Buying Guide for Heat Protectants
Why buy a heat protectant for your hair?
Whether you’re flat ironing, blow-drying, or using hot hair rollers, you should be protecting your hair 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 should you 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 other than using a heat protectant?
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, hair 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.
Our Picks for the Best Heat Protectants for Hair
Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
This is a go-to product 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 reliable favorite that will work for most people. Use it for intense high-heat moments on any type of hair that will leave you going back for more.
Straight Silk Spray with Moroccan Argan Oil | Hair Straightening Protector & Detangler | Alcohol-Free | Heat Protectant up to 450°F | Flat-Iron | Blow-Dry | Unscented | Hair Spray | MADE IN USA (6oz)
You'll find that this moisturizing heat protectant is 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. JuniorLabs Straight Silk Spray is ideal for this. Along with adding argan oil for moisture protection, it’s also designed to banish frizz, ensuring that your straight styles stay that way for longer. It has zero alcohol and damaging ingredients and can protect hair when heated up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: It may leave your hair feeling sticky.
Bottom Line: For naturals seeking versatility, this heat protectant is ideal for most heat styling tools. The addition of argan oil ensures that your tresses are nourished and moisturized, but the sticky residue may be something to reconsider.
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.
Redken One United All-In-One Leave In Conditioner | Multi-Benefit Treatment | Heat Protectant Spray for Hair | All Hair Types | Paraben Free
This is a styling product that maximizes its use and delivers incredible results.
Pros: There’s a reason why Redken is one of the most trusted and well-known haircare brands, and they do not slack with their heat protectant products. This particular leave-in conditioner moisturizes your hair, keeps it smooth and frizz-free, guards against breakage, and restores shine. It is made with a sulfate- and paraben-free formula that is safe to use on any hair type. Feel free to use it in damp hair as a leave-in conditioner or rinse your hair out with it again after shampooing.
Cons: The product has a strong smell to it.
Bottom Line: If you’re focused on getting as many benefits as you can out of a single hair product, this is the one. Just be aware of the scent that may be overpowering if you are particularly sensitive to smells.
Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray
This is 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.