I'm not a hair expert by any means. I have my regular rotation of products that I use to wash, treat and style, but when it comes to the perfect placement of hair accessories or the best hairstyles to wear to a wedding, I prefer to ask the experts. So when it was recently pointed out to me that my edit of hair products that I use every week was missing an entire category of haircare, let's just say that I really wasn't surprised.
Yes, it turns out that there's one major hairstyling mistake that we're all making regularly—even beauty editors.
I have two words for you: heat protection. Sure, it sounds simple. After all, when it comes to sun protection for my skin, I pride myself on how hot I am with applying SPF every single day. But when it comes to protecting my strands from the heat of a hair dryer or my beloved curling wand? Well, it turns out that I'm lukewarm.
To get excited about heat protection, I caught up with some expert stylists and hair experts to find out why skipping it is the number one hairstyling mistake that we're all making. I also asked when we should actually be applying heat protectant and what to look for when choosing one.
Keep scrolling for the full lowdown and to shop my new favourite heat protection sprays.
The #1 Hairstyling Mistake
Besides skipping heat protection entirely (guilty), there's actually another hairstyling mistake that experts would really like you to stop doing if you are using one.
"People forget to reapply the [heat protection spray] on the second day of styling their hair," explained James Earnshaw, UK Artistic Ambassador for Amika. "Even if you’re doing a quick re-curl or re-straighten, you want to make sure you apply the heat protectant evenly from root to tip to ensure protection throughout the whole hair."
And it's not just forgetting to reapply it—it's applying too much in the first place.
"Less is more with the product," said Gareth Bromell, Global Brand Ambassador for Evo. "The good thing with heat protectors is that they can be applied to damp hair first, dried into the hair and built up if more is needed, depending on hair texture."
Application Is Everything
So when should we be applying heat protection spray to our hair anyway? "I would recommend adding to towel-dried and combed through hair before using a hairdryer and again before using styling tools," advised Bromell. Yes, that's right—we should be applying it to our heat protection sprays to both wet and dry strands.
Earnshaw agrees: "We’ve been conditioned to only think of heat protectants as being used on wet hair, but ideally, you can use a multi-functional protectant like Amika The Shield (£20), which can be used at any stage of the styling process. It can be applied to wet hair prior to blow-drying or to dry hair prior to curling or straightening, as long as heat is used to activate the 24-hour anti-humidity, you’re golden!"
Choosing Your Heat Protection
Now we know why it's important and when to apply it, the next step is knowing what to look out for when choosing the best heat protection spray. After all, there are hundreds of different options on the market to shop.
First up is temperature. "It’s important to find a heat protection spray that protects up to 230 degrees," said Earnshaw. "Some heat protection sprays only protect up to 180 degrees, and heat tools are often used at higher temperatures," Bromell concurs. "Look at the temperature to which the product will protect hair which can usually be found on the packaging."
Considering your hair type when choosing a heat protection spray is also key. "It's great if your heat protectant has reparative qualities, like hydrolyzed keratin," explained Earnshaw. "Hydrolyzed keratin adds protein back to the parts of your hair which may need repair from previous heat damage."
"Choose [a heat protectant] that’s right for your hair type," agreed Bromell. "For example, if you have finer hair, you might want to use a spray that doesn’t weigh the hair down. It also comes down to personal choice as I tend to opt for cruelty-free."
Shop the Best Heat Protection Sprays
This is James Earnshaw's heat protectant of choice, as it can be used on wet or dry hair, protects at temperatures of up to 230 degrees and contains that all-important hydrolyzed keratin.
Gareth Bromell adores this leave-in product that smooths, detangles and prepares hair for heated styling, providing protection from UV and heat damage.
Specially formulated for dry, stressed and damaged hair, this affordable option is ideal for dry, curly hair types or chemically treated hair that's prone to breakage.
Of course, the iconic hair tool brand GHD aren't going to leave your strands to get damaged. This is a non-sticky spray that creates a protective veil over damp or dry hair.
As well as protecting your hair from heat styling, this luxurious mist also speeds up drying time so you'll need to spend less time under the hair dryer.
This hardworking spritz protects hair from heat styling, UV rays and environmental damage as well as actually improving the manageability of unruly strands.
Dry, coarse or brittle hair will love this expert blend of nourishing oils and heat protection.
High-quality heat protection doesn't have to be costly. This affordable option from L'Oréal Paris protects hair at temperatures up to 230 degrees, adds volume and locks in your style for up to three days.