Should I straighten my hair?
September 28, 2011 2:17 AM   Subscribe

I would like to use a straightening treatment on my hair - ie something that lasts for 6 months or so. I am wary of damaging my hair and of harmful chemicals. I'd like to hear from other Mefites who've had this sort of procedure done to their hair. More details inside.

My hair is quite thick and curly. I like it curly and do not want to permanently lose the curl. I'd like to experiment with a straighter look without spending hours with the straighteners everyday. I don't think it's very good for my hair to be heat-treated regularly, and I just don't have the time in the mornings to do anything with it, so it would be cool to just be able to have wash-and-wear straight hair.

Has anyone else straightened their hair and were you happy with the results? Did it wear off after a few months?

Thanks Mefites!
posted by Ziggy500 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have personal experience with straightening my curls, but as a hairdresser who has done various straightening treatments, I thought I'd give my two cents.

The first issue is that a brazilian straightening treatment will not give you a wash-and-wear straight style. At best, the treatment will relax your curl, tame frizz, and provide you with the opportunity to spend less time straightening it than you would have done without the treatment. It is not a chemical relaxer, and relies on keratin and collagen to achieve its aims. Depending on the brand and how the technician applies it, it can last between 2-6 months. It will wash out gradually, which means that you will not get an obvious curly regrowth at the roots.

A chemical relaxer will get you closer to a wash-and-wear straight style, although you may have to have something as strong as Yuko to achieve that. This works in the same manner as a perm; it is changing the chemical bonds inside your hair. This type of treatment will not wash out gradually, which means that you will see a curly regrowth at the roots as your hair grows out.

Regarding the issue of harmful chemicals -- there are true formaldehyde-free formulations of the brazilian straightening treatment, although I work in the UK, so I'm not sure about specific brands in the US. You may find that they do not last as long, since it's the formaldehyde that helps bind the keratin to the hair. But if you have your mind set on a straightening treatment, I would argue that a relaxer/permanent straightening treatment will do far more lasting damage than the brazilian straightening treatment.

Do you have a regular salon? I would go in and speak to a technician there to see what exactly they use and recommend. Have you thought about just going in every so often to have your hair blow dried properly? They will be able to use the correct products and possibly a conditioning treatment to help offset the inevitable damage that heat styling does to hair.
posted by catch as catch can at 2:53 AM on September 28, 2011

I have thick curly (frizzy) hair, and I've gotten a Brazilian straightening treatment before. My hair was not perfectly straight. There was still some slight waviness, but it got rid of all the frizz. I didn't have to use any products at all in the morning. To go completely straight, I would put in some product to protect it from the heat, and it only took a few licks of a brush and a hair dryer - less than a minute or so (I imagine the same with a flat iron - I don't have one). I kind of liked the slight wave though, so it was truly wash and wear for me. It lasted about 4 months before the frizz started showing up, and then it got curlier and curlier.
posted by bluefly at 4:58 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing bluefly - except my hair isn't curly as much as it is mostly wavy (but still frizzy). I was expecting this bone-straight hair on a wash-and-go basis (honestly, that's my routine), and it wasn't happening. It was definitely smoother and shinier, but to get it straight I'd still have to blow it dry.

I'm not 100% sure but it seems like my hair is a little more temperamental than it was before - I had it done about 13 months ago - not drastically more, but a little bit more. I don't think I had any damage from the treatment, and am considering doing it again at some point.

(I had the Brazilian Blowout right when all the panic about formaldehyde started)
posted by getawaysticks at 6:16 AM on September 28, 2011

My hair is thick, very wavy, and somewhat curly, and I got it chemically straightened for awhile. This was before the Brazilian blowout thing existed; my stylist used a regular relaxer.

It was neat to get to experience the other side for awhile. Wow, that "hair goes limp in humidity" thing -- I've heard of that! And I could wake up and comb my hair and look presentable, rather than needing to totally wet my hair and re-style it to avoid looking like an eggbeater had been applied to one side of my head.

