7 Natural, DIY Heat Protectants You Can Use in a Pinch

Ouai hair oil

Tawni Bannister for BYRDIE

When using hot tools, an effective heat protectant is an absolute must. While facing the risk of long-term damage in the name of stylish strands is categorically unfair, at least we have options when it comes to finding a good protector. In fact, one might already be sitting in your pantry (or beauty cupboard). That's right: Most oils we cook or moisturize with can double as heat protectants.

However, experimenting with natural protectants and DIY recipes should be an informed decision, so we sought out trichologist Gretchen Friese's advice to help guide us. Read on to learn more about your natural heat-protecting options.

Meet the Expert

Gretchen Friese is a Salon Director and Hair Stylist at Foushee Salon in Denver, CO with over 20 years experience. She is a BosleyMD Certified Trichologist.

Safety and Efficacy Considerations

The goal of any heat protectant is to reduce the damage done by applied heat. "When we use heat styling tools, they strip the hair of its natural oils and proteins by breaking down the hydrogen bonds," explains Friese. Heat protectants act as a barrier that coats the surface of the hair shaft to give it an added layer of protection, allowing the heat to penetrate slowly instead of all at once.

Friese notes, "Different hair textures require various temperatures to achieve a desired look." Certain oils—like coconut oil or avocado oil, which you may already have in your pantry at home—can effectively be used in a DIY formula to guard strands from applied heat, but the biggest caution to take note of is each oil's smoke point. "Each oil has a different smoking point (the temperature in which the oil burns)," says Friese. If this smoke point is exceeded and your DIY protectant formula is used with a hot tool at too high a temperature, the oil will start to burn, and you could end up with extremely damaged, fried hair.

Most over-the-counter products use silicones as a barrier for the hair because they're typically water-soluble and, by acting as a sealant, can keep unwanted frizz at bay. However, these types of artificial ingredients can prevent moisture from getting into the hair and, over time, leave strands brittle and dry. Replacing a heat protectant with one of the oils in your pantry can serve as a healthier alternative in the long run by helping lock in moisture.

By tackling multiple hair woes simultaneously, natural heat protectants can be a very effective, holistic option for your strands. But you must use them carefully and appropriately based on your hair type and the temperature required for a desired look. With that out of the way, keep reading for the oils Friese recommends using at home as a DIY heat protectant.

01 of 07

Argan Oil

If you're already an Argan oil devotee, you'll be happy to hear that a few drops of your favorite hair shine inducer can double as a heat protectant. Argan oil tends to have a viscous consistency that's ideal for thick or textured hair. The nutrient-rich oil is packed with antioxidants; omega-6 fatty acids; vitamins A, C, and E; and linoleic acid—all of which deliver protection from hot tools and nourishing benefits. With a smoke point of 420 degrees, this may not be as robust as other alternatives, but it does blend well with avocado oil for a stronger approach.


When working with Argan oil, sourcing authentic products with quality ingredients and high potency is important. The pure oil should have a golden hue, a smooth texture that doesn't run watery, and elicit a slightly nutty aroma. Spray the oil directly to your hair, or run a few drops through with your fingers, and style as desired. Keep in mind that Argan is a nut oil and should be used with caution if nut allergies exist.

02 of 07

Shea Butter

Shea butter, or oil depending on how you're working with it, is already a skincare staple for most. And while you may also be privy to its spectacular range of hair benefits, we'd like to highlight its protective superpowers, too. Shea butter shields the hair from environmental and sun damage and has natural thermal conductivity properties (similar to silicones) that protect the hair from excessive heat. With a smoke point of 450 degrees, the antioxidant and fatty acid-dense formula is best suited for thick, coarse, or natural hair that won't be weighed down.


To use shea butter or oil as a DIY heat protectant solution, you may need to thin the formula to make it more manageable. Dilute by blending 1/4 cup of shea butter with one tablespoon of avocado oil. (Most oils mix well with shea butter, but blending it with oils with the same or higher smoke point is most effective for optimal protection.) Apply to damp hair from the mid-shaft to the ends and style as desired. Shea butter is a nut derivative and should be used cautiously by anyone with a nut allergy.

