Heat protectors are — at least for those who heat-style their hair — nonnegotiable. Want proof? Just go back and look at a photo of pretty much anyone in the early-aughts, a time when even celebrities heat-styled their hair into oblivion without it: Flyaways, breakage, split ends, dullness, dryness and that general “fried” look were rampant.


Since then, there’s been a whole lot of innovation in the heat protectant category, with brands delivering a wide range of formulas that shield every hair type and texture against damage. Beyond that, they often also offer additional benefits, like enhancing the styling process, boosting curl shape, building shine, creating definition or providing extra smoothness.


“It’s important to have a protective layer when heat styling because over time, heat can dry the hair, essentially removing moisture,” explains Los Angeles-based hairstylist Mara Roszak, whose celebrity clientele includes Zoe Saldana, Emma Stone and Michelle Yeoh (and yes , she did style the latter’s hair for her historic Oscars win). “When your hair starts to get dry, it causes breakage. So it’s important to create a strong barrier of moisture to protect hair.”


Fine hair is often perceived as the most fragile (and that’s not untrue), but Roszak stresses that no texture is immune to the dangers of heat styling. “Every hair type and texture is susceptible to the same damage — especially if you have thicker and curlier hair, because you’re spending more time on it when heat styling,” she explains.