High temperatures, high stakes. . .
At high temperatures, some damage to the hair's natural chemical components – surface lipids and amino acids – is inevitable. However, when hair is wet during the heat straightening process, major structural damage also occurs. The increase in structural damage is a major concern because this is the type of damage that changes the physical properties of the hair – reducing tensile strength, increasing breakage and split ends.
Hence the common beauty advice to remove as much water as possible from the hair before blowing it straight, whether by towelling or airdrying.
The problem with this is that, as it dries, hair loses flexibility, making it more difficult to straighten. So most people will pick up the blowdryer after a quick dab with the towel, not wanting to wait and compromise the end results of the blowout.
Trouble is, the other end results are major damage to the hair as the water boils inside the hair shaft, creating bubbles that eventually pop and burst the strand.
But heat straightening hasn't always been this way. Back in the day, when the hot comb on the stove was the universal straightener for tight curls, hair was always airdried first. And in Dominican salons, the typical straightening method is definitely no upfront interaction with el Blower.
First, you go under the dryer (indirect heat) with your freshly deep conditioned and roller set hair. Only then will stylists let your hair feel the heat of the blowdryer (direct heat). Not only does this restrict the hair's exposure to heat (extremely important in a hair culture in which heat is regularly used, but long healthy-looking hair a non-negotiable) but it also gets the hair straighter.
Still, despite the benefits, to most people it is counter-intuitive to sit under the dryer or airdry first. Why, after all, would you blowdry hair that is already dry? Well, heat and tension are the main factors in getting hair straight chemical-free, and you still have both of these when you blowdry on dry hair. Plus, the gentle stretching under the less intense, indirect heat of a hood dryer gets the hair that further along the way to straightness, with the rollers adding extra smoothness and bounciness galore.
And it gets deeper. . .
There's more: the damaging effect of water reaches all the way into products, too. Recent research analysed hair straightened using water-based heat protectants and those that contained no water at all. The levels of chemical damage were pretty much the same across product type, with both heat protectants offering some degree of shielding from this type of damage.
However, when it came to structural damage – the big dog of damage – the difference was stark. Hair that was straightened with water-based products showed dramatically higher structural damage, leaving it obviously weakened and brittle. Scientists put the results down to the fast evaporation of water that occurs at high temperatures and advised the removal of water from products designed to protect the hair from heat.
So how can I protect my hair?
As ever, increase your ingredients knowledge and keep a sharp eye on the label. Heat protectant products that contain water (this will include most creamy, lotiony products and even some serums) are not going to give you the protection they promise if you use them with high heat.
Instead, use your heat protectant leave ins while your hair is still wet, then airdry your hair, or sit under the dryer at a low-to-moderate heat. When it's time to use the iron or the blowdryer, apply another layer of protection – and keep it completely water-free.
Choose a concentrated silicone based, water-free serum to provide this final line of protection. Make sure it has dimethicone high up on the ingredients list with few other ingredients – many of the additives included in some serums can actually hamper the serum's ability to protect the hair from heat, and reversion.
While layering your heat protection is good, just making sure you keep those aqua-containing products away from the high temperatures will ensure you make it through your heatstyling session with your strands intact and vibrant.
|Pulpolux| Jenns Karlsson| Dioburto Photography|
DHA Hair Care Experts