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When you’ve worked long and hard to get your natural hair to its healthiest, bounciest state, you don’t want to forfeit your curl pattern to damage caused by temporary straightening. With the right products, you can have the best of both worlds and go in and out of curly and straight styles with little to no curl casualties. The best heat protectants will help your curls bounce right back while giving you the sleek, frizz-free look that you desire. Of course, no one can give you a blowout quite like a hairdresser, so we went straight to the source for advice on heat styling your tresses without the damage.
Stylist Lyonisha Sanders of Lavish Salon & Extension Bar specializes in healthy hair, whether natural, relaxed, or color-treated. “Hair is just like a plant," she says. "You must nurture it and apply all the nutrients it needs so that it can blossom, grow, and maintain its integrity. When styling with heat, I always apply all of the nutrients while hair is wet, so that the hair can absorb them better."
Most heat protectants don’t guarantee results over 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so even if your styling tool can get hotter, go easy on the heat. Staying below this temperature will ensure that your strands aren’t getting damaged on your quest to silky smooth hair.
Keep scrolling to discover our picks of the best heat protectants for natural hair.
Best Overall: Design Essentials Natural Agave & Lavender Weightless Thermal Protectant Serum
When your goal is flowing hair that’s soft to the touch, the last thing you want is a greasy blowout weighed down by heavy creams and oils. Sanders says that she always applies this serum to her client's hair before flat ironing to give the hair a nice gloss. The lightweight formula seals moisture in the hair cuticle and adds an extra layer of protection from heat for a brilliant, silky finish.
Best Budget: Cantu Shea Butter Thermal Shield Heat Protectant
This budget-friendly heat protectant is a steal for those with thick, natural hair. It adds light hold to help your blowout withstand the elements, and pure shea butter hydrates curly and kinky strands while protecting it from temperatures up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The results? Hair that is sleek and hydrated.
Best Repairing Treatment: Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil
Your hair goes through tons of stress over time from chemicals, heat styling, and even just brushing, but this all-natural oil is here to help undo some of the damage. It’s highly concentrated yet lightweight, and its star ingredient is Bis-aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, which works by finding broken bonds and cross-linking them to rebuild them. Long story short: It’s nice to your hair when you aren’t, and it doesn’t just protect against heat damage, it repairs it.
Best Cream: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Cream
Say goodbye to frizz and unnecessary shedding on your next blowout with this proven heat protectant. Over styling with heat tools can lead to damage and breakage, but this cream reduced hair breakage by an average of 85 percent in a clinical study. You get all of the goodness of rosehip oil, argan oil, vitamin E, and coconut oil, without any of the harmful parabens or silicones that are found in many straightening products.
For best results, start from the top with the Briogeo Farewell Frizz Shampoo.
Best for Damaged Hair: Silk Elements MegaSilk Olive Heat Protection Spray
Products that came along before the natural hair and clean beauty movements often get left out of the conversation, but this heat protector has been getting the job done for decades now. The alcohol-free formula reduces frizz while smoothing hair, and it leaves even dry, damaged hair feeling seriously silky. Users of all hair types report that it is lightweight and makes natural hair so much more manageable, cutting down on blowout time. You’ll think back to your relaxed hair days and seriously wonder why you even bothered when you can have results this good on natural hair.
Best Sulfate-Free: Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Thermal & Heat Protectant Spray
No sulfates, no alcohol, no parabens, and no preservatives—you can rest assured that this spray is protecting your hair from heat without damaging it with other harmful chemicals. We love that this product acts as a conditioner for your curls, protecting them so that they can easily revert when you’re ready to move on from your straight style. Apply it to clean wet hair.
Best for Detangling: Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer
This priming oil isn’t just a heat protectant: It’s a moisturizer, leave-in treatment, and a detangler that leaves your hair feeling hydrated and frizz-free. It also gets major props for protecting against UV rays, so your hair can feel its best all summer long. We love that this can be a go-to product for straight or curly styling. It will help your flat iron glide through your thick strands, or if you’re a fan of wash and go styling, you can expect curl defining results when used before you diffuse.
Best Drugstore: Garnier Fructis Flat Iron Perfector Straightening Mist
Your hair and your budget will be pleased with this drugstore heat protectant. Formulated with argan oil from Morocco, you’ll find that this paraben-free spray smooths and seals hair of all textures to prevent frizzy flyaways. Like all of Garnier products, this mist smells divine. Use it on dry hair for best results, and remember, a little goes a long way.
Best Leave-In Conditioner: Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner
This multitasking leave-in conditioner uses coconut oil to moisturize dry hair and fennel seed oil to strengthen hair and prevent breakage. It’s also great for its heat protectant properties, making it a great first step on clean hair before styling with heat tools. Sanders also recommends this product, raving that “it has so many nourishing factors that the hair needs and it’s also helpful with detangling."
Best for Frizz: Mixed Chicks Straightening Serum
Frizzy strands are an unavoidable part of having naturally textured hair, and we should embrace it...except when it’s time for a sleek style. This straightening serum is up for the job to cancel frizz when applied to wet hair before setting or blow-drying. Better yet, it reduces drying time to make your DIY blowout easier on your arms and your tresses.
Best Classic: CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
There’s a reason why people keep coming back for this classic heat protecting spray. It’s great for all hair types and works from the inside out to strengthen and protect your hair. Positively charged silk molecules interlock into hair’s natural structure to improve moisture and shine, so you can count on it for your sleekest styles.
Best for Wavy Hair: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray
For natural hair with a looser curl pattern, check out this lightweight spray that delivers touchable, smooth tresses for up to 48 hours without the use of silicones. The mist is ultra-fine for even application, and it also helps your hair stay cleaner, longer, so you can heat-style less often.