One of the most commonly used hair styling techniques by both men and women is Hair Straightening. This requires the hair stylist to flatten and straighten the hair to provide a smooth silky finish.
Generally, hair straightening is best achieved using a heat source, either using a hair iron or a hot comb, relaxing shampoos and / or other chemicals. However, the above processes are very stressful for the hair, and if performed too often will result in damage to the hair and lead to eventual hair loss.
To minimise the risk of damage to your hair, there are a number of other methods that will provide the same or even better results without resorting to the use of heat tools or chemicals being added to your hair. I have listed below a number of methods that I have found to be the most useful to straighten the hair without heat:
1) Blow-drying your hair using the cool setting
The first step used to straighten your hair is to dampen it. If you have recently washed your hair, you simply need to wet it slightly (moist, not wet). Otherwise, you should wash and condition your hair as per your normal routine. In this case, you can opt for a deep conditioner, or if you use a normal conditioner you should leave it on your hair for about 2 or 3 minutes longer than usual. This will improve the moisture retention and avoid your hair frizzing. If you prefer and if this has worked well for you before, you can always use your favorite hair straightening shampoo.
The second step is to use a towel to dry your hair gently until it is no longer dripping. You should ensure that you don’t completely dry up your hair as it needs to be damp.
The third step is to apply an anti-frizz serum to help your hair stay straight while drying. A dime-sized quantity is to be applied from the hair roots to its ends for hair of normal length and thickness. Thicker and longer hair may require slightly more serum. If you don’t have any serum, you can instead use a leave-in conditioner/balm.
The final step is to set your blow-dryer to the cool setting and blow dry your hair one section at a time. Use a flat paddle brush and brush each section of your hair in long straight strokes. Please repeat this process until the hair is completely dry and straight.
This process may take a while, so you need to plan your time accordingly. After your hair has dried, you can style it as per your needs with more anti-frizz serum to keep it smooth and glossy.
2) Brushing your hair to straighten it
You should wash and condition your hair as per your normal routine and as per the method described above, you can also use a leave-in conditioner or balm. If you prefer not to wash your hair at this stage, you can simply make your hair damp by wetting it slightly.
After washing your hair, use a soft towel to squeeze the water out of your hair until it is still damp but not dripping. Remember, a gentle squeeze is what you really need to avoid damaging the hair tips. Then, apply an anti-frizz serum and distribute it evenly from the hair roots to the ends. The other alternative to the anti-frizz serum is a good straightening serum. Do not use mousse or hair spray.
Now, use a flat brush to flatten your hair in long strokes from the roots to the tips as it dries out. Continue until it is completely dried. Depending on the thickness of your hair, the brushing process can take you up to ten minutes. You should avoid letting part of your hair drying out beacause it will start to curl up. So, brush your hair around the head evenly. Once you are done, you can style your hair with more anti-frizz or straightening serum. Avoid any styling products that will make your hair look curly or wavy.
3) Rolling your hair to straighten it
You should wash and condition your hair using a gentle shampoo and conditioner specially made for hair straightening. Avoid harsh hair products that contain sulfates that will damage your hair. Use a soft towel to dry your hair until it is damp, but not dripping.
The next step is to use curlers to roll your hair. You will get a better outcome with larger curlers. Start off by rolling your hair around the curlers so that the hair is curled under, not up.
Work in sections until all your hair is rolled up. The rows of curlers should be uniform so that the hair flows in the same direction when the curlers are removed. Please make sure that your hair stays wet throughout the entire procedure and use a spray bottle if necessary. If your hair dries out, it will start to curl up.
The next step is to apply a setting foam / lotion. This will help your hair dry without getting frizzy, and it will not leave an oily residue. Apply generously throughout your hair.
You can leave your hair to either dry on its own or blow dry it on a cool setting. The curlers are not to be taken off until the hair is completely dried. This may take at least an hour or more depending on the thickness and length of your hair. After taking the curlers off, comb and style your hair as usual and avoid any hair products that will cause it to look wavy or curly.
