Ways to Break (or Better) Your Curling Iron Addiction

Victoria Moorhouse
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Getty Images

There’s a reason that heat protectant sprays and serums exist. The constant meet-up of your stands and a piping hot wand or iron– pick your poison– doesn’t exactly promote luscious, long, Rapunzel-like hair growth patterns. In fact, there are many curling irons or hair straighteners out there that reach the same temperatures as your toaster ovens, and too much contact with these extremes can leave your hair looking and feeling dry, dull, and even broken. For some reason, the “too much of a good thing” logic goes out the window when you start to think about the beachy waves and tendrils that result out of a session with your curling wand. It’s for THAT very reason that your hairstyling addiction to creating curls every single day exists.

Even though your bond with that styling tool might be strong, there are a few things you can do that will help break or better your not-so-great connection to a curler so that you’re not unintentionally harming your tresses while trying to make them look nice.

First, Get an Understanding of What Heat Can Do to Your Hair
Constant contact between your hair and your curling iron can do a lot to damage your hair. In fact, it can actually burn your strands. “The excessive heat breaks down the hair, therefore burning it when temperatures are too high. Hair gets damaged when the heat setting is too high for your hair type,” explains expert stylist Taylor Brock at Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City.

Turn Down the Temperature
Remember that fact Brock mentioned above? You can prevent a whole lot of damage by just turning down the temps. You don’t need your setting as high as you think to temporarily bend your strands into that wave or curl. “Most of the time you really only need around 300 to 400 max heat setting on your tools to achieve your desired style and smoothing. Overusing your hot tools without regularly giving hair a break is another common mistake,” notes Brock.

MORE: 7 Things That Are Making Your Hair Frizzy

If You Have a Frequent Heat Styling Schedule, Don’t Skip the Protectant
So you’re probably thinking… “well, this is a no-brainer.” Yes, it’s a common suggestion, but heat protectants not only shield your hair from the harsh effects of the high temperatures, but also help infuse nourishment into your tresses. “There are different types and each an essential step—products that you should use from wet to dry and/or on dry hair when using an iron,” notes Brock. “Kerastase Thermiques add a protective layer with light conditioning while blow drying, and a strengthening protectant such as Fiber Architect should be used anytime an iron is applied. These products not only help to stop any damage but use the heat as a kind of battery to build in protein, moisture, or now, even keratin.”

Start Off Your Week With a Wash and a Curl
After you wash and blow-dry your hair, you might be more apt to want to add in some slight texture. Just think about what happens when you go in for a blow-out. Start off your week with a fresh wash and some curls. As your hair gets dirtier through the week, it’ll end up being more susceptible for updos and braids. Opt for a high, voluminous ponytail on the day-after (or even a few days after) the initial curl, and move onto a braid or a topknot that will mask oils the following day and won’t slip out of place.

Give Your Hair a Break
Think of those ponytails and braids as the days you’re giving your hair a break from constant aggravation. “Depending on your regimen and how often you’re doing your hair, I’d recommend at least a day or two. Make room for an updo day or a natural look. Anytime you’re a little bad to your hair, you should balance it out by being a little better to it. Give it a little TLC, such as with treatments to strengthen and repair and deep-conditioning for moisture and nourishment,” says Brock.

Embrace Your Natural Texture
One thing that happens when you use heat tools to transform your hair’s natural texture to something else is that you end up almost forgetting how to wear your hair, well, naturally. Do research some around hairstyles—think 5-minute ‘dos—that are perfect your texture and state, whether that be straight, thin, thick, or curly. You can give it a tiny boost that won’t hurt you in the long run with texture sprays, dry shampoo, mousse, serum, and gel.

MORE: Stocking Your Hair Care Shelf for Under $50

The Non-Heat Methods
If curly hair is your thing and you don’t care to part with it, that’s fine. You’re just going to have to give yourself more prep time to get the look. Braid your damp hair before bed and undo them in the morning for rippling waves or tie up your hair in rags like way back when. You can also try good ole’ foam or velcro rollers, both of which don’t require the onset of heat.

Talk to Your Stylist
Be honest with your stylist about the type of styling schedule you usually follow so they can steer you in the right direction for nourishing treatments and healthy cuts. “Stay on schedule to see your stylist on the recommended time they provide you, and make their advised routine and maintenance a habit. It’s easier for us to notice a change since the last time we saw you, and a stylist can best assess when it needs change,” notes Brock.

You can also ask them about easy styling options for your specific cut that don’t need the help of your curling wand or iron. Use your resources!

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