Heat-Damaged Hair: What Causes It And How To Prevent It

by Arshiya Syeda

Frizzy, dehydrated, lifeless, and dull – heat-damaged hair is not a pretty sight! It breaks easily, and it can be unmanageable and rough, painful to comb, and hard to keep tangle-free.

We all hate to put our hair through any damage. But we are occasionally (sometimes even frequently) enticed into using those forbidden heat styling tools to give us those dreamy hairstyles. But, heat damage can leave your hair looking dry, stringy, brittle, and rough. And sometimes, when you try to reverse the damage, you will find that your hair just does not cooperate!

So, work on fixing that damage. If heat-damaged hair is a problem you are struggling with, we have just the right tips to make it right. But before we tell you how to treat your heat-damaged hair, let’s help you understand why and how heat damages hair.

How Does Heat Damage Your Hair?

The human hair shaft has a fascinating internal structure. It consists of three distinct layers called the cortex, cuticle, and medulla.

The medulla – referred to as the hair’s pith or marrow – is not substantially affected by heat. However, cosmetic procedures and heat can break down the other two layers of the hair and change its natural physical characteristics considerably.

Want to know how? Let’s delve into the science:

  • The cuticle is the hair’s outermost protective layer. The protein scales of the cuticle resemble the shingles on a roof. They overlap and help lock in moisture within the hair strand.
  • When you subject your hair to excessive heat styling or chemical treatments such as bleaching, coloring, and perming, the shingle-like cells of the cuticle layer are raised.
  • Hair with raised cuticles has a higher probability of damage as it allows moisture to escape and harmful solutions to enter it.
  • Once the cuticle of the hair cracks or lifts, the cortex or the middle layer of the hair becomes completely exposed.
  • The cortex is the layer that gives the hair its strength, elasticity, and color. When the cortex of the hair is damaged, it becomes extremely porous.
  • The hair now becomes unable to retain moisture, looks choppy, and may even break off easily.

So, just like you religiously slather on sunscreen before stepping out, you need to know that heat-styling tools and that big ball of fire in the sky have equally damaging effects on your hair.

Now that we have told you how heat can damage hair, it’s time for you to know what heat damaged hair looks like.

Signs Of Heat-Damaged Hair

  • Split Ends

If you love your heat-styling tools, you will most likely end up with broken, frayed ends. Split ends are one of the most telltale signs of heat damage. Sadly, split ends or dry hair ends cannot be reversed, and the only solution is to cut them off.

  • Unmanageable Hair

Heat-damaged natural hair has a stiffer texture and is more difficult to style. The daily wear and tear also starts making your hair look unruly and dry.

  • Hair Breakage And Shedding

Rogue hair and fly aways are bad enough, but another troublesome symptom of heat-damaged hair is breakage and shedding. Heat styling can make your hair brittle and more prone to breakage.

Strong heat also makes the hair shaft weak and fragile, thus triggering hair loss and thinning. So if you are losing a lot of hair, your heat-styling tools could be causing it.

  • Overly Dry Hair

Dryness is one of the more obvious symptoms of heat-damaged hair. Excess heat can strip your hair of all its moisture, leaving it brittle and dry.

So if you notice that your hair feels rough, stringy, and dry even after moisturizing it daily, it could be a sign of heat damage.

  • Tangles And Knots

Broken, frizzy, scraggly ends are characteristic of heat- and sun-damaged hair. When hair loses its natural sheen and elasticity, it tends to mat together and become a tangled mess.

  • Dull Hair

Fried hair looks dull and lifeless. This is because damaged hair fibers cause light to scatter instead of bounce back, giving it a rather faded, lusterless appearance.

  • Fading Hair Color

Notice that your hair color is washing out fast? You can blame it on straightening, curling, blow-drying, and chemical treatments! If your hair has been severely damaged, it is not going to retain color.

Cutting down on heat styling can go a long way in eliminating the resulting split ends and damage. But, you might find it challenging to completely reverse the signs of extensive heat damage. Fortunately, you can make your hair more manageable with the following natural remedies for burnt hair.

