Understanding the temperature of your heated hair styling tools is the key to avoiding heat damage...
Heat styling is simply about using temperature in order to shape and manipulate the hair – heat may be applied to the hair in order to remove excess moisture (hair drying), help form the hair (hair styling), or a combination of both.
Generally speaking, hair is subjected to heat at every salon visit, and often daily at home – particularly during the winter months when individuals are more likely to be attending seasonal parties and holiday celebrations.
Without understanding the temperatures that heated hair styling tools can reach, the potential for hair and scalp damage is sizeable – rather than creating beautifully straight or curly styles, hair can actually end up broken and permanently burnt – resulting in seriously heat damaged hair. The temperatures of heated styling tools can, in the case of straightening or curling irons, reach between 175-200ºC/347ºF-392ºF.
Usually, any temperature above 200ºC/392ºF will cause damage to the hair – in fact the hair can start to melt at 220ºC/428ºF!
Extreme caution should be taken not to exceed around 180ºC/356ºF when styling with heated hair styling tools – with higher temperatures the hair cuticle can start to crack and lift, resulting in severe tangles and splits. For the most part higher temperatures are just not necessary to achieve a desired style. Just because something can go hotter, doesn’t mean it should go hotter – let’s think about it, in comparison, how often do you drive at your car's top speed? …Never.
Tip: try turning your heated styler to a lower setting and work your way up the temperature if needed – rather than automatically starting with the 'high' setting. Chances are you'll achieve the desired results at a lower setting!
If curling irons or straighteners are applied to wet hair, the water in the hair can boil, turning the keratin soft, which creates steam inside the hair! Tiny bubbles can be formed that will either rupture the hair or create a weak point. Prevent damage by:
- Always using the appropriate care and styling products to protect the hair against heat
- Not exceeding the recommended temperature (remember the melting point of hair!)
- Only using curling or straightening irons on dry hair
Whilst blow-dryers operate at a lower temperature (around 80-100ºC/176ºF–212ºF), they can still cause considerable damage to the hair and scalp. With a hand-held dryer, a good technique is essential in order to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed at a safe distance. Holding the dryer too close for too long can literally fry the hair and burn the scalp, potentially causing permanent damage to the hair follicles resulting in hair loss and bald patches. Prevent damage by:
- Always using care and styling products to protect the hair and scalp
- Keeping the blow-dryer at a safe distance from the hair and scalp
Always read and follow manufacturers’ instructions and use with care. Buy quality appliances that regulate and control temperature and always use protective products prior, during and in some cases after heat styling. Don't forget the same dangers apply to all other types of heated devices too, for example, heated rollers or a drying hood.
Parting thought – to protect the hair and scalp from heat damage: think temperature, think lower setting!