Why buy a heat protectant for your hair?
Whether you’re flat ironing, blow-drying, or using hot rollers on your hair, you should be protecting it from potential heat damage. Heat damage can manifest in many ways, from excessive split ends and dryness in Type 1 and 2 hair to curl patterns that don’t return after wash day for Type 3 and 4 heads. A good heat protectant acts like a barrier to prevent heat from permanently damaging your hair shaft and cuticles.
What to look for in a heat protectant?
- Formula: Think about what ingredients are important to you and choose accordingly. For example, if you’re concerned about dryness, avoid heat protectants that have alcohol in them. Meanwhile, if you’re focused on nourishing ingredients like argan oil, Moroccan oil, or even vitamin E, be sure to check the ingredients list. Remember, the higher up the list an item is located, the larger the concentration present in the formula.
- Application: In most cases, you’ll come across two types of heat protectant application methods—sprays and serums. Sprays are more user-friendly because they come in spray bottles and can be quickly and easily distributed throughout your hair. But serums can be nice if you’re attempting more strategic heat styling techniques where you want to ensure that every strand of hair is properly coated.
- Heat Resistance: Just like hot tools can reach different temperatures, not all heat protectants are designed to cover all temperature ranges. You should match your protectant to cover the maximum heat output your styling tools can achieve. This means that if you have a flat iron that can reach 450 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want a heat protectant that’s effective at that temperature.
- Features: Not all heat protectants work to achieve the same results. While all of them should—at a minimum—protect your hair from heat damage, some protectants are designed to infuse shine or prevent flyaways. So, think about what features are most important for you.
How can you minimize the risk of heat damage?
In a perfect world, the answer to this question is to not use hot styling tools at all. However, it’s understandable that this might be a tall order for some people. Heatless curls aren’t always convenient or effective. So every time you turn to your trusty flat iron, curling iron, crimper, or curling wand, use a heat protectant.
Make sure you’re only using as much heat as is necessary to achieve your desired styling goals. Just because your flat iron can reach 450 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t mean you need to turn it up that high. Determine the proper temperature to effectively straighten or curl your hair with a single pass. Running your hair through a flat iron repeatedly may give you initially silky straight strands, but it also means your hair has sustained excessive heat exposure. And, if you’re using straighteners and curling irons, never use them on wet or damp hair, as this will permanently damage your hair.
Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
A go-to for all hair types because it offers consistent results.
Pros: When it comes to heat protection for your hair, Chi’s 44 Iron Guard spray is a fan favorite because it’s effective. It features a lightweight formula that works on all hair types but is paraben- and sulfate-free. Additionally, it’s designed to work with extreme heat, making it ideal for more intensive hot styling techniques like Brazilian Keratin Treatments and silk presses.
Cons: While 44 Iron Guard tends to have mostly glowing reviews, you’ll need to be mindful of your hair’s porosity before using it. People who struggle with dryness may find that it can make that worse.
Bottom Line: Whether you’re experienced with hair or a newbie, the 44 Iron Guard from Chi is a fan favorite that will work for most people.
African Pride Black Castor Miracle Anti-Humidity Heat Protectant Spray
A moisturizing heat protectant that's ideal for banishing frizz.
Pros: Natural hair is incredibly versatile since you can go from curly to straight with just a bit of heat. But protecting your tresses so that they go back to curly on wash day is important. African Pride’s Black Castor heat protectant spray is ideal for this. Along with adding castor and coconut oil for moisture protection, it’s also designed to banish frizz, ensuring that your straight styles stay that way for longer.
Cons: While this is a great product, you’re limited to heat protection up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In theory, this isn’t bad. But if you’re trying to use this for a silk press, which requires 450-degree heat or higher, this won’t cut it.
Bottom Line: For naturals seeking versatility, this heat protectant is ideal for most hot styling projects. The addition of castor oil and coconut oil ensures that your tresses are nourished and moisturized, but if you’re thinking of using this product as part of a silk press, keep searching.
Biolage Styling Thermal Active Spray
A vegan-friendly heat protectant that also works to provide body and thickness for fine strands.
Pros: When you have fine hair, you have to be careful about the products you pick, as it’s easy to weigh down your hair. The Biology Styling Thermal Active Spray helps to protect your hair when using hot tools but provides visible bounce and thickness. Additionally, you may find that your styles last longer when using this product.
Cons: Many reviewers noted that this product had a sticky texture which they found unpleasant. So, while you do get hold and protection, you may find that you’ll need to wash your hair more frequently, which might be a deal-breaker for people who want to stretch a style longer between wash days.
Bottom Line: People with fine hair will love the added body and thickness that this active thermal spray provides. Just know that you might have to wash your hair more often when using it frequently.
Sun Bum Heat Protector Spray
A styling product that you can feel good about using.
Pros: If you thought that Sun Bum was a brand that was just for skincare, think again. Their Heat Protector Spray features nourishing ingredients like noni and sea kelp extract. Meanwhile, this bi-phase formula is vegan and gluten-free but works to smooth and soften your hair while eliminating frizz. And you can rest easy knowing that it’s also cruelty-free.
Cons: Although this product claims it can help you dry your hair faster, which would be ideal for reducing heat exposure, many real reviewers noted that they didn’t see any difference in drying times.
Bottom Line: If you’re focused on ethical beauty choices, you can’t go wrong with Sun Bum. It has a vegan formula that’s cruelty- and gluten-free. However, if you’re trying to cut down drying time to get out the door faster, this might not be the best choice.
Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray
A heat protectant that incorporates a UV shield to protect your color-treated tresses from fading.
Pros: Whether you’re an at-home colorist who knows how to bleach and lay color with the best of them or someone who goes to the salon, the last thing you want is color that fades too quickly. The Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray is made with UV protection to keep your hair from fading due to sun exposure. Note that this can also be used as a detangling solution to add softness to your hair.
Cons: Moroccanoil is a popular brand, but this is one of the pricier options. Additionally, some people noted that the spray dispenser wasn’t as user-friendly as it could have been. Rather than getting a wide, gentle mist, many people were left with a bottle that splattered droplets of heat protectant on their hair.
Bottom Line: Those trying to keep their hair color as bold as possible for as long as possible will appreciate the UV protection this heat protectant provides. But the price may cause some people to think twice.
No matter what heat protectant you select, be sure to use it every time you reach for a hot styling tool. If you want your hair to stay healthy, split end-free, and with a curl pattern that returns, this is a must-have beauty tool that you need in your bathroom cabinet.