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Preventing Hair Damage From Direct Heat

So it hit me recently that I went about 12 weeks without using direct heat on my relaxed hair from a flat iron or blow dryer. This is a big deal for me as I used to be a weekly blow out and flat iron every other day girl. As a result, I started noticing my hair wasn't as full or retaining length like it used to be.

So, I hit the internet to find blogs on relaxed hair care. Among the multitudes of tips and advice, several of the blogs pointed out the damage that direct heat does to hair, particularly relaxed hair.

Now I had never heard this phrase before - direct heat - so I did some more research and found out there is also something called indirect heat. Here's the difference between the two:

Direct heat can hinder a healthy hair journey. See what can be done to get back on track. |

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1. Direct heat

This is when heat is applied directly to the hair by using styling tools such as a curling iron, flat iron, or blow dryer. This is considered to be the harshest method of using heat as it pulls moisture and hydration from the hair strands quickly causing hair damage.

The effect of direct heat is even worse if you don't add back any moisture or protein to the hair prior to and after applying direct heat. Also using heat tools directly on your hair can also burn your hair. There usually isn't any bounce back from burned hair.

2. Indirect heat

This is when the heat doesn't make direct contact with the hair. This is considered to be a more neutral use of heat and typically comes from a hooded dryer which evenly circulates the heat around your head. Indirect heat can be beneficial for deep conditioning as it opens up the hair cuticle allowing for better penetration of the conditioner.

As a result, I changed my habits and stopped doing blowouts each wash day and cut back, way back, on the flat ironing. Now, this doesn't mean I'm totally against using heat on my hair. I use indirect heat on my hair some wash days through my Gold 'N Hot hooded dryer and have had my hair styled with a flat iron when I've gotten a relaxer touch up, but I've ceased regularly frying my hair with the flat iron and the blow dryer.

Here are five signs of heat damage:
  1. Breakage
  2. Dryness
  3. Dullness
  4. Frizzing
  5. Split ends

While major heat damage isn't reversible, here are some tips on what to do when your hair has been damaged from heat:
  • Use protein deep conditioners which typically include hydrolyzed proteins as an ingredient
  • Avoid direct heat for several weeks, sometimes even months
  • Cut/trim off the damaged hair

Here are ways to avoid future damage from direct heat:
  • Overall try and less the amount of direct heat used on your hair
  • Only use direct heat on freshly washed hair. Prior to flat ironing consider using a clarifying shampoo to rid the hair of any residue
  • Do a protein treatment to strengthen the hair
  • Regularly deep condition
  • Use a good heat protectant before applying any heat to your hair
  • Blow dry the hair on cool or use indirect heat
  • Use a lower heat setting on your curling and flat irons
  • Straighten or curl your hair with fewer passes of curling or flat iron
  • Moisturize the hair with a good leave-in conditioner before and after using heat tools
  • Regularly moisturize and seal
Which do you use more often on your hair direct or indirect heat?



  1. I don't often at all, I learned the hair way that my hair doesn't like heat, stunted by hair growth for about a year! Now that I don't use as much heat my hair is much healthier and softer too!

    1. I've noticed the same thing with my growth. I didn't realize the damage I had been doing to my hair. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a really good post Leah. very informative