On the other hand, hair keeps growing, so I had to figure out how long I could let the wavy roots go before they bugged me, and balance that schedule with how often I dye my hair. Caveat: My hair is very short, so while I kept it well-conditioned to guard against damage, it was less of an issue for me.
posted by desuetude at 6:50 AM on September 28, 2011

i had the Aveda straightening treatment.

i love it. they were able to do it so my hair isn't stick straight, just a more relaxed curl.

it was kinda gross by the 3rd day of not washing, but totally worth it.

it is permanent, but they can do just the roots. i haven't gone back yet but i can tell it's starting to grow out. it's not really that bad since i still have some wave to my hair so it doesn't look weird at all. i just blow my dry bangs a little bit with a big brush (like all of 30 seconds) since that's the place that's most obvious.

it was expensive but given that my hair is much less wacky now and i no longer have to worry about a humid day or even a rainy day completely making my hair go nuts, it was well worth it. i have fine hair and also use Aveda to make it blonde. my stylist always says she's amazed by how hair is not dry at all. i agree. my hair actually feels better now than it used to ... probably because i can do less to it and don't need to wash it every day. if i do decide to blow it out or style it, it takes so much less time - like i can do something fancy in 15 - 20 min instead of wrangling with it to just get somewhat straight in 30 minutes.

the Aveda is not the the brazillian. my mom had it done and it looked kinda like a bad blow out. there's less harsh chemicals in the Aveda one. it didn't smell quite as bad as i thought it might.

i would totally do this again. it has made my life so much easier. in fact, with all th e rain we've been getting here in PA, i've been truly appreciating it. prior to this, if i went out without an umbrella into a drizzle, it didn't matter how much flatiron had been at my hair - i'd be a frizzy mess. now - not an issue. no drowned rat look, it just sort of dries once i'm inside and voila - i look like a normal human being.

i cannot recommend Aveda enough for this sort of thing.
posted by sio42 at 6:57 AM on September 28, 2011

A straightening treatment is exactly the same as a perm, which I had once or twice as a teenager. They work by screwing with the cuticle of your hair, so by definition, the process is damaging.

I also used to have to spend many hours styling my (stick-straight and recalcitrant) hair with a curling iron, and perming your hair is just about equally unlikely to give you anything approaching a wash-and-wear straight style. Also, the smallest hint of damp in the air, and my hour or so of careful styling would be undone in less than two minutes.
posted by tel3path at 7:44 AM on September 28, 2011

Chi makes a 100% formaldehyde-free keratin treatment called the Chi Environ. Call around, a lot of salons are just starting to get it this year. It really works just as well as the harsh Brazillian stuff, I had it done 2 months ago and don't spend more than 5 minutes drying my hair now! Admittedly my hair is naturally mostly straight, I just got it done to make it healthy and shinier, but my hairstylist has super kinky hair and it's soft and straight now as opposed to the burnt out look you get with even a Chi flat iron. It's good stuff. Me-mail if you have any questions.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 7:45 AM on September 28, 2011

I have very thick, very wavy-curly hair. What makes it more manageable is using a silicone product, which seals the cuticle, and makes the hair more slippery. I use an amount about the size of a dime, or less. Cheap, easy, no damage, and silicone makes hair very shiny. Those commercials where the model's hair slides through her hands like silk? - silicone. I wash my hair @ every 3 days, after day 4, it can look greasy. I also use extra-hold gel, about the size of a quarter. I have it cut in layers, and it's curly and tousled, but not frizzy.
posted by theora55 at 11:57 AM on September 28, 2011

My hair is only slightly wavy. I love the Brazilian Blowout as it makes your hair look shiny, healthy and full of body.

There are several tricks to getting a good result. If you want the treatment to last, I've found that it is critical to avoid products that have any chemicals with the word "chloride" or "sulfate" in them. This includes most commercial shampoos except those specially formulated for BB as well as some (but not all) conditioners and styling products. So read the labels. (Some salons will claim that chloride is safe but I always find it strips the treatment from my hair.)

I also avoid protein treatments, vinegar rinses, and swimming in the ocean or pools because any of these things will strip the treatment faster. And the less often you shampoo, the longer it will last and the better it will look.

I have not gotten as good a result from Brazilian Keratin formulations as compared with Brazilian Blowout (I find the former the results of the former to be less shiny) but that is just me.

And I DO find that my throat gets a little irritated from the treatment for about 2 days afterward so I'm guessing the chemicals might not be the healthiest. It might help to sleep with your hair in a shower cap for a day or two just to reduce your exposure to it while the treatment "sets." I've never had any issues or throat/nasal irritation beyond day 2.
posted by mintchip at 2:48 AM on January 19, 2012

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