Hair care is super important, but sometimes it can feel like a loaded to-do list. If we color our hair, we need special shampoos to make it last; if we use a lot of dry shampoo, we need a scalp scrub to clear away the build-up; and if we use hot tools to tame and style our strands, we need a protectant to help us avoid long-term damage. Well, we come bearing good news: It turns out you may already have what you need to protect your strands sitting right under your nose (as in, inside your pantry).
Many of the oils we cook with can be used to keep our hair protected from the heat applied while styling. While some oils are best used on certain hair types over others, using oils you already have at home provides a more natural alternative to your heat protectants and serves as a one-stop-shop with loads of added benefits to give you a well-rounded hair care routine. Experimenting with DIY protectants should be an informed decision—if used incorrectly, it can cause some serious damage —which is why we sought out a trichologist's advice to help guide you through. Read on to learn about the many benefits of replacing your plethora of hair products with one of these DIY 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 amount of 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 are used to 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 being used with a hot tool at too high a temperature, the oil will start to burn and you could end up with the reverse effect of having extremely damaged, fried hair as a result.
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 they can keep unwanted frizz at bay. However, these types of artificial ingredients can prevent moisture from getting into the hair at all and over time can leave strands brittle and dry. Replacing your heat protectant with one of the oils you might find in your pantry can serve a healthier alternative for your strands in the long run because they actually help to lock in moisture.
In short, DIY heat protectants can be a very effective, holistic option for your strands by tackling multiple hair woes at once, but you need to use them carefully and appropriately based on your hair type and the temperature required for your desired look. With that out of the way, keep reading for the oils Friese recommends using at home as a DIY heat protectant.
Is it any surprise to find coconut oil on this list? Coconut Oil is the product that keeps on giving. With a low smoke point of 350 degrees, this oil is the best option for those with finer hair. That being said, all hot tools applied to hair with a coconut oil base protectant should not exceed a 325 degree temperature.
Coconut oil works as a conditioning property 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. Not only can this oil smooth the hair down and keep frizz at bay, but it will leave your hair feeling much softer.
To properly use as a heat protectant, melt 1 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.
One of the unique perks to using avocado oil as the base for your DIY heat protectant is that it protects the hair from all heat: heat from your hot tools but also natural heat from being in the sun. Because of this perk alone, avocado oil is a great protectant option for color treated hair or graying hair. It also has an extremely high smoke point of 520 degrees, making it a great choice for any hair density or texture.
To use avocado oil as the base of your DIY heat protectant, mix 1 tablespoon of oil with at least 1 cup of water into a spray bottle and shake vigorously before each use. Let the hair air dry a little bit if possible just to let the oil set in before applying or exposing to any form of 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 is loaded with antioxidant properties that could contribute to hair growth if also applied on the scalp. Whatever hair type you have, apply this protectant oil while the hair is still wet and allow it the time to sink in.
If you have thick hair and a dry scalp, grapeseed oil is the best option for you as its unique properties provide relief to symptoms of 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 it reaching anywhere near its smoke point when it'll begin to burn. 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. Simply apply 4-6 drops of oil to the palms of your hands, rub your hands together and rake the oil on your hands through from mid-shaft to ends. This oil absorbs quickly and will show promising results to dull, lifeless hair with consistent use.
Similar to grapeseed oil, sunflower oil has a high smoke point making it a great 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 a silicone would work 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. 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 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil with 2 cups of water and pour into a spray bottle for distribution. As with most of these formulas, you'll want to apply to wet hair and give it some time to set in, applying only to the mid-shaft and ends for heat protectant purposes.
Almond oil gets absorbed easily, making it a great fit for over-processed hair. It's also a great choice for finer hair, despite its high smoke point of 430 degrees, since it absorbs quickly and won't weigh the hair down. 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.
Almond oil is a hydrator that is rich in vitamin D, vitamin E, and various minerals. It helps soothe the skin from irritation and protect it from UV radiation damage.
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 any gaps within each strand's structure, making the hair stronger, healthier, more beautiful and more resilient.
Try to find an organic, cold-pressed almond oil and apply directly to your hair. With only 3-5 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.