How damaging is it to relax one’s hair?
April 1, 2010 12:47 PM   Subscribe

How damaging is it to relax one’s hair?

I’m interested in getting a mild to moderate salon relaxer for my wavy medium-texture Caucasian hair. I’ve grown my formerly damaged hair out and I have avoided straightening or blow drying it so it’s pretty healthy, although at the very ends there is a touch of color from highlights I’ve grown out.

My hairdresser said I can get a relaxer put on either dry hair (more effective but more damaging) or wet hair (gentler). She also said there are three levels of relaxer and that it depends how straight I want my hair (and presumably, how much damage I’m willing to undergo).

What can I expect if I get this done? What type should I do and how will the hair look afterward? Will it be shiny or is it going to look damaged? I’ve never had this treatment and I just don’t know how it will look afterward.

Also, would you recommend Japanese hair straightening over relaxer? Which leaves the hair healthier? Now that my hair is finally healthy I want to proceed with caution. I appreciate any tips you can provide.
posted by mintchip to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've had the relaxing done probably a half a dozen times around ages 16 - 22 (I'm 25 now). I experienced no negative effects from the treatment (my hair stayed healthy and damage free).

I have very naturally wavy hair about 2 inches past my shoulders and it was STICK STRAIGHT and gorgeous when I walked out of the salon, but probably regressed about 1/3 of the way back to my natural wave after washing it. It didn't look damaged at all. The effects of the treatment lasted almost a full year for me.

The only thing I would warn you is that the process (at least when I did it) is quite tedious and in my opinion, quite painful. It involves brushing your hair out hard, continuously, for at least 45 minutes at a time. My scalp began to get quite sore and I wasn't above shedding a tear or two in the salon. Overall, my shortest process took about 3 hours.

tl;dr: It never damaged my hair any, and I was reasonably satisfied with the results.

Good luck!
posted by citywolf at 1:13 PM on April 1, 2010

I've done the coppola keratin straightening, which is similar to the brazilian, but less damaging, and when it grows out, it does so gradually. It lasts about three months. Now that I've done it once I want to do it forever. I love it, everyone that I've spoken to that has done it loves it, it is an amazing thing.

The only downside is that for three days after you do it, you cannot get your hair wet at all, put it in a ponytail, bend it, or anything that alters the shape of your hair. That part is a bit of a pain, but the end results are worth it. It doesn't make your hair super stick straight or damaged looking. I have heard a lot of bad things about the japanese type of straighteners, and mostly good things about the brazilian ones, but all good things about the coppola one.
My hair is also color processed, and it's still safe to use.

Google coppola keratin to get all the info.
posted by newpotato at 2:46 PM on April 1, 2010

I used to get my hair straightened. Gods, that stuff stinks. It didn't damage my hair, the straightening effect stayed strong for months, but I did get cranky with how quickly my roots seemed to grow in.

(To wake up in the morning on a humid day and have my hair look pretty much like it did the night before? Wow. An experience that all curly-hair girls can appreciate for the sheer novelty.)
posted by desuetude at 3:47 PM on April 1, 2010

One thing that I have been looking at is the Brazilian Blow Out, which is different than a (formadehyde...) Brazilian Straightening treatment. Everything I have read about the Japanese says your hair gets really damaged.

I think many keratin treatments are similar to this. It's good for your hair, from what I've heard.

Pricey, though.

The people I've talked to about relaxing say that it is really damaging. Clearly, some here differ, but I've avoided it based on that. If your curly hair is anything like mine, it's already fairly dry without any damaging things being done to it.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:51 PM on April 1, 2010

I do it myself, not recommended for the first timer though. My hair usually seems pretty damaged and gooey for about the first two weeks and then settles back to its regular self. According to my stylist, it is not recommended for bleached hair. It grows out and the roots have to be done every three to four months. I naturally have wavy Causasian hair and it doesn't completely straighten it but does make it much less crazy and more manageable.
posted by tamitang at 10:12 PM on April 1, 2010

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