Repairing Heat-Damaged Hair: All-Natural At-Home Remedies

The global hair industry is a billion-dollar business. So it should come as no surprise that millions of products out there promise to cure your damaged hair woes.

But before you pile on those shampoos, hair sprays, serums, creams, and gels, here are some all-natural remedies that can help repair your heat-damaged hair.

1. Try An Oil Soak

An oil soak is a perfect solution for helping your hair regain its natural body and luster. It reinforces your hair and helps restore its protective outer layer.

But if you decide to make oil soak a part of your hair care routine, you must pick out the right nourishing oils. Plants oils such as coconut oil, Ucuuba butter, and olive oil are recommended for dry, damaged hair.

On the other hand, sunflower oil and mineral oils only have a film effect, as pointed out by a study (1). These oils just superficially coat your hair without penetrating it. Thus, they do not have any beneficial effect on your tresses.

You can treat your scalp with oil and keep it moisturized with the following steps:

  1. Massage your head with a good plant oil for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Cover your oiled hair with a towel or soft cotton cloth dipped in hot water.
  3. Leave it on for an hour before washing your hair with a mild shampoo and conditioner.

The steam from the heated oil will open up your hair cuticles and allow the oils to penetrate deep into them. Thus, it leaves your hair adequately nourished.

2. Switch To Natural Shampoo

Most shampoos are loaded with surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), formaldehyde, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. These chemicals can aggravate the problems related to damaged hair and harm it further.

Choose a natural shampoo that is free of all these surfactants and contains silica or biotin instead. Biotin is a hair-boosting ingredient that can stimulate follicle growth and improve hair health (2).

You can also whip up your own natural shampoo with a few simple ingredients like:

  • 1/2 cup distilled water
  • 1/2 liquid castile soap
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • 10-12 drops of vitamin E oil
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oils

Pour all the ingredients into a bottle and shake it to mix them thoroughly. Massage a dime-sized amount into your hair and let it sit for a couple of minutes before washing it off with cool water.

3. Use A Hair Mask

Hair masks can soothe, nourish, and heal your hair. Moreover, you can make them with the ingredients in your pantry. Here are some ultra-nourishing hair masks you can use to banish any signs of damage on your hair:

  • Banana And Olive Oil

Make your heat-damaged hair feel softer with this DIY restorative hair mask:

  1. Mash one ripe banana.
  2. Add about 8 to 10 drops of pure almond oil.
  3. Blend this together and massage into your hair.
  4. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before washing it off with a mild shampoo.
  • Egg And Yoghurt

Eggs are rich in protein, the building blocks of healthy hair. Yogurt contains milk fat with a generous dose of lactic acid. Both these ingredients work together wonderfully to rejuvenate dry, damaged hair (3).

Here’s how to make your own egg and yogurt hair mask:

  1. Whisk two eggs into half a cup of yogurt.
  2. Apply this mask throughout your hair and scalp.
  3. Let it soak in for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Wash it off with gentle shampoo and cool water. Make sure to not use warm or hot water as it can cook the eggs.
  • Avocado And Olive Oil

Need a quick fix for those broken, sticking-up ends? This DIY hair mask adds some much-needed polish to your heat-treated hair ends and leaves them looking relatively healthier.

  1. Mash half an avocado.
  2. Mix it with half a cup of olive oil.
  3. Apply the mixture through your hair and scalp.
  4. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes before washing it off with a mild shampoo.
  • Honey And Oil

Want to repair your heat-damaged hair without cutting it? Try honey! Honey is chock-full of antioxidants, nutrients, and – most importantly – protective proteins called keratin (4).

Add this honey-based solution to your hair care routine to repair the heat damage:

  1. Dilute honey with olive oil, coconut oil, milk, or apple cider vinegar.
  2. Pour this solution into a spray bottle.
  3. Mist it all over your hair and spread it evenly with your fingers.
  4. Wash it off after 20-30 minutes.

4. Rub In Some Epsom Salt

Magnesium sulfate or Epsom salt is not just good for those splinters and cracks. It can be used to treat burnt hair, too. Although research to back this is still insufficient, Epsom salt is said to improve hair and scalp health. It works as a useful hair activator for heat-damaged curly hair.

