Let's Get This Straight

Born with natural curls? You have two options: embrace your curls or straighten them. If you choose to straighten those locks, you can go one of two ways: use lots of conditioner and other straightening hair products plus a hair iron to get a temporary truce with those curls. They'll submit—but only for a short time—or use chemical hair relaxants.

No one can decide for you which way is the right way to go: day-to-day straightening or the more long-term chemical straightening treatments. Both methods have their pros and cons. But we do want to leave you with some information so you can make an informed decision. This article discusses chemical straightening.

Women with curly or wavy hair may decide they want straight sleek hair. This can be achieved through chemical straightening substances. This process is sometimes called "relaxing." Relaxing the hair does just that: relaxes tight curls and waves so that the form of the hair changes and becomes straight.

Opposite Poles

While both permanent wave chemicals and relaxants involve the application of strong chemicals applied to the hair shaft, their objectives are at opposite poles. A perm is meant to add waves or curls, while relaxants are meant to undo preexisting waves or curls.

The process of chemical straightening isn't complicated, but does require some know-how and experience. For this reason, it is advisable to seek a hair care specialist who has a good reputation for this procedure.

Strand Test

A professional hair care stylist can perform a hair strand test. The strand test helps the professional determine the appropriate strength of relaxant your hair will require. During the professional stylist's assessment of your hair, the texture of your hair will be noted and the stylist will get an idea of your hair's elasticity, porosity and whether there is any hair damage present.

Hair that has been chemically lightened or colored or hair that is very fine may only need the mildest of relaxant chemicals. Hair that is normal, untreated, and of medium texture will tolerate relaxants that are regular strength. The coarsest type of untreated hair will require either a strong or super-strength relaxant.

The professional stylist can determine the most appropriate relaxing formula for your hair by doing a strand test and by touching and observing your hair. The true professional will also keep records on any chemical treatments you receive and can then consult these records to ensure you receive the right type of chemical treatments in future.  

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