By Leah Fletcher
The summer weather may encourage you to become a do-it-yourself hair stylist between those trips to the beauty salon in hopes of maintaining a perfect hairstyle.
But before you take blow dryers, flat irons and curling irons to your own hair, be mindful that using those tools incorrectly, or having the wrong ones, may damage your hair and may make it a candidate for hair rehab.
There is help on how to manage your hair when styling it at home and how to mend damaged hair. The following tips and advice is offered by III Dimensions Hair Spa owners—Tameka Sims, Neffertiti Little-Murray and Joy Coats. The full-service salon, whose owners have nearly 60 years of industry experience combined, is located in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.
1. Purchase Good Tools
Hair styling tools don’t have to cost a fortune. But they do need some basic features, says Sims. “Look for tools that have different heat settings. The cheaper ones have just one setting.”
Little-Murray advises do-it-yourselfers to check their tool displays heat temperatures. For instance, some hair irons can be dialed to a variety of heat settings, from 100 or so to nearly 400. “The 400-degree setting is too high for personal use by someone who is not a stylist,” she noted. Little-Murray advised that heat settings should fall somewhere in the middle, but no higher than 250 degrees.
If possible buy a professional blow dryer from a beauty supply store. Both Sims and Little-Murray agree that professional models have a stronger air flow and more power. “Look for dryers with a nozzle attachment to target air flow and a diffuser to help distribute heat more evenly” said Sims.
2. Know Your Hair – and Style It Accordingly
When you select a heat setting on your dryer or your curling or straight iron, consider the thickness of your hair. “The finer the hair, the lower the temperature, Sims said. “For instance a person with baby fine hair should use the lowest possible setting.” But if you have thick hair it doesn’t mean that you should elect the highest setting, she noted.
“We don’t always use an extremely high degree of heat said Nicole Scott, one of the salon’s stylists. When deciding to get a curling iron or a flat (straightening) iron, Scott advises that the texture of your natural hair texture be taken into account. “It’s better to work with your natural hair texture than against it,” Scott said. So if you have very, very thick hair and want it extremely straight, you might not get the results, even with the best flat iron.
3. Protect Your Hair from the Heat
There are many products that are designed to protect hair from the heat of dryers or irons. Many of these products act as a protective coating for hair, said Scott. “When it comes to causing damage “irons are worse than blow dryers,” she said.
To protect your hair while styling, work quickly when using tools. “If you are using a curling or straight iron, you should probably not use it more than three or four seconds.” Little-Murray said. She believes that is a good guideline to avoid causing hair damage.
4. Brush up on Styling Techniques
Even if you’ve used blow dryers, curling irons, or straight irons for years, it doesn’t mean you are using them correctly.
Scott-Murray suggests that you ask your hairstylist for a tutorial. Your stylist will probably tell you that hair should be completely dry before using a curling iron or flat iron, and partially dried (with a towel or air) before blow drying.
Wet-to-dry flat irons are designed to be used on wet hair. But these tools don’t win the approval of all professionals, according to Scott. “Some believe they don’t work explaining that users tend to overdo the straightening.” This is a procedure according to Scott that is best left to the professionals.
“If you don’t have dry hair before using a traditional flat iron or curling iron, you are going to get a lot of steam coming off your hair,” Scott said. The steam and heat can be damaging to the hair she said.
How to Repair Damaged Hair
If your hair suddenly begins to break off, feels rougher or kinkier, looks dull, shows split ends, or sticks up in places it never did before, it’s probably damaged. According to Sims, “If it is split and it shows, you may want to cut it. However, that is not always the remedy because good hair repair products may make that unnecessary.”
Try at-home treatments: Products with oils and moisturizers are designed to repair heat-damaged hair, Little-Murray said. If your hair is also chemically damaged (such as over-coloring, over processing) she suggests using hair repair products to make the hair look better.
Get professional help: If do-it-yourself treatments don’t work well enough, consider more intensive salon repair treatments that can strengthen the hair so it looks smooth and is protected, according to Sims. “Some deep repair conditioners will not restore the hair back to its original structure, she says, “but will imitate the original structure and help fill damaged areas.” In her opinion, these products can also protect the hair from further damage.
Be patient: “if an inch on your ends is damaged, it may take two or three months to get your hair back to normal” Sims said. She also says, it is also a good idea to keep your hair moisturized and avoid extreme heat. When using hair products, Scott points out the necessity of following the manufacturers’ instructions.
Once your hair is repaired, keep it healthy with proper use of tools and a regular trim. For most people, that means heading back to the salon for a cut every four to six weeks, according to Sims.