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Image Source: Getty Images/Deagreez

You might’ve heard (or read) somewhere that any time you put heat on your hair that it’s automatically damaged on some level. The truth is, that’s not always the case. While it is a good idea to try and keep heat usage down to a minimum, if you’re using styling tools below 450F or so, your locks should be just fine.

The problem is, a lot of us don’t know this or worse, we don’t too much care. At the time that we’re pulling out our blow dryer, flat iron or curling iron, all we can think about is the hairstyle that we currently want—we take on the “style now, repair later” mentality. The problem with this way of thinking is, no matter what a hair ad may tell you, once your hair is heat damaged, there is no going back. You’ll basically need to trim your damaged parts and start over.

Split ends are the most telling sign of heat damaged hair, but there are some other ones that aren’t quite as obvious. If you’re wondering if you’ve been having a string of bad hair days or if your tresses could possibly be a bit more heat damaged than you initially thought, here are the signs you should be on the lookout for.

Your curls don’t “bounce”. First up, how do your curls look? Is your natural wave or curl pattern just like it’s always been, or does it suddenly seem limp or like there are parts of it that are semi—if not completely—straight? If your curls are leaning more towards Category B (and your hair is clean of product residue), that’s a pretty telling indication that you’ve got some heat damage going on.

Your hair feels “funny”. I personally think that a not-so-subtle indication of heat damage is how your hair feels. When your tresses are doing well, they tend to feel smooth when you run your fingers through them. When they are heat damaged, they will feel dry, rough and even singed. You’ll also notice that your ends aren’t all even. There will be spots that are a lot thinner than others (some call them “straggly ends”).

Your tresses lack elasticity. Hair is designed to have some elasticity to it; it’s another one of the telling signs of how healthy it is. But if when you’re styling your hair, you notice a lot of breakage, that means it’s snapping off too quickly. When hair is in good condition, you should be able to gently tug on a strand of it and it will return to its original shape. If yours breaks, it’s too dry due to a lack of moisture that’s probably because of heat damage. (By the way, if it’s too mushy, it could probably stand to have a protein treatment.)

Your hair isn’t shiny. Here’s something that you may not have known. Were you aware of the fact that once your hair is freshly washed and conditioned that it should look shinier than it did before the water hit it? If yours looks duller, that is a subtle sign that it may have some heat damage to it. This is especially the case if you give your hair an apple cider rinse (to remove any residue) and there still isn’t any change.

Your curls are shedding more than usual. Hair shedding is a natural part of life. On average, we shed somewhere between 50-100 strands on a daily basis. But, if we use a lot of heat, sometimes that can affect not just our hair but our hair follicles. As a result, our hair at the roots will become weak and we’ll lose more than we should. So, if you see tons of hair with a small bulb at each end in your brush or on your bathroom sink (or bedding), that means your hair is shedding at an abnormal rate and you should let up on the heat and give your scalp some TLC (scalp massages, healing oils like clary sage and rosemary essential oils too).

Your hair is hard to color. Depending on how much you want to lighten your hair, you may need a developer. The reason why I’m saying that is because sometimes dark (or natural) hair is hard to color from a box brand alone. But if, no matter what you do, it seems like your hair is not becoming the hue that you’re after, it usually is a sign that you need to see a professional (which is always best when it comes to color-treating your hair). The next red flag is that your hair is porous due to heat damage and that is what’s keeping your hair from being the color that you want or holding it for long.

Your hair feels dry, no matter what you do. All hair needs moisture. It will get it if you drink lots of water, condition your hair and apply a light oil to it every couple of days. But if, no matter what you do, your hair stays dry, this is another sign that your hair has some heat damage. This is especially the case if it has lots of tangles and is super hard to style.

When it comes to all of these signs, if you have them, does it mean that you have to pull out your clippers and start completely over? My recommendation would be to see a professional stylist to get their take on what exactly is damaged and what you should do moving forward. Either way, the good thing about reading an article like this is you know what signs of heat damage to look out for in the future. The sooner you are able to recognize them, the sooner you can get your hair back to a healthy state, right? My thoughts exactly.

Check out these useful articles on heat damage, too!