Are Flat Irons Bad for Your Hair?

Are Flat Irons Bad for Your Hair?
*Essie Button is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you straighten your hair just about every day, sometimes you may remember to use a hair protector, and other times you won’t. What you may not realize is how damaging a flat iron or heating element is to your unprotected hair.

Flat irons can be very damaging for your hair because they:

  • Remove any moisture that is in the hair
  • Split your ends and stress your roots
  • Can cause hair follicles to die, resulting in hair loss
  • Cause scalp problems
  • Cause hair to take on a different texture

Many factors should be taken into consideration when using your flat iron. Read on to learn how and why flat irons are bad for your hair and what to consider when using your flat iron.

Are Flat Irons Bad for Your Hair?

It’s partially common sense, right? When you think of using heat on your hair, you realize there is always a chance that damage can occur. Since heat is a harsh element, your hair may have problems sustaining the oils needed for protection.

Over time, when too much heat is applied, that the hair will be so stripped of oil that healthy and lively-looking hair will seem impossible to get back.

Since the effects of a heating element on your hair will vary based on how often they are being used and what the texture is like, your hair may have trouble bouncing back to its normal form. You want to avoid that. So first, let’s look at how that flat iron works to produce that sleek, straight hair.

How a Flat Iron Works and What It Does to Your Hair

Every hair type has a different follicle shape: a round follicle produces straight hair, while an oval follicle ends up as curly hair.

When you apply heat to your hair, you are applying it to all of those little follicles. As the heat penetrates the follicle, it breaks apart the hydrogen bonds holding your hair in its current shape. It is in that weakened state that your hair is malleable enough to be straightened and set in that new shape.

So, you can see where this can be damaging to any hair type, which is why it is important not to put your hair through this too frequently – and not to keep your flat iron too hot.

It’s Important to Use Your Flat Iron’s Heat Setting

There’s a difference between how hot a flat iron goes and how hot it needs to go to straighten your hair. Knowing this important difference can keep your hair healthier.

A flat iron can reach temperatures of 450 degrees Fahrenheit – but you don’t need it that hot. The keratin in hair can melt (yes, melt) at 420 degrees, so dial it back.

Most hair types can be straightened into submission at a temperature between 275 to 375 degrees.

All hair has the potential to react differently, and it depends on how straight you want your hair to be, so experiment at temperatures in this safe zone until you find just the sweet spot for your locks.

Fixing the Harmful Effects of a Straightening Iron

There are quite a few harmful effects that can take place when you use a flat iron. Fortunately, most of them can be repaired or avoided.

Hair Dryness

The main problem is that when you use a straightener, even just once, it can cause your hair to become dry. This is a good indicator that your hair is becoming damaged from a flat iron.

How to fix: In the vast majority of people with dry hair, the treatment is as simple as washing it after using a straightener. This lets your hair go back to its normal shape and is like a reset for your hair’s natural oils.

Breakage and Split Ends

Sometimes you will start to notice that your hair is breaking more easily. When extreme dryness occurs, your hair is weaker and breaks easier than it should.

How to fix: Sometimes, split ends will occur that will need to be trimmed. One way to get your hair back to its normal state and out of this severe breaking point is by doing a deep treatment. These deep treatments can be as simple as using a hair mask or restoration oils.

Dull and Lifeless Looking Hair

When you look in the mirror and notice that your hair looks dull and lifeless, the culprit is more

than likely from a heating element. Using a flat iron regularly on your hair will prevent the natural oils in your hair from doing their jobs. The natural oils and moisture that is present in your hair are often burned or steamed away.

How to fix: Using a hair oil treatment should help you achieve lively and healthy-looking hair. There are also shine sprays or creams that can add shine back to your hair quickly and help your hair regain some moisture back.

Dry and Itchy Scalp

Having an itchy scalp is always terrible. However, you may not be aware that the reason for your itchy scalp is due to your flat iron. When your hair is dry and damaged, the chances are that the hair follicles are too. This will create a flaky and itchy sensation in your forehead, scalp, and even neck.

How to fix: Normally, treatment can consist of a scalp treatment or shampoo. Once you start using scalp treatments, your hair will be able to reset at the follicles and help reduce the dryness that was caused by the flat iron.

Permanent Hair Loss and Altered Hair Texture

Sometimes the damage to your hair is so severe that permanent hair loss or a changed hair texture will happen. When the hair is so dry from using heating elements, and after the flaking starts, your hair follicles will begin to fall out. This will cause hair loss that may not be reversible.

How to fix: The hair texture and follicles will have to reset, or regrow, to achieve the healthiest hair possible. To gain a somewhat normal consistency back, your hair will have to grow out.

Hair damage happens when the right heat and products are not being used. It is important to protect your beautiful hair and using some products before you straighten it can help. That’s if you still want to use your flat iron for your hair for just one day or even every day.

How to You Protect Your Hair While Using a Flat Iron

There are ways that you can protect your hair from damage caused by a heating element:

  • Use the right temperature setting. Do not go to the maximum heat.
  • Don’t straighten wet hair. (This can amplify the heat to the follicle.)
  • Use a protective hair product.
  • Limit how often you straighten.

Opting out of using a flat iron will always be the best option for keeping your hair looking and feeling healthy. However, there will be occasions or days that you want to use your straightener. That is perfectly okay; make sure that you have heat protectors around to apply before use.

Hair Products That Can Be Used to Protect Your Hair

There are many hair care products available that can help keep that damage done by your

straightening iron at bay. These products labeled are some of the best, but there might be exceptions based on your hair type and how well it does for your hair and skin.

These are some hair care products that can help prevent your straightener from damaging your hair.

Since there are various hair types, the protectants available are limitless. When you get a protectant that goes great with your hair type, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern about heat damage.

Final Thoughts

No matter which hair tool you are using; a flat iron, curling iron, or even a hairdryer, it is best to use a hair protectant.

When you straighten or curl your hair without using a heat protector, the heat will dry out your hair. Regardless of the damage done, your hair follicles will need to go back to their natural shape and form to look and feel healthy.

Sometimes the only way to treat severe damage is by letting your hair do its natural thing and regain its oils and moisture back. In the case of flat irons, proper use and preventative steps for your hair’s health will mean all the difference.