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Can You Save Heat Damaged Hair? A Comprehensive Guide to Getting Back to Healthy Hair

Can you save heat damaged hair is one of the queries I receive often. With the recommendations in this article, there is some hope for heat damaged hair before you consider trimming your hair.

Best tips for repairing Heat Damaged Hair

There’s a popular myth that certain types of hair can’t get heat damaged but this is simply not true.

No matter your hair type, there is always the possibility that you can suffer heat damage at some point if you have bad hair care practices.

In this article, I will share the causes of heat-damaged hair, symptoms of heat damaged hair, how to fix it, and the best products for heat damaged hair.

I will also be answering the common FAQs about heat damaged hair I receive from time to time.

What Causes Heat Damaged Hair?

Heat damage usually occurs when the setting on the heat styling appliance is too high or the treatments are too often.

Heat damage also occurs when the hair is not properly protected before heat application.

If your hair wasn’t healthy enough before heat application, there is a chance of heat damage even if the appliance is at a low temperature.

For instance, blow-drying high porosity hair is a great way to remain high porosity and cause even further damage.

Heat Damaged Hair Symptoms – Top 8 Signs

Heat damaged hair is hair that doesn’t revert back to its natural state after a heat styling treatment.

These are heat styling treatments like blow-drying and using a curling iron or a flat iron. The most common symptoms of heat damaged hair include:-

  1. When you shampoo and deep condition your hair a few days after heat styling and your hair doesn’t revert to its natural state – curly, wavy, etc.
  2. Your hair remains extremely dry no matter how many times you deep condition.
  3. Extreme tangling after handling hair only a little bit is a sign of heat damaged ends.
  4. The length of your hair especially the ends feels rough and prickly to the touch when hair is dry.
  5. Your hair breaks off easily, especially when wet.
  6. Loss of hair elasticity – your strands don’t bounce back to shrinking after it comes in contact with water.
  7. It’s next to impossible to keep moisture in your hair. Moisture evaporates quickly and with dryness comes crunchy hair.
  8. Increased incidence of single strand knots on curlier hair.

Experiencing 1 or 2 of these symptoms in isolation doesn’t automatically mean heat damaged hair and could just be very dry hair.

This is why you should go through the recommendations below before you determine you have heat damaged hair.

What Heat Damaged Hair Looks Like?

Below is a juxtaposition of a healthy hair strand and a damaged hair strand. The cuticles on the damaged hair strand are frayed and raised.


How To Repair Heat Damaged Hair

1. Fastest Solution for Heat Damaged Hair

The fastest solution for heat damaged hair is a clean slate – basically a big chop. Snip away all the damage and start with fresh and healthy ends.

You can get it professionally snipped or if you’re comfortable doing it yourself, get a great pair of trimming scissors such as Equinox trimming shears.

Read Best Tips for Trimming Natural Hair for the best tips and tricks for DIY trimming.

However, a lot of women are apprehensive about losing length plus you may not be sure if your hair is heat damaged or just really dry.

In this case, continue reading for the most optimal solutions going forward.

2. Clarify Your Hair

For this step, you want a good clarifying shampoo that contains sulfate or other gentle surfactants.

It’s only for one-time use so don’t be scared about how much it will strip your hair if at all. Some good clarifying shampoos include:-

3. Follow Up With a Protein Treatment

Follow up the clarifying shampoo with a strong protein treatment. I recommend protein treatments like:-

Olaplex Hair Perfector No 3 Repairing Treatment

4. Deep Condition With Heat

After rinsing out the protein treatment, follow up with a moisturizing deep conditioner with heat steaming.

It’s very important that this deep conditioner does not have any protein in it or very little protein at the minimum.

Some great moisturizing deep conditioner recommendations include:-

Mielle Babassu and Mint Deep Conditioner

kinky curly knot today for braid spray

After you try all the suggestions above and your hair doesn’t revert back to its original state then the heat damage is definitely irreversible.

You could try shampooing and deep conditioning 2 more times over two weeks just to be sure.

Failing reversal, the only solution at this stage is trimming off the heat damaged hair and incorporating best hair care practices going forward.

Do not hold onto heat damaged ends for longer than a few months otherwise it might start affecting healthy hair.

More Tips for Heat Damaged Hair

Stop Using Heat Appliances

While nursing your hair back to health, avoid all heat appliances minus the hair steamer of course.

Continued use of heat appliances while treating heat damaged hair is like bailing water out of a sinking boat.

Switch to Microfiber Towels

If you haven’t already, switch to microfiber towels. Microfiber towels help dry hair quickly without raising your cuticles.

Some good microfiber recommendations include DevaCurl DevaTwist Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel Wrap and Hero Microfiber Hair Towel.

