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9 Best Heat Protectants for Fine Hair + More to Keep Strands Strong and Healthy

Learn why hairstylists say using these sprays are a must if you're over 50

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Any time you find yourself reaching for a blow dryer, straightening iron or curling wand to style your hair, it’s best to use a heat protectant beforehand. Think of these sprays, mousses and conditioners as your hair’s first line of defense against the damage extremely hot temperatures can cause. “Using a heat protectant is one of the most important parts of hair care that unfortunately many either rush through or skip completely,” says Amber Maldonado, a hairstylist partnered with Redken. But if you have fine hair, you might feel wary about using one as heat protectants in the past weighed down hair, making it look extra limp and lifeless. That’s why we turned to Maldonado and two other hair experts for the best heat protectant for fine hair and other hair types. Read on for the ones that are sure to make your hair look shiny, thick and most importantly, healthy.

What is a heat protectant?

A heat protectant spray that's been used on blonde hair before styling hair with a flat iron
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

A heat protectant is everything it sounds like and more. “When we style, brush and heat, we are adding a lot of physical stress to the hair, and introducing a heat protectant works to minimize the effects on the hair fiber itself,” says Gregory Patterson, a celebrity hairstylist and DIY expert for Sally Beauty. “Heat protectants work by creating a barrier — or what I like to call a protective wrap — around the hair fiber, adding a protective layer between your hair and the hot tool.”

What happens when you don’t use a heat protectant?

“Without using a heat protectant, you are more likely to experience damage to the hair cuticle and hair color shifting or fading quickly,” says Maldonado. That’s because heat breaks down hair when it’s left unprotected. And using a heat protectant is an especially important step not to skip for women over 50. The reason why? Hair becomes drier, more brittle and finer than ever before as we get older.

Related: Why Your Hair Is So Dry: Pro Stylists Reveal the Sneaky Culprits + How to Fix It Fast

What’s in a heat protectant?

According to Gina Rivera, hairstylist, owner of Phenix Salon Suites and creator of By Gina hair tools, heat protectants can take many forms, from sprays and serums to mousses and even treatments. There’s something on the market for virtually every hair type and texture. And though you may worry about protectants weighing down your hair, Rivera says plenty of lightweight options exist.

woman spraying heat protectant on fine hair

Heat protectant sprays tend to be most common and are often typically made in water-soluble formulas that include two special silicones, cyclomethicone and dimethicone. These two emollients are the true stars of the show, as they are responsible for creating the protective coating and providing much-needed moisture that smooths the hair.

“Cyclomethicone provides slip between the hair strands, making combing and styling easier,” says Maldonado. “This helps reduce breakage.” And she adds that “dimethicone coats the hair with a protective layer that helps seal in moisture. This allows the hair to feel smooth and silky.”

One thing to keep in mind with cyclomethicone- and dimethicone-based products, though, especially if you heat style your hair often? “While those two ingredients are great, they have a tendency to build-up on the hair,” notes Patterson. “Additional clarifying treatments may be needed over time to remove the protective build-up that can dull hair and affect performance.”

If you don’t like the texture of silicone-based formulas, know that you have other great options. “There are many ingredients that would constitute a heat protectant, like shea butter, argan oil, aloe, panthenol, propylene glycol, keratin amino acids and more,” says Patterson. “Look for these if your hair type and texture can support them. It’s really all about creating that barrier, so anything between the hair itself and the hot tool is better than nothing.”

Do I need to prep my hair before I use a heat protectant?

You might think a few spritzes or a palmful of a heat protectant right before you pick up your hot tool is all it takes for protection, and for the most part, you’d be right. But for Patterson, setting yourself up for success with a heat protectant actually starts in the shower with your shampoo. “I recommend you get a great product-removing cleanser that is gentle, effective and begins to replace what’s lost during the heat styling process, like amino acids, keratin chain breakdowns, moisture loss and cuticle protection,” he says.

Once you’re out of the shower, Patterson’s preferred heat protectant is often a multi-tasking leave-in applied to damp strands. “Leave-in sprays are easy to apply, help detangle the hair, and are a really great way to protect the hair when the hair is wet, as this is when it’s most absorbent,” he says. “This will allow all of those heat protectant ingredients to soak into the cuticle and really lay there and go to work.” What you don’t want to do, though, is apply your protectant to sopping wet hair. “Applying on soaking wet hair can dilute the product and may not get the same level of effectiveness,” says Maldonado. Damp hair is ideal, and your hair really does need this kind of protection before styling with heat, as when it is wet, it’s in a weakened state.

Related: This Wavy Hair Routine Ensures Hair Looks Thick, Full and Bouncy Longer After Washing

How to use a heat protectant

woman holding heat protectant spray and blow dryer
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

As far as application technique goes, it varies based on what type of heat protectant you’re applying, but the main goal is even distribution throughout your hair. “It’s also super important to apply it to every section that you style — both the top and the bottom of each section — for overall hair health,” says Patterson. Mousses, serums and creams should be dispensed into the hand and then raked through the head, paying close attention to instructions on what size of a dollop to use. For leave-in sprays, simply apply your choice of product from root to tip, blow-out or allow hair to dry and begin styling — it’s as easy as that.

