Best Heat Protectant for Hair (Gray and Beyond)

February 8, 2022 (updated May 25, 2022)

Want dry, crusty, washed out, brittle hair? NO! That’s why if you are using any kind of heat tools (hair dryer, curling iron, rollers, flat iron, etc.), you also need a killer heat protectant for your hair. We’ve tried and tested all the natural heat protectants we could get our hands on. This one is our fave. 

lisa hold evolvh superfinish polishing balm while standing by a window

By: Lisa Fennessy

Most days, my workout routine (or lack thereof) is dictated by my hair washing schedule. If I JUST washed my hair, I might opt for a walk (or nothing at all). Day three? Maybe some light tennis. Day 5? I’m sweating it all out with hot yoga. It’s a lot to manage (lol) but there are a couple of reasons why I let my hair washing schedule run the show.

First, it’s a pain in the ace, and a huge time suck, to have to style my hair every dang day. #facts

Second, I’m 43 and my hair doesn’t get as greasy as it used to…probably because I’m older and maybe because my hair is longer now. 

Third, I got extensions for the first time ever and I’m half petrified every time I wash my hair because I have no idea how to manage extensions. (One of the extensions already fell out after just one week!)

Fourth, I don’t want to damage my hair by drying or heat styling it too much. Damage from using heat tools is real. Anyone want dry, rough hair with loss of hair color? Use a hair dryer

And last, but DEFINITELY NOT LEAST, I have gray hair, which can turn brassy (or yellowish) from heat exposure (1). No thanks!

And all that sucks because I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not going to stop using a hair dryer. So how do we get around it? By using a GREAT heat protectant. 

RELATED: Organic hair dye—the good, the bad and the ugly.


Trying hair heat protectant on hands

Ingredients to look for in natural heat protectants

Most heat protectants on the market will use polymers such as VP/acrylates/lauryl methacrylate copolymer, polyquaternium-55, and a polyelectrolyte complex of PVM/MA copolymer and polyquaternium-28 to help reduce breakage, degradation of keratin and hair surface damage (2). A mouthful, right?

Some of these ingredients aren’t great for the environment, like VP/acrylates/lauryl methacrylate copolymer for example. Kate explains, “VP/acrylates/lauryl methacrylate copolymer is a microplastic that Europe is going to ban from rinse-off cosmetics in 2024 and from leave-on cosmetics in 2026.”

Others are not good for your health. Kate continues, “Methacrylates are synthesized in benzene, which can introduce benzene into the product.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified benzene as a known human carcinogen. For context, Kate explains, “The FDA limit for benzene is 2 parts per million (ppm) or 0.0002%. Products made with methacrylates and acrylates regularly contain more than 2 ppm benzene, according to the FDA. In fact, Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) chemists calculated an entire body application could expose one to 300 ppm or .03%.” 

Based on all that, these are ingredients I’d skip (they aren’t in alignment with our TOG Credo). Thankfully, the good news is that plant-based compounds can also be used to protect hair from heat like plant oils, plant proteins and plant starches (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). So let’s look at what some of those options are instead. 

RELATED: Overtone hair color for gray hair, with before 7 after pictures.


a woman holds out a bottle of heat protectant super finish polishing balm from evolvh haircare

The best heat protectant for hair (especially for gray hair)

I’ve tried several heat protectants in my lifetime and I’ve landed on EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm as my all-time fave. Here’s why. 

First and foremost, it’s practically weightless. I love that I can apply ample amounts of this product and it doesn’t weigh my hair down or make it tacky or textured in any way. But the beauty of this product does not lie in the absence of what it does, but actually in what it delivers

For all of us instant gratification die-hards, this product actually leaves my hair feeling super soft and truly adds shine. Gray hair can be coarse hair and this helps smooth the coarseness—so most days I just walk around feeling my hair like, “What is this? Velvet?!”

But the benefits don’t stop there: it also helps to defrizz, detangle, hydrate and prevent breakage. It’s transformative in that my hair feels incredibly silky and flowy in a way it doesn’t on its own. 

And on top of all that SuperFinish Polishing Balm is also a UV protectant AND a heat protectant too. According to EVOLVh, two primary heat protectors in SuperFinish are theobroma grandiflorum (cupuacu) seed butter, and camellia oleifera leaf extract (green tea). Here’s how they work, according to the brand:

  • Camellia oleifera leaf extract (green tea) is a natural antioxidant that reduces UVA and UVB sun damage and keeps hair youthful looking, with approximately 8 SPF.
  • Theobroma provides antiaging benefits and UVA and UVB sun protection, with approximately 8 SPF.

