Heat protectants – they protec, they attac, they won’t let your hair get a crac! If you’re a big fan of heat styling your hair, you have to know about heat protectants and heat protectant sprays. These fabulous hair protectant products go a long way towards keeping your hair healthier, because unfortunately, all that straightening, curling, and blow-drying take a serious toll on your hair.
In this article, you’ll learn exactly what heat protectants are and how they work, how to use a heat protectant, and I’ll also give you a list of all of the best heat protectants on the market, no matter your budget or formulation preference.
What Are Heat Protectant Products?
Heat protectant products are liquids or sprays that you apply to your hair before doing any kind of heat styling. These magical potions protect the hair and mitigate the damage that high temperatures cause to the hair.
This is important because high heat (anything over 266 degrees Fahrenheit) will damage the cuticle, leaving the hair coarse and dry, damage keratin proteins, making the hair weaker, and damage the hair’s pigment, making it turn brassy.
How Do Heat Protectants Work?
Heat protectants work by creating a thin film over the hair. This thin film disperses the heat from the styling tool, making sure that it is distributed more slowly and evenly throughout the hair. This gradual heating is much gentler, and means that between 10%-50% less damage is caused to the hair.
There are a few different kinds of ingredients that create that protective film over the hair. The proven ingredients are PVP/ DMAPA acrylates copolymer, quaternium 70, and hydrolyzed wheat protein. However, many other ingredients, including other natural hair proteins and silicones, likely work just as well!
In addition to dispersing the heat, heat protectant sprays do a few other things that make the hair healthier. They create a protective barrier over each strand, making sure that moisture does not escape, thereby preventing dryness. They also help smooth down the cuticles of the hair, making it stronger, softer to the touch, and more resistant to damage.
Remember that these heat protectant sprays and liquids only reduce some of the heat damage – they do not totally eliminate it! While they are useful and important, you should still be conservative in how often you heat style your hair.
Can Botanical Hair Oils Work As Heat Protectants?
While botanical hair oils are fantastic for moisturizing, nourishing, and strengthening the hair, they are not a replacement for heat protectant sprays and creams. Unlike the silicones, proteins, and polymers normally used for heat protection, the hair oils do not disperse the heat, and therefore, they cannot reduce as much of the damage.
On top of that, oils can actually add weight and create drag, meaning that as you run the iron along the strands, it won’t move as smoothly, and end up causing more damage.
The best way to use botanical oils in your hair care routine is either as a conditioning treatment before shampooing (especially heavier oils like coconut oil), or using them after the hair has already been styled, to add an extra shine (here it would be best to choose a lighter oil, like rosehip, argan, or grape seed oil).
Types of Heat Protectants
Heat protectants come in different textures and formulas, catering every hair type and personal preference. The common types of heat protectants are:
Heat Protectant Sprays
Heat protectant sprays are light and easy to apply. They are perfect for people who have very oily hair, and generally work better before blow-drying. Heat protectant sprays are usually not as effective at dispersing heat as heavier creams, but if all you do is light heat styling with a blowdryer, they are totally fine.
Heat Protectant Creams
With a creamy texture and often many other hair loving ingredients, heat protectant creams are usually the best choice for those with dry or damaged hair. They coat the hair very thoroughly, so they give better protection. Heat protectant creams are the best choice if you use straightening irons, curling irons, or any other heat styling tool that touches the hair.
Straightening Heat Protectants
Some heat protectants are made specifically for those who have naturally curly or wavy hair. In addition to protecting the hair from the damaging heat of straightening irons, they also help keep the hair looking straight and smooth for longer. This is a wonderful option, because it also means that you do not have to straighten your hair as often, which is another great way to mitigate heat damage.
How to Use Heat Protectant Sprays
1) If you are fresh out of the shower, with washed and conditioner hair, make sure to dry it off as much as you can with a towel. Avoid vigorous rubbing, is it can damage the hair. Instead, press the towel against your hair, allowing it to absorb as much of the moisture as possible.
2) Once your hair is at most slightly damp, you may apply the heat protectant spray. Start by sectioning off your hair at the crown, and pulling it into a knot on the top of your head.
3) Holding the heat protectant spray about 15 cm away from your hair, lightly spray, making sure to cover all parts of your hair.
4) Brush your hair, to make sure the spray is covering the strands from top to bottom.
5) Release the topknot, allowing the rest of your hair to tumble down. Once again, from about 15 cm away, spray the rest of your strands thoroughly.
6) Brush your hair one final time, making sure the heat protectant spray is properly dispersed all the way through your hair.
7) You are now ready to heat style your hair! Remember, heat protectant sprays are best for blow-drying, but are not great for curling or straightening with an iron.
How to Use Heat Protectant Creams
1) With heat protectant creams, it is very important that your hair be completely dry before you apply them, or at least before you start the process of straightening and curling with an iron. Of course, recently washed hair is best, but you basically have to blow-dry it, or wait until it air dries before you can do any more heat styling.
2) If you have long hair, put up half of it into a bun or twist on top of your head.
