It is an age old tale – women with curls and waves long for flowing, straight hair. There are a variety of ways to achieve permanently straight hair . In today’s world, any woman can walk into nearly any grocery or department store to purchase a flat iron for $20. For women with thick, curly hair though, a conventional flat iron can take up to an hour of more to straighten hair, and then the results may not even last a full day! Thankfully, there are other options.
Chemical Straighteners or Hair Relaxers
For women with the most vivacious curls and women with natural hair, one of the best ways to straighten hair with lasting effect is by using chemical straighteners or relaxers. Essentially, the process is the opposite of getting a perm. Chemical straightening works by breaking down hairs sulfide bonds, thus causing the shape to un-kink. The lasting effects of chemical straightening come from the products being applied directly to the scalp, then down the shaft of the hair. As the hair grows out, it continues pulling the treatment with it, for about 4-6 weeks with steady results, then slowly returns to the natural state of the hair.
Chemical straightening can be done at home or professionally. If you’re unsure of your hair type, it is best to seek professional treatment (at least the first time) to learn the best process for your hair type. It’s also a good idea to consult a professional about hair treatments to maintain the health of your hair after a straightening treatment, as the harsh chemicals can cause to hair breakage.
There are a few different methods of chemically straightening hair:
1. Brazilian Blow-Out: A Brazilian Blow-Out is an essentially non-harmful method of chemically straightening hair, in that it uses keratin to work with your hair. The keratin is applied and allowed to soak into the hair. It is then blow dried and straightened. The effects of a Brazilian last about two months. Women with extreme curls may not experience perfectly straight hair from this method, and may still have some waves or soft curls remaining.
2. Yuko (Japanese) Straightening: The Japanese method of straightening is highly effective in the amount of time the effects last, which can be up to six months. However, the process itself can be time consuming, last up to an entire day to perform and with a two day bar on any type of styling afterwards. It is also a more costly treatment than traditional chemical straightening or the Brazilian method. In comparison with the traditional method, the Japanese method is much less harsh method and can even have hair health boosting benefits.
3. Traditional Chemical Straightening: Probably the most popular method, and the best method for women with natural hair. The chemical straightening method works by applying chemicals to the scalp which relax the curls and brushing the treatment done the shaft of the hair. Following the straightening treatment, a conditioner should be applied to nourish the hair of nutrients which may have been leached during the relaxing treatment. The final step of treatment involves applying a neutralizing solution to help hair regain and maintain softness, elasticity, and healthy pH.
4. At-Home Straightening Kits: Most at-home straightening methods provide about a maximum of a month worth of straight hair. They work similarly to the traditional or Brazilian method depending on the type of at-home kit purchased. Some products claim to help nourish while also straightening, but it is always a good idea to read customer reviews on the product before using. Also, make sure to purchase the correct type of straightener or relaxer for your hair type to ensure minimum damage to hair.
Natural Methods of Straightening Hair
If you’re not looking to use a lot of harsh chemicals on your hair or would prefer not to spend as much money in a salon, there are a few at home methods to try.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is acidic and works to help break down some of the bonds in your hair. If you have more waves than curls, this would be a method for you. Use anywhere from 1 to 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water, depending on the amount of curl in your hair. After shampooing, apply the mixture to your hair and allow it to either air dry or blow dry to style.
2. Hot Oil: For this method, you can use your choice of coconut, olive, castor, almond, or soybean oil. Heat the oil, but not too hot that it will burn the scalp. Depending on the amount of hair you have, it will be about 1 to 5 tablespoons of the oil of your choice. Once it is hot, apply it to your hair at the scalp. Using a wide-tooth comb, pull the oil down the shaft of your hair. Allow the oil to soak into the hair for a half an hour to an hour, again depending on the curliness of your hair. Wash the oil out and allow hair to air dry or blow dry to style.
While the results will not last as long as a chemical treatment (a week at most) the natural methods are much cheaper and generally less harmful than a traditional chemical straightening. The natural methods are also not nearly as efficient for natural or extremely curly hair, but may calm the curls. No matter the straightening method used, always be sure to properly condition and treat hair as necessary to prevent hair damage and breakage.