Mackenzie Dunn
Updated May 27, 2020 @ 2:10 pm
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Credit: Tresemme, Pantene, Not Your Mother's

Admit it: We all lowkey love hot tools. Curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers can totally transform our hair from a frizzy mess to bouncy and shiny. Whether we want to add life and volume or create sleek shine, hot tools are sometimes the only way we can get our stubborn hair textures to oblige. But it’s no secret that subjecting our strands to high heat on the regular can wreak havoc on their vibrancy and health, leading to dull, brittle hair and even split ends. One way to save your strands from sizzling under the scorching heat? A heat protectant spray.

By coating the hair with ingredients like silicones and nourishing amino acids, heat protectants work to seal the hair cuticle and protect it from losing moisture and elasticity due to contact with high heat. And as any good hairstylist will tell you, they’re a must to apply before cranking up the degrees on your straightener or curling iron.

“It is imperative that everyone use a product on their hair simply to protect from the natural elements and excess heat,” says celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein. “Every hair type needs a barrier between itself and solutions and other things that can penetrate the hair and possibly cause damage. And the right heat protectant can feel like it’s not even there.”

Just keep in mind that while heat protectants can provide a shield for contact with high heat, they can only reduce the amount of damage caused by heat styling—not completely protect your hair. So while the only way to really eliminate damage is to put down the hot tools, these sprays are an easy solution for when you just have to have those perfect flat iron curls.

Best Heat Protectants for Hair:

1L’Oréal Sleek It Iron Straight Heat Spray

Credit: Target

Shop It! $3.99, Target.com.

Rubenstein loves this drugstore beauty buy for a smooth look. She says that she uses it when she wants to make her A-list clients’ hair super shiny while still looking clean (not greasy or weighed down) with lots of movement. Antioxidants from Camelina sativa seed oil protect the hair while calming frizz and flyaways, and hair is protected up to 450ºF . If you’re a frequent flat iron user, Rubenstein recommends you give this affordable spray a try.

2Biolage Thermal Active Spray

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $17.50, Ulta.com.

Another favorite of Rubenstein’s, this heat protectant is packed with botanicals, including blue agave nectar, which hydrates and treats hair while guarding against heat styling. “I love using it when I curl or wave hair because it boosts volume,” Rubenstein tells us. “It has a nice medium hold without feeling stiff or sticky. I’d recommend you spray a little on damp hair, blow-dry, and add a little more before using your curling or flat iron.”

3Pantene Heat Primer Thermal Heat Protectant

Credit: Target

Shop It! $4.99, Target.com.

This lightweight heat protectant spray earned a 2020 Beauty Crush Award for its ability to protect hair up to 450ºF. The nutrient-rich formula features micro-polymers that help to shield strands from heat damage and enhance shine, so hair stays healthy and soft.

4Joico Defy Damage Protective Sheild

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $20.99, Ulta.com.

This heat protectant spray is truly a damage defense hero. It scored a 2020 Beauty Crush Award for its ability to shield hair from UVA and UVB damage (yes, your hair can be damaged just by walking outside or being in the sun!), along with protecting it from daily heat styling. It contains moringa seed oil and arginine for healthier, stronger, more vibrant hair.

5It’s a 10 Blow Dry Miracle Glossing Leave-In

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $24.99, Ulta.com.

When applied to damp hair before blow-drying, this award-winning leave-in spray protects hair from high temps and leaves it shiny and soft. It uses sunflower seed extract, a natural antioxidant, to guard against color fading, UV rays, and heat damage. Nourishing argan oil provides an unbeatable shine boost, too.

6TreSemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $5.49, Ulta.com.

This tried-and-true drugstore heat protectant stands up against curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers because it uses heat-activated technology to seal in the hair cuticle and fight damaging friction. We love it for the trigger spray that offers easy all-over misting, plus the lightweight, non-greasy formula that doesn’t weigh hair down.

7CHI 44 Iron Guard

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $16, Ulta.com.

CHI’s weightless heat protectant formula is clearly made by the makers of hot tools. This spray does not play when it comes to protection. It contains hydrolyzed silk that works with your hair’s natural structure to build strength and resilience while improving moisture and shine. Use it on wet or dry hair before styling for heat protection from the inside out.

8Not Your Mother’s Beat The Heat Thermal Styling Sheild Spray

Credit: Ulta

Shop It! $5.99, Ulta.com.

Infused with natural sunflower and vitamin A and E, this affordable heat protectant spray conditions and protects hair while also shielding it from UV rays.