If you style your hair with hot tools, you already know that applying a heat protectant is nonnegotiable. You may not know, however, that you don’t need to use a fancy heat protectant — there are a lot of great ones from drugstore brands that do just as good of a job as their more-expensive counterparts. The best drugstore heat protectants, though, do more than just protect your hair from heat damage; they also work to enhance shine, smooth out flyaways, and restore moisture to dried-out hair. Choosing the right one for you mostly comes down to personal preference in terms of brand, scent, and formula (so ahead, you’ll find a nice variety of creams, sprays, and milks to pick from.)
To further limit heat damage, try to air dry your hair as often as possible, and use a lower heat setting on your blow dryer or flat iron when you can. Other tips for stronger hair include using a silk scrunchie instead of a tight elastic, doing a conditioning mask once a week, and trying to wear your hair down more often.
And of course, don’t forget to apply one of the best heat protectants before going in with your hot tools. Pro tip: Most of these can be used on dry hair post-styling, as well.
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1. Best Heat Protectant Cream
You can’t go wrong with this $6 heat protectant from L’Oréal Paris. It’s a nourishing, leave-in conditioning cream that protects hair from temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, while also helping to repair damage in the forms of dryness, breakage, and split ends.
You can also buy the matching shampoo and rinse-out conditioner from the brand’s Elvive Total Repair 5 line, which was designed specifically for people with damaged hair.
2. Best Heat Protectant Spray For Straightening
Also from L’Oréal (let’s face it, they are the drugstore hair care experts, after all), this heat protectant spray focuses on promoting super-sleek, shiny hair, so it’s ideal for people who use flat irons frequently. It also offers 450-degree heat protection, and despite its serious smoothing abilities, it won’t make your hair feel sticky, greasy, or stiff.
"It smells great and actually makes my hair straighter," one Amazon reviewer reported. "I used this product two days ago on dry hair before straightening with a flat iron and today my hair is just as straight and shiny. I mean REALLY shiny."
3. Best Silicone-Free Heat Protectant Spray
When used in hair products, silicones help provide that satisfyingly slippery, smoothing feel — but some people prefer to avoid silicones, since they can weigh some hair types down. If you’re one of those people, pick up this heat protectant from Hair Food. Coconut and argan oils are the headlining ingredients in here, which help provide plenty of moisture while offering up 450-degree heat protection. It’s a solid choice for all hair types, and will also help soften dry ends and promote shine.
4. Best Heat Protectant Spray For Curls
Any of the heat protectants on this list are suitable for curly hair, but SheaMoisture Strengthen & Restore Anti-Breakage Spray is made with super-rich, moisturizing ingredients (aka exactly what your curls need) and comes from a brand that’s known to cater to curly hair. In here, shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil work to repair dryness and damage, and infuse your curls with a serious dose of moisture. This is also an amazing product for detangling — whether you plan on using heat or not, spritz some of this onto your hair before going in with any sort of brush or comb. And of course, it offers heat protection: The brand says it actually forms a barrier between your hair and the heat to keep it shielded.
5. Best Heat Protectant Conditioning Milk
As its name implies, Carol’s Daughter Monoi Multi Styling Milk is a milky, leave-in conditioner that offers heat protection (up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit) and helps strengthen and moisturize dry, damaged hair. This is also a great choice for curls, but it’s lightweight enough to use on any hair type. Made from gardenia flower and coconut oil, this is a bit more of a splurge than the other heat protectants on this list, but then again, Carol’s Daughter is on the luxury end of the drugstore-brand spectrum. Bonus points for its delicious, tropical scent.
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