In 2017, the marketing data company Statista conducted an online survey to see how many women used irons to style their hair on a regular basis, defined here as a minimum of once a week. They found that 40% of women use a straightening iron, and another 31% use a curling iron. And, in a follow-up survey, they found that 79% of women usually blow dry their hair after washing it. While there’s far less data available for men, it’s estimated that at least half blow dry their hair at least once a month.
These results are hardly surprising. Blow dryers and curling irons exploded in popularity all the way back in the 1920’s, when the updo fell out of favor and hanging hair became the new trend. Straightening irons came into fashion in the 1980’s, when teasing one’s hair was all the rage, and women found it was much easier to do with smooth, straight hair.
While trends come and go, the fashion norm of hanging hair has stuck around for the last century, and shows no sign of fading for the foreseeable future. And, for as long as this preference lasts, it’s guaranteed that our heat-based styling tools will be a staple of every fashionista’s collection.
But, like everything in this world, there are pros and cons to using these tools. While some of its cons--like the extra time it takes to blow-dry, or the cost of a decent iron--cannot be fixed, after a hundred years of usage, we’ve solved a few. One of these issues, and, in my opinion, the biggest problem with heat-based tools is this:
Without proper protection, blow-dryers, straighteners, and curling irons damage your hair.
That’s what we’re here to talk about today. How can you both protect your hair and keep these tools in your daily routine?
First, let’s talk about the damage itself, because it’s no small issue. Without modern fixes, the regular use of heat damages every part of your hair. It can dry out your scalp, causing dandruff and itching, damage the hair follicles (aka the roots of the hair, where hair grows from), and dry out your hair itself, causing burnt locks and dead ends. The traditional way of fixing these issues is to deal with them until your hair grows out and then get a haircut, but that takes a long time and may not be enough.
So, let’s talk about the modern fixes that will keep damage away in the first place.
The easiest fix is to keep your irons and dryers under 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 175 degrees Celsius. Personally, I keep it to 250 F (120 C) degrees at the recommendation of my hair stylist, but scientific data backs up the 350 degree limit. Essentially, try to find the lowest heat setting that will get you the look you want. This will vary based on the thickness of your hair, what style you’re doing, how much hair you have, etc. but the trial and error method works well. If you’re unsure, ask your hair stylist at your next haircut.
The second way, and an absolute must, is not to hold your iron in any one spot for too long (I’m looking at you, straighteners!) Straighteners should NOT EVER hold in one place because the clamping makes this tool the one most likely to dry out and damage hair. Curling irons should not stay wrapped up for more than thirty seconds, and even that’s pushing it. Blow-dryers can play it by ear, but, on the high setting, it’s better to run it under more than one rather than move slowly. In general, with all these tools, do one layer at a time, go to the next section, and then work your way back. The more strokes you make in a row, the hotter the hair gets, causing damage.
Finally, and this is by far the most important, use heat protectant/ flat iron spray!
Make sure you research which brands work best, and use a liberal amount every time you wash your hair. If you use heat items a lot, try to find a protectant that works on dry hair as well, and use it a few times a week. Make sure the product sits in your hair a while before you go about styling; not only will it need time to absorb, but ironing your hair with either iron must be done on completely dry hair. If you hear a sizzle, stop immediately and wait some more before trying again. Your hair is not a chicken in a pot. It shouldn’t be fried or cooked.
Don’t worry if it takes a little bit to implement these steps. A handful of mistakes is not going to do irreparable damage. But, don’t be lazy about this either. If you love your hair like I do, you’ve got to take care of it to get some of that love back.
Come Through, Growth!
Source: Statista.com, Review by Penn State