We know overuse of hot tools, like straighteners, can damage your red hair, but did you also know it can actually affect your natural color? If stress alarms are going off in your brain right now, you’re not alone. You might be thinking: “I never thought of this!” or “I knew my red hair was fading prematurely!”
If you do a simple Google search on this topic, you will see heat of any kind can fade chemically treated red hair. However, those who color their hair aren’t the only ones at risk: natural redheads, we are in the same boat. Excessive heat can strip away color molecules, causing the color to fade or become dull over time. Let’s see how we can minimize this effect:
Why does this happen? Why isn’t it talked about more? What can you do?
So many questions and we have the answers. The fading of hair color when exposed to high heat from hair straighteners happens primarily due to the following reasons:
1. Loss of Moisture: High heat can strip the hair of its natural moisture, which is essential for locking in the color. Dry hair is more prone to losing color molecules.
2. Opening of Cuticles: The high temperatures can open the outer protective layer of the hair, known as the cuticle. When the cuticle is raised, it allows color molecules to escape more easily.
3. Color Oxidation: For those who dye their hair red, heat can accelerate the oxidation process of hair dyes, causing them to break down and fade.
4. Damage to Hair Proteins: Excessive heat can also damage the proteins in the hair shaft, making it more porous. This increased porosity can lead to color molecules leaching out.
To minimize these effects and protect your hair color, it’s essential to use heat-protectant products, lower the straightener’s temperature, and limit the frequency of heat styling. Additionally, using color-safe and sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners can help maintain your hair color for longer periods.
What temperature should you set your hot tools to?
Many hot tools go up as high as 450º+, but it’s really unnecessary to use heat that high. Most people can get the same effect without all the damage at a heat of around 300º – 350º. If you have fine hair, you may not even need to go that high and may be better off with temps under 300º. It’s tempting to crank your straightener or curling iron up to get the job done faster, but it will leave your hair damaged and faded. Another alternative is to use air tools like the Dyson Airwrap or the Shark FlexStyle. These products style your hair with heat + air for less damage.
Our co-founders, Adrienne + Stephanie, talk about this very topic on the last episode of the How to be a Redhead podcast, Season 4 (2022). Check it out:
Rock it like a Redhead!