3) Squeeze out about a dime-sized amount of heat protectant cream into your hand. Apply it beginning at about the center of the hair. Smooth it downwards to the ends, and then work a bit of it up towards the room. Most of the product should be closer to the ends, but overall it should be dispersed evenly throughout the hair.
4) Let down the rest of your hair, and repeat the process, getting the heat protectant cream evenly dispersed throughout the hair.
5) Brush or comb your hair, both to get any tangles out of your hair to prepare it for blow-drying or heat styling, as well as to make sure there is no excess product anywhere in your hair.
6) You are now ready for heat styling! If your hair is still a little damp, blow-dry it. If it is completely dry you may straighten or curl it.
Heat Styling Tips
There are a few other things you can do, in addition to using heat protectants every time you heat style that will keep your hair shiny, soft, and super-healthy!
• Don’t heat style too often! Heat protectants only cancel out about half of the damage, so you should try to limit heat styling to once or twice a week at most.
• Deep conditioning treatments and hair masks go a long way towards strengthening your hair and making it more resilient. Pure coconut oil is my personal favorite hair mask for all hair types.
• Use good styling tools! Using ceramic or tourmaline plated styling irons will go a long way towards keeping your hair healthy, since they tend to work faster and cause less damage.
• When it comes to blow-drying, sealing the cuticle is very important for the hair’s health. You can do that by finishing each hot pass of the blow dryer with a cold pass.
Best Heat Protectants
1. Kerastase Resistance Ciment Thermique Heat-Activated Reconstructor Milk
This creamy heat protectant goes above and beyond, so no wonder it is a favorite of many. It protects the hair from heat damage, of course, but it also conditions the hair, leaving it soft and shiny.
On top of that, regardless of whether you were going for a curly or straight look, it’ll help hold the styling of your hair for longer, meaning that you won’t have to heat style your hair as often. You can pick up this heat protectant cream at Walgreens.
2. Bumble and Bumble Repair Blow Dry
This heat protectant cream helps repair already damaged hair with a collection of natural extracts, while polymers and silicones protect from further heat and sun damage by dispersing heat and sealing the cuticle. This cream also provides UV protection, and is best for those with hair on the dryer or more damaged side. It can be purchased through Sephora.
3. Kenra Professional Platinum Blow-Dry Spray
The first thing that stands out about this heat protectant spray is how gorgeous its silver packaging is. It will look classy in any bathroom. It leaves the hair silky smooth and soft, as well as perfectly protected and hydrated. It is best for those with normal to dry hair. It is available for sale at Ulta.
4. Living Proof Restore Instant Protection Spray
This heat protectant spray is also a straight-up sunscreen for your hair, since it also provides UV protection! An anti-static agent means your hair will not even become the tiniest bit frizzy, and the shine that it provides is absolutely glorious. It is light enough that even those with the oiliest hair will enjoy using it. You can buy it at Sephora.
5. TiGi Catwalk Haute Iron Spray
Softening, hydrating, and protecting – you really cannot go wrong with TiGi’s incredible heat protectant spray. This spray is heavy on the silicones, so it is better for hair that leans towards dry. This is a remarkable spray that will work just as well for heating irons as it would for blow dryers. It can be purchased at Ulta.
6. Drybar ‘Hot Toddy’ Heat and UV Protectant
This heat protectant cream gives perfect protection from the more heavy duty styling irons, as well as from sun damage. It has a nourishing formula that won’t feel heavy or greasy. Just a small dollop is all it takes for amazing hair! You can find it for sale at Nordstrom.
Best Natural Heat Protectants
1. Kiehl’s Stylist Series Heat Protective Silk Straightening Cream
Made for curly and frizzy hair, this natural heat protectant cream prevents damage while also helping keep hair straight and smooth for longer. It comes in the form of a light cream that won’t leave the hair looking greasy or feeling heavy. You can purchase it at Nordstrom.
2. Alterna Haircare Bamboo Smooth Anti-Breakage Thermal Protection Spray
This light spray is perfect for those whose hair is too oily for heat protectant creams. This light formula softens and detangles the hair, and leaves feeling fresh and airy. The formula is very natural, but be warned that the nozzle does clog sometimes. It can be found at Sephora.
Best Drugstore Heat Protectants
1. TreSemme Thermal Creations Instant Heat Tamer Spray
This is one of the best heat protectant sprays, and at an amazingly affordable price. Its nozzle disperses product extremely evenly, and the product itself is also exceptional. This formula is extremely light, but it leaves the hair feeling shiny and soft. It also seriously helps to control frizz, and it smells lovely to boot. You can purchase it from Ulta.
2. Not Your Mother’s In a Heartbeat Blow Dry Accelerator Spray
I love this brand’s cheeky names, but even more so, I like its brave claims – specifically, because it fulfills them! This heat protectant spray gets the hair soft and smooth without weighing it down or feeling greasy, but it also speeds up the blow-drying process and makes the hair dry faster! And all of this for an incredible price! You can pick up this awesome spray at Ulta.
How often do you heat style your hair? Do you use heat protectant sprays or creams? Let us know!
Photos via @twistmepretty, @negin_mirsalehi