In our post "How Do You Get Your Curl Pattern Back After Straightening", we examined how heat can change the structure of hair. Since then, we have gotten a number of messages about how to avoid heat damage.
The most obvious way would be to avoid using heat appliances on your hair. Heat appliances include blow dryers, hooded dryers, flat irons, press combs or any tool that is heated and applied to hair.
For those that prefer to alternate between straight and natural hairstyles, here are a few tips that you may find helpful.
Use a thermal protectant before applying heat. Thermal protectants usually come in a spray bottle and can be applied to sections of the hair before it is straightened. As the name suggests, thermal protectants, coat the strands and protect from heat by reducing friction between the hair and heat plates. When shopping for heat protectants look for the ingredient Dimenthicone. Dimenthicone is a silicone and works a heat conductor. Silicones and water work together to protect against heat damage by slowing the rate of overall heating in the hair fiber. Another useful ingredient that is a close second to Dimenthicone is Cyclomethicone (either one of these ingredients in your thermal product will suffice).
Monitor the temperature of the heat appliance. Keratin in hair tends to melt at approximately 233C or 451.4F. If you plan on flat ironing your hair at home, invest in a flat iron with a digital temperature gauge. Most flat irons operate in 100-170C (212-338F) range but burning or scorching can occur at lower temperatures so it depends on your hair's heat tolerance. An added precaution would be to avoid going over one section of hair several times. Thicker or coarse hair can be hard to straighten, so we may run the flat iron over one section 3 or 4 times, repeating heat at low levels can also cause heat damage.
Properly conditioning your hair can prevent heat damage. Moisturizing the hair with water based conditioners that include proteins will adequately prepare the hair for its new style. Protein deep conditioners create cross links within the hair fibers making it stronger. Water, the number one moisturizer, serves as a protector. Water helps maintain hydrogen bonding between keratin proteins and helps absorb heat through the hair fiber. If your hair is severely dry or lacking moisture, it will be more easily damaged because in this case water serves as a protector. Therefore, we recommend using a deep conditioning treatment with hydrolyzed proteins before applying heat to the hair.
Keep heat appliances clean. It is important to clean heat appliances like flat irons before and after use. Product or debris build up left from previous use can scratch or abrade the hair cuticle. Once the cuticle is damage the effects are irreversible.
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