Relaxer, Smoothing Systems, Keratin treatment - Everything you need to know about wearing your hair straight.
Whether you are planning to wear your hair in temporary or permanent straight style, or currently doing so, we give you the lowdown on all the latest straightening systems around to help you make an informed decision.
With so many styling options and treatments available understanding the difference between treatments can be overwhelming. However, it is essential to have the right information before you commit to any kind of smoothing or straightening treatment. Here are some essential tips to help you decide which straightening option is best suited to your hair type.
A Keratin Treatment is a process of de-frizzing the hair to make it smoother, straighter and sleeker.Keratin is a type of protein that is high in the amino acid “cystine”. This special amino acid is what makes the hair super strong and extremely elastic. Keratin treatments are not relaxers but a smoothing treatment that infuses a special blend of hydrolyzed keratin deep into the cuticle. The Keratin is then adhered to the cuticle with a flat iron to relax the hair strands at the sub-cuticle layer. These treatments are more of a restorative treatment that strengthen the hair shaft and makes your hair more resilient. Crucially, it will not permanently straighten your hair, but instead soften it to create a smooth, sleek and frizz-free appearance.
Keratin /smoothing treatments work on a wide variety of hair textures and is leading the path in texture management, due to the non-commitment factors. These treatments also allow you to wear colour and protective styles with minimum concern. The wearer is in control as to how often they would like to apply the treatment without being concerned about breakage, which is something that has to be considered with relaxing systems which are not frequently maintained.
It’s important to note that this does not mean that you don't have to care for your hair with a smoothing system, however the risks are considerably reduced.
By definition, a hair relaxer is a cream applied to unprocessed textured hair that makes the hair easier to straighten and manage. Relaxers work by breaking down the disulphide bonds in the hair, once these bonds have been broken a new bond is formed called a lanthionine. This new bond gives the hair its permanent straightness, which cannot be reverted. Most women who decide to get their hair relaxed have curly/coily textured hair and desire permanently straight, frizz-free hair. The results vary depending on your hair type, but usually a relaxer will leave your hair straight for approximately six to eight weeks. Before a relaxer is applied a “strand test” is highly recommended. This will test the strength of your hair in order to further assess which type of relaxer is best for you (relaxers come in various strengths including mild, medium and strong). Hair relaxers typically come in two variations: Lye relaxers and No-Lye relaxers. Opinions vary on the two types, lye relaxers (also known as ‘alkali relaxers’) are renowned for breaking down the hair quickly, the main ingredient being sodium hydroxide. No-lye, conversely, is mostly made of calcium hydroxide and has a tendency to be drying, although it’s considered better for people with sensitive scalps. Your hair texture will determine which formulation is better for you; this an important part of your consultation that should be discussed with your stylist.
Relaxers definitely have their place within texture management. A relaxer is an instant permanent change to the hair that does not grow out. It’s worth remembering though, that if you no longer require a relaxer it will have to be cut off to be removed.
Texturisers are essentially relaxers, the only difference is that a texturiser is applied and removed straight away giving a softening effect to the hair. This is an ideal style solution for those who have short hair, as the hair is cut frequently, and you will only be texturising virgin hair. On longer lengths you do run the risk of eventually straightening the processed hair due to multiple applications.
Things to consider before straightening….
It is important to understand that achieving manageable, straight hair cannot be done without proper care. If you decide to get your hair relaxed, you must be prepared to pay special attention to it. You will need to keep your hair adequately moisturised, asrelaxers can be drying to the hair. You will also need to use deep conditioners on a weekly basis, and utilise leave-in conditioners.
If you currently have natural hair and your main concern with your curls is that they've appeared to stop growing, you might have hit a "plateau" with your hair. The longer your hair gets, the heavier it gets, and the less shrinkage occurs. If shrinkage is your main concern, we urge you to give it at least six months to a year before you commit to a straightening treatment.
Keratin/Smoothing treatments if used incorrectly can also be damaging to your hair.
Smoothing systems are Ideal for those with type 3 or 4 hair types who simply want to de-frizz the hair and elongate the curl pattern. This system is also very good for those who like to experiment with their hair, for example, if you like to experiment with colour, you’d be better off
with a smoothing system rather than a relaxer due to the frequency of your colour service. Clients wishing to maintain their grey coverage would also benefit from this.