Are Spray Heat Protectants Worth the Trouble? Here’s a Must Read For Hot Tool Addicts!
In an age where most everyone colors their hair, uses a collection of hot styling tools constantly and pretty much abuses their hair one way or another the question isn’t if your hair is damaged, but how badly.
Can you relate?
It’s okay to raise your hand if you’re guilty as charged. So am I.
But wait. It gets worse.
Sometimes the heat protectant sprays we use to protect against the ravages of hot styling tend to have unintended consequences.
Like they weigh your hair down.
Or leave it feeling greasy.
Or take just short of forever to dry. Ugh!
Yet we all know the ideal outcome we want. It’s healthy looking hair that isn’t frizzy even on humid days, is shinier, and smells great after styling.
But for those addicted to hot styling tools that may be easier said than done. But no less urgent.
Especially if your hair is starting to show the effects of you being a little too hot tool-happy. Because we both know hot styling tools are like vampires. They will mercilessly suck the life out of your hair eventually.
So the rule to remember is
Always Always Always Create a Barrier With A Heat Protectant
Yes, you always want to be in a “shields up” status when it comes to your hair. Especially if you have anything approaching mile long hair.
You always want a product standing between your strands and even the hottest of flat irons offering seamless protection.
So always spray before you play.
Otherwise you may find that styling tool you are so fond of to be toxic to your mane.
Just to make sure you’re getting it.
This product is NOT one to forget.
It’s not an option.
It’s a necessity for anyone who practices hot styling on a regular basis. Well at least anyone who doesn’t want to face crispy ends that remind you more of Captain Crunch than your favorite smooth and sleek silk blouse.
In hopes of completely convincing you we’re going to quickly look at …
- How Do They Work?
- How Should You Use Them?
- Why Spray?
- Keep An Eye on the Temperature
- Did You Know Thermal Sprays Have Upped Their Game?
- What Should Be In a Heat Protectant Spray
How Do They Work?
For the most part heat protecting sprays all work pretty much the same.
They deposit a protective thermal barrier on the outer layer of the hair shaft to ward off the effects of all that extreme heat.
Think of it like a thin film that coats your strands to keep them from becoming dry and brittle.
Now obviously heat protectant sprays work best on healthy hair. You know, strands that can absorb their almost magical moisturizing mixture of ingredients?
This protective layer then thwarts potential moisture loss in the face of all that heat as the moistness is like locked in.
Even better, this protection then carries over throughout the day. It helps your mane thrive in the face of say a dry office environment or exposure to the sun’s heat.
This protective layer also smooths the cuticles resulting in less porous strands that are less likely to frizz up when exposed to even the slightest hint of humidity.
How Should You Use Them You Ask?
First grab your bottle(s) of spray heat protectant and duct tape it to any hot styling tools you use often.
Sure maybe that’s a little lame and overly dramatic. Yet you get my point.
In all seriousness as I’ve said heat protectant is non-negotiable. At least if you want hair that doesn’t throw off that fried-to-the-max vibe.
Or if you torture your tresses more than you should with hot styling tools – which is most of us, right?
Then since heat is your hair’s worst enemy it’s smart to double down on the heat protectant.
The trick is recognizing that to get results you can’t cheat. More like you’ve got to go pro. Which is to say you’ve got to diligently apply it like your stylist would.
First take small sections of hair (no more than two inches wide – less is better) and liberally apply the product from top to bottom covering the entire length.
The doubling up is achieved when you comb the product in. You comb it in because you know if the protection isn’t distributed throughout your strands it’s pretty much useless.
The extra time involved here is minimal. While making sure a solid layer of protection is in place can be a deal breaker.
Remember too that using the right products can make a huge difference in the results you get.
Mist Not Drench
The idea here is to apply a fine mist of spray to dry, or mostly dry, hair. (By the way that makes spray on heat protection perfect for second day hair.)
Also some will hold the bottle to close to their head. That keeps the mist from being evenly dispersed. Something like 8-12 inches away (20 to 30 centimeters) ought to be about the right distance for most.
You are not going for the “drowned rat” effect. You know where your hair is sopping wet or close to it although completely coated strands is what you want.
Then too you can safely ignore your roots. You won’t get close enough to them with the heat to matter. So focus on the hair from just below the crown to the tips. Pumping out the protection as evenly as you can.
Pro Tip: Anything that might dry your hair like some dry shampoos or salt spray is best applied after you’re done heat styling. No sense in adding insult onto injury, right?
For one a spray on product works on both dry or damp hair.
Most such products will not only create a heat shield they’ll also make it easier for your hair to slide through the flat iron.
Two, it’s easy not messy.
Oh and one other tip you might want to try is to flip your hair upside down and then spray away. This way you get coverage for the underneath strands too.
Still you’ll want to …
Keep A Close Eye on the Temperature
Whatever you do don’t just mindlessly go for the highest setting even if you are only half awake or running late.
Yes it’s true that the hotter the styling tool the less time you need to keep your hair wrapped around the curling wand or passing between the plates of your flat iron.
But some of these can exceed 450 degrees Fahrenheit! All the more reason to remember that before picking up any hot tool be sure you have product in your hair to protect from such a heat blast.
Oh and if any of your tools don’t specify the temperature exactly, you know just indicate low, medium or high, it’s time to invest in new tools.
