by Jacquie Carter, beauty expert
Curling irons, flat irons, tongs and blow dryers are all great styling tools and they can help you create a fabulous look for any occasion …when used in moderation. Even though these heat styling tools can give you the look you want, it can be at the expense of your hair’s health; causing breakage, damage and drying. If you love your hair tongs, you need to learn how to protect your hair!
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What happens when you use heat styling tools?
Human hair contains keratin proteins and hydrogen bonds. When you use heat styling tools such as curling irons, flat irons, tongs or blow dryers, they strip your hair of its natural oils and proteins by breaking down its hydrogen bonds. In fact, this breaking down of hydrogen bonds is the same reason your heat styling tools are able to give you the look you want – they change your hair texture in order to achieve straightness, curliness, or sleekness.
In the hair care industry, the term for hair that has been damage by frequent overuse of heat styling tools is known as “bubble hair.” This term comes from the idea that the hair has voids filled with air over the length of each strand. With frequent heat styling, hair forms these “bubbles” that contribute to irregular texture and strands that are more prone to breakage.
I’m not saying you should ditch heat styling tools altogether – they really can give you hairstyles that aren’t achievable any other way! – but I am saying you should be mindful about how to protect your hair when using heat styling tools.
How to make ‘heat styling’ work for your hair
Heat styling tip 1: Wait until your hair is dry to use an a flat iron / straighteners
This is absolutely crucial to the health of your hair. Often, “bubble hair” is caused by using a flat or curling iron on hair that is still damp. Since heat styling breaks down the hair’s hydrogen bonds, applying concentrated heat from a curling or straightening iron can be very damaging. Wait until your hair is dry, or blow dry your hair on a low setting to speed the process along, before using an iron. Otherwise, you may cause irreversible damage to your strands.
Heat styling tip 2: Adjust your temperature
Adjust the temperature of your heat styling tool according to the thickness and texture of your hair. If you have very thick or curly hair, you may find you need a higher heat setting in order to achieve the look you want. If your hair is thin or fine, you should use a lower heat setting because a higher heat setting can burn hair. It’s best to go with the natural texture of your hair when deciding on how to style it, and to start with a lower heat setting and work your way up the temperature scale if you find you need it.
Heat styling tip 3: Look for good tools
You don’t need to spend a fortune and buy the very best tools on the market, but you should adhere to a few basic requirements when selecting your heat tools:
– With flat irons and straighteners, look for products that offer different temperature controls and have high quality plates. Modern technologies have helped straight irons become less damaging, so if your flat iron is several years old, consider upgrading to a newer model.
– Curling tongs, like flat irons, should have different temperature controls. There are many types of curling irons available; pick yours based on the size and shape of the curl you desire. A smaller barrel will result in smaller, tighter curls, and larger will create loose waves. Both looks are really popular right now and I love the look of loose waves!
– With blow dryers, look for one that has a nozzle attachment, since those distribute heat more evenly. For curly hair you may also want to invest in a diffuser head for your blow dryer to spread the heat. If you can afford it, consider buying a salon-quality hair dryer because those typically have more powerful air flow than lower-quality blow dryers.
Heat styling tip 4: Protect before you style
It’s critical to protect your tresses before applying heat. There are many hair care products designed for use with heat styling tools. Pay special attention and look for products that contain silicone, because silicone can act as a protective coating for your hair. I have to add a warning here too: make sure any product you apply before heat styling is specifically formulated because using standard products can mean extra damage, as you’ll cook the styling products along with your hair!
Heat styling tip 5: Air dry if possible
It’s good to go natural once in a while! Just as your face may occasionally need a break from cosmetics, your hair may need a break from heat styling every once in a while, too. Try using a texturizing spray or mousse when you air-dry your hair, as these will add a little shape and volume to your style. If you have a long or thick hair and shudder at the idea of leaving the house with wet hair, try washing it the night before. This will give your hair a chance to dry and settle overnight.
The best way to stop hair damage by heat styling tools is prevention – think of heat styling as a special occasion look. Or, if you’re a heat styling addict like me, then learn to work quickly and give your hair a little extra care with strengthening shampoos and conditioners. Even if your hair is already damaged due to heat, it’s never too late to start putting healthy hair habits into practice!
Written by beauty expert, Jacquie Carter. Jacquie is Director of Outer Nutrition at Herbalife.