How Heat Products Actually Hurt Your Hair, According To The Experts

Now that the cold weather is officially here (damn you, November), we can no longer leave the house with wet hair unless we want actual icicles to attach to our skulls the moment we step outside. Thankfully, we have an endless supply of products to keep us from looking like walking, frizzy-haired snow people. But it's important to know, especially because we're all using them every day, that all hair products are not created equally — there's a reason why some straighteners and curling irons are more expensive than others. 

While you may balk at spending $100+ dollars on a hot tool, it may be worth the investment to avoid doing permanent damage to your hair. "A poorly-made curling iron or straightener will hurt your hair most because you are applying the heat directly to your hair," says Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Beachwaver. "It's so important to invest in really good hair tools to make your hair as healthy as possible!" 

Here are seven ways that heat products can hurt your hair, and what you can do to protect your strands from permanent damage. And, another important expert tip: Every time you unplug your straightener, clap your hands three times. It helps you remember that you turned it off — I don't know why, but trust me — it works.

1. Clamping Them On Unprotected Strands

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer, $28, Sephora 

Repeat After Me: Always. Use. A. Heat. Protectant. "Cheaply made flat irons and curling irons can cause more damage to hair than blow dryers because most flat and curling irons can get up to 450 degrees and clamp directly to the hair," says Sara Caroline, Salon Owner and Contract Educator for Bosley Professional Strength. "Always use a heat protectant, no matter what kind of hot tool you have. It is like wearing an oven mitt when pulling a hot pan out of the oven."


2. Not Evenly Distributing Heat

Xtava Infared Straightener, $46, Amazon

"With a cheap hairstyling tool, the heat is not distributed evenly so there can be "hotspots" on the iron," says Potempa. These hotspots can cause damage to parts of your hair, so it's worth it to invest in a product with plates that you know will give you even coverage. The xtava Pro-Satin Infrared Straightener’s infrared heat technology helps lock in the shine in your strands, which will give you a smooth, long-lasting finish. 

3. Not Getting Hot Enough 

Coast Pro Ceramic Styling Iron, $169, Dermstore 

Cheap hair products often have an dial heat settings, so it's hard to tell exactly how hot they're getting and if they're getting hot enough. "You often have to hold the tool on your hair longer, which causes more damage," says Potempa. "With a cheap flat iron you will have to run it over your hair multiple times in order to get results, and this causes damage over time." She suggests using a higher quality flat iron like the Coast Pro Ceramic Styling Iron because you you only have to run it over your hair once in order to straighten it, because the floating plates smooth across the cuticle better.


4. Overuse

The Beachwaver, $129, Amazon

"Using quality tools will also allow your style to last longer," says Potempa. "For example, if you use the Beachwaver your curls will last for a few days so that you don't need to use heat tools as often. If you use a cheaper curling iron your curls will fall out more quickly." The longer your style lasts, the less you'll have to use your heat products, which makes a real difference in the long run. 


5. Not Using Them With The Right Products

Darby Clips, $10, Macys

Not only do you need to consider which heat product you're using, you also need to think about what products you're using to prep your hair. "It's also important to remember that the tools you use before and after the heat products matter!" says Potempa. "Try sectioning with Darby Clips to style your hair in smaller sections. I also recommend brushing your hair with the On Set Styling Brush after styling. The nylon/boar bristle combination will keep the hair smoother and healthier!"

6. Not Having The Right "Ingredients"

CHI Air 1 Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron, $125, Amazon

With heat products, in most cases you get what you pay for. "Curling irons and flatirons are also going to be more expensive with better parts and quality construction," says Christyn Nawrot, PHYTO National Educator.   "For example, ceramic and tourmaline technology will always be healthier for the hair than a basic metal iron. They protect the hair and evenly distribute heat for a better finished style with extra shine because they seal the cuticle." Look for the words "ion therapy," "tourmaline or ceramic technology" and "temperature dial" on the box to know you're getting what you need.


7. Using Only Negative Ions

Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron 1", $140, Sephora

"Cheap products not only slow you down while styling but can completely fry your hair," says Caroline. "Cheaper flat irons, as well as blow dryers that say 'Ion Technology' on them usually use negative ions, which will make your hair frizzier!" Frizzier hair + Slower styling Time = Worth it to invest in a better quality tool, like this one from Bio Ionic which has an ion balance that won't mess with your hair. 

Images: Bustle; Courtesy of Brands

Must Reads