The Best Heat Protectants for All Types of Hair—From Hair Experts
Styling your tresses with a hot irons may have you looking like a bombshell, but if you haven't been using a heat protectant, your hair may feel more like it's been hit with a bomb.
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It’s ironic—the very things you do to make your hair appear more supple and youthful end up causing the most drying and damage. Just about everything we do damages our hair though, not just coloring and salon treatments. Too tight ponytails, topknots, even brushing damages your hair. And don’t even get us started on the fine hair mistakes you’re probably making! But your favorite styling tools are the biggest culprits. Whether you use a hair dryer, a curling iron, or a straightener comb to style your locks, they all have one thing in common: heat. And that causes some serious damage.
Luckily, there’s an easy and affordable way to minimize heat damage without saying goodbye to your go-to tools. Celebrity stylist Danielle Priano recommends a good protectant. “A heat protectant is necessary because it prevents the hair from getting damaged from hot tools, blow drying, and even UV radiation.” In fact, many heat protectants offer a multitude of benefits in addition to those already mentioned, from detangling to moisturizing and frizz control.
Who should use a heat protectant?
“Anyone that uses heat tools on their hair,” should be using a heat protectant, says hair icon and #mydentity brand founder Guy Tang, stressing that protectants are especially important for people who dye their locks. “Heat tools fade color,” explains Tang. So in addition to a shampoo specially formulated for color-treated hair, adding a heat protectant to your styling routine “will make your color last longer and maintain color vibrancy in addition to protecting against heat damage and prepping the hair for heat styling.” Blondes, you’ll want to add one of these best purple shampoos to your cart along with your heat protectant.
What to look for when buying a heat protectant for hair
Hair protectants come in different styles. Some moisturize and create shine in an oil form, and are worked through damp hair. Others offer a spray that works with irons and help to hold the style. Whether you opt for a cream, spray, or oil is a personal choice, buTo get maximum protection, Priano advises using a protectant rated to 450 degrees, the maximum temperature for most hair tools.
Tang adds that it’s important to use a protectant that works with the way you style your hair. “If you blow dry your hair I suggest a heat protectant that you spray into damp hair before you dry. If you let your hair air dry and then heat style, or like to heat style second day hair, then I suggest a protectant specifically made for dry hair.”
How we chose the best heat protectants
With so many options to choose from, selecting products worthy of your hair was no easy feat. We wanted to get it right, so we consulted with hair experts, sifted through thousands of reviews, and tested close to two dozen products on this writer’s own fine-yet-frizzy hair. These are the ones that made the cut.
Best overall heat protectant for hair
Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blowdry Perfection & Heat Protectant Creme
We love everything about this frizz-reducing heat protectant. Its super lightweight formula is infused with rosehip, argan, and coconut oils to reduce frizz and leave hair smooth and shiny. Unlike a spray, you can see exactly how much of this cream you’re using, to ensure you don’t use too much and weigh your hair down. It protects hair up to 450 degrees, so style away! If smooth locks are your style, make sure you have everything you need to get the best blowout.
What we like about Briogeo heat protectant creme
- Free from sulfates, parabans, silicones, dyes, and phthalates
- 94 percent naturally derived formula
- Very light, clean scent
What to consider before purchasing Briogeo heat protectant creme
- We found the recommended “one to two quarter-sized amounts” to be way too much.
Best for heat protectant for damaged hair
Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil
Olaplex products have a cult-following thanks to their miraculous reparative abilities, and this widely celebrated bonding oil is no exception. This oil increases shine, softness, and color vibrancy, while minimizing flyaways and offering heat protection up to 450 degrees on all hair types and textures. Our eCommerce Editor uses it every time she washes her color-treated hair, and to add hydration and shine to ends on non-wash days. If you do have damaged hair, give it a boost with one of these nourishing hair masks.
What we like about Olaplex No. 7
- Leaves hair noticeably softer
- Works on all hair types and textures
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free
- Adds shine and moisture
What to consider before purchasing Olaplex No. 7
- Pricey: $28 for just one ounce—but a tiny bit goes a long way
Best splurge heat protector
Davines OI All In One Milk
If you don’t use hot tools to style to your hair, consider treating yourself to this Italian made hydrating hair milk. It’s a lightweight leave-in spray that’s good for all hair types. It acts as a detangler, reduces frizz, adds shine, and leaves your hair silky soft and protected from the heat. However, it’s worth noting that this product doesn’t protect from high temperatures, so you won’t want to use it with anything more than a blow dryer or one of these hair straightener brushes.
What we like about Davines hydrating hair milk
- Leaves hair soft and shiny
- The recommended 10 to 15 sprays did not weigh our hair down
- All Davines products are made with zero impact and recyclable packaging
- Smells yummy
What to consider before purchasing Davines hydrating hair milk
- Not recommended for use with hot styling tools
Best value heat protectant
OGX Protecting + Silk Blowout Quick Drying Thermal Spray
While a heat protectant can set you back up to $40, you should know that there are some reliable products that are far more affordable. This heat protectant from OGX is one of them. Not only does this spray leave your hair feeling soft and silky, but it also helps reduce drying time and, like many of the brand’s shampoos and conditioners, smells amazing. Once your hair is dry, style away with your favorite tools. This spray will protect your hair up to 450 degrees.
