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Here's How to Minimize Hot Tool Damage

There's actually a lot you can do about it.
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We've all been told to keep heat styling to a minimum to avoid damaging our hair. "The heat from hot tools compromises the protective layer of the hair follicle, which can damage strands making them weak and prone to breakage," says celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger. "Hot tools also tend to strip hair of natural oils, which is why overly processed hair can appear dry and fried."

Breaking up with heat styling tools is impossible for many of us. So it's important to focus on mitigating the damage.

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Tricks of the Trade

"When blowdrying hair, it's best to keep the dryer a safe distance from your head otherwise you're putting yourself at risk of burning your scalp and strands," says Hershberger. "I like to keep my dryer moving using a round brush to hold hair taut while drying each section to ensure it's done thoroughly."

Celebrity hairstylist and founder of The Salon Project Joel Warren echoes the sentiment. "The key to a great blowdry is tension, not heat. You should not hold the dryer on the brush for more than five seconds. Use the brush to hold hair and concentrate on the hair that's between the brush and the head. With hot tools like flatirons, the tool should slide off the hair and not sit on hair for more than two seconds."

A good indicator when using a curling iron is to lightly tap fingers on the hair being held, once it begins to feel hot to the touch, Hershberger says to release strands.

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Know Your Type

Knowing your hair type is key, too. "If you have damaged hair or bleached hair, always start at 300 degrees," says celebrity hairstylist Harry Josh. "You can only go to max heat if you have healthy hair."

It's also important to remember that a tool that works wonders on your friend's thick, curly hair may not work well for you if you're on the fine side. Many hot tools will specify what hair they work best for. "In general, a ceramic base is most common and does a good job of spreading heat evenly throughout the hair," says Hershberger. "For thicker hair, a tourmaline base works well since they emit negative ions that minimize frizz and make it possible to straighten hair with less heat."

No matter what heat tool you use, make sure your hair is completely dry before you start. "Using hot tools on wet or damp hair not only causes hair to crease due to residual moisture in the strands, it essentially steams hair causing irreparable damage," says Hershberger.

To cut down on drying time, microfiber hair towels like the Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel, $15.99, or Coco & Eve's Microfibre Hair Towel Wrap, $24.90, can help by removing more water than an ordinary towel. Using cool air along with hot air when blowdrying is another way to safely dry hair, though it will take longer.

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Pretreat Your Locks

Before doing any sort of heat styling, make sure hair is pretreated with heat protecting and moisturizing products. "If you wash and condition your hair, use protective products and use a mask, hot tools are OK twice a week," says Warren. "If you have weak or damaged hair, talk with your stylist to get your hair in shape before proceeding with regular hot tool usage."

He singles out Kérastase Densifique Bain Densité Shampoo, $35, and Moroccan Gold Series My NuDo Rejuvenating Shampoo, $60, to help increase hair density and to strengthen hair as well as a mask like the Moroccan Gold Series Truffle Mask, $44. "I also recommend Shu Uemura Blow Dry Beautifier Thermo BB Cream, $39. This multi-benefit heat protectant blowdry perfecting BB cream is a leave-in hair treatment that weightlessly coats thick hair. The Kérastase Keratine Thermique Blow Dry Primer, $37, reduces hair breakage and is a heat protectant with 450 degree Fahrenheit thermo-protection."

Hershberger says she applies Sally Hershberger 24K Liquid Assets Daily Conditioning Remedy, $32, which is fortified with keratin proteins that help to strengthen and repair hair while protecting from heat, on damp hair.

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Tools of the Trade

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, $399.99, is a favorite of Sabit Hantal, owner of SH Fifth Avenue, because it's temperature controlled and fast. "It doesn't get as hot as other dryers, meaning less heat damage to the hair. The best part is that it somehow still manages to dry hair faster than other dryers."

The BaBylissPRO Porcelain Ceramic Spring Curling Iron, $49.99, is another Hantal favorite because it gives perfect waves with less heat damage. "I've been using these irons for years. The way it heats, you don't have to hold it too long on the hair and it still holds all day."

Hantal singles out another Dyson tool, the Dyson Corrale Straightener, $499.99. "The Corrale has flexing plates that actually gather and hold the hair, which allows you to take larger sections of hair therefore running it through your hair less resulting in less heat damage. I love it because it makes my job easier and works great. Doesn't leave lines in the hair, cuts down on time and it's cordless."

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