Fine Curly Hair & Heat StylingQ: I just started using heat styling tools. What kinds of products are needed to help protect fine, curly hair and when in the styling process do you apply them?
A: When you plan to use heat styling tools on your hair, you need to make sure the hair is well-conditioned with a moisture-rich conditioner. You can usually find a wide-range of products made specifically for heat-styled hair.
On top of shampoos and conditioners, you want to use extra protective products, like smoothing balms, and protective products. These are all available from many makers and brand names, so choose the one that you prefer, or that best suits your budget.
These products are generally applied before the hair is dried. You would shampoo and condition the hair, towel-dry the hair with a clean, dry towel, then apply the protective products (spray in conditioners, heat-styling balms, smoothing serums, etc.) and comb them through the hair using a wide tooth comb. Blot the hair again to remove excess moisture and then use your hair dryer to thoroughly dry the hair. Using a heated styling tool on damp hair can cause damage, as it basically steams the moisture from the hair and effectively cooks the hair.
One the hair is fully dry you can proceed to section it for the heat styling. Dividing the hair into sections and securing it is the key to keeping the hair manageable while styling. Use thin slices of hair so that you can heat the hair evenly for best results. Processes like flat-ironing the hair go much faster working with smaller amounts of hair at a time, than having to make several passes over a segment of hair because it is too thick to heat evenly. This also results in the outside of the hair segment being overheated potentially and possibly damaged.
For fine and thin hair types, an important factor is the heat of the tool you plan to use. Hopefully, you have selected a styling tool that has an adjustable temperature setting. With fine, thin hair, I suggest you start out by setting the iron to its medium setting. After letting the iron get hot, test it by spraying a piece of tissue with water and pressing it between the heating elements of the tool for five to ten seconds. The tissue should come out of this test dry, pressed in the area of contact and show no signs of scorching or discoloration. If there is discoloration or scorching, turn down the heat of the iron and test again after a few minutes.
Fine, thin hair is more easily damaged by heat styling, and therefore should be treated with extra-special care. If you are unsure, always try to err on the side of caution.
Basic hair care
Flat iron styling
Heat styling basics
Thermal styling with flat irons
Curling iron and flat iron damage