Live Your Most Beautiful Life
Written by: Kwan Stafford
Different Ways to Straighten Your Tresses
For generations, women have been using different techniques to straighten their hair. Such techniques include semi-permanent and temporary methods, ranging from using straightening combs to using chemical relaxers. Here is Café Belle’s list of popular temporary and permanent hair straightening methods:
How it works: The active ingredient – sodium hydroxide (lye) – breaks down the hydrogen and sulfide bonds that give the hair its shape. Smoothing the product through the hair rearranges the bonds, straightening the hair. Sodium hydroxide is the active ingredient in things like drain cleaners, which speaks volumes about the strength of this chemical.
Lye relaxers range in ph value from 10 to 14. The higher the ph, the faster the straightening process takes hold. However, a high ph does not come without a cost: The higher the ph value, the easier it is to cause hair and scalp damage.
Choose this formulation if your hair is not subjected to any other chemical processes, e.g., chemically dyed hair.
Pros: It straightens the hair, which offers styling versatility.
Cons: A lye relaxer can cause irritation and burns if left on the scalp for too long. Over-processing the hair causes hair damage, breakage, and possibly permanent bald spots. Relaxers often leave hair dry and brittle, requiring more moisture. If relaxers are overlapped the line of demarcation will become brittle, making the hair highly susceptible to breakage in that spot. A major con of relaxing your hair is that you don’t know how your hair will respond to the relaxer until after you have applied it.
How it works: The active ingredient is Guanidine Hydroxide, a mix of calcium hydroxide cream and guanidine carbonate, or ammonium thioglycolate. These are called no-lye, but they are still lye. These chemicals, like sodium hydroxide, break down the hydrogen and sulfide bonds that give the hair its shape rearranging the hair bonds.
A no-lye relaxer is an option for people whose scalps are sensitive or who use a permanent coloring agent, although it is not recommended by many experts. This formulation is best on hair that just needs its curl loosened a bit.
Pros: It allows you to color and relax your hair, but never do both at the same time. Space these processes at least two weeks apart, or be sure to consult a trained cosmetologist before coloring your hair after a relaxer. Only a well-trained and experienced professional can handle the dual processes well, and only women with well-conditioned and coarse hair should opt for both.
Cons: This type of relaxer deposits additional calcium on the hair, making it more prone to dryness and breakage. A consistent moisturizing regimen is a must with relaxed hair be it with no-lye or lye based relaxers. No-lye relaxers will not completely straighten super-tight hair, which leaves the shaft more porous and susceptible to damage. For this reason, many experts do not use this product. Like lye relaxers, no-lye relaxers can cause severe scalp and hair damage if applied incorrectly.
How it works: A straightening balm is made out of a combination of silicones, plant extracts, amino acids or wheat proteins; it is applied to wet hair prior to blowing it dry. Then heat from a ceramic flat iron smoothes hair cuticles and seals in shine.
Straightening balm is best used on moderately curly and wavy hair best benefit from this styling aid.
Pros: Straightening balm offers a quick and simple way to achieve a straight look – sans chemicals.
Cons: It is not long-lasting. For example, moisture causes hair to revert back to its original curl pattern.
How it works: It is created with activating lye used in lye-based relaxers. You can achieve a “textured” look by simply leaving a lye-based relaxer on the hair for a shorter time. A texturizer is best used on natural curls, which gets loosened without totally breaking down their configuration.
Pros: It tends to be less damaging to hair.
Cons: Achieving a straighter style requires using tools at higher temperatures, which can often lead to irreparable hair damage.
Brazilian Keratin Treatment:
How it works: Companies and salons that promote Brazilian hair straightening (also called Brazilian Keratin Treatment, BKT, Brazilian Blowout, escova progressiva, Keratin cure or keratin straightening) claim that it is a method of temporarily straightening hair by sealing the hair with a liquid keratin and a preservative solution with a flat iron. However the active ingredient in Brazilian keratin treatments is formaldehyde. The formaldehyde seeps into the cuticle layer of the hair causing it to become frizz and curl free.
Due to the fact that formaldehyde is the active ingredient in this type of treatment, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the BKT. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group of doctors and scientists who assess and set recommended safety standards for cosmetic products, determined that .2% is a safe level of formaldehyde. However test showed that at the very least 10 times that amount of the substance is used in the Brazilian keratin treatment.
All in all, BKT is not a straightening method that we recommend to be used on your hair.
Japanese Thermal Reconditioning Treatment:
How it works: Thermal reconditioning or Japanese hair straightening uses ammonium thioglycolate as an active ingredient. The thioglycolate combined with the use of a ceramic flat-irons set a temperature between 170 and 230 degrees Celsius (330 to 446 Degrees Fahrenheit) break down the cysteine bonds of the hair permanently straightening the hair.
Some professionals say that this straightening method cannot be used on tightly curl patterned hair, like that of some black people. However some hair care specialist have proven this statement to be untrue. Gina Rivera, Owner and Stylist at Hair’s Talent Salon, has been successfully using this technique on tightly curled black hair for many years.
Pros: If done correctly, the straightened hair is not as prone to breakage as it is with sodium hydroxide relaxers. There is not as much worry about getting hair wet, because the hair will not draw up and get as frizzy as it would with a relaxer.
Cons: Very few stylists know how to perform this technique on black hair at the moment, so you are geographically limited to only few stylists right now. In addition, you must be willing to allow your roots to grow in over an extended amount of time as this technique requires several inches of new growth before it can be reapplied. If the chemical is applied directly to the scalp, there is a likelihood the person will experience permanent hair-loss and breakage in that spot. This process can take up to eight or more hours to apply. Lastly, this treatment can cost a person between $400 and $1000 dollars.
Chemical processing weakens the hair, so individuals should pay close attention to treated hair. Gently comb and brush the hair. Keep the hair hydrated and moisturized by drinking lots of fluids and applying topical moisturizers as needed.
Disclaimer: If you’re researching different chemical straightening techniques, do not use promotional sites or materials as resources of knowledge. Remember, these sites are there to promote and sell you their product. Do research on non-promotional information sites, search online news for issues with a product or service, and ask friends who have used the product or received the service you are considering in order to attain all available and necessary information.