Going Straight



Smooth hair is high on everyone’s beauty covet list. But with so many hair straightening treatments on the market, choosing the right method that is suitable for your hair and its needs, can be overwhelming. So we’re here to break down the difference, and help you decide which straightening strategy is best for you.

 

Which straightening treatment should I go for?

The Anatomy Of Human Hair

Rebonding

What it is: Less damaging than Chemical Straightening but harsher than Brazilian Keratin treatments, this popular straightening method relies on the chemical ammonium thioglycolate to break down hair’s protein bonds, changing the structure and texture of the hair. The hair is then painstakingly flat-ironed straight, and a neutralizer is applied to reform the bonds and “lock in” hair’s new smooth shape. For 48 hours post-treatment, you’re forbidden from getting hair wet, pinning it or even tucking it behind your ears to avoid damaging the shape. That takes serious discipline!

Good for: Virgin hair that has not been color-treated, and for women who don’t want to curl their hair again afterward (because it won’t hold).

Administered by: A stylist only. Trained professionals are best equipped to determine which process is best for your specific hair type.

Lasts for: 4-6 months

 

Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy

What it is: Another treatment made popular in recent times, this process smoothens out the hair without actually breaking any of the chemical bonds, so it will eventually return to its original texture. But if that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. The cost of this frizz-free freedom is the use of formaldehyde, which has been linked to serious overall health issues. The immediate danger to your hair however, comes in the intense and prolonged heat used during the process. Ask for formaldehyde-free options which may be available at some salons. Should you decide to change your style later, Keratin Treatments also allow hair to be re-curled afterward, unlike rebonding (Japanese Straightening). However, like rebonding, Keratin Treatments require longer periods of non-washing, post-treatment.

Good for: Slightly wavy, frizzy, or previously processed hair. Not for excessive curls.

Administered by: A stylist only. Trained professionals are best equipped to determine which process is best for your specific hair type.

Lasts for: Around 3 months

"When using heat, above 190 degrees Celsius (374 degrees Fahrenheit) – roughly equivalent to the heat on your flat iron’s highest setting – it will cause denaturing to occur or degradation of the hair’s protein."
- Dr. Jennifer Marsh, Pantene Research Fellow and expert in damaged hair

 

Chemical Straightening

What it is: Not so common in Asia, but the most permanent of all of the smoothing methods, Chemical Straightening inflicts the most amount of damage on your hair. In this process, a chemical cream – often an alkali - is applied to “relax” the curls, breaking hair’s protein bonds. The problem with hair relaxing, according to Dr. Amy McMichael, Dermatology Professor at Wake Forest, is that over time, there is an overlap where the chemical is placed. “As we apply the chemical to the new growth,” she explains, “it overlaps with what’s already been treated, and as a result of that, all of those areas are a bit more weakened. Additionally, with chemical hair relaxers, many people will also use heat on top of it, so you end up compounding damage on top of damage.” Further, after chemical relaxing, washing your hair for a few days is discouraged, although conditioning is recommended to help avoid scalp irritation.

Good for: Anyone with tightly coiled, curly hair, as seen on women of African descent.

Administered by: A stylist only. Trained professionals are best equipped to determine which process is best for your specific hair type.

Lasts for: Until the hair grows out.

 

Blow Dry + Smoothing Serum

By far the least damaging to your locks than the rest of the list, this easy, quick-fix method removes water from hair via heat styling and resets it straight. “Make sure to use a heat protecting serum to help seal the hair, and use a lower heat setting while blow-drying,” says Dr. Jennifer Marsh, Pantene Research Fellow and expert in damaged hair. Unlike other methods, it’s simple and safe for your hair - not to mention cost-friendly. You can also easily repair the damage of repeated blow-drying by using a good conditioner like Pantene’s 3 Minute Miracle, which, as the name suggests, will do the job in 3 minutes flat. The conditioner also helps control frizz by restoring moisture to your hair.

Good for: Women who want to maintain the fundamental structure of their hair.

Administered by: You, or a stylist if desired. As there are no harmful chemical processes involved, a do-it-yourself approach is welcome.

Lasts for: 1-2 days, and has to be redone after every wash. Nothing’s perfect, after all.

 

Now that you know your options – before you set out on your pursuit of smooth, sleek hair, note that results may vary: what looks one way for your best friend might look different on your own hair. It ultimately comes down to the hair you start with, its unique structure, and how much curl you’re attempting to smooth or remove. Lastly, choosing the least damaging option is never a bad idea, as premature breakage can cause those dreaded flyaways and make growing your hair out for styling more difficult.