We know how it is. You’ve already taken hours washing and conditioning your hair. Perhaps you’ve even sprung for a pre-wash treatment like a hot oil or maybe the Olaplex No. 3. Your hair is in tip-top condition and has already got ample product in it. Do you really need to apply another before you heat-style?
The short answer is yes. Using a heat protector single-handedly keeps hair safe under the soaring temperatures of your hair dryers, straighteners, curlers and wands. The number of my friends who admit that they’ll often go in on their strands without any heat protection is baffling to me. It’s futile putting all that effort into keeping your hair healthy with conditioners and treatments and then using 180-degree heat on it without a shield. It’s like taking a dish out of a hot oven without mitts on—you’re going to get burnt.
“Heat protectants act as a barrier between the heat of the styling tool and your hair. It forms a layer of protection on the outer layer of your hair, minimising the damage that excessive heat can cause,” says Wella craft expert Jordanna Cobella. “In addition to this, heat protection also seals the cuticle layer of your hair, locking in the natural moisture, and smooths the surface for added shine.”
If you have coloured or bleached hair, like I do, it’s even more crucial to get protecting. As Cobella says, “Excessive heat can cause colour fade or irreversible damage to the structure of your hair shaft. Colour molecules only remain in the hair if the cuticle layer is present to keep the molecules in. In some cases, if the cuticle layer is compromised, colour molecules will slip away, resulting in colour fade.”
I tend to use a cream or spray protector for the initial part of my styling post-wash. So while my hair is damp, I’ll apply it in sections and dry it a bit at a time. Then when my hair is completely dry, I’ll apply a styling serum/oil hybrid like the L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Absolut Repair 10 in 1 Leave In Oil, as it gives further protection, and my hair feels silky smooth after using it. I’ve found this extra step especially important now my hair is bleached.
Good news, though: If you restyle between washes, you don’t need to reapply. “If you use a professional heat-protection spray such as Wella Professionals EIMI Thermal Heat Protection Spray and your styling tool does not exceed the temperature of 185ºC, your hair will be protected from heat damage until the next wash,” says Cobella. “However, it is important to note that excessive heat past 185ºC can cause irreversible damage to the internal structure of the hair, which heat protection cannot guard against.”
Through my adventures in heat-styling my hair, I have tried hundreds of heat protectors, and these are by far the best on the market.
This is my go-to for doing an at-home silk press. The 10 benefits include reducing the appearance of split ends, nourishing and detangling if you use it on damp hair. The finish is silk-like.
I will never be without this cream in my washday product rotation. If you’re a fan of the Olaplex system, you need No.6 to complete it and give the repaired look and feel that the bond-structuring system promises, but you can use this even if No. 0 through No. 5 aren't for you. The formula includes vitamin E and coconut oil for added nourishment and frizz protection.
This bi-phase formula is good for anyone conscious of their hair feeling weighed down. It’s really lightweight and won’t coat the hair. Plus, when it’s used in-salon by the pros for a stunning blow-dry, you know it needs to be added to your basket.
A really inexpensive gem that works perfectly for thick and Afro-textured hair. The formula is like a thick serum. It contains argan oil to smooth and protect and is ideal for if you’re straightening coily hair rather than for diffusing texture.
Thick, wavy hair? This one’s for you. The cream formula is light and non-greasy but gives the hair an incredible gloss once blown out. The polymers protect from heat and humidity while the wheat protein helps keep hair strong.
This primer is rich in protein, vitamins and nourishing oils like avocado oil in a light spray formula. If your hair has been damaged by keratin treatments or colour, this will help prevent further frazzling.
First, heat protectors don’t get more travel-friendly than this. If you have fine hair, you’ll love the light-as-air spray. Plus, it smells so fresh that it’s great for reviving second-day or post-gym hair.