Silky, straight hair doesn’t happen in a flash. If you’ve ever stepped out of the shower in the morning, dried your hair for five seconds and then thought–I’ll just let my flat iron kill two birds with one stone–you’re committing one of the worst hair sins possible.
The biggest mistake women make when straightening their hair is assuming the heat from their flat iron can work overtime and help dry their hair while styling it. But not drying your hair completely before submitting it to the extreme temperatures of a flat iron is a surefire way to damage and even destroy your strands.
“If your hair has even a bit of residual moisture after blow-drying, you will see some steam/vapor arise as you flat iron,” says Carla Carter, co-owner of Headstrong Hair Salon. “Even this little bit can create a steam burn on the hair (and maybe even on your face or neck). You’ll soon discover brittle areas throughout your head. Not good, but you may not even notice it. If, however, the hair is damp, you will actually burn the hair. Much like if you leaned too close to your grill when barbecuing, you’ll see that your hair is singed. At that point your hair will break off. Maybe not right away, but every turn of your head and every touch of your hair will create a cascade of tiny hair fibers that dust your shoulders. There is no way to repair this. Only scissors can help at this point.”
Once you get split ends from flat ironing wet or damp hair, the damage will only go higher and higher up the hair shaft, says Michelle Lee, co-owner and master designer of Salon Eva Michelle in Boston. “Heat damage will also affect how your hair takes color and curl,” Lee says. “Ends and around the face get the most damage because of the multiple passes from an iron, so be especially careful when flat ironing those areas. Hair should be 100% dry and you should be using a heat protectant before you blow dry and a thermal protectant before you iron. A great thermal protectant is Sebastian Professional Trilliant Spray.”
Even though steam irons will work on slightly damp hair (but never wet!), Flygirl Beauty Brand founder Lisa Abbey says she doesn’t recommend these because when wet, hair is elastic and more prone to stretching and snapping when tension is applied.
“Always coat the hair (when wet) with a protective leave-in conditioner (we use Instant Beauty Balm), moisture serum or thermal protectant and blow dry thoroughly before ironing,” Abbey says. “Use the blow dryer to do the work drying the hair and only use heat irons as a ‘finisher’ because of the intense heat they generate. The less time irons touch the hair, the healthier the hair will remain.”
And, if you are devoted to your flat iron, Abbey has one last suggestion about how much time you spend with your beloved device: “Keep it healthier by keeping it short and sweet,” she says. “Only flat iron each section of your hair once or twice at most, keeping the iron moving quickly (and downward so as not to ruffle the cuticle) at all times.”
For more beauty news and tips, check out the one thing you should never do when braiding your hair and the one thing you should never do when washing curly hair.
Follow me at @lisacfogarty on Twitter.
SHEfinds receives commissions for purchases made through the links in this post.