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How to Prevent and Repair Heat-Damaged Hair

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Split ends, breakage, dryness, roughness, frequent tangles, uneven curl pattern, and more—all undesirable parts of what comes with a love for heat styling tools—and they’re all symptoms of heat-damaged hair. Heat is notorious for taming natural hair into a silky, lightweight texture that most people covet all the time. And with so many heat tools that allow you to get to any texture and style you want in just a few seconds, it can be easy to fall into the routine of using them often enough to cause dryness, split ends, and all the other unmanageable qualities of damaged hair.

It can be frustrating, to say the least, when your hair shows these signs of damage both naturally and after styling, which can leave you with no place to turn. But it is repairable. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to revert your hair back to a healthier state with these tips to prevent and repair your heat-damaged hair.

Use Heat Stylers Less Frequently

This is certainly the most obvious tip, but it is the first and most effective way that you can ensure that your heat-damaged hair can be prevented and have time to recover. An easy way to do this is to take it easy with heat styling tools whenever you feel like you won’t need them, such as in the summertime. You’ll usually find that most curls lose their form and straight hair frizzes up anyway in these humid temperatures.

Though this may make you want to run to the hot tools even more, it’s best to give your hair a break long enough to recuperate from any damage and maintain itself the way it knows how. Heat causes the hair to lie flat and release its natural curl, moisture, and forces your hair to hold a new shape, which in turn dries out your hair cuticle, and alters the structure of your hair’s natural proteins.

But if you can manage to lengthen the time between your heat styling sessions, your hair’s natural oils can resurface and strengthen the structure of its proteins over time, leaving you with more manageable hair for the next time.

Try Heat Alternatives

If you have straighter hair and can’t live without your curler, there are great ways to get a beautiful curl with a heatless overnight style. They usually require the hair to be a little damp to better hold a new shape, which is much easier and healthier on the hair than heat. From Bantu knots to sleeping in buns, you could find your next favorite curling style with one of these easy techniques.

If you prefer straighter hair, try a roller or wrap style instead. It works well to smooth out the shaft of your hair by stretching it naturally. Although it won’t give you the bone-straight look a straightener might, it surely won’t leave your hair feeling terribly dry, split, or as damaged as it otherwise would.

Use Heat Protectants

This is a tip that many people often forget about while they rush to style their hair, and is probably the reason for most heat damage in the first place. From lotions to sprays, heat protectants are widely available with plenty of ingredients that are beneficial for your hair’s strength and longevity, in addition to serving as a protective barrier between your hair shaft and the heat from your styling tool.

As such a small step, it will be easy to slip into your styling routine to both minimize and prevent the effects of heat damage. While using heat protectants, you can also turn down the temperature on your tools to minimize the amount of damage as you style.

Use Deep Conditioning Treatments & Hair Masks

Treatments, masks, and deep conditioners are the fun part—be it small or large, it’s usually where you can see a change overnight in your hair’s quality. The best products to get you the hair quality you crave are ones that have the reparative ingredients you’ll need, like oils, proteins, and vitamins.

Oils such as argan or macadamia are great for combating dryness and soothing heat-damaged hair. Combined with other ingredients such as keratin, which allows the hair to be more manageable, these products will get your hair back to looking and feeling healthier. Try to avoid products with silicones and alcohols, as they can be more drying to the hair, especially when used consistently.

For other reparative measures, some hair vitamins can work wonders to repair your damaged hair on the scientific level. Vitamins that contain some of the same beneficial nutrients for healthy hair, such as biotin, keratin, silk proteins, and other restorative ingredients that will reverse damage like magic, as well as going as far to further prevent it from happening.

Be Gentle With Your Hair

Working with freshly-wet hair is a big no-no when it comes to keeping it strong and healthy. Because your hair is the most vulnerable to breakage when it’s wet, combing your hair through during this time can be more damaging than you might think. So save your detangling session for when your hair is only damp, not dripping or soaking wet, and you’ll be sure to see a difference in the amount of shedding and breakage.

It’s also best not to use towels to dry your hair, as most towel fibers are too rough on hair, especially if it’s already been damaged. This can cause more breakage, as well as split ends, due to the roughness.

Microfiber hair towels work well to avoid this, as they’re soft enough to do their job without risking breakage. They’re also great for curly hair folks, as it promotes moisture retention so your natural curls stay shiny and bouncy. Even opting for an old T-shirt to do a towel’s job works wonders to absorb the excess moisture from your hair while being soft and gentle on your hair.

And finally, to end your hair routine, sleeping on a silk pillowcase or headscarf is a great way to care for your hair. You might not have known that cotton pillowcases and headscarves can be damaging due to the cotton’s ability to absorb moisture. If you’ve ever noticed that your hair has felt overly dry after sleeping, then this is probably why. Silk is gentle enough on the hair to make your styles last longer, and no extra moisture absorption makes for less frizzy hair that’s bouncier, shinier, and overall healthier.

Resources— Naturally Curly, Healthline