Take care when straightening hair.
Everybody wants options when it comes to their hair, and women with curls and kinks are no different.
While you might like to wear your hair wavy or curly most of the time, sometimes it's nice to have a straighter, sleeker look.
But when it comes to straightening your hair, say the experts, there are right ways to do it. And there are wrong ways.
"Straightening the hair is not an easy technique, and it requires a lot of practice," says Jonathan Torch of the Curly Hair Institute in Toronto.
If you want the option to wear your hair both curly and straight, the cut is important, says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue.
"The hair must be cut for versatility, with angles that frame the face," Christo says. "And the bottom line must be reversible and cut with slide angles in every direction, so when you blow it out straight it will look just a good as it does when it's curly."
Since all methods of straightening can stress the hair shaft, it is crucial to keep the hair healthy and moisturized.
"Make sure your hair is in good condition before you start," says New York stylist Rodney Cutler of the Cutler Salon. "Sexy hair is not enough. You need sexy, healthy hair."
The Blow Out
To temporarily straighten curls, there's no easier way than with a blow-dryer.
"When you blow dry, you're not locking yourself into one look," Cutler says. "It's less damaging and more cost-effective."
Make sure you use products designed to work with the heat to protect the hair and lock in the style. There are a number of products on the market especially for blow-drying, including heat-protectant stylers. When applying the products, pay special attention to the ends.
Get the right tools for the job. Invest in a good ionic or ceramic dryer. A good dryer cuts drying time and reduces heat-related damage. Make sure you have a nozzle.
"A nozzle is key because you're directing the heat from the roots to the ends," Cutler says.
Round natural-bristle brushes are the preference of many stylists. The more bristles, the better. Some stylists like to start with a flat paddle brush until the hair is 70 percent dry, finishing off with a round brush.
The hair should be about 50 to 60 percent dry before you start blow-drying it, says stylist Cynthia Cheslock of Practically Frivolous Salon in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"If you make more than two passes with the blow-dryer, then the hair is too wet and you are just boiling the water on the hair," Cheslock says.
Separate the hair into small sections, using a clip to keep the other sections out of the way. Start at the back of the head, since it is the thickest. Hold the dryer at least 12 inches away from the hair shaft, and hold it an angle, pointing it down on the hair shaft — not on the scalp, says curly hair stylist Shai of Capella Salon in Studio City, Calif. This will force your hair cuticles to lie flat, making your hair shinier and smoother. You can tilt your head slightly to make this movement easier.
"Dry the hair following the way the hair grows, to create more shine," Shai says. "Blowing hair against the natural direction it grows creates frizz and damage."
Make sure you keep either your dryer or hair moving at all times. Overheating your hair happens easily and can damage it.
Stretch each section with a round brush.
"The key is in the tension, the heat and the cooling," Torch says. "While you're pulling on a piece, direct the heat of the blow-dryer toward the tips to seal the hair into that position."
Don't try to wind your hair round the brush starting at the tip of your hair. The key is to start with the brush half way up the hair and keep turning your brush gently around until you reach the tip of your hair. That way, the hair naturally curls round the brush when it gets to the tip.
If your hair is short, you can simply place your brush at the roots of the section of your hair, and blow the hairdryer up so that the hair strands curls around the brush. Keep turning the brush so that the hair curls around the brush.
Let each strand cool before releasing the brush and letting the hair fall. Repeat the process on each sections of the hair until all the hair has been straightened.
Tame flyaway hair with an anti-frizz serum or pomade. Place a few drops in your hand, rub gently to distribute it, then apply it to your hair.
Blow-drying takes patience. It can take 45 minutes to straighten shoulder-length curly hair. For special occasions, it may be worth it to pay for a professional blow out at the salon.
"You will never be able to get the same results at home because you do not have four hands or the over-head angle that stylists have," says Amie Zimmerman of the Dirty Little Secret.
Finessing the Flat Iron
To get the hair extra sleek after you blow it dry, flat irons can be highly effective tools.
"It's just going that extra yard," Cutler says.
Buy a high-quality iron. such as an ionic or ceramic flat iron. The ceramic irons use consistent heat and negative ions to remove static and smooth frizzies. Ceramic irons flatten the cuticles of wavy hair and seal in moisture.
"Buy the best iron you can afford, because a bad flat iron can really damage the hair," Cheslock says.
Before using any flat iron tool, always test the temperature first. Take a piece of tissue paper and moisten it (making it damp, not wet). Press the tissue paper between the heating plates of the iron and hold for a few seconds. A small amount of steam would be normal. But if there is any smoking, scorching or discoloration of the paper, the iron is too hot and the temperature needs to be adjusted to prevent the hair from burning.
Take 2-inch sections through the iron and work your way through the section, from the top to the bottom upward.
"Pass it through the hair in very fast motions," says Christo.
After straightening each segment, allow it to cool. Once it's cooled, pass a comb through it to break the hair apart and give it a smoother finish.
