If you use heat styling tools on your hair, you really need to be using a heat protector for hair, here’s why. Every time you use a flat iron, hair dryer or curling iron you’re using heat to set your style. And while that heat can help mold your hair into the shape you want, it also potentially damages the outer layer of your hair. That could be the reason you’re seeing hair breakage, split ends or areas of your hair that look like a completely different color.
We asked our resident chemist and expert on hair damage Madison Keene, R&D Applications Manager at Not Your Mother’s, to help us understand the technical reasons you should protect your hair while styling it. She answered some of the questions we receive most often from NYM fans curious about everything to do with heat styling products.
1. What happens to hair when it’s heat styled?
Heat doesn’t just style your hair; it actually changes its structure. “Heat exposure can cause color shift on the hair, cuticle damage, and alteration to the proteins,” Keene said. She explained that hair is made up of different proteins, with keratin making up the majority. “Exposing that keratin to heat can lead to the protein becoming denatured, which basically means its irreparably altered.”
2. What are heat protectants and why do we need them?
Heat protectants are designed to aid in the protection of your hair from the damage that comes while using heat. Think of it as a primer for hair that helps you get smooth, shiny hair. Keene said “They work by imparting a lightweight film on top of the cuticle, which essentially acts as a layer of defense in combatting the effects of heat styling.” And that film is a good thing. “The film that’s left on your hair works to slow down heat conduction and distribute the heat that you are using more evenly across the hair shaft.” And while heat stylers don’t have magical powers, they do prevent hair from getting too hot. In fact, when you use a heat protectant while styling, like our Smooth Moves™ Anti Frizz Priming Cream, Keene said “hair will heat up in a slower, more gentle manner.” And while some of the information is a bit too technical, Keene explained that there are also other ingredients used in heat protectants that help diminish the heat damage due to their chemical structures.
3. How does silicone (or other ingredients) protect hair from heat styling?
Keene said that certain ingredients like silicones also make these products heat up very slowly. “Using a heat protectant to coat the hair before application of heat allows our hair to take on those same properties and effectively slow down (and even out) the damage we see from heat.” And no matter if you’ve got giant glorious curls or pin straight hair, all hair is comprised of the same types of proteins and bonds. “This means that all hair types will see damage from using heat styling – and should incorporate a heat protectant to defend against this damage.”
4. What happens to unprotected hair?
Hair that is not protected can see damage take form in a number of ways. Keene said you can expect everything from color shift (i.e., blonde hair turning brassy), cuticle damage, and split ends. But wait. It gets worse. “If there is moisture in your hair when heat is applied, your cuticle can quite literally “blow up” from the inside out as that moisture turns to steam. The steam has nowhere to go and will find weak spots on the hair cuticle to force its way out,” Keene said. And what happens then is that it permanently damages that layer as it exits the hair shaft. “Heat protectants work to slow down this internal “heating up” and to even out the heat across the hair shaft, so those weak spots on hair have a layer of help!
5. How much heat protectant should you apply?
Knowing how much to apply depends on the product itself. Keene recommends using “enough of the product to ensure that hair is evenly coated with a light layer of product.” Make sure to work it through strands from roots to ends. Keene said that even application will ensure that hair is “properly coated and protected to lessen the damage.” But try not to overdo it. Keened added that “depending on your hair type and density, it is possible to overdo application, leaving hair feeling weighed-down.” If your hair keeps feeling weighed down, she recommends looking for a lighter weight product format.
6. Use heat protectant every time you heat style your hair
Whether your hair is freshly washed or you’re just doing a style touch up, to keep protecting your hair – and color—you should use heat protectant every time you heat style. But you can also use lighter weight products for touch-ups and a more intense product for a full heat styling sesh. Keene said “Someone may use an item like Smooth Moves™ Anti Frizz Priming Cream on damp hair for heat protection, and then swap for a lighter item, All Eyes On Me 10-in-1 Hair Perfector, when reapplying before using a curling iron or straightener.” Incidentally, you won’t just be protecting your hair, you’ll be pampering it as well since our priming cream contains hair plumping hyaluronic acid, shine-boosting macadamia oil, and our own formulated Frizzlock Complex TM. The Smooth Moves™ collection is sulfate surfactant free, paraben free, and vegan.
7. Heat happens
It’s important to note that heat is going to damage your hair regardless of the products you apply. “It is one powerful force!” Keene said. That’s why you need a little something extra to protect your hair. “The job of heat protectants is to help you reduce the effects of the heat styling and give your hair the best opportunity to evenly distribute the heat,”
Keene said. And there are bonus results too! “A lot of heat protectants also provide amazing sensory benefits like frizz control, combability, and increased overall shine.”