By Jc of The Nat­ur­al Haven Bloom

In a word yes, heat pro­tec­tants do work. As tem­per­a­tures start ris­ing and the warmer spring and sum­mer months come, some nat­u­rals look to heat style their hair and pro­tect in the process.  Heat styling is not for every­one and cer­tain­ly if your hair is fine (indi­vid­ual strands) and/or very kinky, you may actu­al­ly ben­e­fit from avoid­ing heat alto­geth­er. How­ev­er, for those who can or who want to heat style, the role of heat pro­tec­tants is to reduce (not elim­i­nate) both chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal dam­age to hair dur­ing the appli­ca­tion of heat.

Protection from Chemical Damage

Apply­ing heat to hair will always lead to some chem­i­cal dam­age because heat degrades amino acids in hair — do remem­ber that hair is a pro­tein com­posed of amino acids.  One spe­cif­ic amino acid that can be traced quite well dur­ing this process is tryp­to­phan and it will decrease when heat is applied to hair. How­ev­er apply­ing a heat pro­tec­tant gen­er­al­ly cor­re­sponds to less degra­da­tion of tryp­to­phan. This is because heat pro­tec­tants pre­vent full heat trans­fer to the cor­tex of hair and there­fore reduce the heat induced degra­da­tion of the pro­tein.

Protection from Physical Damage

Phys­i­cal­ly, the sur­face of the hair fibre (i.e the cuti­cle) can suf­fer breaks and chips. This dam­age can also lead to phys­i­cal break­age of the hair dur­ing comb­ing after heat styling. Heat pro­tec­tants coat hair and pre­vent direct con­tact between the heat imple­ment and the hair fibre. This action helps to reduce phys­i­cal dam­age to the hair and in turn break­age dur­ing heat styling.

Choosing a Heat Protectant

Any heat pro­tec­tant is bet­ter than none at all. If you are look­ing to advance your knowl­edge how­ev­er, a recent study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­ches­ter high­light­ed that it may be ben­e­fi­cial to avoid water based heat pro­tec­tants and opt instead for ‘dry’ ingre­di­ents (oils and sol­vents includ­ing ethanol). Water free pro­tec­tants per­formed bet­ter than those with water. Many heat pro­tec­tants con­tain ingre­di­ents such as sil­i­cones and poly­mers (includ­ing acry­lates, polyquar­te­ni­ums and copoly­mers). Although syn­the­sised, these are some of the most well researched pro­tec­tants.

In the search for nat­ur­al alter­na­tives, grape seed oil is often quot­ed as a good heat pro­tec­tant because it has a high smoke point (i.e the point where the oil breaks down and starts to smoke — around 400F/200°C for grape seed oil). The smoke point of an oil does not real­ly tell us if it is a good heat pro­tec­tant though. A good pro­tec­tant needs to be able to reduce trans­fer of heat to the cor­tex, an oil with a high smoke point sim­ply will not degrade itself when heat is applied (good for coat­ing and reduc­ing phys­i­cal dam­age) but on the flip side, if it stays hot and trans­fers heat to the cor­tex then it would not help towards the phys­i­cal dam­age. In oth­er words, the jury is still out on grape seed oil. Many oth­er nat­ur­al oils which are refined (not raw or vir­gin) also have sim­i­lar high smoke points includ­ing olive oil, coconut oil and sun­flower oil.

Ladies, what do you use as a heat pro­tec­tant? And do you use heat in your hair?

J Cos­met Sci, pp 265–282, 2011
J Cos­met Sci, pp 15–27, 2011

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56 Comments on "How To Find a Good Heat Protectant for Natural Hair"

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The only thing I hate about blow dry­ing is how dry it makes my hair. That is the rea­son I only do it 2–3 times per year.


That is why you put hair oil in your hair dur­ing or just after you blow dry it.


Try using a leave in con­di­tion­er first and then a heat pro­tec­tant. My hair comes out shiny and soft when doing this after a blow out.


I have been hav­ing the same issue as Lele. I usu­al­ly use Shea But­ter, but I think I can cut down on how much I use if I apply the leave in first.


The heat pro­tec­tor that I use is Fan­ta­sia IC Hair Pol­ish­er straight­en­ing spray. I do not usu­al­ly use flat irons or a press­ing comb a all. I used a flat iron once last year, but now I only blow dry. I try not to blow dry my hair more than every few months. I like the way it makes my hair feel and look when I blow it out. It makes for a nice, shee­ny braid out.


I love the ic hair pol­ish­er heat protector/straitening serum. it is water free and not only does it pro­tect from heat, but it gets rid of frizzies and makes my hair shiny and much straighter. I use it in place of “hair grease” on days when I wear my hair curly too.


Are u african amer­i­can?


What kind of ques­tion is that mar­via?


Me too…


I’ve been using a heat pro­tec­tant called “Fire­wall” by Ag Cos­met­ics that seems to be work­ing pret­ty well. It’s a light spray that does­nt way down heavy at all.