In the same way that you wouldn't just sit under the hot sun without putting on sunscreen, you absolutely should not put a 400-degree hot tool on your hair without first using a heat protectant. These necessary hair-care products build a boundary between your hair and the heat, which staves off breakage, frizz, and all-around damage to the follicle.
According to cosmetic chemist Ginger King, you'll want to look for products with ingredients like meadowfoam seed oil and VP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer, both of which "form a shield" to prevent heat damage. But those aren't the only protective ingredients out there; brands use a range of familiar additives like aloe and argan oil to help seal the hair cuticle and keep heat from scorching your precious hair.
If you like to style your hair with a hair-dryer and curling iron, stylist Sarah Potempa recommends a flexible, lightweight formula that plays well with tools like the Nexxus Weightless Style Prep & Protect Leave-In Hair Spray. But if you have textured hair and are more interested in enhancing your natural waves, she suggests focusing on a product that's more moisturizing and conditioning like Mielle Organics's Mongongo Oil Thermal & Heat Protectant Spray. Folks with fine hair should look for light sprays that won't weigh your hair down.
To help narrow down the best heat-protectant sprays out there, we asked Potempa, Williams, and several other hairstylists to share their go-to products. Each stylist had not one, but multiple favorites, which work across a range of hair textures and styling needs.
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Living Proof Restore Perfecting Spray
Living Proof's Restore Perfecting Spray helps ease the transition from the shower to styling with both detangling and heat-protecting properties. A beet derivative in the formula offers up to 400 degrees of thermal blocking as time-released amino acids keep hair conditioned well after you've finished styling. According to Kayla McNeill, a stylist in Poncha Springs, Colorado, the treatment also helps create shine and smoothness. She prefers to use this spray on clients with fine or thin hair — it's so lightweight that it smooths and protects without weighing you down.
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Moroccanoil Perfect Defense
For anyone — of any hair texture — who uses heat tools, Rachel Williams recommends Moroccanoil Perfect Defense. "It can be applied wet, before blow-drying, or on second-day dry hair before styling," she says. The heat shield protects the hair up to 450 degrees, so feel free to use it along with your heartiest flatiron. Best of all, it's made with argan oil, which both moisturizes the hair and gives it the brand's signature, tantalizingly sweet and nutty scent.
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Mizani Heat Screen Heat Protectant Spray
The newest protective product from Mizani uses VP/VA copolymer, a light powder that creates a weightless barrier around each strand to shield hair from damage. There's also rice protein and rose extract, to protect, smooth, and add shine to hair. The Heat Screen Heat Protectant Spray is formulated to work on curly hair types ranging from 3A to 4C. The mist absorbs into hair without leaving behind added weight, which can make curls limp.
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Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
From the same brand that brings us Best of Beauty-winning hot tools comes the 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray, which is made to reduce hair damage. Chi's formula features strengthening wheat protein and hydrolyzed silk to give hair a smooth and shiny finish. The spray is a favorite of Palisades Park, New Jersey-based stylist Tiffany Mack, who puts it to use on clients of all hair types right before she begins a blowout.
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Keracare Thermal Wonder 6 In 1 Thermal Protector
"I'm always my own test dummy," says Mack. "I have textured hair, [so] I'm able to make product choices for my clients because I see firsthand how they actually work." One option that Mack has used on both herself and others is Keracare's Thermal Wonder 6 In 1 Thermal Protector. She recommends using two spritzes of product about six inches away from the head. While the ingredient list is laced with moisturizing oils — including moringa and safflower oils — Mack says there's no need to worry about added weight. "It's still very light."
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L'Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Heat Slayer Pre-Iron Spray
L'Oréal Paris's latest leave-in made Allure editors' list of favorite new products, and the spray "not only protects my long hair from heat damage but leaves it noticeably more hydrated," wrote Allure's senior beauty editor Dianna Mazzone. The Elvive Dream Lengths Heat Slayer Pre-Iron Spray protects hair from up to 450 degrees of heat and promises to keep your style sleek for up to three whole days.
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Dark & Lovely Blowout Heat Shield Primer Mist
Part of Dark & Lovely's new blowout collection, Blowout Heat Shield Primer Mist is formulated with shea butter and castor oil to moisturize hair and tame flyaways, all while protecting against heat tools up to 450 degrees. Made with strengthening silk protein, the thermal shield is designed specifically with curly hair in mind. Use the spray before a silk press to prevent dryness and breakage that can come along with heat-styling textured hair.
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Extreme Play Safe Heat Protection and Damage Repair Treatment
"In finding a great heat protectant, I want to make sure that it brings more to the table than just protection," says McNeill. "I need it to add shine, seal, shape, and form." Her go-to option, Redken's Extreme Play Safe Heat Protection and Damage Repair Treatment, delivers heat protection while helping to prevent and lessen the appearance of split ends. Infused with hair-strengthening plant proteins and smoothing tourmaline, this multitasker preps all hair types for safe slicking or curling.
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Hairitage Play It Cool Heat Protectant Spray
This "weightless" formula, designed for all hair types, straight, or coily, leans on argan oil as a natural protectant. Spritz Hairitage's Play It Cool Heat Protectant Spray on damp hair from mid-lengths to ends, then follow with your hair-dryer and other styling tools up to 450 degrees. Did we mention that this one is under $10? So there are zero excuses to leave your hair vulnerable to heat damage.
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Ceremonia Guava Rescue Spray
Heat damage doesn't just come from hot tools. In addition to 450-degree shielding from hair-dryers and flatirons, the Best of Beauty-winning Ceremonia's Guava Rescue Spray also protects hair from UV damage. Guava, the star ingredient in the formula, does the sun-shielding, while butterfly ginger and avocado block blue light, pollution, and thermal temperatures.
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Tresemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Leave-In-Spray
Look to this oldie but goodie to keep hair healthy and your blowout fresh. Tresemmé's Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Leave-In-Spray is a heat-activated styler that's loaded with nourishing ingredients like moisturizing glycerin, strengthening biotin, and protecting niacinamide to nourish hair as you style.
Keywordshair careshoppingshopping guideheat protectantheat-protecting sprayheat protectionhair stylingTressemeL'OrealRedkenMoroccanoilMizaniLiving ProofChi