7 Hot Tool Mistakes Sabotaging Your Good Hair Days

Expert Advice

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As much as we value our hair, we can sometimes put it through the wringer. Think improper washing habits, an abundance of chemical treatments, and plain old day-to-day neglect. Heat styling is one area we’re particularly guilty of when it comes to making haircare mistakes, and these no-nos can be especially damaging. We’re curious – are you guilty of any of the following?

1. Blow Drying Sopping Wet Hair

Hair should be damp when blow drying – not wet! That means really taking care to squeeze out excess moisture from your hair (a microfiber towel is a godsend) and/or letting your hair air dry about 10% to 20% before going at it. Doing so translates to less heat exposure and helps prevent a “boiling” effect that can occur on your strands. Also, it goes without saying that flat irons and curling irons should never be used on wet or damp hair. These tools are for dry hair only!

2. Skipping Heat Protectant

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In the same way sunscreen protects your skin from sun exposure, heat protectors can help minimize damage caused by styling tools. Not using a protectant spray can leave your hair vulnerable to heat,” warns Deaundra Metzger, a celebrity hairstylist based in Atlanta.Using a heat protectant spray acts as a shield from heat. Plus, they are formulated with nourishing ingredients that leave strands softer and smoother.” 

Celebrity hairstylist Cody Renegar seconds this one as a major mistake when using hot tools. He says to apply your favorite heat protectant generously before blow drying and doing the same before using your curling/straightening tools. He adds, “Be sure to read on the bottle what particular hair type it is for and know what hair type you have.

3. Using The Wrong Setting for Your Hair Type

Speaking of hair types, it’s important to know yours so your tools are used at the correct settings. If you have fine hair, for example, try using the lowest setting, the medium amount for medium texture, and high heat for coarse hair or thicker hair,” says celebrity hairstylist Michael Canalé. “Using a setting that’s too high is extremely damaging and can cause breakage.

If you’re still not quite sure what setting is best for you, Renegar says to start at the lowest possible heat setting and then increase as needed. Another pro tip: give your tool enough time to fully heat up – about 5 minutes. Even though some tools indicate they’re fully heated, they can continue heating up if you use them too soon.

4. Blow Drying Upward Versus Downward

If you’ve ever petted your cat or dog opposite of the way their hair lies, you know just how silly and unkempt it can make them look! Blow drying against the grain can have a similar effect, leading to frizziness and damage. Always point the nozzle downward. If you want a kick of volume, quickly blow in the opposite direction with cool air after your hair is dry.

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5. Going Over the Same Area Over & Over Again

So many of us are guilty of going over the same area repeatedly – especially when it comes to flat ironing. We also tend to focus on the front sections versus the back sections. If you have applied the right products and the proper level of heat setting on your tool, then you will not need to repeat the process over and over,” notes Renegar. “This will burn your hair and cause damage that’s hard to repair.

He says to start at the root and slide your flat iron slowly to the tip, never pausing in one place. If your temperature is set correctly, this should take one or two trips down the hair shaft and no more. Also, if you find yourself re-curling the same section, you’re probably grabbing too much hair at once.

6. Trying To Flat Iron Without Smoothing Hair First

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Another reason you may find yourself flat ironing or curling the same section is if your hair isn’t primed beforehand. Canalé says it’s ideal to blow dry your hair first with a round brush. It doesn’t have to be a perfect blowout, but your strands should be fairly smooth. He says, “Not doing this can create more damage because you need to make several passes with the iron.”

7. Not Giving Your Hair TLC

When heat styling tools are a regular part of your routine, it’s important to compensate with nourishing products.  If you use hot tools consistently and are committed to heat styling, understand the stress you’re putting on your hair and use products to combat it,” says Metzger. “Use a gentle hair cleanser and increase your use of moisturizing conditioners. I also recommend treating your hair with a weekly hair mask to keep your hair healthy and free of breakage.

Psst! These hair brushing mistakes could be ruining your hair, too.