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Beauty

Don’t skip this step if you want healthy hair

A hairstylist explains why this step is integral.

A person with long dark hair shopping for hair products in a store aisle. Credit: Getty Images / JackF

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Everyone can relate to rushing through their morning routine to get out of the house faster. Maybe, for you, this means skipping shaving in the shower, forgoing makeup, or giving up on breakfast. But there’s one getting-ready step you shouldn’t leave out if you plan to heat style your hair, and that’s heat protectant, according to Wes Sharpton, resident hairdresser at Hairstory. “I recommend using it for all of my clients who blow-dry, flat iron, or use a curling iron,” he says. “Any tool that has serious heat needs a heat protector.” Here's what else you should know about this super important step in your hair care routine.

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How does heat protectant work?

Whether your heat protectant comes in mist, spray, or gel form, one thing remains the same: “These ingredients are generally polymeric or long chain materials that form a coating around the hair fibers to provide protection from the extreme heat of styling tools,” says Sharpton. These products typically claim to protect the hair shaft from heat damage using silicones like dimethicone while also providing additional moisture with oils like coconut and argan.

Why do you need to use a heat protectant?

A person with long hair holds a curling iron in their hair and smiles.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Apply heat protectant before using any styling tools.

Heat protectant is a must for those who frequently reach for their hot tools. Sharpton explains: “Some of the heat tools on the market go up to 450 degrees, [and] that’s a lot of heat on the hair strands. We also have to think beyond our bathrooms. Every time we walk outside, both our scalp and hair get hit by the sun’s UV rays. We don’t think about our hair getting sunburned like we do with our skin, but we should, and we should be as thoughtful with our hair care protection.”

While forgetting to use heat protectant likely won’t cause your curling iron to burn your hair off like you may have seen in viral videos, you may cause irreparable damage to your hair if you never use it, says Sharpton. “If you forget it one time, it’s not the end of the world, however, it leaves your hair strand open to damage, and if you can prevent that, why wouldn’t you?”

How to use a heat protectant

To get the most from a heat protectant, Sharpton recommends applying the product to damp hair from mid-shaft all the way through ends. Then, evenly apply any excess product to the top and sides of the hair, tousling it gently to coat each strand. Style as usual with a hair dryer while finger-brushing your strands or using a hair brush to avoid tangles. If needed, follow up with your heat tool of choice, like a flat iron or curling iron, depending on the style you’re looking to achieve. And keep in mind this advice: “It’s unnecessary to put your irons on the hottest setting,” Sharpton says. “Turn it down a notch or two. It will still do its job well.”

Consider your hair goals when choosing a heat protectant. Below, find five options that each provide benefits beyond thermal protection.

1. For taming frizz: Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray

On the left: A person holding out a strand of their hair and spraying a red bottle toward it. On the right: A red spray bottle.
Credit: Chi

Keep frizz at bay with the Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray.

This spray has a serum-like texture and uses keratin and silk proteins to protect the hair. It’s suitable for all hair types but the brand recommends it for dry, thick, and naturally curly strands because of its ability to reduce frizz and flyaways. After spraying the Chi protectant evenly throughout your hair in sections, allow it to dry before running a hot tool over it to avoid causing unnecessary sizzling or steaming that could harm the hair. The product listing does not provide a maximum temperature the spray can protect against, but a verified reply on the Ulta website states that its heat-protecting ingredients are stable “beyond 350 degrees.”

Get Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray from Amazon for $9.21

2. For protecting thin hair: Tresemmé Thermal Creations Heat Protectant Spray

On the left: A red and black bottle with a spray nozzle. On the right: A hand holding a red black spray bottle and mist coming out of it.
Credit: Tresemmé

Keep thin hair feeling strong with the Tresemmé Thermal Creations Heat Protectant Spray.

Tresemmé’s fruity- and floral-scented spray claims not just to protect strands from heat damage up to 450 degrees, but from the friction damage that running a tool on your hair can cause. This makes the formula ideal for thin and limp hair commonly prone to breakage from, say, using a hair tie. It uses vitamin-containing polymers to help seal the cuticle, lock in moisture, and reduce frizz. Spray an even coat to your hair before blow-drying and once again before breaking out your iron.

Get Tresemmé Thermal Creations Heat Protectant Spray from Amazon for $7.89

3. For imparting shine: It’s A 10 Silk Express Miracle Silk Smoothing Balm

On the left: A slim purple pump bottle. On the right: A hand holding a purple pump bottle with a clear serum on the back of their hand.
Credit: It's A 10

Up your hair's shine with the It’s A 10 Silk Express Miracle Silk Smoothing Balm.

Anyone after a smooth, shiny blowout will adore this gel-like formula from It's A 10 that absorbs quickly into strands without leaving any buildup. It uses omega fatty acid-containing ingredients like red raspberry oil to increase shine, prevent breakage, and offer sun and heat protection (though the maximum temperature isn’t listed). To use it, apply a dime-sized amount in damp hair and style as usual.

Get It’s A 10 Silk Express Miracle Silk Smoothing Balm from Ulta for $15.72

4. For maintaining color-treated hair: Bumble and Bumble Bb. Heat Shield Thermal Protection Mist

On the left: A gold spray bottle. On the right: Two hold spray bottles next to each other.
Credit: Bumble and Bumble

Protect your color-treated hair with the Bumble and Bumble Bb. Heat Shield Thermal Protection Mist.

Color-treated hair is not only pre-damaged because of chemical exposure, it's prone to fading if not shielded from the sun. Regardless of your hair type or color, this Bumble and Bumble mist protects hair against heat of up to 450 degrees with honey among its ingredients. It claims to improve the hair’s elasticity to offset heat-induced breakage, and its UV filters help maintain not only your scalp's health but also the vibrance of your hair dye. Spray it onto dry hair from mid-length to ends prior to using hot tools.

Get Bumble and Bumble Bb. Heat Shield Thermal Protection Mist from Sephora for $32

5. For smoothing natural hair: SheaMoisture Anti-Breakage Heat Protectant Spray

On the left: The front of a spray bottle with a light yellow label. On the right: The back of the same bottle.
Credit: SheaMoisture

Smooth curly hair with the SheaMoisture Anti-Breakage Heat Protectant Spray.

Even when you wear your hair natural, you may occasionally crave a blow-out or want to touch up some slacking tendrils with a curling wand. This top-rated heat protectant spray uses shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil to moisturize and detangle curly and coily hair before you run your hot tools over it. It claims to prevent frizz by creating a protective barrier between your hair and humidity while protecting it up to 350 degrees.

Get SheaMoisture Anti-Breakage Heat Protectant Spray from Amazon for $11.99

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