Just like you'd never apply foundation without primer, you'd also never want to expose hair to harsh heat without prepping it with protection. While thermal stylers are a necessary product for all hair types, they're especially vital for natural and textured hair since the hair shaft can be drier and more fragile. Even if you've banned flat irons or blowouts from your routine, you'll need to keep a heat protectant for natural hair handy if you still turn to diffusers or hooded dryers.
To understand the role that heat protectant plays in a naturalista's life, we tapped Monae Everett, Biolage ambassador, and celebrity hairstylist, to weigh in about using heat protectant for natural hair. Read on for everything you need to know about the best heat protectants for natural hair.
Why is heat protectant important for natural hair?
“Heat protectants are a must-have whenever doing any form of thermal or hot tool styling,” says Everett. “Without heat protectant, you are roughing up the cuticle and allowing the hair to receive more damage.” Over time, this can result in burns that alter the gorgeous natural pattern of your curls and coils.
What is heat protectant?
Heat protectants create a barrier between your strands and your hot tools to help minimize heat damage, manage frizz, and protect color from fading. While heat protectants don’t completely protect your hair from all damage (only limiting hot tool use or opting for heat-free styles can do that), they help significantly reduce the chance of harm.
“To cut down on heat damage, use indirect heat like hooded dryers, rather than blow dryers, when possible,” adds the stylist.
Do I need heat protectant on natural hair?
The answer is a resounding yes! All hair types need protection from hot tools, especially textured tresses, since the hair shaft has more twists and turns, making it more delicate. Direct contact with harsh heat can alter or destroy natural hair's pattern.
“Many times, we realize the hair has been damaged when the curl pattern has been compromised,” says Everett. Regarding what to look out for, the stylist explains that breakage, straighter areas of the hair (like at the ends), or hair that no longer holds a curl are all signs of heat damage.
“Look for a heat protectant that protects the hair up to 450 degrees, especially if you use direct heat like blow dryers or flat irons to straighten your hair,” says Everett.
Do you put heat protectant on dry or wet hair?
Since wet hair better absorbs the ingredients, we recommend distributing heat protectant throughout your mane and letting it dry completely before styling. Plus, you never want to hear a sizzle when wrapping hair around a curling iron; if you apply a heat protectant to dry hair, any residual dampness may burn your precious strands.
Now that you’re armed with the basics, here are 16 of our best heat protectants for natural hair.
Our 16 Best Heat Protectants for Natural Hair
Biolage Professional Thermal Active Spray
“I’m a huge fan of the Biolage Thermal Active Spray,” says Everett. “I use it on all of my clients before blow-drying their hair, regardless of their hair texture.”
Not only will it help prevent hair from burning and getting damaged, but it also does strands a solid by strengthening and conditioning hair in the process and offering medium hold.
Biolage Professional BlowDry Glotion
Kick frizz to the curb with Biolage Professional’s BlowDry Glotion. This long-wear heat primer provides thermal protection up to 450 degrees and fast, healthy-looking, and frizz-controlled blowouts with medium hold.
Mizani Style Shifter Society Heat Screen Heat Protectant Spray
Consider picking up Mizani’s Style Shifter Society Heat Screen Heat Protectant Spray for sleek, frizz-controlled results with a glossy shine finish. This weightless heat protectant spray shields your hair from heat damage up to 450°F.
Mizani Thermastrength Strength Serum
If you prefer serums when looking for the best heat protectants for natural hair, Mizani’s Thermastrength Strength Serum is a must-have addition to your arsenal. Ideal for textures five to eight, the formula is made with nourishing shea butter and anti-breakage ceramide technology to help tools easily glide through hair and keep strands safe during heat styling.
Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner
A multipurpose leave-in like Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner not only helps prevent heat damage but also boasts 24 additional benefits, including reducing dryness and adding smoothness and shine.
Mizani Thermasmooth Style & Style Again
Thanks to Mizani’s Thermasmooth Style & Style Again, you’ll never have to worry about switching up your hair products whenever you decide to switch up your look. In addition to smoothing and defining curls, the formula also protects locks up to 450 degrees and allows you to re-shape and re-style your hair, so you don’t need any other items for your blowout.
Redken Oil For All Multi Benefit Hair Oil Heat Protectant Spray
A product that reduces blow-dry time, protects hair from heat, tames flyaways, and adds shine? Sign us up! Redken’s Oil For All Multi Benefit Hair Oil Heat Protectant Spray is a multi-benefit, weightless hair oil made with all hair types and textures in mind. The formula seals in hair moisture without a heavy or greasy feel.
Redken Big Blowout Heat Protecting Jelly Serum
Are you craving a bombshell blowout? Redken’s Big Blowout Heat Protecting Jelly Serum is the product that can get you there. This unique heat-protecting blowout gel melts into hair to provide instant volume with a soft, bouncy finish for the retro-looking hair of your dreams.
Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Iron Smoother Leave-In Spray
Textured gals know what a struggle it can be to maintain hair’s smoothness longer after your blow dryer or flat iron has been put away. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to try Matrix’s Total Results Mega Sleek Iron Smoother Leave-In Spray. It’ll leave hair with a sleek, healthy feel and glossy shine while helping styles last longer, retain their shape, and stay frizz-free.
L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Fluidifier Blow Dry Cream
You spend so much time perfecting your heat-styled look that it’s only fair you’d want it to last more than 24 hours. Enter: L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Fluidifier Blow Dry Cream. Perfect for normal to sensitive hair types, the formula is designed to defend hair against the damaging effects of heat styling and lets you achieve up to four days of long-lasting blow-dry results and anti-frizz protection.
Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer
Those with dry hair (looking at you, naturalistas!) will drink up Kérastase’s Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer This leave-in thermal protectant for dry hair protects hair from heat while nourishing and smoothing the hair fibers and adding shine. When you use this, there's always 85% less breakage.
Kérastase Chronologiste Thermique Régénérant
Kérastase’s Chronologiste Thermique Régénérant is a tall glass of water for thirsty natural tresses thanks to an infusion of ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid. You’ll notice that your hair texture is refined and cuticles are smoothed, and you can rest assured that your strands have heat protection up to 450 degrees.
Kérastase Resistane Ciment Thermique Blow Dry Primer
If you're growing out damaged, over-processed, or weakened natural hair, make sure you use Kérastase's Resistane Ciment Thermique Blow Dry Primer whenever you want to blow-dry it or use heat. This strengthening thermal heat protectant is the perfect companion for over-processed, weakened, and damaged hair.
Redken Iron Shape 11: Thermal Holding Heat Protection Hairspray
Keeping your mane smooth, not sticky, is a cinch with Redken Iron Shape 11: Thermal Holding Heat Protection Hairspray. This thermal finishing spray not only prepares your hair to withstand high temperatures—up to 450 degrees—it also adds shine and reduces frizz, so you won’t need to add more products afterward.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair Netsu Design Blow Dry Cream
We’d like to think of Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Netsu Design Blow Dry Cream as the gift that keeps on giving. Just one application of the cream lets you reap its benefits for up to 96 hours. All you have to do is simply reapply heat to reactivate the product to enable repositionable looks with a natural feel.
Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray For Color-Treated Hair
If you color your hair, you know you need to swap out your regular products for a system formulated to protect your color. While the same thing goes for your heat protectant, there's no need to overhaul your routine. Streamline your styling products with Pureology's Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray For Color-Treated Hair. Heat protection aside, the sulfate-free spray has 21 benefits, including its exclusive Antifade Complex.
Looking for more personalized recommendations on how to care for natural hair? Head to Hair.com to find the products professionals swear by.