Why You Should Heat Style Once Weekly, According To This Derm
Heat styling—be it in the form of curling wands, flat irons, blow dryers or the like—can do a number on hair. This is especially true if your hair is already vulnerable to begin with: Dry, fragile, or chemically treated strands are far more prone to breakage from heat styling than other hair types. So that's why hair experts and dermatologists agree that to protect your hair, you should resist, as best you can, excessive heat styling.
Why this dermatologist wants you to keep heat styling to once a week.
"I get lots of questions about heat styling, as it can cause a lot of damage. For my patients that are experiencing breakage and hair loss, I tell them to try to limit it to once weekly if possible," says Cochran Gathers. "For fragile hair types, daily heat styling is likely to be damaging. Personally, my hair is very naturally dry, so I try to limit the amount of heat styling that I do, too!"
Now, she goes on to explain that you don't need to fear the heat—but she does say to use it smartly and in moderation. (An outlook we can certainly get behind!) "It's not that these are off-limits," she says. "Just be smart about your use of your flat irons, hairdryers, or curling wands. Ultimately learning how to use these is more important than not using them altogether."
Here, her quick tips to protecting your hair from heat damage.
- Prep the hair for heat. Never, ever take a hot tool to unprotected hair. "Clean, condition, apply your heat protector, and then do it," she says. Additionally—never take a straighter or curler to wet or damp hair. Not-so-fun fact: Doing this can literally boil water that's in the cuticle, leaving strands frayed.
- Turn it down. Just because your hairdryer gets to blowtorch levels of heat doesn't mean you need to go there. "Only use the maximum heat that's needed to straighten or curl the hair," she says.
- You don't have to get it flawless. "Say if you've got super, super-duper coily hair, you don't need to get it bone straight," she says. We say embrace some movement, tousled strands, and a style that isn't perfectly coiffed. "Perfect" hair had its heyday—we've moved on to healthy hair.
- You can heat style, but try to embrace your natural texture day-to-day. Cutting down on heat styling doesn't mean going cold turkey! It just means reeling it back a bit: "You know, you want to straighten coils or curls, or add some texture to straight hair, maybe that's something that you may do only on occasion," she says. Play around.
- If you color, relax, or chemical treat your hair, know that your strands are more vulnerable. Cochran Gathers tells us that the more chemical treatments you do (relaxing, coloring, or otherwise), the more you need to be mindful of how heat will further erode the cortex. See all of these treatments manipulate the hair's bonds—and if you do this frequently enough, those bonds aren't going to be strong enough to keep it together.
Nothing is off-limits all of the time. (Even this beauty editor who is staunchly in the camp of air dry only takes a flat iron to her hair on occasions!) But if you find that your hair is always dry and breaks easily, it's time to—ahem—cool it a bit.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.