What to Consider Before Chemically Straightening Your Hair

Janell M. Hickman
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The popular phrase, “you always want what you don’t have” often rings true when it comes to women and their hair. Curly girls dream of silky straight strands, while ladies with pin-straight locks lust for voluminous curls. Thankfully, alternating your natural texture is not out of reachbut not without a few risks. To answer that old “Should I chemically straighten my hair?” question once and for all, we consulted with experts who filled us in on the commitment and after-math of the process. If it’s ever crossed your mind, make sure to read on to learn more about your options before taking the plunge into the world of chemical straighteners.

The Choice Is Yours
“I believe that the allure [with straighteners] is experiencing something different on a personal level—this being a new hair texture,” explains Phyto National Educator, Ron Williams. “All hair types can do well, but I think the best transformation is obvious with unruly, frizzy, and thick hair. However, extra fine hair may appear to have less volume. Average hair texture always has a sleek, shiny look with lots of movement.”

MORE: Quick Ways to Add Texture to Straight Hair

Find “The One”
“There are a few different types of chemical straightening. The traditional Japanese method will leave hair super straight, which is permanent,” explains Toni & Guy US Celebrity Stylist, Christan Wood. “A Brazilian straightener is more of a ‘tamer’ and only last temporarily for a few weeks. Both work by changing the structure off the hair using chemicals that restructure the hair cuticle.”

Avoid Double Processing
It is a vigorous way of doing multiple colors or chemical straightening and color at the same time,” says Butterfly Studio Salon’s senior stylist, Stacey Guerra. “Know your expert. A meticulous, experienced professional can successfully pull it off with minimal damage, but when done inaccurately with less attention to detail, it can be very damaging to the hair.”

Textures Plays a Role
“Similar to any other chemical service in a salon, there will be different chemical straightening and/or smoothing options for different hair types,” shares Laken Rose, the Senior Artistic Manager at Kenra Professional. “It’s important for a salon professional to analyze your hair’s texture, density, porosity, elasticity, curl pattern, and overall health of your hair and scalp to determine the best solution to meet your needs. Some clients may be better suited for a smoothing service rather than a chemical straightening service or relaxer.”

Opt for Masque Over Conditioner
“The best way to revive straw-like strands is to condition it with a masque on a weekly basis,” says Motions Celebrity Stylist Ursula Stephen. So what to use? Stephen recommends Motions Deep Penetrating Treatment, which she notes is a “great product that is great for reviving dull hair.”

Avoid the Post-Treatment Burn
“Any chemical that cause a burn should be rinsed off immediately with tepid water,” explains Williams. “Next, a topical anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ointment (or crème) should be applied immediately. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.”

MORE: 10 Things No One Ever Tells You About Curly Hair

Banish a Dry, Flaky Scalp
“The straightening may have stripped your scalp,” shares Guerra. “Up your moisture game with hydrating hair care and [a] nourishing treatment post chemical to rebalance the pH levels of the scalp and restore natural oils.”

Don’t Over Wash Your Strands
“Chemically-treated hair does not need to be washed either more or less frequently than virgin hair,” explains Henri Borday, master stylist at mizu New York salon and director of education for Cezanne. “I would say that the chemically-processed hair needs to be conditioned more often.”

Make Up Your Mind
“Chemical straightening services are permanent,” Rose reminds us. “Your texture is altered using chemicals that break the cysteine bonds—which holds the hair fibers together–in the hair to create a pin straight result. Because the natural bonds in the hair are permanently altered, the hair will not automatically revert to its natural state and has to be grown out. For this reason, I recommend that you are 100 percent sure you’re committed to having a straight style.”