In addition to flat irons, silicone serums, straightening balms and hundreds of products on the market, permanent and semi-permanent salon treatments have become popular, including the Brazilian blowout, Japanese straightening and keratin treatments. These are not inexpensive -- ranging from $150 to $750 per service -- so many women question which treatment is the best choice for their hair. Some treatments can make your hair too flat or almost greasy looking, and some contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde.
This is the newest smoothing treatment in salons. The original formulas from Brazil contained high levels of formaldehyde and were irritating for many people, but formaldehyde was the key ingredient that straightened the hair. Newer formulas have been retooled without formaldehyde or use cousins of the chemical that are less toxic. The Brazilian blowout is best for those with frizzy, damaged or processed hair. The treatment smoothes the hair using a polymer system that binds amino acids to the surface of the hair along with conditioners to fill in and round out the cuticle. The benefit of this treatment is that it does not completely straighten the hair, so women have the option to have some wave and volume. It also infuses the hair with keratin, acting as a conditioning treatment at the same time. This is the only treatment that is completed at the salon before you leave, and you can wash or style your hair the same day. The treatment has a couple drawbacks, though: It lasts only about 10 to 12 weeks, and if your hair is already straight, it look even flatter.
Similar to the Brazilian blowout, keratin straightening uses keratin to fill in the gaps of the hair cuticle, adding shine, strength and smoothness. Keratin straightening is similar to the original Brazilian treatments, however, in that it contains formaldehyde (in some variation). The formaldehyde is truly what alters the hair for the silky, smooth look. This treatment has more dramatic results than the Brazilian blowout and lasts longer (about three to four months), but it takes more effort. The first few days are an oxidation process, which helps to set the keratin into the hair, so you can't wash or pull back your hair (a "bend" in your hair could leave a permanent mark as the keratin sets).
Japanese straightening is basically a reverse perm with permanent results. Also known as "thermal reconditioning," this treatment is the harshest and longest lasting of all the treatments. It is best for women who truly want stick-straight hair. Once the hair grows, new hair must be treated for consistency. Because of the constant exposure to chemicals and heat, the hair can become dry and brittle. This treatment also takes about three to six hours to complete, and the hair cannot be bent for the first few days. This treatment is best for women who do not color their hair.
Some helpful tips
If you do get a salon-smoothing treatment, only wash your hair with a sodium- sulfate-free shampoo, or you will strip your hair of the keratin.
Some treatments to try at home:
- New Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Blow Dry Protector, which promises smooth hair for up to 7 shampoos.
- Joico has a new straightening iron called the K-PAK ReconstRx VaporIron with a refillable reservoir. Designed to work with the iron is the K-PAK ReconstRx VaporFuel, a liquid that transforms into a vapor to deliver conditioners to your hair while you iron it.
- The easiest way to get smooth hair at home is to seal the cuticle by rinsing your hair with cool water after shampooing and ending a blowdry with a shot of cool air.
More tips for smooth hair
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