Can your hair recover from heat damage?

I get these questions quite often, so I am featuring this one today from blog reader D. She writes

'So I feel like I have a unique situation. I have heat damage but it's not the kind you just trim off. The stylist actually weakened and compromised the integrity of my hair. Now that it's cooler it's even harder to keep my hair moisturized. I've added more protein in my regimen and I deep condition after every wash. Other than a wash n go, every other style stretches my curls and before my next wash day I'm left with straight pieces and waves all over, at least until I can get it into a long term protective style and re-transition back to my original curly coiled kinks. I feel like there's no hope for my pattern to return. Doc is there anyway to come back from heat,weakened damaged hair? why or why not?'

I hate to break it to you but the only permanent remedy to heat damaged hair is a trim. Here is why

1. Your hair is  Dead

Once your hair emerges out into the visible area of your scalp, you are dealing with a dead fibre. It is dead because there are no active growing cells in it. The implication here is that this fibre can only ever either stay in the condition it is as it emerges or wear down over time. There are no active cells within that part that has emerged to fix any damage.

2.  High heat makes physical and irreversible changes to your hair at a molecular level

High or prolonged heat can physically and irreversibly change the natural structure of protein . Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. Keratin in hair has a natural twist in it called an alpha helix. This twist is present in all hair straight or curly. If you heat keratin to around 215-235°C ( 419-455F) the alpha helix starts to melt. This is a a physical change and it is irreversible, your hair will retain the shape of the melted keratin at a molecular level. Your hair shows you this molecular damage by not getting back into its natural curl or wave and staying straighter.

3. All damage to your hair is cumulative. 

Remember you have no growing cells in the dead part of the hair so if the cuticle is broken, it will stay broken. If you heat treat and damage the cortex, it stays damaged. Your hair conditioner and gentle treatment can help prolong the life of the damaged hair but ultimately it is damaged and the damage will continue to progress.

4. Do you have to cut it off?

If you can deal with the multiple textures and your hair is not breaking off in pieces, you can keep heat damaged hair. If the multiple textures are driving you insane, trimming is the only proven way forward.

For more - read this vintage article


  1. Okay maybe a dumb question but does relaxed hair get heat damage? why can relaxed hair with stand heat but natural hair can't or is it that the relaxed hair is already straight so the heat damage isn't seen

    1. It is not a dumb question. All hair natural or relaxed is damaged when you use heat. Relaxed hair can be straightened with less heat and therefore seems to apparently withstand more damage but really less heat and fewer passes means less heat damage. Natural hair being straightened bone straight may require higher heat and more passes with a flat iron which means much more heat damage is done.

      I would also add that while we all have the same basic hair structure, some people will have hair that dramatically shows heat damage in the form of immediate breakage and severe dryness while other people can do much worse (high, frequent heat) and their hair just never appears damaged. This does not mean the hair is not damaged, it just simply is able to maintain its structural integrity better than the person who gets splits and breakage.

  2. Can the use of hydrolyzed proteins prior to using heat reduce the cumulative damage caused by heat? Almost fortify the hair in a way?

  3. Do eggs benefit hair in any way ?

  4. Hi...have read couple of your articles... So you're saying there's no medicine or a formula which can assure re-growth of hair???

  5. I've typed this 3 times now so forgive me if you get it repeatedly. Since you state the hair is damaged at a cellular and molecular level died that mean that the new hair growing in is also permanently heat damaged? I ask this because my natural friends are telling me all my hair from here until the day I die is permanently heat damaged and will never have a real curl pattern. So of course I've researched but I can't find a definitive answer. Is my new hair that has yet to grow from my scalp also heat damaged or does heat damage ONLY apply to the old dead hair. And also they're telling me that since I relaxed my hair for 25 years my hair will never have a real curl pattern because the hair is permanently damaged so is that the old hair or are we talking the hair that has yet to emerge from the root is already permanently damaged. This is stressful haha! I appreciate any help.

    1. No that's wrong!! The hair growing out of your head is new and not damaged until you put heat on it or color it! It should return to its normal curl pattern too. The only thing that can change your hair permanently is hormonal changes in your body. Also your diet can affect the texture too. But as your hair is growing, it's producing new cells and you also have all the melatonin in it when it grows. So the hair growing out of your head will always be healthy and virgin until you heat style it or color it, unless you are having drastic hormonal changes.

  6. Interesting post. Yes, I agree, once the hair is damaged by heat, all you have to do is to cut it or trim it.


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