Here is a step-by-step guide to using Epsom salt for damaged, dry, and brittle hair:

  1. Pour a coin-sized dollop of conditioner into a bowl.
  2. Add an equal amount of Epsom salt. You can warm this mixture up to help it mix thoroughly.
  3. After shampooing your hair, use your fingertips to work this mixture into the scalp and roots.
  4. Leave it on for about 20 minutes before rinsing it off.
  5. Alternatively, if you have oily hair, mix Epsom salt into your shampoo instead of conditioner.
  6. Lather your hair with this solution and rinse thoroughly.

5. Rinse Your Hair With Tea

If your blow dryers and heating tools are causing you to shed clumps of hair, try rinsing your hair with tea. Trichology literature shows that the caffeine in tea has stimulatory effects on the hair follicles (5).

Try the following tea hair rinse for strong, shiny, and healthy hair:

  1. Boil tea leaves in water and let them steep for about 30 minutes.
  2. Cleanse your hair with shampoo.
  3. Generously spritz your hair with the rinse while your hair is still damp.
  4. Wrap it with a soft towel and leave it on for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Rinse your hair with cold water.

6. Use A Cool-Mist Humidifier

Not many of us would think of the humble humidifier as a solution for our damaged hair woes. But, investing in a good cool mist humidifier can help restore your heat-damaged hair.

A humidifier can keep more moisture in the air, especially during those harsh winter months, and prevent your hair from drying out excessively.

Although home remedies can fix dry and damaged hair, preventing heat damage in the first place can keep your locks looking healthy. Here are some tips to protect your hair from intense heat damage.

Preventing Heat Damaged: What You Should Do

  • Shield Your Hair With Heat Protectant

Use a heat protectant to protect your tresses when styling your hair with hot tools. Heat protectants work like sunscreen and minimize the damage to your hair from blow-drying, straightening, and curling.

  • Use Warm And Cold Water

Always use warm and cold water to wash your hair. Warm water will allow the conditioner to seep in, and cold water will lock in the moisture and nutrients from the conditioner. On the other hand, hot water can be damaging and rob your hair of all its moisture.

  • Minimize Heat Treatment

Throw out your blowdryer! Just allow your hair to air-dry. You can consider towel-drying your hair with a microfiber towel. Just make sure not to rub your hair too vigorously with it. If your hair is unmanageable without blow-drying, use the cool blast option instead.

  • Get A Maintenance Trim

Get frequent trims to repair your hair, preferably every 3-4 months. Trimming will prevent split ends from traveling up and causing more damage.

  • Pay Attention To Shampooing And Conditioning

Always focus on shampooing your scalp and conditioning your ends.

Shampoo is a detergent specifically formulated to remove the dirt, sebum, and product build-up that sits on the scalp. So, you don’t need to lather up your whole head with shampoo.

Conversely, your scalp does not need conditioner, but your ends do!

  • Protect Your Hair From The Elements

Use an umbrella or a hat when you step out. If you let your hair fly, the harsh winds and the sun’s rays will sap the moisture out of it. Plus, you will accumulate more dirt on your head, further drying out and damaging your hair.

  • Refrain From Combing Wet Hair

Avoid combing wet hair to lower its vulnerability to damage. Wet combing makes your hair increasingly prone to breakage. Try detangling your hair with your fingers in the shower to prevent breaking and pulling when it is dry.

  • Invest In A Leave-In Conditioner

Use a high-quality leave-in conditioner to keep dryness and frizz away. Hair serum is also effective for moisturizing and repairing hair damaged from a flat iron.

Bottom Line

Heat-damaged hair needs constant protection and care in order to be revived. If heat styling has left your hair dry and brittle, keep blowdryers, curling irons, and flat irons away from it.

Allow your hair to breathe for some time and stop streaking, highlighting, and coloring it. Spare your hair the heat and chemicals, and your damaged hair will grow back healthy in about 4 to 6 months.

5 References

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Recommended Articles

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Arshiya Syeda

Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
scorecardresearch