“These types of protectants work to really help protect during the blowdry and style portion, but I recommend adding additional protection in the form of aerosol sprays, light creams or oils applied to dried hair before using a heat styling tool,” adds Patterson. A little can go a long way with this supplemental step, but again, make sure you’re thoroughly covering the areas you’ll be applying heat to.

Which brings us to the question, “Can I use a heat protectant spray on dry hair?” The answer is yes! While some heat protectants are made solely for use on damp hair, there are sprays that can be used on damp and dry hair alike. And if you’re someone who applies heat throughout the week (let’s say you re-straighten your hair each morning), then using one of these sprays on dry hair is an essential part to keeping your mane healthy and strong.

The best heat protectant for fine hair and more

Whether you’re looking for a heat protectant spray for fine hair, thick hair or anything in between, we rounded up the best heat protectants on the market today for every hair type.

Best heat protectant for fine hair

Redken Quick Blowout Heat Protection Spray

Redken Quick Blowout Heat Protection Spray (Buy from Amazon, $27)

“For finer textured hair, a lightweight spray or mousse would be ideal, since they won’t weigh the hair down and can actually provide volume as well,” says Maldonado. She loves this one by Redken because it’s enriched with a touch of oil and lactic acid to treat hair at the dame time. The lightweight spray smooths, softens and provides heat protection without dragging the hair down. Tip: Shake well before misting so the formula’s oil gets mixed in.

Best heat protectant for thick hair

Flawless by Gabrielle Union Shine Enhancing Heat Protection Spray
Flawless by Gabrielle Union/Sally Beauty

Flawless by Gabrielle Union Shine Enhancing Heat Protection Spray (Buy from Sally Beauty, $10.99)

Those with thicker tresses will want to use heat protectant sprays on damp hair, says Patterson. “Sprays are easier to distribute throughout thicker hair, as you brush or detangle, ensuring more coverage.” He favors this one because it’s full of heat protecting ingredients that also smooth and soften, from brazilian bacuri butter to rice oil complex.

Best heat protectant for thinning hair

Moroccanoil Perfect Defense

Moroccanoil Perfect Defense (Buy from Sephora, $30)

Rivera recommends this heat protectant for those with thinner hair. “I love this product because it’s weightless,” she says. “It’s rich in argan oil, which nourishes the hair, and a form of vitamin B that hydrates and adds shine.”

Best heat protectant for blonde hair

Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Thermal Shine Spray
Clairol Professional/Sally Beauty

Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Thermal Shine Spray (Buy from Sally Beauty, $11.99)

Have blonde tresses? Keep them looking brilliant — not brassy — with this heat protectant that’s specially formulated for maintaining lighter hair hues.

Best heat protectant for dry hair

Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel Tame Cream

Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel Tame Cream (Buy from Walmart, $26.99)

“For dry hair, this works wonders,” says Maldonado. “It’s formulated with babassu oil that helps intensely moisturize, detangle and protect hair, but without any heaviness. It leaves dry hair feeling so soft and smooth.”

Best heat protectant for frizzy hair

Aveda Smooth Infusion Perfect Blow Dry

Aveda Smooth Infusion Perfect Blow Dry (Buy from Amazon, $28.90)

If frizz and flyaways are your top hair concern, Rivera recommends a couple spritzes of this heat protectant prior to heat styling. “Its plant polymer shield [hair from heat] and botanical oils protect the hair from frizz and humidity, resulting in smoother hair for longer periods of time.”

Best heat protectant for wavy hair


COLORWOW Dream Coat (Buy from Sephora, $28)

According to Rivera, this is a hero product for wavy hair. “I absolutely love this product,” she says. “It does not weigh the hair down or leave it greasy. It’s also great for fine, curly hair.” And she adds that it’s great to use “before you blow dry, but is also excellent if you want to scrunch and go or diffuse the hair. “

Best heat protectant for straightening hair

Cantu Thermal Shield Heat Protectant
Cantu/Sally Beauty

Cantu Thermal Shield Heat Protectant (Buy from Sally Beauty, $4.99)

If you’re styling curly hair into a sleek, straight style, Patterson loves this option from Cantu. “Apply to each section from top to bottom before each flatiron passes to help protect and smooth hair,” he says. “It’s great because it’s super-lightweight, conditions and tames frizz and flyaways.”

Best all-around budget heat protectant

ion Humidity-Defying Serum
ion/Sally Beauty

ion Humidity-Defying Serum (Buy from Sally Beauty, $12.59)

Patterson loves this heat protectant, which has moisturizing dimethicone in its formula, costs under $13 and is quite the multitasker. “This budget-friendly serum protects, leaves hair silky and is paraben-free, oil-free and vegan.” Even better, the product can be used on wet or dry hair and works for most textures. “All you have to do is rub a little in between your fingertips and work it mid-shaft to your ends.”

For more of our favorite hair care products, click through these stories:

13 Best Shampoos for Gray Hair to Help Maintain Your Silvery Strands

The 8 Best Hair Clips for Thin Hair That Will Hold Without Tugging or Dragging

5 Best Hair Growth Supplements

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