The Sneaky Way Your Favorite Hot Tools Are Harming Your Hair

Straight from the pros.

Harling Ross curly hair selfie

Your hair type determines lots of things: the products you use, the way you style it, and how you maintain it. It also determines the heat setting to use on your hot tools — or at least it should if you want to minimize potential hair damage, like breakage or color fading. “Heat settings are not a one-size-fits-all,” says celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Yepez. “Because everyone has a different hair texture, it’s important to adjust the heating settings accordingly.” As with everything you do when it comes to your hair, the goal is always to promote long-term health, which may sound counterintuitive if you’re a hot tools user. But it is totally possible to use hot tools and have healthy hair — as long as you’re not cranking the heat higher than you should.

When it comes to heat styling your hair, there are a few cardinal rules to follow no matter your hair type or texture: always make sure to prep your hair with a heat protectant. “You never want to put heat on a raw cuticle,” says Anthony Cole, Sebastian Professional international artist. “A thermal protector will take the brunt of the heat so that there’s less damage to the hair.” Also, always start on a low heat setting and increase as needed — not all hair types require the highest heat setting in order to achieve a style, notes celebrity hairstylist Mitchell Ramazon. As tempting as it may be to turn up the heat and get your styling done fast, the experts will advise you to be patient — and your hair will thank you for it.

To learn the proper heat settings according to your hair type and texture, TZR tapped the hair pros for their best hot tool tips.

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Fine Hair

“Fine” refers to the diameter of the hair strand (not to be confused with “thin” hair, which refers to the quantity of hair that you have) and is typically characterized by hair that tangles or breaks easily, says Cole. Due to the fragile nature of fine hair (and because it’s prone to breakage and thus, unruly flyaways), aim for 250 degrees or less. He warns that a heat setting of 410 or over can result in irreversible damage for this hair type, so always start on a low heat setting and adjust the temperature if you find you’re having to do more passes.

Fine Wavy/Curly Hair

“Hair that’s both curly and fine (meaning it has a small diameter) tends to dry quickly, so it's very important to be mindful of your heat setting,” says Ramazon. Stick to 250 to 275 degrees if you have this texture and type. Also, it’s important to note that how quickly you pass the hot tool through your hair largely depends on the heat setting. Cole says that the higher the heat setting is, the faster you should go through your hair. “Using a higher heat setting and moving slowly with your passes can increase your risk of drying out your hair,” he says. On the other hand, the lower the heat setting, the slower your passes can be. People with wavy or curly hair textures that are fine can move through the hair with medium speed and not risk undue damage.

Coarse Wavy/Curly Hair

If you’re the owner of wavy or curly hair that’s coarse (again, meaning the diameter of the actual strand is larger) the maximum heat setting your hot tool should be is 350 to 400 degrees. Since this hair type will require more passes to achieve the desired style, Ramazon recommends applying a smoothing serum to get ahead of — and eliminate — frizz. “This will also create a solid base to maintain the desired smooth style you’re going for,” he adds.

If using a blow dryer, Ramazon says to use a medium-high heat setting and the nozzle attachment to concentrate the heat in one area, ward off frizz, and cut down on blow-dry time (which ultimately decreases your exposure to heat). You can also use a paddle brush to gently brush through your hair with tension, using the heat from your blow dryer to slowly turn your curls more straight. “This will give your hair a break from the harsh heat of the hot tool because most of your curl pattern will be blown smooth [with the paddle brush],” he says.

Damaged Hair

Those with processed or damaged hair should avoid heat when possible, notes Yepez. If you must use a hot tool, don’t go above 250 degrees and keep each pass over the hair quick. Instead of heat styling, though, try using products that accentuate your natural texture, and incorporate restoring oils and masks into your routine to bring moisture back to your hair cuticle. “I always say that [a hair mask] should be done at least once a week regardless of your hair type or texture when you’re regularly using hot tools,” says Yepez. “Your hair needs those proteins and moisture to maintain its health and smoothness.”