If your hairstyling tool of choice involves heat, you’re probably familiar with heat damage. Of course, there are aesthetic benefits to using heat on your hair, as it causes the cuticle (outermost layer of hair) to:
- lie flat
- release natural curl
- release moisture
- hold a different shape
While heat is a hairstyling game-changer, it can also dry out your hair cuticle and change the structure of your hair proteins.
Once your hair is damaged by heat, it can get to the point where you feel like cutting it all off is your only option. Depending on the severity and type of damage, there are things you can do to help restore your hair’s shine and strength without cutting it short.
The telltale signs of heat-damaged hair are pretty evident. After one too many blow-dry sessions, your hair may start to show the signs of overstyling: It’s harder to manage, and it doesn’t hold its shape as well when you style it.
Some signs that your hair has been heat-damaged include:
- split ends or ends that easily break off
- white nodules at the end of your hair shaft
- overly dry hair
- rough or stringy hair texture
- difficulty styling your hair or brushing it out
- hair that tangles and knots easily
- hair breakage
Treatment options for heat damage will vary according to how damaged your hair is and your hair type.
Heat damage isn’t kind to curly hair, resulting in frizz, tangles, and an unpredictable texture. To restore a natural curl, focus on sealing moisture back into your hair follicle.
Hair masks and deep-conditioning treatments that are rich in moisturizing ingredients, such as shea butter and argan oil, can help bring your hair back to its bouncy best. Choose moisture-rich conditioners with coconut oil, avocado, or aloe vera to help your hair follicles.
Avoid shampooing your hair daily, as shampoo strips hair of its natural oils. Only apply shampoo to your scalp and the roots of your hair. Wash your hair once every couple of days — at least until your hair starts to retain its curly shape again.
Products to try:
Heat damage can make straight hair appear dry and brittle. It can also exaggerate the appearance of split ends and make it harder for your hair to lie flat. To get your hair back to its glossiest, focus on restoring its natural proteins.
A DIY hair mask may be able to improve the look of your hair for a night out, but that won’t solve long-term heat damage.
Leave-in protein treatments with yogurt, honey, and olive oil can help restore the natural bonds in your hair so that damage is less obvious. Conditioning sprays rich in keratin can also soothe broken bonds in the hair follicles.
Products to try
Chemically treated hair
Coloring your hair with bleach or changing your hair’s shape with a perm can result in heat damage. Your hair can be burned by salon treatments, especially if they’re left on for long periods of time.
To help hair that has heat damage from chemical exposure, you may need to speak to the salon or hairstylist where your hair was treated.
A hair mask or professional deep-conditioning treatment from the salon may be the first step to restoring your hair’s sheen. Hot oil treatments designed for home use are another option.
While you wait for chemically treated hair to recover from heat damage, try not to wash your hair every day, and avoid using hot styling tools completely. This is especially important in the days right after you bleach or perm your hair.
Conditioning sprays with spirulina may also help restore the bonds in your hair.
Product to try
The best solution for heat-damaged hair is to prevent it altogether. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but there are some proven strategies that can protect your hair.
Follow these 5 tips
- Rinse your hair with cool water. This will help seal the hair cuticle after a shower.
- Always keep your blow dryer 5 inches or more from the surface of your hair while using it. A 2011 study showed this magic number can protect your hair follicle. It may even be better than letting hair air-dry.
- Use a microfiber towel on your hair after washing. This handy product helps speed up the drying process, which means less time spent under the blow dryer, while sealing the hair cuticle.
- Before using hot styling tools, spray a surface protectant on your hair to protect it from damage. Sprays that contain silicone and keratin ingredients can seal your hair cuticle and make it more resistant to heat damage.
- Make your hairstyles last longer by sleeping on a satin pillowcase. Styles that last longer mean less fuss in the morning, less frequent shampoos, and a happier head of hair. Experts recommend limiting use of hot styling tools to once per week.
There are some cases where the only way to fix heat-damaged hair is to get a haircut. If home remedies don’t work to make your hair more manageable, cutting a couple of inches is probably the best way to minimize the appearance of heat damage.
For a good rule of thumb, be patient with your hair for a month or so. Use a routine of hot oil masks and leave-in conditioners weekly to try to restore its natural balance.
If you find that your hair is still appearing significantly damaged after several weeks of at-home treatments, see your haircare specialist to make a treatment plan.
The fastest way to get rid of heat damage to your hair is to get a haircut. But you may want to give your hair some time before you do anything drastic.
It may be possible to restore your hair’s natural texture and shine with the help of moisturizing treatments and adjustments to your hair care routine. Patience is key.