So you have decided you want to use some heat. You are looking for some variety in how your hair looks, and at the same time you don’t want to damage your hair or affect your natural waves, curls and kinks. I am personally good with many modifications to the original Curly Girl / Curly Hair Method (which advised against heat) so let’s talk about how to protect your hair for those times.
First thing to know: if you are regularly using a diffuser and you usually keep the speed at medium and the heat setting low to medium, I say using a specific heat protectant probably isn't necessary. There will be enough oils or proteins through your styling products that will do the job. But if you are concerned and you like to diffuse on high/hot, by all means keep reading and consider using more protection. This article is more about those times when you want to grab the flat iron or wand.
Let’s start by giving you an idea on what exact temperatures are within the safe zone when it comes to hair.
“Safe” zone: 50°C or lower
“Probably safe” zone: 50°C to 65°C
“Danger” zone: 65°C and above
This danger zone is where you could experience cracks in the hair's cuticles. These cracks will mean the friction can cause more chips and breaks affecting and creating high porosity hair.
Most flat irons/wands will be in the danger zone - some of them easily go to 148°C and higher! If you do have one or want one, a flat iron with a digital gauge may go a bit lower. Getting one with a digital reader will help you know what you are working with.
Tips for Minimizing Heat Damage
- Try to use a flat iron on dry hair – even a little bit of dampness will cause more damage.
- Pass the iron quickly and for as few passes as possible over the hair.
- Use it in sections, not putting in too much or too little hair.
- Let your hair cool before touching or brushing it.
Ingredients that Protect Against Heat Damage
Generally when heat is discussed, most people will state that silicones are the only thing that will protect against damage. I agree that they are a good bet and if using them is okay with you, go ahead. Most cleansers or a clarifying shampoo will remove any silicones. Using them here and there will not affect any progress you have made with your natural curls.
Having said that, here is a list of Curly Hair Method approved ingredients that offer heat protection.
Heat protectant ingredients:
- Quanternium 70 (Stearamidopropyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride or Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine)
- P/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer
- Glycerin, if in the first 1-3 ingredients in an ingredient list (2%+)
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein or keratin
- Sodium laureth-40 maleate/styrene sulfonate copolymer (this is not a sulfate)
- Cetrimonium Bromide
- Sodium polystyrene sulfonate (this is not a sulfate either)
As well you will find - as I noted above - that oils can help. They will insulate just a little by dispersing the heat. Plus the flexibility and lubrication that oils provide anyhow will allow your flat iron to glide more smoothly over the hair.
Curly Hair Method Approved Heat Protectants
Here is a list as of Curly Hair Method approved heat protectants. Note I put in brackets anything that might be a concern if you are strict with the Method. There’s a few more brands that are specific to the USA that are more difficult to get in Canada so I have not included them at this time.
Curl Keeper Thermal Defence
Aveda Brilliant Damage Control
AG Rosehip Balm (has trace amount of wax)
John Frieda Frizz Ease Heat Spray (alcohol denat)
OGX Shea Sleek Style Spray
AG Hair Set It Straight
Texture ID Thermal Multi Styling Foam
Loreal Elvive Aqua Serum
Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Style Setting Spray
Giovanni Vitaprol Fusion Protective Leave In Treatment
Shea Moisture JBCO Blow Dry Cream
Matrix Biolage Thermal Active Spray and Raw Heat Styling Primer
Desert Essence Coconut Hair Defrizzer and Heat Protector
Maui Moisture Heat Shield Mist
Aveeno Blackberry Heat Shield Mist
Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Cream
Original Moxie Reparative Blow Dry Cream
Briogeo Color Me Brilliant
Giovanni 2 Chic Dual Action Protective Leave In Spray
Just Nutrititive Heat Protecting Hair Treatment
Aveda Nutraplenish Leave In
Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel
Chi 44 Iron Guard (alcohol denat)
Paul Mitchell Round Trip (water soluble silicone)
Innersense Hair Love Prep Spray
* Products are considered approved for the Curly Hair / Curly Girl Method as of March 2021. Formulas may change at any time.