What we like about OGX thermal spray
- Under $10
- Easy to find in stores and online
- Reduces drying time
What to consider before purchasing OGX thermal spray
- The nozzle can get clogged and cause the product to spray unevenly
Best drugstore heat protectant
Actsyl-D Active Conditioning Mist
We love a good blowout, but we don’t love the hassle of using multiple products or worrying about whether or not we’re using too much or too little. Enter this active conditioning mist. Not only does it protect hair from heat, UV damage, and pollution, but it also conditions, detangles, and strengthens hair while reducing frizz and static. The instructions simply say “apply generously.” We followed them, and loved how our hair didn’t feel weighed down or greasy afterwards. Here are even more of the best drugstore hair products stylists swear by.
What we like about Actsyl-D conditioning mist
- Can be used on wet or dry hair
- Cruelty and paraben free
What to consider before purchasing Actsyl-D conditioning mist
- Only protects up to 425 degrees
Best heat protector for dry hair
Sexy Hair Style Protect Me Hot Tool Protection Spray
When it comes to products that reduce breakage and maintain healthy hair, this protection hair spray is one that Priano says she can’t live without. While many heat protectants should be applied to damp hair, you’ll apply this light hold hair spray onto dry hair before going in with your curling iron or flat iron. It’s formulated for all hair types and protects hair up to 450 degrees. Speaking of hair spray, here are 20 unbelievable uses you never knew about.
What we like about Sexy Hair protection spray
- Provides up to 78 percent reduction in breakage
- Cruelty free
- Adds shine
What to consider before purchasing Sexy Hair protection spray
- Doesn’t leave hair feeling as soft as some others we tried
Best heat protector for curly hair
Imbue Curl Defending Heat Protection Mist
Keep your curls soft, smooth and healthy with this nourishing Curl Defending Heat Protection Mist from Imbue. Whether you sport loose waves or tight coils, this vegan mist protects against thermal styling up to 428 degrees, plus guards against environmental aggressors and UV rays. It’s also free from alcohol and silicones, so your curls are sure to stay soft, shiny, and bouncy. Use with one of these shampoos for curly hair as well as your favorite hair dryer diffuser for your best curls ever.
What we like about Imbue heat protection mist
- 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free
- Formulated for use on 3A through 4C curls
What to consider before purchasing Imbue heat protection mist
- Doesn’t protect up to 450 degrees
Best for heat protector for fine hair
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray
Fine hair can be tricky. Too much product will leave it feeling greasy or heavy, while too little just does, well, too little. However, this heat styling spray goes on as an ultra-fine mist that’s ideal for fine to medium hair types. It has heat protection up to 450 degrees and is free from silicones, parabens, and phthalates. Speaking of fine hair, if you’re looking for more strength and volume, try one of these shampoos for thinning hair.
What we like about Living Proof styling spray
- Can be used on damp or dry hair
- Safe for color treated and chemically treated hair
What to consider before purchasing Living Proof styling spray
- Because it’s a spray, it can be hard to gauge how much product you’re actually using. Too much can leave your hair feeling oily.
Best for heat protector for thick hair
Sexy Hair Healthy Love Oil
Another go-to product for Priano is this heat protectant oil. Priano says, “the oil is silicone-free and so lightweight. You also get UV protection benefits, something that’s becoming increasingly important to factor into your day-to-day.” It protects up to 450 degrees and reduces breakage by up to 55 percent, leaving hair healthier and shinier. If thicker hair has always been on your wish list, try one of these hair-thickening shampoos for gorgeous body and volume.
What we like about Sexy Hair oil
- Formulated for all hair types
- Can also be used as a hair treatment to add moisture and define curl pattern
What to consider before purchasing Sexy Hair oil
- Oils can leave hair feeling greasy if you use too much
Best heat protector for relaxed hair
Amika Blockade Heat Defense Serum
This heat protectant is jam packed with nutrients including omega-7, which is typically only found in fish oil. Among its many benefits, Omega-7 promotes the production of collagen, a key building block for skin, hair, and nails. This serum is formulated for all hair types and is safe to use on color-, Brazilian-, and keratin-treated hair.
What we like about Amika heat defense serum
- Protects up to 450 degrees
- Lightweight, can be used pre- or post-styling
- Smells amazing
What to consider before purchasing Amika heat defense serum
- At just 1.7 ounces, you can go through it pretty quickly
Best heat protector for coarse hair
Davines Love Smoothing Protector
If you have coarse or frizzy hair, then you know how dull, damaged, and broken it can look if not cared for properly. This smoothing thermal serum is formulated with Minuta Olive Extract from a farm in Messina Italy. The extract is rich in both fatty acids and vitamins which nourish the hair and help reduce breakage. This lightweight, anti-frizz serum protects against humidity and heat up to 446 degrees, and has a fresh, clean scent that we absolutely love.
What we like about Davines smoothing protector
- Smells amazing
- Leaves hair super soft
- Made with 87 percent naturally derived ingredients
- All Davines products are made with zero impact and recyclable packaging
What to consider before purchasing Davines smoothing protector
- A bit on the pricier side
Best heat protector for color-treated hair
Mydentity MyDefender Light Control Heat Protecting Spray
Tang stresses the importance of using a good heat protectant on color-treated hair. It’s so important, in fact, that he formulated his own heat protecting spray. This spray creates a protective barrier around the hair while providing thermal protection up to 450 degrees. It also does double duty by controlling flyaways.
What we like about Mydentity heat protecting spray
- Provides light control when styling so you can tame flyaways
- Very light scent
What to consider before purchasing Mydentity heat protecting spray
- The aerosol can makes it hard to tell how much product you’re using
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