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Women with fringe

Can (and should) you straighten wet hair?

Nearly all of us own flat irons, but there’s still plenty of confusion surrounding the best way to use them. So, can you straighten wet hair?

When flat irons became the must-own hair tool back in the early 00s, it was like discovering a magic wand for hard-to-manage strands. But all these years later, people are still seeking advice on how best to use them, and there’s still plenty of confusion surrounding whether you can use a straightener on wet hair. The answer is that you can, but that doesn’t mean you should.

What happens when you straighten wet hair?

We all know heat styling is damaging for hair, especially when a heat-protection product isn’t applied first (try our Dove Smooth & Shine Heat Protection Spray). But what most people don’t realize is that the damage is worse when hair is wet. "Hair is very absorbent and can hold up to 30% of its weight in water," says Dove Partner and Celebrity Stylist Rocco. "When all that extra water is heated beyond boiling point, it expands from a liquid to a gas and breaks free from the hair cortex," says Dove Partner and Celebrity Stylist Rocco. This rapid evaporation of water can be described as an explosion of water leaving your hair, which causes microscopic cracks and bubbles on the hair’s surface.

So, why is it ok to blow-dry wet hair?

Let’s get one thing straight (excuse the pun): all heat exposure is damaging for hair, and it’s worth trying to prolong the time between styling sessions with a good dry shampoo. Try our Dove Invisible Dry Shampoo, or our travel-friendly Dove Care Between Washes Go Active Dry Shampoo Wipes.

If you decide it’s definitely wash day, reach for the blow-dryer straight out of the shower and opt for a mid-to-low setting. Make sure you blow-dry until your hair is completely dry. Most flat irons can reach between 365 and 446°F, with the hair trapped between two boiling plates for seconds at a time. With less water in the hair to ‘explode’ from the cuticle, and a lower blow-dryer heat that allows water to evaporate slowly, the hair cuticle (although raised) will be left intact.

Another tip to protect your hair against heat styling damage is to use Dove Smooth & Shine Heat Protection Spray. This can be applied to wet hair before blow-drying, or on dry hair before using your flat iron.

Why is protecting the cuticle so important?

If you want strong, shiny, healthy-looking hair, you need to know that all these things require a healthy cuticle. This outer lipid layer is made up of fish-like scales that allow moisture to pass in and out of the hair shaft. When the cuticle is healthy, these scales overlap and lay flat, which means the strands are protected and able to reflect light for healthy-looking shine. When damaged by heat, the cuticle sits more raised, leaving strands more prone to moisture loss, dullness and tangles. So, if you’re ever tempted to cut out the blow-drying part of your hair-styling routine, you might want to think again.

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