Sleek, glossy strands were, once again, a hot style at the recent runway shows, and for good reason: they can make anyone look more polished and sophisticated. But for those born with unruly, curly hair getting pin-straight locks is no easy feat. Here we break down the two most common in-salon straightening treatments, and what you can do at home to get gorgeous, shiny, frizz-free hair.
Japanese Straightening, also known as thermal reconditioning, was introduced in the U.S. a little over 10 years ago, and works by using chemicals (typically sodium hydroxide and thioglycolate) to break down the internal bonds of the hair, changing its texture. A stylist applies the solution to hair, which has been blow-dried and ironed straight, then applies a neutralizer, which closes the cuticle and locks in the new straight shape.
After it’s all done, hair will be glossy and pin-straight—you won’t even be able to curl it with a curling iron—so make sure you want to wear your hair straight every day. Depending on hair type, the first process can take anywhere from four to eight hours and can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500, with touch ups expected every three to four months. Results typically last six to 10 months, and new hair growth will be your natural texture.
The process is effective, but perhaps not for everyone. “Japanese straightening treatments contain even more chemicals than keratin, as it is a more intense treatment,” says Zahir Ziani, national creative director of Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas. “We only recommend this for very thick and very frizzy hair.”
A less permanent and invasive salon treatment that still does wonders for frizzy, curly hair is Brazlian Straightening, aka Brazilian Keratin Treatments, which have an ever-growing fan base. “As time moves along there has been a reduced desire by clients to have their hair Japanese straightened,” says Mike Martinez, stylist at Cutler Salon in New York City. “Smoothing treatments and treatments that reduce frizz have become preferred. The charm of smoothing treatments is they take away the tenacity and the frizz, but don’t kill the hair straight. The hair retains some integrity, giving more options when styling.”
Brazilian treatments use keratin, a protein that is naturally found in hair, skin and nails, and chemicals such as formaldehyde (known to cause health risks when inhaled) to smooth the surface of the hair, not break down the bonds like thermal reconditioning. A stylist applies the solution to the hair and then uses the heat of a flat iron to seal in the formula. The entire process can take two to three hours depending on hair type and usually lasts two to four months. Cost ranges from $300 to $600.
After a keratin treatment, hair is smoother, shinier, and more manageable, and you can wear it straight or wavy. “We always recommend the Brazilian Keratin Treatment at our salons as it’s the best way to improve the texture of hair for silky, smooth, and frizz-free results,” says Ziani.
If you are not to ready to spend big bucks for a salon straightening treatment, there are ways to get sleeker locks at home with semi-permanent products to help relax curls and keratin treatments to smooth and strengthen. Here’s a list of some good ones to try, whether it’s your first time or for in-between salon treatments.
KeratinPerfect 30-Day Brazilian Hair Smoothing System Essentials Collection ($95) features exclusive technology, which works to bind keratin to the cuticle and helps to smooth hair, add shine, and repel humidity and UV rays for 30 days. The kit includes two smoothing treatments plus aftercare.
A few spritzes of the keratin-infused John Frieda 3-Day Semi-Permanent Styling Spray ($9.99) gives salon-worthy results that last up to three days.
Organix Brazilian Keratin Therapy 30-Day Smoothing Hair Treatment ($14.99) claims to eliminate up to 95 percent of frizz and curl for up to 30 days, and contains coconut oils in addition to keratin proteins.
Living Proof Straight ($29) contains no silicones, oils, or resins, and straightens wet or dry hair while also protecting tresses from heat styling.
Apply Ojon super sleek Restorative Blowout Perfector ($25) to wet locks before styling to combat frizz and flyaways. Rich in ojon oil, mineral-rich azurite, and keratin, this keeps hair glossy and smooth blow-dry after blow-dry.
A good flat iron is essential for keeping strands smooth and straight. Amika Ceramic Styler ($115) uses infrared and negative ion technology to help preserve moisture in the hair and protect from heat damage.