Call it an occupational hazard, but as Best Products’ beauty editor, my hair is constantly exposed to heat from testing new beauty products, like hairdryers, flat irons, and rotating curling irons. To help protect my strands from styling damage and split ends, heat protectants have become an integral part of my haircare routine.
The best heat protectants work by creating an invisible barrier between your hair and the sizzling-hot temperatures that come from hot tools, letting your strands warm up gently with minimal damage. They’re available in various formulations and are compatible with all hair textures, lengths, and thicknesses.
Best Heat Protectants
Why Use Heat Protectants
Some might think heat protectants are optional, but hairstylist Jenna Spino of Maxine Salon in Chicago says that couldn’t be further from the truth. Spino says, “Skipping heat protectants can be very damaging. Without a heat protector, heat burns the outer layer of the hair, leaving the inner cuticle exposed — and over time, this will cause dry, frizzy, damaged, and thinning hair.”
And get this: If you skip heat protectant, your hair may suffer breakage or a loss of curl pattern after drying or heat styling, adds hairstylist and curly hair expert Quia Querisma.
Yikes! I’d never want that to happen to you, so I asked both stylists how to shop for the best heat protectants. They also share product recommendations, and the other heat protectants on this list were carefully vetted by me to ensure they align with their expert guidance.
What to Consider
Spino says the best heat protectants provide maximum heat protection of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature most blow dryers and styling tools can get up to. Thankfully, all of the best heat protectants on this list were tested to work up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t be afraid to crank up the heat on your hairdryer brush.
Querisma says there are two factors to consider before selecting one of the best heat protectants on the market:
- Your hair densitybut if you have thin, medium, or thick hair.
- The way your hair feels to the touch, meaning are your strands soft/fine, medium, or thick/coarse?
As for the formulation types, here’s the tea, according to Querisma and Spino:
At the end of the day, Spino argues using any kind of heat protectant is always better than previous products because they protect hair from heat damage. So, if you have thin hair, but think you’d really enjoy the Seen serum since it’s great for sensitive scalps, give it a try. You can always use less heat protectant to avoid unnecessary product buildup.
Here Querisma and Spino share their favorite ingredients to look out for in the best heat protectants.
- Quaternary 70 conditions and gives the hair a little slip so hot tools run through smoothly.
- PVP and DMAPA acrylates copolymer binds well to damaged hair and is detangling.
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein strengthens the hair fiber leaving hair soft.
- Silicones and polymers also coat the hair and shield it from heat.
- Humectantssame hyaluronic acid and glycerin, attract water and are excellent for preventing frizz.
- Amino and fatty acids and natural oils and extracts strengthen the hair.
With the help of these best heat protectants, your hair will remain healthy and strong despite styling with hot tools. The best part? Most of these products cost $25 or less on Amazon, Ulta, and Sephora.