactly does heat damage hair? To understand how heat damages your hair, you first need to understand the structure of the hair strand. Basically, a hair strand is made up of a protein called keratin — you’ll hear a lot about this later on in the article as well. Keratin is also the protein mainly found in nails.
The hair itself has an inner layer and then an inner and outer protective layer made of keratin. The inner layer is made up of overlapping scales of keratin and is the part of the hair that contains all the nutrients the hair needs to grow. The outmost layer is also made up of keratin, but this time it’s arranged in such a way to add strength and elasticity to the hair.
So, what happens when you add heat into the equation? Usually, nothing bad; the hair shaft may swell up a bit, and some of the outer keratin can get damaged but nothing that can’t be repaired. Hair is a bit more durable and can handle temperatures of up to 300 °C, but if this heat is applied for a long time, the keratin in the outer layer starts to get damaged and burn away. This leaves the inner core of the hair exposed, which can be damaged by further heat. So, the more heat you add over time, the more damage you do. You wind up damaging the most sensitive parts of your hair shaft. It can get to the point where the damage is irreparable.
That’s why initial heat damage makes your hair more brittle and less elastic, since the layer responsible for strength and elasticity. More severe heat damage affects the cuticle layer of the hair shaft, which contains the nutrients that a hair needs to recover and grow. If this is damaged, your hair will look lifeless, frizzy and probably fail to recover.
Does Heat-damaged Hair Grow?
Yes, heat damaged hair will continue to grow. The reason for this is because heat damages the part of the hair that isn’t reproducing and producing new hair cells. Hair grows from the follicles found in the scalp, so unless you’re frying your scalp at the same time you’re cooking your hair, you should be able to keep growing your hair.
In fact, one of the most common suggestions, if you’ve damaged your hair beyond repair, is to simply wait for it to grow out and be more responsible the next time around.
Can You Reverse Heat Damage?
Yes and no. It all depends on how severe the heat damage is. You’ll never be able to restore your hair shaft to its original state, but you can lessen the appearance of hair straightener damage. If you’ve done serious damage to your hair, the chances are that you won’t be able to do much until your hair grows out.
Is it Bad to Put Heat on Your Hair Every Day?
Unfortunately for all women who love their digital flat irons out there, yes. Luckily, there is much you can do to reduce the severity of the damage. You can use specialist heat protecting products and low-temperature hair straighteners that don’t damage your hair as much.
By taking a day or so off between styling sessions, you give your hair some time to recover and repair itself. If you heat your hair daily, your hair doesn’t have a chance to recover, meaning that it’s more susceptible to getting burned and damaged the next time you apply heat.
There are things you can do to mitigate the damage done to your hair, such as using sensible temperature settings and using heat protectant sprays before applying heat. As long as you keep a careful watch on your hair and give it some days off to rest, you likely will not see serious consequences from heat damage.
Signs of Heat Damaged Hair
Now that we’ve gotten your attention about how easy it is to damage your hair, you’re probably wondering, ‘Do I have heat damaged hair?’ There are a few good signs to know that you’re on your way to unrepairable damage and if you notice them in time, you can take steps to repair your hair and prevent extra harm.
Your Ends Are Worse Than Ever
Hair ends are usually the most damaged part of your hair since they’ve been around the longest and have endured all sorts of abuse. They’re more prone to being brittle and falling off, and if they’ve been heat damaged, you’ll find the ends of your hair look lifeless and flat.
A neat trick to tell the difference between heat damaged ends and ends that are just tired is to do a small friction test. You can easily spot damaged hair because it’s got little white nodules over it. If you run the hair through two fingers and the tip breaks off, chances are you’ve got heat damage.
Using your ends as a warning sign is a good way to check for heat damage before it becomes apparent on the rest of your hair. By doing the friction test, you can see that your hair is being stressed and that you should start looking at repair strategies.
Your Texture Is Weird
Heat damage affects the structure of the external keratin coat of your hair shaft. This change is often reflected in a change in texture. If you normally have smooth, soft hair, heat damage can come across as a sudden coarsening of your hair. If your hair has experienced an excessive amount of damage, like leaving your hair in the flat iron for too long, it will actually feel burned, brittle and just not nice. It will also start to split a lot sooner, and you’ll notice a dramatic increase in the number of split hairs you have.
Hair Doesn’t Bounce Back
Obviously, hair texture is a bit of a tricky one if you have curly hair, and you may not notice the difference in texture so quickly. Instead, check if your curl is looser than usual or if your hair feels less elastic. Since the outer keratin layer is responsible for keeping your hair in its shape, any damage will translate to looser curls and waves. These loose curls don’t have to be all over your head; they can manifest in one or two patches where the heat damage is most severe.
Tips to Prevent Heat Damaged Hair
Obviously, prevention is better than cure in the case of your hair. Once damaged, you can never fully repair heat damage, so your best step is protecting your hair from damage.
Now, you can consider completely banning blow dryers and flat irons out of your life, but that’s just not realistic. Instead, focus on how you can minimise the damage and protect your hair during styling.
