PSA: This Is the Science-Backed Way to Reduce Hair Damage if You Love Heat Styling

As beauty trends for 2021 start reflecting the wild ride that was 2020, we're seeing habits that make people feel their healthiest take priority over an aesthetics-only approach (i.e. a maskne-fighting skin-care routine over bold red lipstick).

While your makeup bag may have gotten a break, your hair is the one accessory you wear every day—and one where health on a cellular level is super closely tied to outward appearance. "Smooth and non-heat-damaged hair helps to bring out hair’s natural shine," explains Robyn Coutts, senior design engineer at Dyson, the total gold standard when it comes to hair-care innovation.

But what are you supposed to do if you want shiny, healthy hair, but you're also in a committed relationship with your blowdryer? Good news: Dyson tapped over 230 scientists and engineers to crack this code.

"Frustrated with the lack of advancement in the industry, Dyson invested $71 million in [...] creating a state of the art laboratory dedicated to investigating the science of hair," Coutts says. "Dyson engineers studied hair from root to tip, understanding how it reacts to stresses, how to keep it healthy, and how to style it." Hair, meet science.

Keep reading for intel on how to prevent hair damage from extreme heat, based on your preferred styling method.

1. Blow dry

A fresh blowout is one of life's great pleasures—and indeed, says Coutts, heat is one of the best ways to style your hair. But to understand how to reduce the damage that usually comes along with that, first you have to understand what's going on in your strands.

"The hair is made up of three elements: the cuticles on the outside, the keratin bonds that hold it together, and within that, the cortex," she says. "Frequent exposure to high heat can remove the cuticles and damage the cortex. Once the cortex is damaged, hair can become brittle, dull, and breakable. This is when you will see visible damage such as split ends."

But prioritizing your hair health doesn't require vowing never to use hot tools again—it just means using the right ones. Dyson hair-care tools use powerful airflow technology rather than extreme heat to style your hair, which means you can still get the look you want without damaging that delicate cortex.

Enter the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer, which uses a motor that's on average six times faster than other hair dryer motors, Coutts says. "Traditional hair dryers can sometimes have a weak airflow, meaning they are slow to dry. Others can have strong airflow, but it is not necessarily controlled," Coutts says. "As we know, heat damage and uncontrolled airflow can lead to a number of frustrating styling issues. With [the Dyson Supersonic's] controlled airflow, we are able to able to smooth hair and decrease frizz."

Translation: Thanks to the 15 motor engineers who contributed to its design, Dyson Supersonic can dry hair faster than a traditional blowdryer and leave it shinier than it was before.

2. Curl

If beachy waves or voluminous curls are what you're after, avoid chemical treatments like perms as well as extreme heat, says Coutts.  The Dyson Airwrap™ styler gets the job done without the high temps, all thanks to a little something Coutts calls the Coanda Effect—an "aerodynamic phenomenon" (yes, because your hair is science-y like that).

"Air, when propelled at the right speed and pressure, naturally follows an adjacent surface, entraining surrounding air," she explains. "The Dyson Airwrap™ styler creates a spinning vortex of air around the barrel that attracts, wraps, and curls hair."

In other words, this spinning vortex dries and curls your hair at the same time, but does it without extreme heat. "By using Dyson products you are helping to prevent further damage, reducing dulling, and keeping as much of the cuticles that protect the cortex intact," Coutts says. "Where the user will really see improvements is the newer hair on the head, closer to root. Hair grows, on average, 0.5-2 centimeters a month, and by reducing the heat you will be taking the best care of that new hair."

PS: If you're a fan of both beachy waves and highlights, you should avoid using high heat on colored hair. "Avoid extreme heat on colored hair, as that leads to color fade, which equates to more color touch-ups," Coutts says. With the Dyson Airwrap, your colored locks will look like you just stepped out of the salon, without smelling burnt.

3. Straighten

If you prefer wearing your hair straight, there's probably two things you do a lot of: Brushing it, and heat-styling it to pin-straight status, no matter how much your hair protests.

But get this: Mechanical abrasion—aka, brushing your hair—is one of the most common causes of hair damage (just think about all the hair you clean out of your brush). That doesn't mean you should forgo detangling entirely, but finding the right balance can be tricky. Brush too little, and you can end up neglecting your scalp, which can lead to a whole host of issues from overproduction of oil to dandruff. Brush too much or too harshly, and you can cause breakage—leading to flyaways and split ends.

Coutts' recommendation? "Since wet hair has a higher propensity for damage, avoid rubbing it with a towel," she says. "Gently squeeze to absorb the water. Also, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle. This reduces friction between the hair strands."

Take your hair from wet to dry with the  Dyson Supersonic, and then, reach for the Dyson Corrale™ straightener. The next-level tool relies on flexing copper plates that flex and gather hair together, allowing for more control and less need for high temps. "Rather than going over sections of hair multiple times, you can take a slow and steady pass and go over each section one to two times," says Coutts—a lower heat exposure that Dyson says reduces damage to hair by 50 percent compared to conventional solid plates.

In fact, Coutts has one over-arching recommendation: "Next time you pick up a Dyson tool, try turning it down a setting and see how your hair feels after," she says. The engineering is so good, you might be able to just use less heat, off the bat. How's that for a healthy hair challenge?

Top photo: Getty Images/Justin Lambert

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