Lucky for you, we’ll be looking into the different ways you can straighten your hair, how each can be done, and their individual pros and cons. Hopefully, once we’re done, you can maximize the beauty of your hair, but minimize the damage.
Basics of Hair Straightening
Hair straightening, as the name implies, involves straightening your hair through a variety of methods. The idea itself has been around since the late 1800’s, though its popularity boomed during the 1950’s, when straight hair became fashionable for everyone, both men and women. There are currently two ways you can straighten your hair: temporary, which usually involves heat and physically flattening your hair, and permanent, which involves the use of chemicals.
Depending on which hair straightening method you use, you can cause severe damage to your hair. This is partly why hair straightening began losing its popularity after the 80’s. However, new advances in hair straightening have allowed it to resurge in popularity recently.
Temporary Hair Straightening (Non-Chemical Method)
Less Damage to Your Hair
Can be Done at Home
Doesn’t Involve Complex Equipment
Doesn’t Last Long
Your Hair Fizzles Up If It Gets Wet
Straightening Effects Are Not as Strong
The temporary hair straightening method involves the use of heat, usually with a hair dryer or a flat iron. This method causes the least amount of damage to your hair, though constant use of heat can eventually cause your hair to become brittle in the long run. Nowadays, you can pretty much negate the heat damage by using some heat protecting serum to help keep the hair straight for longer, whilst also protecting it from heat damage.
As the name implies, however, the temporary hair straightening method doesn’t last that long. Your hair generally stays straight for only 1 – 2 days, or until it gets wet again. The longevity of the straightness can also be affected by the humidity of the surrounding hair, so if you live in a particularly wet area or it has been raining hard recently, your hair might fizz out prematurely.
There are two ways to straighten your hair using the non-chemical method. Using the straightening iron and using the hairdryer. A third option, which involves air drying can also be used, though it takes a very long time.
Before you use the straightening iron to straighten your hair, you should first wash your hair. Make use of shampoo and conditioner that is best suited to your hair style. Once your hair is washed thoroughly, use a towel to dry it then apply heat protecting serum on it. Make sure that your hair is completely dry. Afterwards, divide your hair into sections so you wouldn’t miss a strand.
Next, you can start using your straightening iron. Do bear in mind that in order to minimize the damage to is while you straighten your hair, make sure that the straightening iron is at the correct temperature. The right temperature depends mostly on your hair type. For fine or damaged hair, set the temperature to 200 F – 300 F (93 C – 149 C). For average thickness, go with 300 F – 350 F (149 C – 177 C), and for very thick or coarse hair, go with 350 F – 400 F (177 C – 205 C).
If you think your hair is starting to sizzle, or starts producing steam, then your hair isn’t dry yet. Stop using the iron and dry your hair completely. Heating wet hair can cause severe damage. Iron your hair one layer at a time until you’re satisfied with the results. Once that’s done, apply straightening serum or any setting serum of your choice to keep your hair in place.
This hair straightening method more or less works the same way as the flat iron method, though it makes use of a hair dryer instead. Again, wash your hair like normal, using the appropriate shampoo or conditioner. Once you’re done washing, dry off the excess water using a towel. There’s no need to dry your hair completely this time. Also, make sure that you don’t rub your hair with the towel, as this can cause your hair to tangle, making it harder to straighten your hair.
Next, using a brush or a wide-toothed comb, work out the tangles on your hair. Make sure that you do this as gently as possible, as damp hair can be very fragile. Apply straightening serum on your hair afterwards. You can then rough dry your hair using a hair dryer. Make sure to dry from the roots outward. Stop short at completely drying your hair, however. Unlike the straightening iron, this hair straightening method only works if your hair is still slightly damp.
While it’s about 80% dry, divide your hair into sections. Take a hairbrush of your choice and take a section of hair, about 3 – 4 inches wide. Using the hairbrush, keep that section of hair stretched taut and dry it completely using the hairdryer, sliding the hairbrush along its length, followed closely by the hair dryer. Once that section of hair is dry, you can put it through a blast of cool air to give it a good shine. Do this method one section of hair at a time. Once done, you can apply a shine serum to maintain your hair’s straightness.
This one causes the least damage to the hair, though it takes the longest. It’s best used if you don’t plan on going out any time soon, though. Air drying, as the name suggests mostly involves allowing your hair to dry naturally. Start by washing your hair as usual. Again, use the appropriate shampoo and conditioner best suited for your hair.
Next, dry your hair as usual, using towels. To minimize the tangles, don’t rub the towel on you head. Simply pat your hair dry. Once your hair is stile semi-dry, apply a smoothing serum to it and wait for your hair to dry up on its own. Try not to expose your hair to heat while it’s still damp, as it can negate the entire process.
Permanent Hair Straightening (Chemical Method)
Lasts a Long Time
Doesn’t Need to Be Kept Dry
Can Cause the Most Damage
Doesn’t Affect New Hair Growth
The permanent hair straightening method, or the chemical method, makes use of chemicals to straighten your hair. This is done by permanently changing the structure of your hair in order to eliminate curls or fizziness on it. Unlike the non-chemical hair straightening method, this one is less superficial. The effects only change your current hair, however, and not new hair growth.
Because this hair straightening method involves breaking down your hair in one form or another, doing this too much can severely damage your hair, sometimes permanently.
There are currently 3 common types of permanent hair straightening, and these are: The Keratin or Brazilian Treatment, the Thermal or Japanese Treatment, and the Hair Relaxer Treatment. All of these methods are best done by a professional hair stylist. Here’s a deeper look into each one:
Keratin / Brazilian Treatment
This treatment involves applying keratin to your hair and applying a straightening iron to it afterwards. Unlike other methods, this one does not involve changing your hair texture permanently, so if you want to curl your hair eventually, it’s still possible. Keratin treatment is also considered to be the safest out of the three chemical methods, as it uses natural protein, which is also found in hair shafts.
After doing a keratin treatment, you aren’t allowed to wash your hair for the next 3 days, to allow the keratin to be absorbed completely. You’ll also need to use a special keratin shampoo and conditioner afterwards. The treatment process itself may last anywhere between 2 to 4 hours. It’s best used on frizzy or wavy hair, and normally lasts for 2 – 6 months.
Thermal / Japanese Treatment
Thermal treatment, or thermal re-bonding involves using a bond breaking chemical, usually ammonium thioglycolate, that breaks down your hair’s protein bonds, completely changing its structure. Your hair is then ironed out, then a neutralizer is applied, usually hydrogen peroxide. The neutralizer re-forms your hair proteins and locks it in to a straighter structure.
Depending on your hair’s length, the entire process is done anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. You also can’t style your hair in any way, wash it for the next 3 days, and you will also need to apply sun protection on it. Out of all the chemical methods, this one is the most effective, but due to its nature of breaking down your hair structure, it’s also the most damaging.
This method is particularly effective with tight curls. It uses chemical relaxants, such as hydroxides to break down your hair’s overall structure. It pretty much works like the Japanese hair straightening method, with the only difference being that your hair isn’t ironed out after applying the chemical. Much like the other methods, you aren’t allowed to wash your hair for a few days afterwards.