Chemical Hair Straightening

A Guide to Chemical Hair Straightening

Those of us with wavy or curly hair have probably considered the idea of chemical hair straightening, but the idea of putting chemicals into one’s hair can be pretty scary. Electric hair straighteners really do the trick, but it can be a hassle to continually section and straighten your hair—especially during the work week when your schedule is likely already tight! Chemicals are a permanent (mostly) way to achieve straight and manageable hair. But as it is permanent, that means once you do it, you’re stuck with it, so it’s important that you learn as much as possible about straightening before committing yourself. We’re going to look at how chemical hair straightening works and what risks come along with the process.

How does chemical hair straightening work?

As its name suggests, very harsh chemicals create a solution that literally changes the genetic structure of your hair. Most chemical relaxers use strong alkalis as the base. The general procedure works in two parts. The first part is a solution that breaks down the keratin protein bonds in your hair which causes them to relax. This liquid is applied to dry hair from the roots all the way down to the tips of the hair. Once the hair is saturated in the solution, it is gently combed straight. The hair must not be tugged or fussed with too much at this point because it is so weak from the solution. The amount of time that this solution is left on really depends on two factors: 1) how curly or wavy the hair is, and 2) what condition the hair is in. Hair that has very tight curls or waves will require more time with the chemicals because it will be more difficult to relax. Hair that has already been through a lot, such as being dyed or recently permed, will require less time as it will already be at a higher risk of damage. Hair that has been permed recently should be allowed twelve months to recuperate before relaxing chemicals are applied, as perming also involves the use of harsh chemicals to reconstruct the hair. After five to eight minutes, the first solution will be rinsed away and the second will be added which will reconstruct the keratin bonds in their straight fashion.


What’s the catch?

Yes, there is a catch—isn’t there always? Chemical hair straightening can be very damaging. People who go into this process with hair that is already in bad condition are likely to come out of it with hair in even worse condition. The hair may not be completely curly or wavy anymore, but it is more likely to lean towards frizzy-straight hair rather than sleek-straight. A section test in a discreet area is the best way to avoid this kind of an outcome. Failing to do so can result in a lot of disappointment and still having to use an electric straightener for smoothness. It may also be necessary to use a texture improving serum to give the hair a silkier or smoother look and feel.

The other catch is that although chemical straightening is referred to as permanent, it is only permanent on the visible hair which is treated at the time. As the hair continues to grow, the roots will be their natural wavy or curly texture. This means touchups are necessary down the road, usually after about three months, depending on how fast the person’s hair grows. If touch-ups are undesired, then the hair must simply be grown out until the straightened part can be cut off.

Although chemical hair straightening is not for everyone, it could be the perfect solution for someone looking to shorten their morning routine.