Before thermal reconditioning
After thermal reconditioning
If you are ready to go to extremes to get straight hair, you can visit a salon to get a chemical relaxing treatment. Make sure you select a salon that is experienced with relaxers.
"With a chemical process, the success is determined by the qualifications of the technician," Torch says.
Do some research before selecting a salon. Make sure they work with a lot of clients with your hair type, and that they're well trained in chemical services.
"Leaving the cream on too long can result in hair that's relaxed, but badly damaged," Christo says.
There are three basic types of hair relaxers: sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide and ammonium thioglycolate.
One of the reasons hair is curly is because of hydrogen bonds between the proteins (keratin) that make up your hair; these bonds are weak and can be enhanced by water. Relaxers simply break these disulfide bonds and cap them so that they cannot chemically reform.
Sodium hydroxide is the strongest type of relaxer, and is often called the lye relaxer. It is a very strong, harsh chemical, and can only be used on coarse, extremely kinky hair. The pH level is between 10 and 14, which means it has the most potentially harmful relaxer. If not used by a professional, it can cause the hair to break.
No-lye relaxers are either guanidine hydroxide (a combination of calcium hydroxide cream with guanidine carbonate) or ammonium thioglycolate "thio." These have a pH of between 9 and 9.5, and are considered to be less damaging than the sodium hydroxide or lye relaxers. However, it is still vital to give your hair the same care that you would give your hair with a sodium hydroxide relaxer.
One of the hottest trends in chemical straightening is the thermal reconditioning straightening treatments. After shampooing the hair and applying a protein solution, a cream or gel-based thio solution is applied to the hair to soften the hair and disassociate the sulfur bonds inside the hair shaft. Small sections of hair are thermally restructured with a flat iron at a very high temperature (over 300 degrees). Next, a neutralizer is applied and the hair is pulled straight.
There are several drawbacks to thermal reconditioning. The service takes several hours and costs several hundred dollars. It also requires periodic touchups to the new growth. And it works much better on softer, wavier textures than on coarser, kinkier hair types. Some people who have lightened or color-treated their hair also should stay away from thermal reconditioning.
Those who embark on this process must realize that once the hair is straight, it's straight for good. For those who blow-dry their hair straight everyday, it can make life easier by cutting blow-drying time.
But some curlies find that their options are limited. Stylists recommend blowing your hair straight for a a few weeks or trying on a straight wig before you have it done to make sure you like the look.
"It is not reversible," cautions Christo. "If you want your hair curly again, the only that can be done is to cut off all your hair and start from scratch. At our salon, we may turn down certain requests for this chemical process out of concern for our clients' hair. Because, after all, we love curly hair."
Before straightening the hair, Diane Da Costa, author of "Textured Tresses," suggests clients try a less-drastic chemical service like a softener or texturizer that loosens the curl rather than straightens it.
"This can make it easier to blow-dry or flat iron the hair straight," Da Costa says.
With any chemical straightener, the hair will tend to be more porous and will need extra moisturizing and protection when being blow dried or heat styled. Use gentle cleansers and deep condition once to twice a week.
Stylists caution that you should never use a thio straightener on hair that has been straightened with a sodium hydroxide straightener. It can be like giving your hair a chemical haircut.
"Layering on different relaxer types can definitely cause breakage," says Titi Branch of Miss Jessie's Salon in Brooklyn.
Quick Tips for A Great Blow Out
- To straighten hair, begin by shampooing, conditioning and towel-drying hair.
- Apply a heat protectant product to your hair, paying special attention to the ends.
- Place a quarter-size dollop of straightening balm in your palm. Rub your palms together to distribute the product over your hands, then massage it evenly through hair.
- Comb through your hair with your fingers while gently blow-drying it on a low setting. This removes excess water.
- Pull your hair into three sections, two at the sides and one at the back. Clip the two sides up.
- Select a small portion of the hair from the unclipped section to straighten.
- Using a thick, round brush and beginning at the roots, gently pull the brush through the hair to the ends while blow-drying it. Pull the hair away from your head, stretching and straightening it as you go.
- First pull the brush through the underside of your hair so that you expose it directly to the heat of the dryer. Once that area is mostly dry, switch to the top of the hair.
- Keep the tension consistent and evenly distribute heat over the section of hair you're working on. This ensures uniform hair texture and prevents overdrying of certain areas.
- Once that portion of hair is straightened, continue selecting and blow-drying small portions until that section is dry and straight.
- Repeat the process on the two other sections to straighten your entire head of hair.
— Source: eHow.com
Tips for Making the Back of Your Hair Look as Good as the Front
- After applying a straightening balm to damp hair, create four equal sections - two in front and two in back. Clip the front ones up and pull the back ones forward.
- To blow a back section straight, tilt your head forward, place a paddle brush an inch below the roots to hold them taut, and aim the dryer above the brush for a few seconds.
- Next, pull the brush forward around your neck (this curving motion creates body), placing the dryer in front of it until you reach the ends. Repeat until dry.
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