Leave-in conditioner has many great benefits for hair, and can be suitable for almost all hair types. But can you use leave-in conditioner as a heat protectant?
Yes, many leave-conditioners also double up as heat protectants. Always check the label or ingredients first however to ensure this is the case. Alternately, a heat protectant can be layered over leave-in conditioner to ensure maximum heat protection and moisturization before the use of hot tools.
What Is Leave-In Conditioner?
Leave-in conditioner, as the name suggests, is a type of conditioner that is not meant to be rinsed out. It can be applied to hair after washing and conditioning with your regular conditioner.
The leave-in should then be applied to damp hair and you can proceed to dry and style as normal.
Leave- conditioner is great for when your hair needs a bit of TLC or as a regular part of your hair care routine.
There are a number of formulas available that target specific hair concerns, such as frizz, dryness, or split ends.
Just about all hair types can benefit from the use of a leave-in conditioner, but dry, thick, curly, and coily hair types will especially benefit.
Leave-in conditioners come in different formulas, including creams, liquids, and sprays.
Some lightweight formulas are suitable to be used on dry hair in between washes to improve moisture levels and manageability.
Common concerns that leave-in conditioners can address are:
- Moisturizes dry hair
- Improves manageably
- Protects hair from environmental damage
- Helps prolong luster of color-treated hair
- Fights frizz
- Many leave-ins act as heat protectants
Does Leave-In Conditioner Work As A Heat Protectant?
Leave-in conditioners are great for giving your hair some extra TLC before using heat tools, but can they also serve as a heat protectant?
The good news is, yes there are many leave-in conditioners that have heat protectant properties.
They will often say so on the bottle, but if you’re unsure, you can take a look at the ingredients.
Check The Ingredients
One of the most common heat protection ingredients is silicone.
Silicone works by coating the hair fibers. It transfers heat slowly, to prevent your hair from being blasted by intense heat all at once.
It also seals the hair cuticle and helps prevent moisture loss.
Some of the most common silicones used in heat protectants are:
- Cetearyl Methicone
- Stearyl Dimethicone
- Piperindinyl Dimethicone
Other common hair care ingredients that are known to have heat protecting properties are:
- Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
- Quaternium 70
- PVP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer
These all work in a similar way, by forming a film on the hair’s surface and slowing down heat conduction.
Keep in mind, however, that none of these ingredients can completely protect your hair from heat damage. They can only reduce the damage.
These are the easiest examples to look for, but there are many more ingredients that can serve as heat protectants.
To find out more about the ingredients in your leave-in conditioner, a quick internet search can reveal more.
Next, you should take a look at the order of the ingredients.
Order Of Ingredients
Product labels are organized so that the ingredients in higher concentrations are listed first, and those in lower concentrations are towards the end of the list.
So, take note of the heat protector ingredients you have identified, and look at how high or low they are in the ingredients list.
If near the top of the list, the leave-in conditioner contains a higher volume of that ingredient.
Conversely, if the ingredient is nearer the bottom of the list, the ingredient is present in lower concentrations.
This is a general guide, but if you are in any doubt, it’s best to buy a heat protectant separately or buy a leave-in that specifically says it can be used as a heat protectant.
It’s better not to risk the health of your hair if you are unsure.
Can I Use A Heat Protectant On Top Of Leave-In Conditioner?
Not all leave-in conditioners are suitable for use as heat protectants. In this case, it’s perfectly okay to use a heat protectant over your leave-in conditioner before styling with a hot tool.
Just remember the basic rule: conditioning products should always be applied before styling products.
Why Is It Important To Use A Heat Protectant?
A heat protectant creates a barrier on the surface of the hair that slows heat conduction. It also seals the hair cuticle to help retain moisture and keep frizz at bay.
Many heat protectants will contain some kind of silicone, hydrolyzed wheat protein, quaternium 70, or PVP/DMAPA acrylates copolymer.
These ingredients all create a film on the hair that slows heat conduction.
They will also contain ingredients like humectants to preserve moisture, amino acids such as keratin to strengthen the hair and provide antioxidants, and natural oils to condition the hair and seal the cuticle.
Just remember that no heat protectant can completely block heat damage. At most, they can only reduce heat damage by 50%, so it’s still best to minimize your hair’s exposure to heat styling.
What Other Hair Products Can Protect Hair Against Heat?
Some types of natural oils have heat-protecting properties. Some notable examples are:
- Avocado oil – with a smoke point of 520°F
- Coconut Oil – smoke point of 350°F
- Grapeseed Oil – smoke point of 420°F
- Argan Oil – smoke point of 420°F
- Almond Oil – smoke point of 430°F
Keep in mind, however, that oils should never be heated to their smoke points. For one thing, you run the risk of burning your hair.
But also, according to chemist Yolanda Anderson, oils heated past their smoke points contain large quantities of free radicals.
They also contain a substance called acrolein, which can contribute to a higher risk of cancer.
Oils can even become flammable when heated past their smoke points. This is something you certainly want to avoid when using heat tools on your hair.
Even if you don’t heat your hair up to such a degree, there’s also the risk of the oil creating drag which could slow down the iron as it passes over your hair.
This could inadvertently result in more heat damage.
In addition, good shop-bought heat protectants have the added bonus of glycerin or other moisturizers which will offset the drying effects of heat styling.
So we suggest you proceed with caution when it comes to using natural oils as a heat protectant, especially when it comes to very high heat temperatures.
Can I Straighten My Hair With Leave-In Conditioner?
Whenever you flat iron your hair, you should use heat protection. This is because flat irons can reach very high temperatures that can result in damaged strands over time.
If you want to use your leave-in conditioner as a heat protectant, you need to first check its heat protectant properties.
If you are a regular user of hot flat irons, look for a leave-in conditioner that can give you heat protection up to 450°F.
Even if your leave-in conditioner isn’t suitable for flat-ironing, it can be a good idea to apply some to your hair before using your regular heat protectant spray.
This will help impart more moisture to your strands and help prep them for the drying effects of heat styling.
Can You Blow-dry Your Hair With Leave-In Conditioner?
It’s totally fine to blow dry your hair with a leave-in conditioner, providing the product has suitable heat protectant properties. This should be stated on the product label.
What Happens If You Don’t Use A Heat Protectant?
When you style your hair without heat protectant, your hair comes into direct contact with the heat from the styling tool.
Over time, this can lead to hair damage.
Signs of damage that can result from not using a heat protectant include:
- Color fade
- Split ends
Do You Put Heat Protectant On Wet Or Dry Hair?
Depending on the product you buy, heat protectant can be used on either wet or dry hair. Always check the label before using it.
Always apply the heat protectant before using any kind of hot tool, including blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons.
Apply the product to your hair section by section, and comb through to make sure it is evenly distributed.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Nicola is a freelance writer and researcher whose specialisms lie in health and wellness, beauty, and psychology. She has fine, wavy hair and is a big fan of co-washing every alternate day between shampoos (as dry shampoo makes her sneeze!)