11 Ways To Achieve Damage-Free Straight Hair

by Elena Hart

I remember the first time I was ever introduced to a straightening iron. I was in fifth grade, and I watched in awe as my friend turned her hair full of ringlet curls into smooth, flat locks. It was a moment that launched my mostly love but sometimes hate relationship with flat irons. After many years of trying almost everything possible that promised to smooth my strands, I've picked up on important tips and tricks to achieve the look I want: straight hair without heat damage — aka, attaining sleek, frizz-free style that doesn't compromise a healthy head of hair in the process.

If you're like me, and part of your daily beauty routine involves smoothing out natural curls or waves, there are many ways for you to achieve the look you want while eliminating the unwanted damage to your locks. It could be as simple as snagging a thermal protecting product to shield your hair against heat damage, or you might need a heat-adjustable iron to avoid using the wrong temperature on your straightener that causes strands to dry out or break off. So, shake off the haters who tell you that you can't have your cake and eat it, too, because these damage-free flat hair fix-ups are total game-changers.

Prep Your Strands With A Smoothing Shampoo And Conditioner

Rusk Deepshine Keratin Care Set, $21, Amazon

This heat repair shampoo and conditioner contains natural Keratin, a high-shine smoothing agent, as well as marine botanicals to prep and protect your hair for future heat styling. The conditioning agents replenish moisture your hair has lost during countless battles with the flat iron, and the set is able to restore vibrancy and elasticity to color-treated hair, too.

Use A Powerful Thermal Protectant Before Applying Heat

Bamboo Anti-Breakage Thermal Protectant Spray , $13, Amazon

This replenishing protective spray works its magic in three steps: It protects your hair from the damaging effects of exposure to high temperatures, it smooths and adds shine as you run your straightener through, and it repairs existing dryness and breakage. With this simple prep step, your hair won't have a straw-like, unmanageable texture after your next flat-ironing session.

Section Your Hair While Straightening Using Taming Hair Clips

Hair Tamer Styling Clips (6 pack), $6, Amazon

By sectioning your hair while you straighten using these heavy duty hair clips, you will cut your morning prep time in half. These clips will hold up even the thickest hair as they self-adjust to your mane. Start with your bottom layer, splitting your hair down the middle in the back and pulling each side forward. When you're rushing and trying to straighten random chunks of hair, the heat isn't being fully applied to hair — leaving you frustrated and likely resigned to a messy bun, yet again.

Use A Straightener With Ceramic Plates

Xtava Goddess Flat Iron , $35, Amazon

Having a flat iron with ceramic tourmaline plates is vital to maintaining healthy hair when it's constantly exposed to heat. The ceramic plates on this straightener protect the hair with negatively charged ions, and tourmaline is a gemstone that also works to keep your strands smooth. This iron even protects color-treated hair and includes an adjustable LCD temperature display, so you can stay in control of how much heat you want.

Or Avoid Re-Straightening With A Fast Recovery-Time Tool

MHD Professional Hair Straightener, $36, Amazon

Between strokes, your straightener loses heat and can take time to get back to its start setting. It's important to choose the ceramic-plated straightener with a fast recovery time to keep styling consistent and to reduce damage caused by going over strands repeatedly to reach the look you want. This iron also has an instant heat-up feature that's perfect for hectic mornings or last-minute date prep. One user claims it's truly "the best straightening iron" and cut nearly 20 minutes from her routine.

For Travel, Choose the Easy Temp-Control, Dual Voltage Tool

Kadori Temperature Control Dual Voltage, $50, Amazon

If you're in the habit of always setting your flat iron at the highest possible temperature setting, turn down the heat with an easily adjustable flat iron. Hair with an average texture should be ironed at 300 to 380 degrees, and thick or coarse hair should be at a temperature in the 350 to 400-degree range. If you hear sizzling, smell strands burning, or see creases that are being created by the heat, you have your setting up too high. (Bonus: This straightener comes with dual voltage, so it's perfect to pack for your next travel overseas!)

Treat Hair With Repairing Coconut Oil Once A Month

Hair Chemist Coconut Oil Deep Repair Masque, $11, Amazon

If you apply heat to your hair on a daily basis, show your locks some extra love by applying this deeply restorative hair mask once a month. (One user even said applying this mask once improved her hair's condition ten-fold.) The mask's coconut oil is the perfect solution for dry or damaged hair, thanks to its jojoba seed oil, beeswax, and cocoa seed butter. Just comb it through your hair post-shower, and leave it on for seven minutes before rinsing it out to let your revitalized hair air-dry.

Embrace The Good Ol' Fashioned Air-Dry With A Bamboo Hair Towel

Bamboo Hair Towel, $10, Amazon

Give your hair (and arms) a break at least once a week, and reduce your hair's exposure to heat by letting it air-dry with a towel made with the sustainable bamboo plant. This absorbent towel is the perfect alternative to terrycloth towels that cause breakage and damage when rubbing against your mane. (Bonus: For extra hold on thick hair, the towel includes an elastic loop. )

When You're Blow Drying, Use A Smoothing Dryer to Prep Hair

Panasonic Hair Dryer with Nanoe Technology, $130, Amazon

By directing heat downwards while drying with a precision nozzle attachment, you are prepping your hair for the flat iron by giving strands direction. That means you have less work to do later (and less frizz to deal with, too). This fast-working hair dryer has three temperature settings and two speeds — use a lower temperature and a higher speed for the most healthy end result.

Don't Think Blow Drying Long Hair Is Less Damaging Than A Straightener

Spornette Ion Fusion Aerated Hair Brush , $13, Amazon

Using a flat paddle brush while applying the heat of a dryer can put a lot of stress on your strands, causing major breakage. Use the professional round brush that promises healthy hair and no snagging, instead, for days when you need to brush and dry. Air can flow past hair through the brush's holes, for less stress on your strands. (Still, keep brushing while drying to a minimum: You may think you're killing two birds with one stone, but this can be more damaging to long locks then air-drying and straightening.)

Finish With The Right Products To Seal Damage

Phyto Phytolisse Glossing Finishing Serum, $30, Amazon

This grease-free serum's lightweight formula penetrates your hair to leave it feeling silky-smooth and free of frizz. It can be used throughout the day to keep glossiness going, and users said the serum adds body without weighing hair down, in addition to smoothing out those pesky baby hairs on your hairline. (Pro Tip: Never spray or apply a product when your hair is still cooling down to steer clear of sizzling strands and causing excess damage and unwanted frizz.)

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Images: Fotolia (1); Amazon (11)