Most women want straight or smooth hair. It looks good and glossy and is easy to maintain. While curly and wavy hair look beautiful too, they need constant maintenance. Although a solid hair care routine does help to some extent, not everyone finds enough time to pamper their hair with oil massages and hair masks. That is why there are treatments like hair smoothing and hair straightening that help transform the structure of your hair, making it more manageable. While both these treatments result in sleeker hair, there is a slight difference between the two.
Hair straightening came before hair smoothing. The first hair straightening procedure was done on African hair. This procedure was invented to manage coarse hair but quickly became a popular trend. Hair smoothing was invented in Brazil around 2003 and, hence, is also called Brazilian keratin treatment or Brazilian blowout. There are many more differences between these two procedures. Read on to know more.
What Is Hair Straightening?
There are two types of hair straightening treatments: permanent and temporary. Temporary straightening is done with heat styling tools like hot irons or hot combs. Here, functioning cohesive and adhesive forces work in a highly viscous system to keep the fibers parallel. The straight hair you get as a result of these procedures is temporary. Your hair goes back to its natural texture when you wash it.
Permanent hair straightening is a process by which the structure of your hair is altered to give you pin-straight hair. The chemical relaxers used in this process permanently break the bonds in your hair shaft. Heat is applied to restructure your hair, and more chemicals are used to seal the newly formed bonds. The alkaline agent in the chemical relaxer breaks the keratin bonds in curly/wavy hair to stretch and smoothen them (1).
How Does It Work?
Alkaline straighteners contain 1–10% sodium hydroxide (lye-relaxer), lithium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, or a combination of these ingredients. The high pH of these chemicals helps open the cuticle scales and penetrate into the hair fibers. When these chemicals come in contact with the cortex, they react with keratin to break and rearrange the disulfide bridges to stretch them out, thus giving you straight hair (1).
While this process causes more damage than hair smoothing, it can straighten even the curliest of hair and is permanent. Thus, the treated hair remains straight until your natural hair grows out (1). Permanent hair straightening is also known as ‘Japanese straightening.’
When Can You Choose This Method?
Hair straighteners work on all hair types, from wavy to kinky curly hair. Depending on the hair texture, the procedure will need to be repeated every 8-12 weeks. One important thing to remember is that permanent straightening uses hydroxides or thioglycolate that are incompatible with bleached hair.
Side Effects Of Hair Straightening
- Chemical relaxers should not be applied on the scalp as they can burn your skin. This is why it is recommended to apply some petrolatum along the hairline and on the ears before the application of the relaxer to prevent alkaline burns (1).
- Wrong technique may cause scalp burns and hair breakage (1).
- The swelling of hair fibers and opening of cuticle scales can make the hair susceptible to friction, thus lowering its resistance and strength (1).
- The most commonly reported side effects of permanent hair straightening are: frizzy hair, dandruff, hair loss, thinning and weakening of hair, graying of hair, and split ends (1).