natural heat protectants for hair

y’all have been askin like crazy for this post, so i’ve really tried to cover all aspects here.

FINALLY…. natural heat protectants for hair!

i’m gonna warn y’all now… this topic is really tricky. you REALLY have to pay attention to what you’re doing. please & thank you.
(and of course, i do NOT advise using heat on your hair at all (just my two cents!). BUT i know many of my no-‘poo-ers/low-‘poo-ers would like some way to protect their hair when they choose to use heat.

so let’s go over what exactly heat on hair and heat protectants do…

using heat on your hair will always result in damage. it doesn’t matter if it’s a curling iron, straightener, or hot shower water. heat is heat to hair, and heat degrades its amino acids.  using a heat protectant on your hair will help minimize the damage (the degradation of tryptophan, an amino acid).  but how? the heat protectant will help prevent full heat transfer to the cortex of hair, thereby reducing the heat induced degradation of the protein. that’s science, folks!

so what are we looking for in a natural heat protectant?

  • no icky, toxic chemicals. we already know this 🙂
  • help minimize heat damage to hair. you don’t want any breakage/splitting/drying out/etc.
  • nourishes/moisturizes hair
  • has a high smoke point. you don’t want your hair to “fry”… that sizzle/pop sound is NOT okay! (the jury is still somewhat out on oils having a high smoke point. while it’s desirable in a heat protectant, oils with high smoke points don’t automatically count as great heat protectants. they could still transfer heat to the hair’s core.

that leaves us with these lovely oils (which you most likely already have if you’re a crunchy! SCORE!)

(i’ll slap pictures in here when i get back to my laptop. i just really wanna get this post out to y’all!)

  • shea butter – this is the heaviest duty natural protectant, and the one most similar to the silicones used in commercial heat protectant products.
  • refined coconut oil (note: NOT unrefined like i always push for)
  • grapeseed oil
  • argan oil
  • refined avocado oil (note: not unrefined)

generally speaking, silicones are the best heat protectants. i know that’s not what you wanted to hear…. so let’s talk about it.

i don’t recommend using hair products with silicones (ingredients that end in -zane, -xane, -cone, or -conol). they coat your hair and don’t allow for moisture to get in.  there ARE natural heat protectant oils, as we’ve gone over. all this being said, if you’re using some hardcore heat on your hair, you NEED silicones. if you’re doing light to medium heat, use a natural heat protectant oil. the more coarse/curly your hair is, the more oil and the heavier oil you can use and will need. those with straight/fine/thin hair need to be cautious of using too much.

but wait… what do you do after you’ve used silicones and you’re no-‘poo or low-‘poo? or if you’ve used too much oil? never fear, crunchies, never fear! dilute a low-‘poo into 5 parts water to help get the oils/silicones back out of your hair. be sure to keep it away from your scalp, as to not throw your scalp out of whack again!

and last but not least, what else can you do to help minimize heat damage?

  • only use heat on hair when it’s dry. if your hair is wet, you’re essentially boiling your hair.
  • use a low heat setting. you’d be surprised what’ll get the job done.
  • only use in heat for those special, rare occasions.
  • condition your hair after. it’ll need the extra lovins 🙂

egh, aren’t you glad i finally got this posted?! i know i am!

hippie stamp Sig

30 thoughts on “natural heat protectants for hair

    1. great question! refined CO has a higher smoke point at 450F, compared to about 350F of unrefined coconut oil. aka, you can use it at hotter settings.

  1. I just have a question about protecting your hair from the sun. Do these oils work for that too? I’m moving to Hawaii and the sun has already started damaging my hair here in California, so I know I’ll need some sort of protectant when I move out there.

  2. I’m so glad you posted this! I bought a really nice straightener/curling iron last spring and then switched to the bs/acv method this summer and haven’t been able to use it. haha. I was wondering if you also have any recommendations for a natural hairspray…or could do a post on it? Because I have layers and they constantly pop out of buns and braids 😦 Thank you so much for the blog, it’s amazing!

  3. Just one more question. Would it be better if I cut the icky ends off my hair? I’m trying to get rid of what color is left in my hair. I’ve been getting an inch cut off around every 8-10 wks. My hair is currently around bra hook length and if I were to cut all the fake color and icky ends off it would fall to the tops of my shoulders. :S Like you, I am obsessed with long hair! I saw your pictures on here and felt a quick stab of envy/jealousy!!! It is GORGEOUS!!!!!! But with the ROM, would the end result (length of about yours now) be healthier if I chopped it now or just continued what I’m doing now until the crappiness is gone???

  4. Since you mentioned protein loss, how can I tell if my hair needs protein or just moisture? And what is a good protein treatment/ how often can I use it?

      1. I’ve been no-poo for about 2 months now and have recently switched to ROM. I LOVE it!! BUT….I have bangs…..that NEED to be straightened. For the 2 seconds that it takes to straighten them should I still use a heat protectant? I also have hard water, but we also have a water softener. Do you think I still need a hard water shower head??

      2. that’s awesome to hear danette!! yea, still use a protectant 🙂 and if you have an actual water softener, you wont need an additional shower filter head unless you’d also like to filter out chlorine and/or fluoride

  5. Oh my gosh! I’ve been waiting for this post for months! I’m so happy! I just I have a couple questions. How do you go about actually using them? Dilute with water? Shea butter specifically. And I’ve experimented a little with grapeseed oil and It makes it really hard for my flat iron to go through my hair. And also what is the difference is oils like skin grade and cooking grade? I know it’s a lot, but I just have so many questions!

    1. hey courtney! use them sparingly, just as you would a commercial heat protectant. the diluting part comes into play only if you’re using silicones or used too much oil and your hair needs some help getting it out. that’s when you’d dilute the low-poo into water. the oils don’t need to be diluted to use them. as for oils, always go with cooking grade. not only is it more regulated, but you can literally eat them (in the view of safety). hope this helps!

  6. Wow, so weird. I literally just went to bed last night thinking about how if I get bangs I know I will want to use heat every once in a while and if you had any suggestions for that… then I wake up and here it is! You managed to answer all my questions, were you reading my mind? Haha

    Thanks 🙂

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