If you use heat on your hair most days, you most probably suffer from thermal damage. Here’s how to spot it, prevent further damage and revive your tresses.
Flat irons are like a rescue remedy on bad hair days, so no one wants to hear that they’re a speedy route to heat damaged locks: “my clients don’t recognise that a lot of the poor condition of their hair is down to thermal damage,” says expert trichologist Cheryl Mackie. “Damage is caused when a person uses heat styling tools that are either too hot or they repeatedly use the tools on the same section of hair.” Brittle to touch, excessive breakage, split ends, fly-aways, curls that don’t bounce back, high porosity, colour fade, and strands that frizz up at the slightest humidity – if you notice any of these signs, Cheryl advises that it’s time to take a break and focus on getting your hair back to a healthy state. The good news? There is a lot you can do to heat damaged hair. Here’s what you need to know if your hair’s already damaged - and how to reduce future incidents:
Moisture Up.Dryness is a big contributor towards structural damage to the hair shaft. Without moisture the hair becomes brittle, dry and susceptible to breakage. Start hydrating by using a moisturising shampoo and conditioner, and add a deeply moisturising treatment to your routine once a week for deep penetration into the hair shaft.
Dry Hair 100%.A tell-tale sign that you have moisture left in the hair is seeing steam when you apply heat. This shows you are in the danger-zone; steam is hotter than boiled water so will damage the hair and the scalp. It can break down sulphur bonds damaging the structure of the hair, leaving dull, brittle and frizzy ends. Start with a decent blow-dry so you don’t have this problem. Hold the hairdryer so it’s blowing from the roots-to-tips - smoothing the hair cuticles flat for strength and shine. It’s all about being gentle so allow sufficient time to dry the hair. Taking short cuts in this area could lead to shorter haircuts.
Use a Heat Protector Spray.Apply a heat protectant to your strands before using any form of heat for an added barrier of protection and for the prevention of breakage.
People get a false sense of security and turn up the heat. Don’t fall into this trap.
Dial Down the Heat.Flat irons didn’t have a temperature control up until fairly recently - and some still don’t. Going for a quick fix by repeatedly clamp their hair with temperatures as high as 200 degrees will cause the disulphide bonds to gradually diminish and the elasticity in the hair to break down. As a result, you’ll end up with a rough surface and colour will leech out, causing it to fade fast. To use irons on a daily basis, try getting a sleek look at 180 degrees. You can buy straighteners which have titanium plates that smooth through the hair without sticking. If you have to use very high heat settings, you should only press the hair a maximum of two times. If you are using straighteners with ceramic plates that are older than two years, the chances are the plates are worn in places.
Use Tongs to Curl, not Irons.Curling hair with irons is now a common technique, however, using heat and putting pressure on bending the hair is bound to cause breakage. If your hair is already delicate stick with tongs which are more gentle.
Take a Break. You can heat style without scorching or singeing the hair, but to do so you must work slowly and gently, making sure you take regular breaks so that your hair can return to it’s regular texture. Using minimal to no heat during the week will help to avoid damage.
Have a Twist Trim. In healthy hair, the scales should lie flat and compact, but heat styling will create cracks and damage to the cuticle. To correct this, you must cut off the damaged part because the real damage is at the cortex level of the hair shaft. You don’t necessarily need a complete trim - try a twist cut, which involves twisting the section of hair and ‘splicing’ the ends with scissors.
Get a Microscopic Test.Microscopic examination of the hair shows small nodes seen as specks on the affected hair shafts. The hair tends to break at the sites of these sites, leading to patchy hair breakage and the interlocking of the stands causing tangling particularly on the top layers of hair. Getting one of these tests can let you know what stage your heat damage is at.
Repair with Protein.When the cuticle layer of the hair strand is scorched you need to return natural amino acids into the hair to bring back its softness, strength and shine. I use La Biosthetique PCC as it is the ultimate re-bonding treatment currently available and can repair broken down bonds.
Cheryl Mackie is a Natural Trichologist and skin specialist and works with professional Parisian range La Biosthetique.
For more information visit: www.cmhairloss.co.uk or call 01206621728
Guest Trichologist: Cheryl Mackie, Natural Trichologist