We’re putting heat in the hot seat. If you are curly and are worried about the damaging effects of heat on your texture while smoothing, keep reading. As a professional, I want to reassure you that you CAN use heat (in moderation), and this blog will teach you how.

So, let’s get straight to the root of things …

What are the Effects of Using too Much Heat?

Well, it depends. The effects of heat damage vary on wet vs. dry hair.

When heat meets wet hair, it’s a recipe for disaster. The boiling point of water is 100°C, but a hot iron, curling wand or straightener can easily reach 185-230 °C. This causes the water in your hair to evaporate explosively, pulling moisture and life out of each strand. 

Not even dry hair is safe – without protection, heat causes damage to the protective cuticle layer and natural hair lipids, denatures hair proteins and decomposes pigment. 

The end result? Brittle, dull, and damaged hair with split ends and fading color.

How to Use Heat Safely On Your Hair When Styling

Step 1: Apply a Heat Protectant.

Heat protectant is like sunscreen for the hair. It acts as a barrier between your hair and the heat, fending off frizz and sealing in moisture. 

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What is the best heat protectant to use?

The best heat protectants are made from ingredients with low thermal conductivities. In other words, they slow heat in its tracks and keep water evaporation to a minimum. Ingredients to look out for include:

  • Quaternary 70
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • PVP/Dmapa Acrylates Copolymer
  • And the best among these ingredients? Silicones.

Products containing silicones (ie. Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone) are commonly frowned upon in the curly hair community but they offer the best line of protection against both heat AND frizz.

BEWARE: Keep in mind that heat protectants only reduce the amount of damage caused by heat styling. They can’t completely protect your hair – even the best results show about 50% heat protection at most. Which is why the next steps are so important.

Step 2: Use YOUR Appropriate Heat Setting 

  • Fine hair and damaged hair: lowest settings 250-340°F 
  • Healthy natural hair that is fine/medium texture 340-380°F
  • Coarse, thick hair, then you can stick to 380-410°F

Step 3: Re-apply heat protectant.

That’s right. For maximum protection, a layer of protectant should be added in between each application of heat. Once before blow drying, and again before ironing. There are products to be applied on wet or dry hair, or both.

Minimize Frequency: repeated use is hair abuse – but it depends on how it’s being used. If you’re like me, you may be using heat every time you wash/style my hair to diffuse, this is much different from flat ironing as the heat is more indirect and you’re encouraging curl rather than straightening it out. 

If you’re touching up your natural curls that aren’t sitting right with a curling iron, you’re only adding to the problem.


  • smoke coming off the hair is the heat protectant, not your hair burning. 
  • OILS do not provide heat protection. 
  • Silicones will not melt and polymerize on the hair, they will protect you

And there you have it – the tea on heat.

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