03 of 07

Coconut Oil

With a low smoke point of 350 degrees, coconut oil is the best option for those with finer hair. That said, all hot tools applied to the hair with a coconut oil protectant should not exceed a 325-degree temperature.

Coconut oil works as a conditioning agent as well as a sealant. It can repair existing damage in the hair because it actually penetrates through the hair shaft instead of just coating the shaft's exterior like many other protectants on the market tend to do. So not only can this oil smooth the hair down and keep frizz at bay, but it will also leave hair feeling much softer.


To properly use as a heat protectant, melt one teaspoon of coconut oil and then dilute it by adding 3/4 cup of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake well before each use. It's always best to apply this formula to wet hair and to keep it all on the mid-shaft to ends, away from the scalp. Spraying this protectant to dry hair or putting it anywhere near the roots can make the hair look greasy, which you want to be especially careful of on finer strands that can get easily weighed down.

04 of 07

Avocado Oil

One of the unique perks of using avocado oil as the base for your DIY heat protectant is that it protects the hair from different types of heat: heat from your hot tool and natural heat from the sun. Because of this perk alone, avocado oil is a great protectant option for color-treated or graying hair. It also has an extremely high smoke point of 520 degrees, making it an excellent choice for any hair density or texture.


To use avocado oil as the base of your natural heat protectant, mix one tablespoon of oil with at least one cup of water into a spray bottle and shake vigorously before each use. Apply this protectant oil while your hair is still wet and let it air dry a little bit if possible, just to let the oil set in before applying or exposing it to any heat.

Avocado oil is very lightweight, so it won't leave a heavy feeling on finer strands. It's also rich in Vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties that could contribute to hair growth if applied regularly on the scalp.

05 of 07

Grapeseed Oil

If you have thick hair and a dry scalp, grapeseed oil is the best option, as its unique properties provide relief from dandruff and dermatitis. Grapeseed oil also has a high smoke point of 420 degrees, making it a great choice for thicker, coarser hair textures. Keep your irons down to 400 degrees as a safety precaution while using this oil to avoid reaching anywhere near its smoke point.

In addition, grapeseed oil naturally seals the hair cuticles to lock in moisture and has conditioning properties that will leave your hair soft and shiny. It's also high in vitamin E and antioxidants, making it great for scalp health as well.


To use grapeseed oil as your DIY heat protectant solution, you shouldn't need to mix it with anything or dilute it in any way. Apply four to six drops of oil to the palms of your hands, rub your hands together, and rake the oil on your hands through the mid-shaft to the ends. This oil absorbs quickly and will show promising results to dull, lifeless hair with consistent use.

06 of 07

Sunflower Oil

Like grapeseed oil, sunflower oil has a high smoke point making it an excellent option for thicker, coarser textures. With a smoke point of 440 degrees, this oil can withstand the extremity of most hot tools without burning.

The thermal conductivity of sunflower oil acts the same way that silicone would by coating the exterior of the hair shaft. The difference is that this oil has conditioning properties that penetrate through the hair's cortex, acting as an emollient and resulting in extremely soft strands. In addition, sunflower oil is high in vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, which can help nurture the hair to remain healthy and strong with continued use.


Dilute one tablespoon of sunflower oil with two cups of water and pour it into a spray bottle for distribution. As with most of these formulas, you'll want to apply to wet hair and give it time to set in, applying only to the mid-shaft and ends.

07 of 07

Almond Oil

Almond oil gets absorbed easily, making it a great fit for over-processed hair. It's also an ideal choice for finer hair, despite its high smoke point of 430 degrees, since it absorbs quickly and won't weigh the hair down. Almond oil uniquely nourishes the hair with its high composition of vitamins E, D, B1, B2, B6, and vitamin A. Together, these nutrients act to fill in gaps within each strand's structure, making the hair stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

An added caution you should take when considering almond oil as your heat protectant is if you have any sort of nut allergy. We opt to always play it safe and steer clear of a potential allergic outbreak.


Try to find an organic, cold-pressed almond oil and apply directly to your hair. With only three to five drops needed, depending on your hair density, you can comb this oil through damp hair and style accordingly, keeping your heat down to a safe maximum of 420 degrees.

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