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Photo of writer Allie Chilicki and her journey of dealing with heat damaged hair

Heat-Damaged Hair: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Heat damage from your favorite styling tools doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are eight things you can do to treat and prevent heat-damaged hair.

As impressive as our curling wands or hot rollers make our mane look, the sad truth is that our heat stylers don’t always love our hair as much as we love them. Heat-damaged hair due to overuse of hot tools can seriously harm our precious locks, which is the last thing we want when in search of good hair days.

Whether you just can’t part with your blow-dryer or you’ve sworn off heat styling for good, we rounded up our best tips on how to fix heat-damaged hair.

How do you know if your hair is heat damaged?

If you’re fiercely committed to the hot tool game, any change in your hair's state can indicate that your strands have become scorched over time. Namely, you’ll notice more brittleness and split ends, experience a lack of shine, see faded color (even with a good sulfate-free shampoo), and you may be plagued with frizzy, tangled locks (even when the weather is cooperating!). 

Straight hair can go from silky-smooth to rough and coarse, while wavy, curly, or coily-haired gals may see a shift in their hair’s pattern. While it’s true that many factors can contribute to your pattern changing, you’ll be able to see the change almost as soon as it happens. If your ringlets don’t spring back like they used to, chances are good that heat damage is to blame.

Is heat damage on hair permanent?

Technically speaking, hair strands are comprised of cells that are already dead, but heat damage can permanently alters the protein bonds and cuticles of the hair. Since these dead cells can’t repair themselves, any damage inflicted upon them can’t actually be reversed. That said, there are steps you can take to ensure your hair looks and feels better after heat damage has already occurred, making way for healthy new growth.

How long does it take to repair heat-damaged hair?

Although you can’t fully repair heat-damaged hair, you can certainly restore its look and feel through haircuts and the right treatments. Those with minor hair damage may see results within a few weeks, while those with more severe damage may need to exercise a bit more patience. Significant hair transformations won’t happen overnight (wouldn’t that be amazing, though, if they did?), so expect to sit tight for about four to six months while your new hair care routine takes effect.

How do you treat heat-damaged hair?

Consulting a professional stylist and knowing what at-home hair care products to add to your arsenal can help your tresses heal. Here are a few things you can do.

Get a haircut.

Removing the older parts of heat-damaged hair is your best bet at keeping your mane in tip-top shape. Pros usually recommend getting a trim every four to six weeks, especially if you’re using a lot of heat styling in your daily routine.

Oil your ends.

Even with a haircut, any remaining untreated split ends can continue to fracture even further up the strand. Run a bit of hair oil through the ends of your hair, which temporarily seals your ends together and reflects shine and vibrancy. We love Biolage Professional All-In-One Multi-Benefit Oil, a multi-tasking formula that helps to smooth and seal cuticles, reduce the appearance of split ends, enhance shine, control frizz and flyaways, and detangle all types of hair.

Pick up bond builders.

Innovative bond-repairing products like Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate can make a world of difference in strengthening your heat-damaged hair from the inside out. This four-step routine, which includes an Intensive Treatment, Shampoo, Conditioner, and Leave-In, is formulated with citric acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid used in a variety of skincare products, and the brand’s Bonding Care complex. These ingredients work together to reinforce weakened bonds to help build your hair’s strength and resiliency.

The acidic formulas defend against the damaging effects of hair coloring, styling tools, and even water while also helping to rebalance your mane’s natural pH levels for healthier-looking, stronger hair. 

Use masks.

Getting your heat-damaged hair back on the road to wellness is as easy as adding some deep conditioning products to your hair care routine. Treat your strands to a deeply nourishing hair mask at least once a week, such as Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Silk Bloom Strengthening Mask. This repairing hair mask for damaged hair infuses moisture and restorative ingredients so damaged hair is left firm, smooth and shiny without any unwanted weight.

How do you prevent heat damage?

No matter how you slice it, hot tools will always cause some degree of heat damage, but there are some measures you can take to prevent it.

Identify the right heat setting.

As easy as it would be to have one ideal temperature setting that applies to all hot tools, this unfortunately isn’t the case. Instead, your hair type and texture can help determine which temperature setting is just right for your locks. For example, someone with ultra-fine hair can most likely achieve the same results at 250 degrees that a thick curly girl can achieve at 450 degrees.

When in doubt, it’s always best to start with a lower setting and work your way up. Diving right into styling your hair with tool that is too hot can increase your chances of frying your hair.

Use a heat protectant.

Even if there is just one rule you decide to follow, let it be to always, always use a heat protectant. You would never want to sit out in the hot midday sun without first slathering on sunscreen, so why would you want to expose your vulnerable hair to scorching temperatures without also taking the proper precautions? Heat protectants form a barrier between your hair and your hot tools, reducing damage, cutting down on dry time, protecting premature color fade, and more. 

No matter your hair type, there are tons of great formulas to choose from. Check out this roundup of our best heat protectants to add to your cart now.

Opt for steam-powered tools.

If you’re a hair-straightening addict, consider swapping a steam-powered flat iron into your routine. L’Oréal Professionnel’s Steampod Hair Straightener + Curling Iron uses steam and comb technology help to reduce split ends for 91 percent less breakage* (when compared to Steampod heating plates alone) and 78 percent less damage (when tested against a regular straightener 15 times). As you style, steam is diffused from the plates, infusing water into the hair cuticle, which helps protect against excessive heat damage* (when tested against a regular straightener over 15 uses).

The best part about the Steampod is that it can do so much more than just straighten your hair. Check out our guide to our best Steampod tips and tricks to gather some inspiration.

Choose to air-dry.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the only way to completely protect hair against heat damage is to give up heat styling altogether. That means embracing your natural texture by air-drying your locks as often as you can. Many steer clear of air drying for fear of frizz, but the ideal air dry hair product will make sure your hair looks and feels as good as it does when you blow dry it.

Some of our current air-dry favorites are Redken’s All Soft Moisture Restore Leave-In Treatment With Hyaluronic Acid, Biolage Professional’s Styling Airdry Glotion Multi-Benefit Styling Spray, and Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Shiki Worker Air Dry Blow Dry Primer.

Now that you have the 411 on how to fix heat-damaged hair, you’ll never have to choose between a good hair day and the health of your strands ever again.

Looking for more ways to fix damaged hair? Head to to stock up on the best salon-grade products.

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