How Heat Damages You Hair + What Ingredients Minimize Damage

by West Parsons on May 15, 2012 · 6 comments

in hair care, straight hair

via  BeautyBrains

Blow drying is bad
Blow drying causes a “flash drying” effect that not only removes the surface moisture but also removes water that is bound to the hair, which is called water of hydration. The effect of this flash drying is that the cuticles become dried, rigid and brittle. When the hair flexes, the pressure causes the cuticles to crack. One study (see Reference 1) showed cracks occurring not only on the surface layer of cuticles, but actually two and three cuticle layers deep. Combing hair with this degree of cuticle cracking causes significant breakage.

MORE: Preventing Heat Damage while Flat Ironing

Ironing is icky
Ironing hair causes two different types of damaging depending on whether the hair is ironed dry or wet. Ironing dry hair causes radial and axial cracking along the edges of the cuticles, which can lead to chipping. Ironing wet hair causes the moisture to burst out in little steam explosions. This causes a bubbling and buckling of the cuticle that appears as tiny hair blisters under magnification.

Helpful heat treatments
Blow dry damage can be prevented by using products containing glycerin and propylene glycol because these actives retard water evaporation. Products like Tresemme Heat Tamer Spray should be helpful in this regard. You can also look for an ingredient called “hydrolyzed wheat protein polysiloxane copolymer,” which also showed significant reduction in cracking. Interestingly, while we would expect various silicones to have a similar effect, this study showed that silicones alone did NOT reduce cuticle cracking.

MORE: Curly Girl Friendly Silicone-Free Heat Protectants

Iron damage can be reduced by using conditioners formulated with low molecular weight conditioners that can penetrate into the hair like cetrimonium chloride. Another study (see Reference 2) showed that exposing hair to heat in the presence of such a conditioning agent actually caused an increase in tensile strength (the force required to break a hair). This is because the heat reacts with the conditioning agents and cross links some of the protein chains inside the hair. Look for products like Sunsilk Heat Defense Cream if you want this effect.

Additional Conditioners Containing Centrimonium Chloride
Kerastase Ciment ThermiqueLacio Lacio Leave-in Conditioner
Queen Helene Super Cholesterol*
Yes to Carrots Pampering Hair Conditioner
Silk Elements Mega Silk Moisturizing Treatment
Elasta QP DPR-11+ Deep Penetrating Conditioner

 What products do you use to help prevent heat damage?


Raven May 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

I don’t use a flat iron that much but I do blow dry at least once a month. I don’t see to much he damage when doing that but it does feel dry after. I already user the Tresemme Heat Tamer Spray but I think Ill try the Sunsilk also because I feel like creams just work better.

*Side note* Queen Helene Super Cholesterol is that stuff. I use it for every treatment.

IheartLondie May 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I have been using Queen Helene’s forever! My mom used it and now I use it on my two girls…its simply the best…

Dalecia May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I use heat sometimes to manipulate my hair. I do this mostly in the colder months. To prevent heat damage I use Shea butter before I apply heat. I don not like to use serums because of the cones in them

Linda May 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I’ve used heat on my hair only once in the past year. I don’t have a problem with heat, I just prefer my hair to have “texture” these days. When I did straighten, I used the Heat Tamer Spray and it seemed to work well. My hair reverted just fine. When I was relaxed, I used Chi Silk Infusion or Smooth and Shine Serum. Both were laden with cones but worked great on my hair.

nika May 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm

The super choletstroal treatment really enlighten me that is wht I am doing now as I have damage cuticle and trying to restore them. Thank!

Chandra January 17, 2013 at 1:12 am

Wow this was very informative! Very helpful..