It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of curly, frizzy hair must be in want of smooth, sleek hair. This is why women all around the world (including your two favorite bloggers) have been on a constant quest to defy nature and straighten out their unruly locks. Trust us, we know all about it. While hair dryers and straighteners may do the trick, it's time consuming, exhausting, and sometimes ineffective (especially in humid weather). That is why we are here to discuss the pros and cons of two of the most popular "permanent" hair straightening methods, Japanese hair straightening and Brazilian "keratin" treatment. Of course we're not hair stylists or chemists, so we can't attest to the scientific or technical aspects of these straightening methods, but we'll do our best to describe the procedures and can speak from personal experience involving both hair treatments. So here's the 411:
Japanese Hair Straightening
- What is it? Japanese hair straightening, also known as thermal reconditioning, is a permanent hair straightening technique. There are a number of different brands used, including Yuko and Liscio which are the two most popular brands used. Japanese straightening is an intense chemical process that involves numerous steps which permanently straightens your hair.
- How long does it take? The process can be cumbersome, as you: (1) wash hair; (2) dry hair; (3) apply chemical solution to hair; (4) allow chemicals to sit in hair for 30 - 90 minutes; (5) wash hair; (6) dry hair; (7) straighten every single strand of hair in small groups; (8) add neutralizer; (9) wash hair; and (10) dry hair. Needless to say, this process is incredibly long and can take up to 6 hours, and then you can't wash your hair for 48 - 72 hours after the treatment. You also can't get your hair sweaty, tie it back, tuck it behind your ears, or do anything that would result in the creasing or otherwise altering of your hair. Basically, rent a bunch of movies, call out sick, and stay at home for 3 days in air conditioning in order to make sure the hair that you spent so much time and money on remains in tact.
- How long does it last for? The best / worst part about Japanese hair straightening is that it is permanent. You don't need any special shampoos and you can wash it as much as you want, because once it's there, it's there for good. Of course, once your new hair starts growing in, then you have a problem. From personal experience, you can go about 5 or 6 months without having to worry about your hair, but around the 6 month mark it becomes more noticeable and you have to start blow drying it again, at least at the roots. This is especially true if you have bangs, as they'll quickly turn to waves. After the 6 month mark, you'll eventually have to either get it re-straightened or let it grow out, which can take years. To be fair, the growing out process isn't so difficult if you straighten your hair regularly anyway, because then it's not really noticeable. But because it's permanent and takes a while to grow out, you really need to put some thought into whether you are ready for stick straight hair for years to come.
- Does it really work? Yes! It's amazing how well it works. You leave the salon feeling like a brand new person with beautiful, amazing, pin straight hair. It will never frizz, it will always stay perfectly straight, and all you have to do is wash and go. For those of us who have spent hours of our day in front of a mirror sweating with a hair dryer, this is life changing. You feel more confident, your friends stop complaining about how long you take to get ready, and all of a sudden you are picture perfect all the time. The downside is that it makes your hair VERY straight, and at first it feels incredibly flat. You've spent all your life trying to fight the big frizz, and now, all of a sudden, you want volume! But that's nothing a little hair spray and teasing can't solve, and after a month it starts to get more body. If you're been fighting for straight hair all your life, this is a godsend.
- What are the cons? Because it's a chemical process, it's damaging to your hair. But let's face it, frying your hair with a hot hair dryer and straightening iron isn't great for your hair either, and it's hard to say which is more damaging. Based on personal experience, Japanese straightening doesn't cause hair to feel any less healthy, but after a few years of getting it straightened, you may notice that your hair feels more dry, less manageable, and may even start falling out more often. This isn't common for everyone, and can be solved by treating yourself to some deep conditioning (which is probably good to do even if you don't chemically straighten your hair). Also try using products such as Biosilk, which help repair your hair and make it feel soft and silky. Finally, as mentioned above, it's permanent! If all of a sudden you decide you want to have soft, lovely curls, you're out of luck. Even after it starts growing out, part of your hair will remain stick straight, so it will take some time until you're able to do other things with your hair. But if you're someone who always straightens your hair without fail, then this really isn't a point of concern.
