We toss the phrase “heat protectant” around so often, but what does it really mean? What qualifies a product as a heat protectant, and how should you use them?
What’s in a heat protectant?
Heat protectants are products that, at the least, contain some type of cyclomethicone and dimethicone. Most leave-in conditioners, treatments sprays, blow-out foams, setting lotions and straightening serums use a combination of these two silicones with other essential ingredients to create what is known as a “heat protectant.”
Cyclomethicone is a clear silicone that has a silky-smooth feel when deposited into the hair. It evaporates quickly after helping to transfer oils and nutrients (other ingredients in the product) into the hair shaft.
Dimethicone is used in conditioners and detangling products to help smooth hair and provide easier “comb-through.” Because it coats the strands, it can also make your hair appear shinier after styling.
Both of these silicones are FDA approved to be used in products and are safe for use on the skin and hair. Silicones are man-made compounds that work by covering the hair with a thin, waterproof, heat-resistant coating. This serves three main purposes:
1. It helps reduce the porosity of the hair. This forced reduction makes the hair less likely to be affected by humidity after heat styling.
2. It helps reduce moisture loss from the inside the hair. There are several things that can cause loss of moisture such as dehydration, use of bleaching agents in color processing or over exposure to harmful elements like sun or chlorine-treated water.
3. It lubricates the surface of the hair; meaning your hair will feel smoother and detangle easier.
How to use heat protectants:
The best way to use heat protectants is to apply them to wet hair, after deep conditioning. This will allow the product to penetrate the cuticle, absorb into the hair shaft and bond before heat styling. When preparing your hair with heat protectants for heat styling, make sure you fully read the label and instructions on the products. This seems like it isn’t a big deal, but often times products do not “work” because the directions have not been followed.
To see how I layer heat protectants to prepare my hair for heat styling, watch this blow out tutorial!
What you should know about heat styling:
If you plan to straighten your hair, make sure you are using a tool that has ceramic coating on the plates or barrel. Also, check the manufacturer’s guide that comes with your tool to see the recommended temperature setting for different hair types. And, if you plan to use silk oils or other straightening/finishing products, use them in very small amounts, dime size at a time on a quadrant of hair. You don’t want to “cook” your hair with oils and overheat your strands.
Even with the use of a heat protectants and ceramic styling tools, heat damage is still possible. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, and you should use your discretion about use of styling products and tools on your hair. Always consider what you know to be true about your hair, as you’ve experience it throughout your life. If you know you are prone to damage from chemicals, excessive heat or certain types of products, be cautious in use of them. Curly hair is more susceptible to heat damage because at each turn of the curl, your strands are vulnerable to break after being force-flattened by curling iron or flat iron heat.
Even after properly using heat protectants, you find yourself with heat damage, now what?
1. Increase your protein intake. Eat lots of protein-rich foods and eat them often.
2. Rotate protein treatments into your washing cycle (about every two weeks).
3. Give yourself a hot oil treatment at least once a month (alternate with the protein treatments).
4. Wear protective styles that do not require heat (you can’t get rid of heat damage if you’re still using heat, lol)
5. Drink LOTS of water. At least half your body-weight in ounces each day will keep you hydrated from the inside. Your body keeps its temperature in-check by sweating, or releasing fluid as you use energy. The cooling affects of water hydrate your sweat glands, which include your hair follicles, during that process. This will stimulate growth, over time, so you can…
6. Cut away the worst of the damaged hair on the ends. Usually, the tips of the hair are least likely to “bounce back” to your natural curl pattern. If you aren’t sure how to clip your ends, see a stylist you trust and inform them of your goal so they won’t cut too much. Also, if you plan to clip your own ends, make sure you are using hair cutting shears.
7. Deep condition your hair EVERY time you wash and use a hydrating leave-in conditioner. You can process your conditioner with just a plastic cap, or by sitting under a hooded dryer in the cap or using a hair steamer.
8. Seal your ends at night with your favorite oil or natural butter (such as jojoba, castor, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, etc).
9. If you need to refresh your hair to style (to re-twist, for example), use a 60%/40%, water/oil mixture to deposit nutrients and hydrate your strands.
10. Be sure to always cover your hair at night, or use a satin pillow case (and wash your bonnet, scarves and pillow cases often).