What's In Your Hair Product? How to Identify Heat Protectants

what's in your heat protectant

Whether you use a hair dryer, flat iron, wand, or even crimper to achieve your go-to look, you probably already know about the importance of using a heat protectant. But with all the other products you need, it can often feel like just another step — and you’re not alone if you’re left wondering if maybe your styling cream, volumizing spray, or serum could actually play double-duty.

If you don’t want yet another product to remember, we don’t blame you. (After all, that’s why all of It’s a 10’s products are formulated with ten benefits in one!)

Short of looking at the label (which — let’s be real — can sometimes be full of “marketing speak”), how do you know if a product will really protect your hair from heat styling? Read on to learn which ingredients to look for, how these ingredients protect your hair, and how to find the best heat protectant for your hair type.

First, What ARE Heat Protectants?

Heat protectants add a protective barrier between your styling tool and your hair, sealing in moisture and fending off frizz. They often contain key moisturizing ingredients, like natural oils and fatty acids, but it’s the usually the silicones and polymers that provide the barrier.

Some ingredients also slow down heat conduction, so that your hair heats up gently instead of suddenly — meaning less damage.

Not only does the barrier help while you’re heat styling, you’ll also be protected throughout the day from things like UV rays and dry air.

What Ingredients Work as Heat Protectants?

how to use hair heat protectants

First up, we have three ingredients with tons of research behind them — the best of the best! These heat-protecting ingredients are:

  • Quaternary 70
  • PVP/Dmapa Acrylates Copolymer
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein

All three provide a protective barrier for your strands, and can provide additional benefits as well:

Quaternary 70 conditions and imparts a “slippery” feel to your strands (running your flat iron through smooth hair = less damage). PVP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer binds well to damaged hair in particular and also helps with detangling. And hydrolyzed wheat protein increase the strength of the hair fiber (great for curly hair!) and can make your strands super-soft.

Another ingredient to look for? Silicones, which may include:

  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone

Store-bought heat protectants are usually made with a combination of water-soluble cyclomethicone and dimethicone, which work by moisturizing and coating your hair. Keep in mind, though, that these ingredients tend to build up, so they may not be ideal for fine hair.

Finally, look for natural oils, which act very similar to silicones by creating a protective barrier on your hair. Many oils —  including coconut and grapeseed oil — have very high smoke points, providing natural protection from heat. Some have other benefits, too: coconut oil is fantastic for soothing the scap, avocado and sunflower oil act as a natural sunscreen, and olive oil is chock-full of vitamins and antioxidants.

The only downfall? Oils alone can create drag when you’re running your tool through your hair, which can actually lead to MORE damage. For best results, you’ll want to make sure your product combines oils with polymers or silicones, along with other nourishing ingredients. Additionally, if you have oily hair you may want to keep the oils to a minimum (or only apply the product to your ends).

Can I Make a Homemade Heat Protectant for my Hair?

There are a few recipes for homemade, natural heat protectants out there, but do they really work? While ingredients like argan oil and coconut oil are easy to find, they’re also easy to overdo — and that can weigh down all but super thick and coarse hair. The best choice is a product that has been formulated and tested by the experts, providing additional benefits beyond just heat protection.

Our Miracle Leave-Ins, for example, each provide 10 amazing benefits in just one bottle. From the original Miracle Leave-In to our strengthening Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin to our color-safe Miracle Leave-In for Blondes, you’ll set the foundation for amazing hair that’s hydrated, nourished, and repaired.

Plus, now that you know the ingredients to look for, you may even notice that other products in your routine can provide the heat protection you need. All of our shampoos, for example, set the foundation for thermal and UV protection, and many of our styling products contain the ingredients you need to preserve your hair’s health.

One Last Word on Heat Protectants for Hair

Using salon-quality shampoos and products that protect and nourish your hair can make a huge difference, but keep in mind that heat protectants don’t completely remove the risk of damage. Think of your heat protection product like your sunscreen: it’s a must-have if you’re spending any time in the sun, but it doesn’t completely protect you from long-term damage. Try not to heat style everyday, and take a break with a good dry shampoo or a no-fail air-dry hairstyle every now and then!