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How Hair Straightening Treatments Differ

Long Curly Hair Side by Side Before and After Keratin Hair Treatment

Temporary or Permanent Hair Straightening Treatments?

So, what’s the real difference between a traditional “relaxing” treatment (that leaves a line of demarcation) and a smoothing treatment?

According to Cornell Scientist Jason Dorvee, each follicle of hair is made up of very small molecules of protein called cytokeratin. There are two main kinds of bonds between molecules in each follicle that will decide how straight or curly that particular strand is. The molecules are all linked to each other by forms of bonding. Some molecules are bonded to their brethren in a very loose knit web like  fashion while others are bonded to each other in a much tighter permanent fashion much like concrete binds together grains of sand and are termed hydrogen bonds.

Smoothing Treatments

The loose knit web like bonding of the molecules are porous and the molecules can be restructured quite easily. The loose knit structure of these molecules will change in shape as they absorb moisture. This is why your hair is curly and kinky when you climb out of the shower, or why we have the frizzies on very humid days.

Smoothing treatments work with the cuticle, not the cortex of the hair. No hair bonds are broken or restructured. For a better understanding of the structure of a hair strand you might want to check out my article Understanding Your Hair. Most smoothing treatments work on the principle of coating the cuticle to prevent the molecules from absorbing moisture. Or in the case of your blow dryer, just simply removing the moisture captured in the bonding agent of the molecules.

Struggling with challenges ranging from frizz to unruly hair, clients have searched far and wide for ways to manage their hair styles. But in the not-so-distant past, when they came into a hairdressing salon asking to get their hair straightened, they really only had two chemical service options: a traditional relaxer or a Japanese straightening treatment. Then, almost overnight, “keratin” became the buzzword of the hair styling industry, shifting the k-word context from protein and conditioning to smoothing and straightening.

This new anti-wave of popular treatments, known for giving clients with textured hair a straight, sleek look that lasted for months, became the new trend in texture management. This generated a boom of curly, wavy and even straight-haired clients running into hair salons to reap the “life-changing” frizz-fighting benefits, even as questions and concerns about the process were raised.

With the downward-turning economy and traditional appointment stretching affecting salons, timing was good for companies to introduce a new revenue-generating service built upon consumer demand and dramatic results. Dozens of new brands popped up.

This first generation of keratin straightening treatments—many labeled or described as “Brazilian” after the country where the service originated—were formulated to last 3-4 months with an average ticket of $400. Manufacturers of these new straightening treatment products and their R&D scientists proclaimed that replacing keratin in the hair could restructure and recondition hair fibers, refilling the holes and gaps in the hair shaft caused by chemical services and environmental factors, and that the process could even straighten hair when the formula was “sealed in” with a flatiron heated to 450 degrees.

Perms, Relaxers, Japanese straightening and Brazilian treatments

These work on the more permanent bonding between molecules in the hair. It is the permanent type of bonding of the molecule that defines the inherent characteristics of the texture of your hair. These permanent bonding characteristics are what we inherit from our parents in our DNA.

This kind of bonding is very strong and enduring. When you get a “permanent” to alter the curvature your hair, the chemical that you smell is sulfur or some other quite hardy chemical that breaks the bonds and then permits the molecules inside the cortex to reformulate in a different shape. When the chemical is removed the new hair shape becomes permanent and will stay in that shape until it is cut off. Of course these chemicals are very powerful and if left on too long can do long-term damage to the hair. When you hear a professional hair stylist use the term “Fried Perm” you’ll know that someone has left a perming chemical on too long.

The rule of thumb to use on any hair straightening technique is the longer term the effect the less room for error and the stronger the likelihood of hair damage.

 





1 Comment »

  1. Previously, I attended the Premier Beauty Show in Orlando, Florida. I had a lot of fun seeing the latest haircutting techniques and the new products on the market. I became intrigued with the Natura Organic Hair Treatment Line and saw the benefits for many clients with frizzy, difficult to manage hair. After watching several demonstrations out on the main floor of the show, I enrolled in a class to become certified in the application of Natura Organic Hair Care System. Natura Keratin uses a unique, patented, organic form of keratin. Natura Keratins hair smoothing treatment comes in several formulas, depending on hair texture, curl and desired result. Natura Keratin has a formaldehyde-free hair smoothing formula for wavy hair, producing frizz free results that keep the wave or curl. Another formula is for heavy curls which removes frizz and creates a sleeker look. If your hair is extra coarse and curly and resistant, you may want to use the strongest formula available. Your stylist will be able to help you decide which formula is right for you. All formulas penetrates into the cuticle layer of the hair to replace protein that is needed to make the hair shiny, smooth and frizz free. Natura Organic Hair Care System leaves the hair more manageable and cuts down on the time needed to blow dry and flat iron frizzy, unruly hair. In most cases it will cut styling time at least by half. The Natura Organic Hair Care System requires the use of specified shampoo and conditioner to retain the effects of the keratin in the hair for as long as possible. The treatment will last up to 5 months in the hair depending on texture and condition of hair. The treatment is best administered directly after color processing when the cuticle is open, otherwise a two week waiting period is recommended for keratin application. A 72 hour waiting period before shampooing is necessary for keratin to be set in the hair. During this time leaving your hair down straight refraining from the use of any hair restraints is necessary. If the hair accidentally gets wet in the 72 hour waiting period, flat iron the hair out as soon as possible. The treatment cost normally an average of about 200 dollars here in South Florida depending on thickness and length of hair.

    Comment by Alex Travieso — October 19, 2011 @ 8:54 am

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