• Adeel Ajaz

Heat Damaged Hair (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Sure your hair might look amazing when you spend time carefully with your curling iron, or maybe you just like how the hair sits after you blowdry it…but the fact is that after some time, these all too common tools take their toll on your hair. Before we come up with a solution on how to treat heat damaged hair, let us discuss how it is caused in the first place, so you know what to avoid. Below is an easy to follow guide on what heat-damaged hair is and how you can identify the symptoms.

The use of heat in hairstyling has become prevalent nowadays. Maybe you’re using your curling iron to give your locks a beautiful curly look, or a hair straightener to make them fall straight, or just blowdrying your hair to set in that stylish look. But these seemingly harmless acts can lead you down the rabbit hole of heat damaged hair. One that can be quite aggravating to crawl out of if left untreated.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what heat damaged hair is and how you can identify it if you have this problem.

What is Heat Damaged Hair?

Hair that no longer behaves at it usually does on the onset of prolonged and continuous use of heat treatment (for styling, and drying, etc.) is called heat damaged hair. Heat damaged hair can also be discolored, frizzy and flat. We’ll discuss the symptoms in detail in a minute. But first, let’s talk about the structure of your hair.

Structure of Your Hair

Your hair is made of two major parts: the hair bulb and the hair shaft. The hair bulb is the part of your hair that is situated in the base of the hair follicle. Your hair shaft is the visible part of your hair that actually comes out of your scalp.

Each hair shaft is made of three layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla (the medulla is often not present in the thinner hair, however). The medulla is the innermost layer of your thicker hair and is a soft, thin core of transparent cells and air pockets. The next layer is the cortex, which gives your hair the color and its bulk. It is made of Keratin filaments that give your hair the structure to hold itself together. The outermost layer is the cuticle, which is the protective layer. It is composed of overlapping cells that all ideally lie smooth and flat to protect your hair and give them a sleek, shiny look.

Now that you’re acquainted with the structure of your hair, let’s discuss how excessive heat damages your hair.

How Does Heat Damage Your Hair

When you use heat on your hair, it affects the cuticle in a manner that it forms cracks and lifts up, exposing the cortex of your hair. This makes your hair more prone to damage not only because the cuticle loses its integrity but also because now the cortex is exposed, chemicals and even water can damage your hair. This can lead to discolored, porous, brittle, and dry, damaged hair with split ends and overall poor hair health.

So now that we know how heat can cause damage to our hair let’s now discuss how you can diagnose your heat damaged hair.

The Major Symptoms of Heat Damaged Hair

Now you may be thinking that oh, I don’t really use a blow dryer that often, or maybe that a curling iron every now and then won’t hurt…but it can damage your hair quite easily if applied for too long. Just a few sessions of incorrect use here and there, and you could have seriously damaged hair before you know it. Here are some of the symptoms you should look out for that characterize heat damaged hair.

1. Excessive Hair Shedding: Hair shedding is a natural process; on average, we lose 50-100 hairs a day. But anything more than that is not healthy and can indicate heat damaged hair.

2. Split Ends: Split-ends are also a part of your hair growth process. Hence, regular trimming is recommended. But usually split ends don’t appear before 4-6 months of a fresh trim. If you experience them too fast, then chances are your hair is heat damaged.

3. No Curls: If you have naturally curly hair that now lies flat and lifeless, we have some bad news. You might have heat damaged hair. Heat damaged hair can show larger than regular curls or lie flat altogether.

4. Porous Hair: To check if your hair is porous, place a strand in water. If the strand sinks immediately, it means that your hair is porous and heat damaged; if it sinks after some time, you probably don’t have to worry.

5. Loss of Shine: Heat damaged hair is usually dull and lifeless with no shine or luster. If, after washing your hair, your hair is not shiny but is rather dull, this can be one of the first signs of heat damaged hair.

6. Dryness: Heat removes moisture from your hair and scalp. If your hair looks and feels dry, maybe it’s time to lay off those heat-styling tools.

7. Overtly tangled: If your hair is more tangled than usual and becomes hard to manage, you might have heat damaged hair.

8. Brittle Hair: If your hair has lost its elasticity and breaks off easily and has become too fragile, you’re probably suffering from heat damaged hair.

9. Wrong Hair Color: Heat damaged hair is synonymous with discolored hair. But also, if your hair absorbs too much dye when you do dye your hair, that means your hair has become porous and is heat damaged.


Heat damaged hair is frustrating to deal with plain & simple, and sadly this problem can seemingly come out of nowhere. The apparent best friends (curling wands, straightening irons, etc.) to keep your hair stylish actually prove to be the culprits leading to poor hair health. And even the best heat resistant hair products might not be as effective as you may think initially. So sadly, it might be time to ease up on using heat on your hair.

We hope this article gave you a thorough insight into the realm of heat damaged hair. But don’t worry, even if heat damaged hair is a pain to deal with, it’s not impossible to make them better. For that, read part 2 about how to treat heat damaged hair here.

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