For many of us, heat is as essential to our hair care routine as washing it. But when used too frequently or at too high a temperature, it can cause lengths to become extremely dry and at worst, more breakage-prone .
However, a good quality heat protectant can help offset some of the damage - a worthwhile addition to your routine that can save your hair from burn out.
They’re generally characterised by ingredients that act as a protective shield on the cuticle surface. “This shield helps to prevent moisture loss and limit dehydration,” explains Steve Shiel, L’Oréal UK&I Director of Scientific Affairs. Silicones are commonly used because of, as Steve points out, their low thermal conductivity (i.e. they don’t transfer heat easily). They therefore help lower the rate at which heat is transferred to the hair fibre.
Polymers also act as an effective heat protective ingredient in Steve’s experience (such as hydrolysed wheat protein) and, much in the same way as silicones, work by forming a film on the hair’s surface.
In terms of finding the best fit for your styling needs, check the temperature that the product provides protection up to, (“If your straighteners heat up to 230°C, then you don’t want to choose a product that only provides protection up to 180°C” - very good point Steve). This will normally be listed on the label. Be mindful of your hair type too. As a general rule, sprays suit finer hair types better as they allow for more even distribution of product and they'll prevent hair feeling weighed down. The thicker your hair, the more it’ll be able to cope with richer textures such as serums and creams. Separate hair into sections and then apply to ensure you're protected from root to tip.
Which heat protectants deliver? Here are our top picks.
ghd Heat Protect Spray, £10 for 120ml
Great for: An all-rounder
This bestseller is as much a staple in our heat styling routines as the brand’s award-winning straighteners. Containing a protection polymer that acts as an invisible shield against temperatures of up to 220°C and conditioning ingredients to keep hydration levels up, it keeps finished styles singe-free.
Living Proof Restore Perfecting Spray, £27 for 236ml
Great for: Finer hair types
If you’re looking to go down the silicone-free route, this multi-tasking moisturising mist is your perfect match. Great at detangling as well as adding shine, it uses a slip-enhancing polymer to protect hair from temperatures of up to 204°C.
Kérastase L’Incroyable Blowdry Crème, £18.30 for 125ml
Great for: Frizz-prone hair
Steve Shiel’s top pick, this intuitive styling cream uses clever tech to not just protect hair against heat, but also set your style and speed up overall styling time too. It does this by way of stimuli sensitive micro-waxes that ‘switch on’ when exposed to heat. Special shout-out also to another Kérastase favourite of mine - its Resistance Ciment Thermique Resurfacing Strengthening Blow Dry Milk , £18.30, which protects hair from temperatures of up to 180°C and leaves hair smooth.
Tresemme Biotin Repair Primer Spray, £6.10 for 125ml
Great for: Weak hair
Containing strengthening B-vitamin biotin, this budget-friendly option not only works to protect hair from temperatures of up to 230°C but also helps reinforce the protein structure of each strand. It also leaves hair shinier and more manageable too.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair Blow Dry Beautifier Cream, £17.30 for 150ml
Great for: Thick hair
Designed to prime, moisturise, smooth and protect, this creamy-textured pick is a personal favourite of mine on humid days. Containing micro-waxes and silicones to provide both hold and heat protection (up to 180°C), it reduces the chance of ends becoming frizzy and frazzled by evening.
Pureology Colour Fanatic Multi-Tasking Hair Beautifier, £23.50 for 200ml
Great for: Coloured hair
As far as multitaskers go, this has to be one of the best around. Providing a whopping 21 benefits ranging from heat protection to detangling and hydration, it uses a combination of silicones and antioxidant fennel extract to protect hair against high temperatures (up to 180°C) and environmental aggressors. It’s also vegan too.
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