DevaCurl DevaTwist Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel Wrap

Put Down the Hair Brush

Definitely do not brush heat damaged hair. Your best bet is finger detangling and a very wide-tooth comb like a rake detangler.

How to Prevent Heat Damaged Hair

Going forward, below are the best practices prior to and after heat styling so you can prevent heat damaged hair from reoccurring:-

1. Cleanse Hair With a Moisturizing Shampoo

Cleanse hair with a good moisturizing shampoo. I recommend:-

These shampoos are strong enough to clarify yet gentle enough not to strip hair of oils.

2. Deep Condition With a Protein-Rich Conditioner

Deep condition with a good protein-rich conditioner. I recommend:-

If your hair is protein-sensitive, add a few tablespoons of a moisturizing deep conditioner to the mix.

However, you cannot skip out on a strengthening deep treatment before and 2 – 3 times after heat styling.

3. Deep Condition With Heat

This is not optional. To ensure the deep conditioner penetrates the hair shaft properly, you need heat to activate it.

Whether you’re using a professional hair steamer or a tabletop hair steamer, always deep condition for 30 – 45 minutes.

EZBASICS Hair Steamer

4. Partially Air Dry

Partially air dry your hair before heat styling. Heat styling soaking wet hair increases the chances of heat damage.

Air dry hair about 50% of the way before proceeding with heat styling i.e. blow-drying. You can air dry in loose twists to prevent tangling and knots.

You should be using flat irons and curling irons only on completely dry hair.

5. Don’t Forget the Leave-in Conditioner and Heat Protectant

You must use a leave-in conditioner and heat protectant before using heat appliances.

I use Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner/Detangler with grapeseed oil and have great results every time.

However, you may need something with a bit more oomph depending on your hair type. In this case, I recommend:-

Heat Protectant

Leave-in Conditioners

6. Reduce Temperature of Heat Appliances

Just because the 450-degree setting is there doesn’t mean you’re supposed to turn it all the way up.

Keep temperate at a minimum. I find anything between 275 degrees and 350 degrees is safe for curly hair.

You won’t get bone straight hair at those temperatures but you’ll still get good results and your hair remains healthy.

7. Use Heat Appliances Less Often

Even if you do everything recommended above, if you use heat appliances on a daily or weekly basis, it is likely you will end up with heat damaged hair at some point.

Once or twice a month is OK. Once, twice or more a week is just asking for damaged hair.

8. Use Healthier Healthier Heat Appliances

Buy only heat appliances that are equipped with the latest technology that protects hair as it does its job.

For instance, a ceramic hair dryer distributes heat evenly and an ionic dryer dries the hair in a shorter time frame.

A tourmaline blow dryer helps the hair dry faster while retaining moisture.

For more on choosing the right heat appliances, read 10 Most Recommended Blow Dryers for Thick, Curly Hair.

9. Try Alternative Straightening Methods

Do you know there are so many other ways to straighten curly hair without the use of heat or very little heat? Why not try one of these?

You might find a method that works well enough that you eliminate heat altogether.

For alternative straightening ideas, read 13 Types of Hair Rollers for Natural Hair.

Best Products for Heat Damaged Hair

I’ve collated all the products recommended above including some additional ones below:-


Protein Treatments

Moisturizing Deep Conditioners

Protein Deep Conditioners

Leave-in Conditioners

Any good conditioner that provides a balance of moisture and strength is best.

And don’t forget to seal your hair with hair butter and/or oil.

I will upload individual articles with a breakdown of each product for heat damaged hair in future articles.

Best Ways to Prevent Heat Damaged Hair

FAQs About Heat Damaged Hair

Does Heat Damaged Hair Grow?

Yes, heat damaged hair does grow. However, the damaged ends will continue to break off if you don’t trim them.

Does Heat Damaged Hair Need Protein?

Damaged hair is high porosity hair so you definitely need protein to strengthen heat damaged hair.

Aphogee 2 Step Protein Treatment is good for every 8 – 10 weeks while Aphogee 2 Minute Reconstructor is good for weekly treatments.

Henna and indigo treatments also mimic protein and are good for heat damaged hair.

Don’t forget to always balance out with moisturizing deep conditioning treatments.

You need moisture as much as you need protein.

Does Heat Damaged Hair Fall Out?

If left untreated over a long period of time, yes heat damaged hair will start to fall out and break off.

It can also lead to split ends that will travel up the hair shaft and cause even more damage.

Can Heat Damaged Hair Be Reversed?

There are certain steps you can take to see if the damage can be reversed, which I’ve shared above.

This is because sometimes, hair that looks heat damaged might just be severely dry and stressed.

If you try those recommendations and hair still appears damaged, then the only solution is trimming.

Don’t be afraid to trim heat damaged hair because with healthier ends comes better length retention.

If you have any more questions about taking care of heat damaged hair, drop them in the comments section.

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