Heat damage refers to the gradual breakdown of the hair’s structure due to the use of high-heat styling tools. The hair strand is a structure that consists of a cuticle or coating and a cortex or internal structure. The use of high-heat styling tools gradually burns away the cuticle and eventually the internal structure itself. Once the cuticle is burned away, the internal structure is left exposed, porous and subject to further breakdown and splitting. What high-heat implements do is essentially evaporate away water and proteins in the hair’s structure. Hair is a fiber. Like other fibers, it is not immune to damage. Think of ironing fabric. Each and every time you put an iron to fabric it changes the texture and structure of the fabric – breaking it down. If the iron is too high or left in contact with the fabric too long, the fabric will burn. Can you remove that burn or make it go away somehow? No, you just have to toss the item. Well hair is the same way. Once the structure is compromised, there is no repairing, restructuring or recovering what’s lost. Symptoms of heat damage include weakened, see through strands that are brittle and extremely prone to breakage. Hair will be porous and thin (or thinning), and broken hairs will be apparent throughout the head. Ends are often split and splitting areas can be seen up the shaft.
The only remedy for heat damage is prevention. Sorry, but there is not a protein treatment, split end mender or reconstructer on earth that can grow back damaged cuticle and cortex. Avoid use of high-heat tools altogether. If you must use heat, use a silicone-based heat protectant and use a lower setting. Use blowdryers on the cool or cold setting. Switch to roller sets with an overhead dryer which is not damaging at all and can actually be therapeutic when used with nutritious oils and leave-ins. Avoid stretching hair with combs and brushes during flat ironing and blowdrying – this only adds insult to injury. Get flexirods, satin rollers, or pillow rollers and bone up on your overnight sets. For straight looks practice wrapping or cross-wrapping hair. Air dry as often as possible. Coconut, olive and ceramide-containing oils all adhere themselves to hair and help prevent excessive protein loss, so keep these in your daily arsenal.