Perhaps one of the most controversial topics in the natural hair community is the use of heat styling tools. Should you use them? If so, how often is too often? Most importantly, how can you protect your curls while using heat to change their shape? And then, once you get past the ‘should I?’ questions, you have to decide which tools to use. Are ceramic straighteners better than titanium? Are hot combs still a thing? Can type 4 hair rely on the increasingly popular straightening brush?
One thing you’ll need regardless of the heat styling tool you choose or how often you use it? A heat protectant. Adding a heat protectant to your routine can be the difference between healthy curls post-heat and a heat-induced disaster. It’s also important to remember that heat damage does not have a universal appearance; it can present itself as damage to the cuticle layer (probably the most noticeable sign, resulting in the appearance of dry and dull hair), to the denaturing of hair proteins (hair protein is the magical component that gives hair its elasticity, strength and volume), to the loss of hair lipids and amino acids, which are crucial for moisture retention in the hair, and even loss of pigment in coloured hair. So while heat can be certainly be bad for hair, especially curls, damage is preventable.
Some of the ingredients to look for in a heat protectant that can help to combat heat damage are glycerin, propylene glycol, and silicone. Yes, really! When combating heat damage, silicones — which are often unfairly vilified — actually assist in keeping hair healthy because they slow down the rate that your hair absorbs and transfers heat.
Now onto to the meat and potatoes of heat styling. Anyone with textured hair should look for a straightener thats heat up quickly and most importantly, evenly, so that each section of your hair gets the same amount of heat, therefore allowing you to adhere to the “one pass” rule rather than going over the same section of hair over and over again, resulting in more heat damage. These types of straighteners tend to be made with titanium plates and have built-in heat regulators, so they get appropriately hot but never hotter than they need to in order to do their job. Hot tools with wider plates can also be beneficial because of their ability to cover more surface area in one pass.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite heat protectants and heat tools that get the job done with minimal hair damage.
Amika Blockade Heat Defense Serum
The Amika Blockade Heat Defense Serum is a great option if you’re in the market for a vegan and cruelty-free heat protectant. Also free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates and artificial colours, this lightweight serum is enriched with vitamin-rich sea buckthorn berry, which contains vitamin C and A, antioxidants, as well as healthy omega fatty acids to help replace any moisture you may have lost through the straightening process.
Moroccanoil Perfect Defense Spray
If you’re looking for a product to use in addition to some of the others in your rotation, the Moroccanoil Perfect Defense spray is a safe bet. Infused with argan oil, which is jam-packed with essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E, the lightweight spray makes it the perfect layering option.
T3 Lucea ID 1-inch Smart Straightening and Styling Iron
Thanks to HeatID technology, you can actually adjust the heat temperature of the T3 Lucea 1D 1-inch Smart Straightening & Styling Iron according to a customized profile based on the texture and length of your hair. There’s even an option for colour-treated hair. With a refresh mode that reduces heat when you’re just touching up previously styled tresses, this truly is the straightener that can do it all.
Drybar The Tiny Tress Press 1-Inch Straightening Iron
This straightener may be tiny but it sure is mighty. At only an inch wide, this is a great option for getting close to curly roots, baby hairs, those fragile hairs at the nape of your neck, or just short hair in general. Titanium technology allows it to seal heat into the cuticle for less frizz and leave hair straight and shiny.
Dyson Corrale Straightener
Not shopping on a budget? Well, no hair tool round-up would be complete without a Dyson. The plates of the Corrale straightener actually flex in order to mold to the exact shape of your hair, which makes it a great investment piece for someone with textured hair. It’s made with copper plates (known for evenly conducting heat) and features three heat settings to best suit your hair type, as well as heat control that regulates the temperature of the plates 100 times a second (!!) to ensure that you never go over your chosen heat temperature. Did we mention it’s also cordless and automatically turns off after 10 minutes of inactivity, so you never have to worry about whether or not you left your straightener on? Groundbreaking.
ghd Platinum+ Professional Performance 1″ Styler
Ever wondered what it would be like to have a straightener that can predict the future? Look no further, the ghd platinum+ Professional Performance 1″ Styler is the answer. Kind of. This flat iron uses predictive technology, which can recognize the thickness of your hair and the speed at which you’re styling it, to adapt the heat of its plates accordingly. This means that you get the perfect amount of heat every time, giving you a sleek look with fewer passes and in less time. It only takes 20 seconds for this hot tool to reach its maximum temperature of 365 degrees.
HSI Glider Ceramic Flat Iron
If you’ve ever been to the salon to get your curls straightened, chances are at one point or another you’ve encountered an HSI Professional straightener. With a reputation for being durable, effective and made with ceramic plates (known for their ability to reach high temperatures), this straightener has an impressive range of 140 to 450 degrees. It’s also infused with tourmaline crystals that help to neutralize ions that can cause static and frizz.
Gold N Hot Professional Styling Comb
We know you’ve heard the horrifying stories about hot combs. From possible burns on your ears and neck to irreparable heat damage to your hair, they don’t exactly have a glowing reputation. However, when paired with the right heat protectant, and used in moderation and by someone who truly knows what they’re doing, hot combs can actually leave your hair silky smooth and super straight. If you choose to go down this road, we suggest using one like the Gold N Hot Professional Styling Comb that has a multi-temperature regulator, so you can decide which temperature you want to use.
Drybar The Single Shot Blow-Dryer Brush
If there’s one thing we can trust Drybar with, it’s a good blowout — every time. Their Single Shot Round Blow-Dryer Brush combines a round brush with hot air in order to give you a smooth and sleek blowout. For those with curly hair, we suggest detangling and sectioning hair off before giving this a go. You can also choose between three different heat settings to ensure that whatever your hair type, you’re getting the right amount of heat. Hot tip: For type 4 hair, it might be best to do a rough blow dry before using the brush to ensure that you get the smoothest results.
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