- How much does it cost? Prices for Japanese straightening range from reasonable (considering how long the process is) to flat out absurd. If you do your research (and you can comment / email us for our research in the New York / New Jersey area) you should be able to find a good salon that will straighten your hair for less than $200. Most salons start at $400 or $500 -- please don't pay that much. But never go to a salon unless you have it on good authority that it can be trusted. Your hair is too precious to risk!
- Bottom line: Japanese hair straightening is perfect for those of us who wish they were born with straight hair. Yes it is time consuming, expensive, and permanent, but if you really want it, then these things are just trivial concerns. But if you're not ready for such a permanent change, then keep reading!
Brazilian Hair Straightening
- What is it? Brazilian hair straightening, more commonly known as keratin treatment, is an all natural protein treatment that makes hair silky, smooth, and incredibly soft. It's not a "straightener" per se, but does have the effect of smoothing out curls. It should be noted that there is a difference between brazilian straightening, which involves 2% formaldehyde, and keratin treatment, which involves absolutely no chemicals. However the terms are often used interchangeably, and the most popular brands contain no formaldehyde, including Coppola, Rujvenol, and Salon Tech. However, be wary when going to a salon, and do your research, because some brands are being called out for including formaldehyde despite claims to the contrary.
- How long does it take? The process is a bit faster than with Japanese straightening and can take up to 4 hours, depending on where you go and what treatment you use. For most brands, you (1) wash your hair, (2) dry it, (3) have a chemical placed on your hair for 30 minutes until dry, and (4) straighten every single strand of hair. Then you can't wash it for up to 72 hours, and can't tie it up, tuck it behind your ears, or do anything else that would crease your hair. But with the Salon Tech treatment, after step 4, they put a neutralizer on your hair for 10 minutes, wash it, dry it, and then you're done! You don't have to wait another 72 hours, you can tie your hair up, there is absolutely no waiting period.
- How long does it last for? Unlike Japanese straightening, the keratin treatment is NOT permanent. It fades with each wash, which means you want to try to wash your hair only a few times a week for maximum retention. How long it lasts also depends on the brand, with Coppola technically lasting up to 4 months, and Salon Tech technically lasting up to 6 months. We say technically because from our experience, the products fade a lot faster, although your hair does remain more manageable for entire 4 or 6 month period. The key to keratin treatment is that you cannot use any shampoo that has sodium chloride or sulfate in it, which means you have to buy special shampoo for keratin treated hair. This is easy to find at any beauty supply store, but costs about $20. The upside is that because you won't be washing your hair as often, you'll use less shampoo anyway!
- Does it really work? The goal of the keratin treatment is not to straighten your hair, but to make it healthier and more manageable, which it definitely does. It makes hair beautiful, shiny, and very natural looking. It doesn't create pin straight hair, which is why many women prefer it. Your hair does become straighter (for some people, it looks like you had it Japanese straightened) but even so, you can still curl it if you want. But in reality both the Coppola treatment, and especially the Salon Tech treatment, results in almost perfectly straight hair for the first few weeks, although the results will vary depending on your hair texture and amount of curl. So if you want soft, silky, shiny hair that is straighter, then you should opt for this method.
- What are the cons? To be honest, there aren't many cons if you're using the formaldehyde-free product. The worst part is that you can't get sodium chloride in your hair, which means you can't go swimming! This can be a major drawback if you get your hair straightened in the summer, because you won't be able to partake in traditional summer activities. Other than that, it's completely safe and actually considered to be good for your hair, because it's a protein treatment. Just be careful that your brand is in fact formaldehyde free, because the chemical is a known carcinogen, and definitely not something you want to deal with.
- How much does it cost? Like Japanese straightening, the prices will vary depending on the salon you go to. Generally speaking, the prices range from $200 to $300, and you should definitely not pay more than $400, especially because it's not permanent. Again, feel free to contact us if you want some suggestions on places to go in New York and New Jersey!
- Bottom line: Keratin straightening is perfect if you have dry, frizzy, unmanageable hair. While it won't create the pin straight look of Japanese straightening, it will come pretty close, and without the damage. You get all the benefits of Japanese straightening, and you can still curl your hair. And you can always do both. Many stylists recommend the keratin treatment in between your Japanese straightening in order to strengthen your hair, and it's also a great way to grow out your Japanese straightened locks once you tire of them.
Jen & Saira