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Does Straightening Your Hair Damage It?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/30/2021

If you have hair straighteners or flat irons, you may have heard that you’re damaging your hair every time you use it. 

There’s some truth to this, and it’s important to know how to avoid damage if you’re planning to straighten your hair on a regular basis.

Below, we’ve explained how straightening your hair can contribute to damage, as well as what you can do to avoid damaging your hair when you straighten, curl or style it.

Can Straightening Damage Your Hair?

Put simply, yes. Hair straighteners use heat to straighten textured hair, and excessive exposure to heat can damage your hair internally.

Hair straighteners work by weakening the hydrogen bonds of your hair. These bonds are what cause you to have naturally wavy or curly hair, and when they’re weakened due to heat damage, your hair takes on the shape provided by the straightener.

When your hair gets too hot, the proteins in the hair shaft can become denatured, affecting its structure. Even mild, indirect heat, like the heat from a blow dryer, can cause damaged hair when it’s sustained for long enough.

Heat can be especially harmful to wet hair. In fact, your hair is at its weakest and most likely to break, whether due to excessive heat or tension, when it’s still wet.

How to Avoid Damaging Your Hair

While using hot tools like a straightener can damage your hair, there are steps that you can take to make the process safer and reduce your risk of heat damage.

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Let Your Hair Dry Before Straightening

We all love the look of straight hair. We get it. But it’s important to let your hair fully dry before straightening it. 

To prevent damaging your hair, dry it by wrapping it in a towel or by letting it air dry. Make sure your hair is fully dry before applying any heat from a straightener or curling iron.

Use Your Straightener on a Low Setting

When you straighten your hair, set your straightener to a low or medium setting. Try to use the lowest setting that works well for your hair type. 

Be careful when straightening your hair and avoid holding the straightener against your hair for too long. Never straighten your hair or use any type of heat tool more than one time every other day.

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Consider Using a Heat Protectant

These products are marketed as making straightening and curling hair less damaging. There’s no large-scale research on their effectiveness, but many people claim that they help to prevent frizziness and hair damage.

Avoid Brushing Your Hair Repeatedly

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to brush your hair 50, 100 or 200 times per day for it to stay healthy. 

In fact, brushing often is more likely to damage your hair and contribute to split ends than it is to keep it smooth and cared for.

Instead of brushing your hair as a daily habit, make sure to only brush it when you need to for appearance’s sake. 

When you do brush your hair, be careful to avoid tugging on your hair, as this can cause breakage and thinning. 

Be Careful With Overly Tight Hairstyles

While straight, tightly tied-back hair can look great, it’s best to avoid wearing your hair this way every day. 

The reason is that tight, pulled-back hairstyles can put tension on your hair follicles and contribute to a form of hair loss called traction alopecia, or ponytail hair loss.

In addition to tight ponytails, hairstyles that can cause traction alopecia include buns, cornrows, dreadlocks, tightly braided hair and up-dos. This type of hair loss can also develop with weaves and hair extensions. 

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Avoiding Hair Damage

Damage can change your hair’s texture and increase your risk of hair breakage. When severe, it can even contribute to female hair loss.

To keep your hair healthy, follow the techniques above and avoid overusing your straightener or curling iron. 

Remember that heat can be damaging and that it’s always better to be safe than to put your hair’s health and appearance at risk.

Looking for other ways to strengthen your hair? Our range of hair care products includes salon quality shampoo, conditioner and hair growth treatments to help you maintain healthier, thicker hair with ease. 

3 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Hair Styling Without Damage. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/hair-care/styling 
  2. Barreto, T., et al. (2021). Straight to the Point: What Do We Know So Far on Hair Straightening? Skin Appendage Disorders. 7 (4). Retrieved from https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/514367 
  3. Hairstyles That Pull Can Lead to Hair Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/hairstyles 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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