Hold Up! Can a Flat Iron Actually Damage My Hair?

Written by Ashley Mishler

A quality flat iron is a true godsend. Not only will it smooth and straighten your mane in mere seconds, but it can also curl, wave, and define your tresses nearly any way you desire for optimal hair styling. For these reasons and more, the flat iron has become the favored hot tool amongst stylists and consumers alike, but like all good things, they should be used in moderation.

Unfortunately, overusing or using your hair straightener incorrectly can cause hair damage. So is straightening your hair bad? Not necessarily, but it’s all in how you use it. Here’s how to use your hair straightener correctly, avoid flat iron damage, and heal the damage already done with some top-notch hair care products. Read below for all the info!

Person with bright orange hair having their hair straightened with the Mane by Mane Addicts Three Way Multi-Use Flat Iron | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Mane)

Wait…Does Straightening Your Hair Damage It?

Straightening your hair won’t automatically damage it, but it very easily can if you aren’t using your flat iron correctly or if you are using the tool too much without the proper protection. But, to put it plainly, heat does damage hair over time. Those who reach for their flat iron every day will find that certain areas of the hair may become more fragile (around the face, the top of the crown, the nape of the neck) as these are areas that usually receive the most heat treatment.

This damage can be doubled or made worse if you aren’t using a heat protectant or the right temperature settings for your hair type. A hair straightener works by weakening the hydrogen bonds within your hair, thus the cuticles take on the shape of the straightener—curly hair becomes straight, straight hair becomes wavy, etc.

When hair gets too hot, the bonds and protein building blocks within your hair shaft can become permanently damaged, which may cause breakage and affect your natural texture when straightening hair. These effects can be avoided though as long as you take the proper precautions when heat styling.

How to Undo Damage Caused by Straightening

But what if the damage is already done? While you can’t necessarily undo it, you can help heal it and work towards a healthier mane while preventing future damage.

The best way to stop flat iron damage in its tracks is to put the straightener down. It might be tough, but avoid using your styling tools for some time while your hair calms down and the breakage slows. If you must use a hot tool of any kind, make sure your hair is completely dry and prepped with a heat protectant before styling. You should never use a straightener on wet hair.

Between styling sessions, you need to work on putting moisture and protein back into your strands. A balanced hair care routine is especially important as too much protein can further your breakage issues, while too much moisture can weigh you down. Incorporate a deep conditioner or conditioning hair mask into your routine once or twice a week and use a nourishing hair balm or leave-in treatment after you get out of the shower to achieve healthy hair. You can also lean on anti-breakage wash regimens and treatments if the damage is more on the serious side. Your hairstylist can also be a resource to help you determine the best products to use to repair hair breakage and dryness as much as possible.

How to Protect Hair From Damage Caused by Straightening

If you’ve yet to see the signs of hair straightener damage, or if they’re just beginning to crop up, you have time to instill a styling routine that will protect your hair from any future damage.

The number one way to avoid heat damage is by using your iron at the recommended heat setting—never above 250 degrees. While we know that some hair textures require a higher heat to smooth out strands or create curls, it’s best to stick to the lowest temperature whenever possible.

You should also never let a flat iron touch wet or damp hair. That sizzle you’re hearing? Not good. Always blow-dry your hair on low heat prior to straightening, or let your hair strands air-dry completely if possible.

After your hair is dry, or during the drying process, you should also apply a thermal heat protectant. This will help guard against flat iron and blow-dry damage during the styling process.

Additionally, an often looked-over way to avoid hair straightener damage or damage in general is to get regular hair trims. Keeping your lengths fresh and free of split ends will keep your tresses from splitting further due to the heat of the iron and day-to-day styling. Stylists often stress it, but letting split ends sit means they will only get worse and travel further up the hair shaft, causing even more damage and preventing hair growth.

Our Fave Hair Products That Protect From Straightening Damage

Now that we’ve covered how to avoid and heal existing hair straightener damage, here are a few of our favorite hair care products to aid you in your safe styling journey!

Redken Quick Blowout Heat Protectant Spray

Redken Quick Blowout Heat Protectant Spray | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Ulta.com)

This fan favorite blow-dry primer spray from Redken not only protects your mane from damage caused by heat tools, but it’ll also speed up your dry time and keep the protection going all the way through your styling session. The vegan and clean ingredient formula will smooth, condition, add shine, and keep hair safe up to 450 degrees.

OUAI Hair Oil

OUAI Hair Oil | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Ulta.com)

For those who prefer an oil protectant, OUAI’s Hair Oil is the answer. This multitasking oil will of course help shield your hair from heat damage, but also smooth frizz and seal split ends for that ultra high shine finish hair look.

JVN Complete Instant Recovery Serum

JVN Complete Instant Recovery Serum | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: JVNHair.com)

While the JVN Complete Instant Recovery Serum is for anyone, this product will be a holy grail for anyone dealing with existing heat damage. This repairing and protecting style primer will strengthen strands, minimize the appearance of split ends, and protect hair from hot tool heat all while soothing and healing existing heat damage.

amika the shield style anti-humidity spray

amika the shield style anti-humidity spray | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Walmart.com)

The world of wet-to-dry heat protectants spans a variety, but what about a dry thermal spray? Call amika! The shield is a cult favorite fry thermal protectant spray that also guards against humidity and frizzy hair, helping to increase the longevity of any style. To use, simply spray on damp or dry hair and ensure strands are 100% dry before styling.

Kérastase Resistance Heat Protecting Leave In Treatment for Damaged Hair

Kérastase Resistance Heat Protecting Leave In Treatment for Damaged Hair | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Sephora.com)

If a leave-in is still your preferred method of healing and protecting, try Kerastase’s Resistance Leave In Treatment. Not only will your hair be protected up to 450 degrees, but you can also expect stronger, shinier strands.

Now that you’re an expert in flat iron damage, did you know that your hair straightener can incur damage too? Here’s how to know when it’s time to buy a new one!