These two ingredients also provide heat protection for up to 425 degrees—provided the heat tool is continually in motion (aka, don’t hold your blow dryer stagnantly on one section of your hair).

SAVE: THISORGANICGIRL will save you 15% on your first order. And check out my full Evolvh haircare review!

RELATED: 6 things I do differently since going gray.


How to use EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm

This comes in a pump, so I like to pump out a generous amount and apply to damp hair before I blow dry it. I make sure to specifically apply it to the parts of my hair that are whiter like around my temples and the crown of my head. I don’t have much gray hair underneath or on the back of my head so I’m not as concerned about coverage there. 

Play around with how much product works for you. Last time I used this, I took the pump out and poured a crap ton on my hand to apply it and it still worked great…maybe even better at improving the texture. You really can’t over-apply IMO. 

Then I run my hands through to incorporate, and I blow dry as normal. This is literally my #1 styling product. 


What I liked and didn’t like about the best heat protectant

What I liked:

  • Also offers UV protection
  • Super lightweight
  • Defrizzes
  • Detangles
  • Adds shine
  • Hydrates
  • Adds softness
  • Prevents breakage because sericin aminos bond with hair cuticle
  • Available in a trial size
  • Has a subtle scent that smells fresh

What I didn’t like:

  • Can be hard to pump out at times

SAVE: THISORGANICGIRL will save you 15% on your first EVOLVh order.


Other heat protectants to consider

There is actually a huge gap in the ethical beauty space and it’s called heat protectants. There are a couple that meet our standards, just not many, so if you are looking to branch out, here are some additional heat protectants that rely on plant oils and plant proteins as active ingredients. 

We also looked at Lolavie Glossing Detangler (from Jennifer Aniston’s line), Pacifica Vegan Silk Blow-Out Primer and Protectant, and the OWAY Thermal Stress Protectant, but they didn’t meet TOG standards for ingredients or performance. However, we WOULD pick them up in a pinch.

Do you have a go-to heat protectant for hair?

Xo, lisa

RELATED: Browse this gallery of gray hair pixie cuts hairstyles.

REFERENCES

1. FUJII, Toshihiro, et al. Effect of heat treatment on human hair keratin film. 日本香粧品学会誌, 2013, 37.3: 165-170.

2. Zhou Y, Rigoletto R, Koelmel D, Zhang G, Gillece TW, Foltis L, Moore DJ, Qu X, Sun C. The effect of various cosmetic pretreatments on protecting hair from thermal damage by hot flat ironing. Journal of cosmetic science. 2011 Mar 1;62(2):265.

3. SHARMA, Aseem; MHATRE, Madhulika. Cosmetic trichology: Hair cosmetics, styling, and their effect on the hair fiber!. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 2020, 11.4: 598.

4. KEIS, K.; HUEMMER, C. L.; KAMATH, Y. K. Effect of oil films on moisture vapor absorption on human hair. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2007, 58.2: 135-145.

5. DIAS, Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni. Hair cosmetics: an overview. International journal of trichology, 2015, 7.1: 2.

6. Tinoco A, Martins M, Cavaco-Paulo A, Ribeiro A. Biotechnology of functional proteins and peptides for hair cosmetic formulations. Trends in Biotechnology. 2021 Oct 16.

7. Daniels G, Nicholson S, Grant-Ross P, Tamburic S. An ex vivo comparison of the tensile strengthening properties of protein derivatives on damaged hair. IFSCC Magazine. 2016 Aug 31.

8. Alves TF, Morsink M, Batain F, Chaud MV, Almeida T, Fernandes DA, da Silva CF, Souto EB, Severino P. Applications of natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic polymers in cosmetic formulations. Cosmetics. 2020 Dec;7(4):75.

TOG Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TOG uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TOG stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of This Organic Girl. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

2 Comments

  1. Reply

    Joy

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been looking for a heat protectant that is hydrating and this sounds like the answer! One question…I am very sensitive to scents and you say it has a subtle scent that smells fresh…would you be able to describe the scent? Is it floral at all (I can’t deal with rose/lavender scents)?

  2. Reply

    Mina

    I have this product, question about using it. I do have to wash my hair everyday. My hair is wavy and fine, with a grey streak up from and then more pepper than salt – most salt is on top. I usually use a curl cream – Innersense or Evolvh – then I eat breakfast, then diffuse my hair. Would I add this on top of curl cream before diffusing, or does it replace curl cream??????

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