Because if the idea is to find the lowest heat setting that styles your hair low, medium or high just isn’t going to cut it. It’s not precise enough.
How High Is High?
Another good question.
Those with color treated hair or finer strands to protect should try to limit the top end to somewhere around 300 degrees (F). Thicker manes might can withstand up to 400 degrees – maybe.
Another way to get by with less heat is to use smaller sections of hair.
Sure it can be tempting when rushed to try to style clumps of hair at once. But usually that means more time on the hot iron or more passes between the plates which doesn’t save any time at all.
Besides it’s just harder to work with bigger sections of hair. So while you’re struggling with the lower strands that won’t stay wrapped or pull through – the hair back further up is frying away.
Did You Know Thermal Sprays Have Upped Their Game?
The latest trend seems to be heat protectants that are designed to shield your strands from styling tools that hit 450 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a lot of heat.
Guess the hair care industry has figured out we have a tendency to crank up the heat as high as we can when hot styling – whether that’s the smart thing to do or not. (Although I’m sure you and I would never do something so crazy!).
So to protect us from ourselves – viola! up to 450 degree heat protection.
Doing a quick bit of research turned up this short list that offer that claim to fame.
- HSI PROFESSIONAL Thermal Protector 450
- Style Sexy Hair 450 Degree Protect Heat Defense Hot Tool Spray
- Ironclad Thermal Protectant
- Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Heat Protect Spray
- TRESemme Flat Iron Smoothing Spray
- Flawless by Gabrielle Union
Trust me, this is by no means all-inclusive. It’s more of a “Hey, Did you know…” kind of thing. To alert you to an ongoing trend that may help save your hair, you know?
But let’s get real.
Just because you might can possibly defend your hair against 450 degrees doesn’t mean you have to crank up your flat or curling iron anywhere near that hot to find out if they do.
Because just like the heat tiles on the space shuttle failed at the worst possible time, your heat protectant might too.
What Ingredients Should Be on the Label of Heat Protectant Spray?
Any heat protectant is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. Just common sense, right?
Which is why this is the point where some will tell you what to look for on the label as you scan the list of ingredients.
I’m not going to do that.
First because you may not have a magnifying glass handy. The print on some of these bottles is smaller than tiny.
Second because I’m not a chemist.
Third, brands selling heat protectants have discovered many ways to skin the cat. So I can’t tell you there is a list of be all and end all ingredients your heat protectant must have or it’s an epic fail.
What I will do is briefly, as in drive-by brief, mention a few of the more common ingredients you’ll see and possibly why you are seeing them.
Glance at the labels of heat protectants and you’ll soon see there are all kinds of ingredients used to guard against thermal damage. Some are heat activated even which is pretty interesting.
Other ingredients fall into the more natural category like argan (and coconut) oil for example. Included since you want thermal protectants to contain stuff that will hydrate as they protect.
Plus vitamins like B5 or vitamin E would fall here too.
Some manufacturers seems to be particularly partial to silicones. Mostly the hair friendly kind like dimethicone or cyclomethicone.
Maybe that’s because they deposit a thin hydrating and protective layer on your hair shaft that protects the cuticle from your hot tools insuring they lie flat reducing frizz.
Yet those with oily hair beware. Too much silicone can leave your hair greasy and flat which isn’t your best look probably. So you’d be better off with something that goes easy on the silicone or is even silicone free.
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
This is another fascinating one that seemingly appears over and over. Beautybythegeeks.com reports that’s because it helps your strands hold onto moisture and strengthens the shaft. It also has volumizing properties.
But not just any wheat protein will do. It must be hydrolyzed.
As naturallycurly.com points out: “Most proteins are too large to be effective, so hydrolysis is necessary for them to be broken down and absorbed by your hair shaft. Which is why the popular eggs and mayonnaise DIY protein treatments may not do what you think. It sounds complicated but the work is done for you in the lab when added to your hair products. It is a safe practice and widely used and accepted, so when you see it on a label know it is done to help strengthen your hair.”
Karatin is another you see over and over. These are more man made polymers that come from animal horns, hoofs and hair that would otherwise go unused. Hmmmm.
Again Beautybythegeeks.com says “this (and other glycols) is great for coating the hair fibre to stop the contact between our hair and the heat styling tool to provide some protection.”
One thing I saw surprising high on the list, meaning there’s more of it, was
I found this to be both surprising and unexpected given that alcohol can be drying to hair. However journeyhairmagazine.com explains it this way. “Alcohol is a base for the ingredients to stay dissolved in, once sprayed it evaporates.” Guess that makes sense if still a bit curious.
Anyway, let’s stop there as I’ve probably bored you out of your mind and bring this guide on heat protectants to an end by pointing out most of us …
Break up With Hot Styling Tools Only to Make up Again
Sure breaking up can be hard to do. I get it.
And for sure I’m not suggesting you unfriend them.
But at least can we agree it’s okay if you don’t speak to them every day?
Truth be told, you don’t want to be reaching for any hot tool, blow dryers included, more than a few times a week. Cutting back the addiction to once or twice weekly would be better still. Any more often and you can just assume you’re doing some damage to your mane – even if protected. I know!
Bottom line? Heat styling can make your hair look amazing; the damage you do to it by excessive heat styling does not.