All About Hair Straightening Treatments

If you're looking to transform your curly or frizzy hair into sleek, straight strands, you've likely looked for options beyond the traditional blow dry. Here's a rundown of the most popular hair straightening treatments, including the results you can expect from each method.

Flat Irons

About: These irons use heat to press the curl out of hair.

Pros: It's a non-chemical, non-permanent, at-home option.

Cons: It only lasts until your next shampoo. Using an iron that is too hot can cause breakage.

Cost: $25 and up

Tips: Choose an iron with a ceramic plate and use a medium temperature setting. When in use,  keep the iron moving, since leaving it in one place too long can burn hair.

Hair Relaxers

About: This petroleum-based formula has been popular in the African American community for years. It uses an alkaline-based agent to break down the hair follicle.

Pros: At-home and in-salon options

Cons: Weakens and dehydrates hair

Cost: $20 and up

Tips: Don't try it at home until you've talked to a stylist about whether it's a good option for your hair.

Brazilian Keratin Treatment

About: Also known as a Brazilian Blowout, this treatment involves infusing your hair with heat-activated keratin and ironing it straight.

Pros: Good for chemically-treated hair that can't use Japanese Hair Straightening and hair that has not had success with other straightening options.

Cons: Contains formaldehyde, which can irritate the skin and eyes, and cause headaches. It can cause some breakage to your hair, if the iron is too hot.

Cost: $150 and up

Tips: Look for a treatment with a low level of formaldehyde.

Japanese Hair Straightening

About: Also known as Thermal Reconditioning, Liscio, or Rebonding, this technique uses heat-activated chemicals to change the hair's texture. Performed in a salon, it can take four-to-six hours, depending on hair length. Stylists apply a relaxant to hair, and then straighten it, piece-by-piece.

Pros: Results last 5-6 months

Cons: Can't be used on anyone with henna- or metallic-dyed hair, on hair that's been 50 percent highlighted, or hair that's had certain kinds of relaxing products.

Cost: $500 and up

Tips: Choose a technician who has a history of coloring, perms, or chemical services, and who demonstrates confidence in the products she uses. Be sure to communicate any allergies or scalp conditions. You may want to request she do a strand test, so you can preview the results ahead of time.

There are plenty of horror stories about straightening treatments ruining hair. Often this is because an inexperienced stylist applies it incorrectly or applies it to hair that can't tolerate it. Be careful, especially if your hair has been colored or processed. And don't believe the hype that these products are repairing damaged hair. They may make hair appear healthier, but heat and chemicals will always weaken hair.



Sources: "Frequently Asked Questions About Japanese Hair Straightening." Milbon Manufacturer. Web. 2011