Hair care

Chemical Hair Straightening 101

Would you love to have permanently straight hair?

Freedom from hours spent wrangling with hot styling equipment?

In the past, this was only something curly-haired people could dream about.

Fortunately, we have seen a shift towards chemically straightened hair products.

Treatments that promise to offer a long-term fix for troublesome locks.

So, if you are ready to overcome the daily struggle of straightening,

If you want a more permanent straight hair solution, read on.

Chemical hair straightening

Chemical hair straightening involves breaking protein bonds in the hair, which causes curly hair to become straight.

Chemical elements break down and dissolve the hair’s bonds, changing the hair’s structure and shape and helping to loosen and relax the curls.

Once the chemicals have been applied, a neutraliser stops the relaxing process, helping to restore the hair’s pH.

If the neutraliser were left out, a high pH would occur in the hair shaft, causing the hair to swell and break off.

Ingredients in hair straightening products

There are three main types of hair relaxants:

Guanidine Hydroxide: This is considered a softer, no-lye alternative.

It was created to offer a gentler alternative to sodium hydroxide and is, therefore, better for the hair.

Ammonium Thioglycolate: This hair relaxant is the least damaging and has great results on people with fine hair.

It’s not as permanent as other hair relaxants, and the hair will revert to its natural texture over time.

Sodium Hydroxide: This relaxant has lye added to it, and because of its alkaline ingredients, it needs to be handled carefully.

It is one of the most intense chemical hair-straightening ingredients and is very effective in straightening coarse, thick hair,

It breaks down across bonds and penetrates deep into the hair cuticle, permanently straightening hair; to revert to its original curl, it has to be completely grown out.

As a rule of thumb regarding hair straightening, the more potent the hair relaxant, the more damage can occur to the hair shaft.

Thermal reconditioning (Japanese system)

Using both chemicals and heat, the Yuko hair straightening system is one of the most popular smoothing and conditioning treatments, offering a permanently altered structure.

This hair straightening method involves a system that uses oxidation from heat; the heat seals and rebuilds the hair cuticle from the inside out.

It is a complicated and long-winded process involving a protein bond and a neutralising chemical that dissolves the bond within the hair and flattens the cuticle.

The hair is then heated under hot lamps and straightened using flat irons at temperatures of 360 degrees and above, which helps seal the hair shaft and eliminate frizz and shine.

For the active amongst you, please be forewarned that this is a lengthy process—roughly six to eight hours, to be exact.

On the plus side, this treatment lasts about six to eight months, depending on hair regrowth.

Book with a professional

However, as simple as this sounds, a professional’s execution of this treatment is crucial for success.

Hair relaxant products all work on the same premise: to neutralise the hair’s pH and destroy the protein bond within the hair, breaking down the natural curl and reforming it into straight panels.

If too many bonds are broken, your hair will go limp; if not enough, the hair doesn’t straighten out and will be much more fragile afterwards.

Standards differ considerably between salons, so we recommend doing your research well before booking a chemical hair straightening treatment.

You should book several consultations with a reputable salon and find one that has lots of experience with chemical straightening treatments.


Once your chemical hair straightening hair is done, don’t forget about the maintenance.

Because if your newly straightened hair is not given special treatment, it can quickly become dry and brittle.

You need to avoid washing your hair or putting it in a ponytail for at least three to five days after treatment while it sets.

It is important to use nourishing hair masks regularly and avoid harsh hair products; protein-rich shampoo and moisturising conditioners offer UV protection and help restore moisture within the hair shaft.

It’s important to note that this is a chemical treatment; not everyone has excellent results with these hair straightening treatments.

The best candidates are those with virgin hair, which has never been coloured or treated before.

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