If you have curly or wavy hair, you’ve no doubt tried any
number of methods to straighten it—from heavy-duty blow-drying
sessions to pressing your locks on Mom’s ironing board. (Remember
how much those cheek burns hurt?)
Thanks to technological advances over the last few years, help
is finally here. Three new approaches are definitely worth considering,
depending on the time and money you want to invest.
As with any major change, be sure to discuss all of your options
with your hairstylist, who can provide individualized attention
and advice based on your hair type and condition.
Isn’t It Iron-ic?
There’s a whole new breed of flat irons on the market today—specialized
straightening irons with flat ceramic plates. Most of the better
models have adjustable temperature settings that reach up to 400°F.
Not only will these new irons make your hair as straight as the
proverbial stick, but they will also add shine and eliminate frizz.
Best of all, these handheld, ergonomically designed irons can
be easily used at home, with only a short learning curve and relative
speed. The only real disadvantage? You have to repeat the ironing
process each time you shampoo.
Top manufacturers include Conair, Wigo, Salono and Chi, with
models that cost between $40 and $225. Read product features carefully
to select the iron that best meets your needs, and consider your
purchase an investment.
The second approach to consider is use of a relaxing agent—a
chemical straightening process that African-American women have
been utilizing for decades, which changes the basic structure
of the hair follicle.
There are different relaxer strengths: mild, regular and strong.
One of the best ways to determine the strength best suited for
your hair is a strand test. This may involve simply pulling on
a hair strand to determine its elasticity, or putting a small
amount of relaxer on the strand to gauge its reaction. If, for
example, your hair is fine and only moderately elastic, you will
probably want to use a mild relaxer.
Experts agree that a licensed, experienced stylist should perform
chemical relaxing services in the salon. A qualified professional
will know which products to use for your hair type, how to protect
the integrity of your hair and how to prevent chemical burns.
The process, which usually takes a few hours, generally costs
between $200 and $400.
It Can’t Get Much Straighter Than This…
Japanese thermal reconditioning is the newest trend in hair straightening,
receiving a tremendous buzz in salons and the media.
This, too, is a chemical process, and the most widely known seems
to be the Yuko System. Developed in Japan, it enjoys great success
among Caucasian women, but many African-American clients find
it to be too severe for their more delicate hair.
Performed in the salon, thermal reconditioning requires the stylist
to apply a chemical treatment to the hair, followed by ironing
each strand. The process, which yields truly amazing results,
may take several hours to complete and costs anywhere from $800
With thermal reconditioning, your hair remains straight regardless
of weather conditions. Other than cost, the only downside is that
new hair growth will appear curly (or your natural texture). Treatments
must be repeated for regrowth.
Before paying a stylist for any thermal reconditioning treatment,
make sure she is experienced in the process. There have been some
reports of hair damage, usually involving stylists who have received
insufficient training or are new to the procedure.
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