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Beauty Rx: How to Prevent Damaged Hair While Heat Styling

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Today I’m very excited to announce a new series here on Babble, Beauty Rx! Beauty Rx is your prescription for all your beauty questions. If you want a sunscreen recommendation or are curious about whether the latest beauty gadget really works, this is the place where you can ask!

I’ve been answering questions like these via email and on my blog for years, drawing upon my wealth of random beauty knowledge culled from obsessively reading about beauty and my medical background. When in doubt, I’ve been known to call in some of my favorite beauty experts.

I’m hoping to answer a question on Beauty Rx every other week. If you have a question you’d love to see answered on Beauty Rx, you can submit your question here.

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 Hi Christine,

Love your new bob cut! Do you ever use a flat iron? If so, what temp do you keep it at, and what heat protection do you use?
I had a stylist burn my hair with a flat iron, [and] I don’t want burnt hair again! How do you blow dry your hair straight without burning it? I’ve also had a stylist burn my hair with a blow dryer.
Thank you,
S

While I don’t flat iron my hair very often (maybe once a week or so, depending on how my hair is acting), I’ve very vigilant about protecting my hair from heat damage. I skipped heat protectant once about 2 1/2 years ago, and I only recently got rid of the last of the damage by cutting my long hair into a bob. Skipping a 30-second heat protectant mist resulted in fried hair that required intensive treatment!

While I’ve got my own ideas about heat styling, protecting your hair, and dealing with damage, I also talked to David Todd from The David Frank Salon in Scottsdale, Arizona to get his take. Here are our tips for heat styling, preventing damage, and then a few of my favorite treatments for fixing it!

Prepare Your Hair

Heat damages your hair several ways: It breaks down the proteins in the hair, damages the cuticle, and makes water in the hair evaporate, causing further harm as it leaves as steam.

There are many types of heat protectors that really do work. I asked David Todd for some info on how just how they function: “They mainly contain silicone or a similar ingredient to protect the cuticle from frizzing up, and a protein such as wheat protein to replace [what] burns off with heat styling. Sometimes they also contain Panthenol, which is a humectant. The important thing to remember is that it helps a bit, but it is not going to make the hair bullet proof.”

There are a lot of heat protectant products on the market, and they really do help quite a bit. But, the best one will be the product that you actually use! If you find yourself wanting to skip this step in your styling to save time, make sure you use a product that does double-duty, such as a shine serum, that you’ll be using anyways.

Use Your Dryer on a Low Setting

Yes, it really is possible to burn your hair with a blow dryer! Try to use your dryer on low heat, if possible. “The nozzle on the dryer is a must, especially for round brushing,” says Todd. “The grate on the end of the dryer burns the hair if you’re not careful.”

I always use a nozzle when drying my hair … I try to keep the dryer a bit further away from my hair if possible, and I keep the dryer moving.  You don’t want to keep it on the same place for too long, or your hair can burn.

Choose Quality Tools

The first step in protecting your hair while heat styling is using quality tools. Look for flat irons and curling irons that have plates with ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium to help evenly distribute the heat. If you can find tools that let you select the temperature, they are worth the extra money!

“Be sure to get the hair completely dry before using any heat styling tools. Use only as much heat as you need. Keeping the flat iron about 350 is a good idea. Start with the lowest setting and see if it works, and go up from there if needed,” says Todd.

While I’ve already discussed how important a heat protectant is when styling your hair, other products can cut down dramatically on your hair’s exposure to heat as well. According to Todd, “When using a curling iron, spray a small amount of hairspray to minimize the time needed to curl the hair, The curl will last longer and less heat will be required.”

When you’re using that heat tool, keep it moving! Don’t hold your flat iron in one location for too long; slow and steady is the way to go. When curling your hair, keep the hair curled around the barrel as briefly as possible. Less heat exposure equals less time for damage!

Set Aside Time for Weekly Hair Repair

It turns out, just remembering to use conditioner is not enough. Jules Holland of Mark Hill Hair told me once that everyone should use a treatment product on their hair at least once a week, and more often if your hair is exposed to heat, color, or other stressors. He did this while cutting 6 inches of heat damaged hair off my head! I’m pretty sure he was thinking that I should just always use a treatment product.

You don’t need to spend half an hour or more to treat your hair; there are quite a few intensive hair treatments that take less than 5 minutes. And yes, once your ends start splitting, there isn’t much you can do beyond trimming them off. If you wait too long before cutting them off, the split can spread up the hair shaft, making the damage much worse.

Now that I’ve given you the lowdown, here are some awesome product suggestions for keeping your hair in tip-top shape while heat styling.

 

Read more from Christine on Babble and her blog, 15 Minute Beauty. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have a question you’d love to see answered on Beauty Rx, you can submit your question here.

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