The first step is to always use a heat protectant spray before styling your hair. This creates an extra moisture barrier that protects your hair shaft for a while. Incorporate protein treatments into your hair care regime; they can help add extra protein to your hair, helping it recover from existing damage.
Second, try to avoid daily heat. It’s okay to style your hair every second day as this gives your hair the time it needs to repair itself. If you find that you’ve got thin hair that responds very badly to heat, this rest period needs to be longer. If you’ve got thicker hair, it may take more heat applications to harm your hair (lucky you).
All hair types will handle temperatures differently. Thinner hair doesn’t need much heat to style, and thicker hair is more resistant to heat damage. If you’re looking for hair straighteners that don t damage hair, look for a hair straightener with temperature control. By controlling the temperature you use and using the lowest possible setting that works for your hair, you can reduce the amount of heat damage you subject your hair to.
What if the Damage Is Already Done?
If you’re looking at your damaged hair from flat iron abuse, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, but how do you fix heat damaged hair?’
If your hair is severely damaged, your best option is to cut it off or at least get a trim to remove the worst parts. If you’re not at that stage, there are several products on the market that can restore some of your hair’s life. It won’t be a miracle cure, but it’s at least something.
Also, do your best to protect your hair if it’s already damaged by keeping it covered and out of the sun and avoiding harsh chemicals such as hair dyes and chlorinated pools.
Best Hair Straighteners for Damaged Hair
Now that you’re well aware of the risks of heat on your hair, let’s talk about the best flat iron for damaged hair. Even if your hair is suffering from hair straightener damage, it’s almost impossible to avoid styling your hair, so ideally you need to choose the least damaging flat iron that won’t make the existing hair damage worse.
Firstly, try and use hair repair products that can help damaged hair. When looking for hair repair products, look for ones that come with moisturisers as well as active repair compounds, such as shea butter and argan oil. These coat the hair, protecting and moisturising at the same time. You can also use replenishing masks once a week to further moisturise your hair and add a bit of volume and body.
So, if you’ve realised that your existing flat iron doesn’t help your current hair crisis, it’s time to invest in the best straightener for damaged hair: the GHD Platinum+. The main reason for this as our top pick is its SMART technology, which is frankly fantastic at preventing flat iron hair damage.
This predictive technology scans your hair during use, taking into account your thickness and your styling speed. The SMART tech manages the power so that your hair is at the optimum temperature of 185 °C at all times. Why 185 °C? That’s the temperature at which your hair benefits from heat without getting damaged or burned. Remember that keratin is an incredibly resilient protein and can easily handle 200 °C.
So not only does the GHD Platinum+ have a host of other useful features, such as universal voltage, auto-off and platinum plates, it takes the guesswork out of deciding what temperature would best suit your hair. GHD even claim that your hair will be 70% stronger and have 20% more shine than if you used another styler.
The main drawback of the GHD is its price, which is at the top end of the scale. If you’re looking for straighteners that don t damage hair on a budget, consider the Babyliss Pro OPTIMA3000 Straightener. It’s got a temperature control so you can set it to a lower heat to protect your hair while you style. It’s got titanium plates which generate negative ions to protect your hair and condition it during use.
Ideally, when looking for the best straightener for damaged hair, you want one that gives you as much control as possible to prevent further hair straightener damage. The GHD Platinum+ offers gentle heat with complete control and peace of mind.
Keratin Hair Straighteners
If you’re wondering, ‘How can I reverse damaged hair?’, one of the more recent options to help treat heat damaged hair is a keratin treatment where you expose your hair to keratin and use heat to seal it into the hair shaft. While mainly used for straightening hair, keratin treatments actually offer some benefits as well.
You’ve learned by now that the reason your hair looks and feel so bad when it’s damaged is that the protective keratin layer is essentially burned off. What keratin treatments do is they try to expose your hair to extra keratin in the hopes that some of that keratin will bind to the hair, making it healthier and stronger. Silver Bullet has designed a flat iron with temperature control that is specifically aimed at making keratin treatments more effective. Because the plates heat up so quickly, they can work immediately and distribute heat evenly over the entire hair shaft, giving you a smoother, healthier look, especially in conjunction with a keratin treatment.
Unfortunately for us, heat is something that is always going to cause some damage to our hair. Lower heat is always better, and there are several steps you can take to reduce the impact that your styling has on the quality of your hair.
Always make sure that you use a heat protectant before styling. It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference, and your hair will love you for it. When styling, use the lowest hair straightener temperature that you can get away with. Give your hair a break from time to time. All these steps will protect your hair and preserve its health and shine. If it’s too late and you’ve already suffered from flat iron hair damage, the same steps apply to minimise further risk. You should also then try to use repairing shampoos, masks and other products to nourish your hair back to life. An interesting option is using a keratin hair straightener in addition to a keratin treatment to replenish the hair’s keratin levels. No matter what you do, make sure always to take care of your hair. It’s one of the most visible parts of you, and a small amount of care can go a long way.