I originally wrote this post about the best heat protection setting spray to use with your curling iron a couple years ago. And as is common in the beauty industry, a number of new products have entered the market and a number of the thermal sprays I blogged about before have been replaced or discontinued.
So I have set out to do side by side comparisons of the current thermal sprays available on the market right now. I was a little surprised by my test results…
- What do heat thermal sprays do?
- What is the difference between protection and styling sprays?
- The products I tested
- My favorite products
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may earn me a commission. I link these items because of their quality and not because of the commission I may receive. I am an independent blogger and the reviews are done based on my own opinions.
What do heat and thermal sprays do?
First, and most important, heat or thermal sprays are protecting your hair from heat damage. Excess heat from hair-driers, curling irons and straighteners can damage the hair cuticle, which will make your hair feel rougher and frizzy. They reduce the amount of natural moisture evaporation from your hair while using the heating elements. They can also help more evenly and slowly distribute the heat through your hair.
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They do not protect your hair 100% from heat damage. They only protect it about 50%, but that can make a big difference in the long-term health of your hair.
And my goal from a heat or thermal spray is to also get a better, stronger curl. In a vintage hairstyle, a stronger curl will give me much better results when I brush it out.
What is the difference between heat protection sprays and thermal styling sprays?
I have come to learn that the words beauty companies use for hairstyling products that all live in the same general category can really just be interpreted as semantics. Categories like moisturizing or conditioning are usually trying to accomplish the same thing. The same goes for bond building or damage repair products. The science behind each product might vary, but the goal is the same.
If a beauty product says it is in the thermal or heat category, then the company designed the product to protect the hair from heated styling tools and to hopefully help set the hairstyle during this process. Of course, as I have found in my tests, these results vary.
The Products I Tested
The image below show a line-up of the heat protectant sprays I tested with. Some are brand new products and some have been available for a couple years. They will all protect your hair from heat damage. But I am putting them to the extra test of also acting as a great heat setting spray.
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The test products from left to right were:
- Kenra Platinum Hot Spray 20 – The pump spray is a very fine mist and smells like flowers or candy or some combination of two as Kenra products always do. I had high hopes for this spray. I am such a fan of Kenra products, but this one did not have as much hold as I would like. Their hairsprays will always be at the top of my list, but I think I am going to pass on this thermal spray.
- KMS Therma Shape Hot Flex Spray – The KMS has a pretty, almost fruit-like scent from its pump spray. It dried almost instantly after I sprayed it on the hair. That tells me there are more drying ingredients in it, which is not as healthy for your hair. The curl was decent though.
- Wella Thermal Image Heat Protection Spray – The scent from this pump spray bottle is a powder-like floral and pretty. It has a fine mist that doesn’t get sticky on your fingers. It is moisturizing and delicate. Wella made it into my top list. Read its final review below.
- Sexy Hair Control Me Thermal Protection Working Hairspray – I am sure this product protects the hair from heat, but that is about it. It has light nice powder scent and the bottle is big, so you get a lot for your money. Unfortunately it does not offer a lot of extra staying power for the curl.
- Rusk Thermal Flat Iron Spray – This product has a nice faint scent . It gets a little sticky on the hands, but sometimes that is just something we have to deal with from a good heat setting spray. It is an aerosol spray, but do not despair. It uses Hydrofluorocarbon 152a as its propellant, which is not harmful to the ozone layer. Rusk made it into my top list. Read its final review below.
- Joico Heat Hero Glossing Thermal Protector – I sprayed it directly on my fingers and it did not leave that sticky residue! The smell isn’t too sweet. It’s just very pleasant and almost like a smell that came from nature. And the curl I got from it was buoyant. Like the Rusk, its aerosol spray uses Hydrofluorocarbon 152a as its propellant so it isn’t harmful to the ozone layer. Joico Heat Hero made it into my top list. Read its final review below.
- Suavecita Heat Protection Spray– Please take note. This product is very moisturizing. I realize now my 3 pumps were too much for it and should have read the label more closely. It says it on the bottle. If hair is dry, spray sparingly throughout. There are a lot of natural oils in it, so if you have very dry hair, this might be a decent option for you. The natural smell is great like most of Suavecita’s products. This spray might be better suited as a pretreatment before your blow-dry your hair. I could see it giving your hair a ton of shine when paired with a hairdryer.
- AG Spray Gel Thermal Setting Spray– The AG smelled fresh and the spray spread well. The curl was unfortunately a little limp.
- Paul Mitchell Hot Off the Press – Paul Mitchell makes some really nice products. If you ever need a good finger wave sculpting gel, try their Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Sculpting Gel. I unfortunately can not recommend this thermal protection spray. The scent was a little chemically for me and the curl was limp.
My testing process for this review was as follows:
- Spray the hair section with the product with 2 traveling sprays from scalp to ends on the side facing me and then lifting the hair section up to spray once with a traveling spray from scalp to end.
- Comb the hair straight.
- Curl the hair in a barrel curl with a 3/4 inch curling iron.
- Pin the curl in barrel shape against the scalp to allow to cool before brushing. (This is a must step. If you brush the hair before it has had a chance to cool and allowed the hydrogen and salt bonds to reform, you are not getting the most of your curling iron heat. You are kind of wasting it)
- After cooled, I lightly brushed the curl out and after all of the curls were done, I did my comparison.
Yes, all of the sections above have curl, but some are better than others. I’m always looking for a good, well-defined S-curve in the curl. That tells me that the product did a good job of breaking the Hydrogen and Salt bonds and after use, that the bonds reformed strongly. Read more about the importance of these bonds in curling hair here.
My Review Results:
After reviewing the different products, I narrowed them down to my 3 favorites, both for hold and shine. When I do a curling iron pin curl set on someone, I do some heavy brushing, so the curls to need to stand up to that.
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The curl (furthest to the left in the above photo) had a very nice S-curve throughout the entire hair section. The spray came out even with good coverage. It didn’t make my hand really sticky, which is a plus when you are using the spray on a lot of people all day. I am not surprised by the Joico Heat Hero working well. I have always been a fan of Joico products. They do what they are designed to do well.
The curl (center in the above photo) was good, but I was happier with the Joico curl. The pump spray sprays evenly and the floral scent made it very pleasant to use.
This one has a misleading label. It worked very well for curling the hair, not just straightening. I would say it is my 2nd choice below the Joico Heat Hero spray. It has a faint, pleasant scent. It is also a large bottle if you want to get some bang for your buck.
- Hairstory.com – Does Heat Protectant Work?
- Elle Australia – What Does Heat Protection Spray Actually Do for Your Hair?