How To Prevent And Repair Heat Damaged Relaxed Hair

So it hit me recently that I went about 12 weeks without using heat on my relaxed hair from a flat iron or blow dryer. This is a big deal for me because I used to be a blow-dry and flat iron my hair every single week kinda gal. In fact, I would sometimes flat iron my hair every day. As a result, I started noticing my hair didn't look and feel as full as it used to. And I wasn't retaining length.

Now I didn't realize that my constant use of heat on my hair was causing the issue. It was after I turned to the Internet to find information, tips, and advice on relaxed hair care. Among the multitudes of tips and advice, several of them talked about heat damage from direct.

Now I had never heard this phrase before - direct heat. But some of the signs of the hair damage it caused were similar to what I was experiencing. So I knew I had to do something.

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What heat damage really is

Despite what we may think, our hair is fragile and the constant heat from curling irons, blow dryers, and flat irons can damage it. Sometimes beyond repair. In a nutshell, heat damage is caused when constant high heat is used directly on the hair. Hence the term direct heat.

Direct heat 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 crazy thing is heat damage can be spotty. So while you may use high heat all over your head sometimes some spots may be more damaged than others. 

You can tell hair is heat damaged when you're seeing excessive breakage, your hair looks and feels dry and dull. You may also see lots of frizzing and possibly even split ends.

What to do about heat damage

While major heat damage isn't reversible, there are some things you can do to help your heat-damaged hair.

Stop using heat

Yes, you heard me. If hair is heat damaged the worse thing would be to use more heat on it. Go on a no heat challenge where you use no heat of any kind on your hair. This means you air dry your hair and find ways to style your hair without heat. I once did a 30 day no heat challenge. You can see the results of my challenge here.

Use protein

If the heat damage isn't that bad using protein-based deep conditioners and even a mild protein treatment could help add some strength back to the hair.

Cut/trim off the damaged hair

Sometimes there's no way around it. The damage may be so severe or so noticeable that it's better to have a fresh start by cutting or trimming away the damaged pieces of hair.

Keep hair moisturized

A lot of times heat damaged hair is dry because the heat can remove moisture from the hair. So it's important to add moisture back to your hair and keep it moisturized. You can do that by deep conditioning regularly and using indirect heat or steam to help the deep conditioner penetrate your strands better. 

Also, by using a good moisturizer or leave-in conditioner on your hair. I find my hair stays moisturized longer when I use a leave-in conditioner on my wet hair after washing and conditioning it and work the leave-in into my strands.

Baby the hair

Getting your damaged hair back on track may take some gentle love and care. Reduce the number of chemicals by no longer coloring your hair, stretching your relaxers for longer than six weeks, or even no longer relaxing your hair.

Other ways to baby your hair are
  • Keep your hands out of it
  • Style it less often and start wearing protective styles like wigs
  • Using sulfate-free shampoos or a co-wash when you wash your hair
  • Deep condition every time you wash your hair

How to avoid heat damage in the future

Here are ways to avoid future damage from direct heat

Use less heat

Overall try to lessen the amount of direct heat used on your hair. This is probably one of the best ways to avoid heat damage. You can do this by not using curling irons, blow dryers, and flat irons.

When you do use heat to dry your hair try using indirect heat from a hooded dryer like this one. Indirect heat which is heat that is not applied directly to your hair. It's heat that circulates around your head or hair so it's less damaging. Or use the cool setting when using a blow dryer.

And if a curling iron or flat iron is used try to do fewer passes and a lower heat setting so you're less heat.

Protect your hair

Use a good heat protectant before applying any heat to your hair whether it's direct or indirect heat.

Only work with clean 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.

Strengthen your hair

Do a protein treatment to strengthen the hair. You can use hair products like conditioners that have ingredients like hydrolyzed protein. Or even do a hard protein treatment like the Aphogee Two-step Protein Treatment.

Moisturize your hair

Regularly moisturize the hair with a good leave-in conditioner. If you're using heat tools moisturize before and after using them. Also, seal in the moisture with a hair oil or serum. If you use a natural oil be careful that you don't fry or cook your hair by using a heat styling tool after applying the oil. 

Have you ever experienced heat damage? What did you do about it?


  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


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