4) Permanent straightening
Permanent straightening is performed using chemicals, therefore, you should be careful and consider its pros and cons. This method is similar to perm but instead of curls it will create pin-straight hair without the need for you to style it. It is not recommended for damaged or colored hair, and a lot of maintenance is required as you will need to repeat this process over and over again as your hair grows.
In general, straightening your hair without any heat tools is much preferred as this will prevent your hair from drying out as well as minimize hair breakage. However, no matter how careful you or your stylist is, any tool will gradually damage your hair. I have outlined some additional precautions that you can follow to ensure that you provide the best protection to your hair and scalp while straightening your hair:
Precaution 1: Avoid rich lather shampoos and heavy conditioners
Lather is formed by combining some water and friction to your favorite hair shampoo. There are other chemicals / synthetic ingredients contained in a shampoo that makes it foam, something we normally love. Lather on the scalp is known to disrupt regular natural oil production. The same chemicals in hair conditioners will weigh the hair down. When you are trying to straighten your hair without heat, it is recommended that you use natural hair shampoos and conditioners.
Precaution 2: Squeeze the hair dry
People are used to rubbing their hair dry. Do you know that this damages the hair and creates frizz. Instead, you should press and squeeze your hair dry as this is more effective and removes more moisture without damaging the hair cuticles.
Precaution 3: Use a Boar Bristle Brush
When you use a Boar Bristle Brush on the hair, this stimulates your scalp and conditions your hair. It does so by carrying the natural oils from the scalp and distributing them throughout your scalp and hair. This is the best natural way to condition your hair. These brushes also reduces frizz in the hair, improves hair texture, reduces the need for frequent hair washing as well as reduces the need for styling products.
Some people still insist on using heat irons, flattening irons or heat combs to straighten their hair. It has been scientifically proven that the hair, just like the skin can be burned and depleted of its natural oils and moisture through excessive use of heat tools. The situation gets worse in people with thin and fine hair. Other people make the mistake of using irons on wet hair, which causes significant damage to the hair as it causes all the natural moisture in the hair to steam up and evaporate.
If you are one of those people that can’t live without your heat tools, here are some tips to minimize the damage to your hair while straightening it:
Tip 1: Timing of the use of heat tools
If you have had the same flattening iron for a long period of time and use it very often, there will surely be a build-up on the plate. This build-up will prevent the tool from functioning properly and as a result of this can cause unnecessary damage to your hair. To avoid this, replace your tool in due course or instead, opt for an Ionic or Teflon-coated ceramic iron, which will prevent build-ups.
Tip 2: Limit straightening
People who have thin and fine hair know that their hair has a very low tolerance to heat. Therefore, the best thing that they can do is to limit the number of times that they straighten their hair. On the other hand, people with stronger and thicker hair think that straightening their hair with heat tools should be of no concern. However, it is important to note that if you have thick hair, more heat will be required to straighten your hair. Over time and through constant hair straightening, this can lead to hair thinning or even hair loss. Therefore, no matter what type of hair you have, limit the use of heat irons to once or twice per week.
Tip 3: Never heat the hair when it is wet
As aforementioned, if you use heat tools on wet hair, this steams the water in the hair as the moisture in your hair is boiled away. This causes the hair follicles to break and will result in hair loss over a period of time.
Tip 4: Avoid chemicals and heat altogether
The combination of chemicals and heat tools will ultimately lead to hair loss. However, the point here is that the damage is not immediately evident. It may take quite a while before you realize that your hair is not growing properly and / or that you are in fact starting to suffer from hair loss.
Tip 5: Always use hair products with heat tools
There are a number of hair products that you can use with heat tools to provide additional protection to your hair. Click here for an example.
Other Hair Straightening Methods
Keratin Hair Straightening
Keratin hair straightening also known as Brazilian Hair Straightening is a process for straightening the hair which uses liquid keratin and another preservative agent together with a heat iron to straighten the hair. This procedure is not very popular due to the high concentrations of chemicals that is involved.
Japanese Hair Straightening
The Japanese Hair straightening is one of the most controversial methods of hair straightening. It is also known as Thermal Reconditioning, and it is based on the application of a special solution to the hair that breaks the bonds that give it its shape. The hair becomes completely straight with the use of a flat iron. After the straightening process, a neutralizing agent is applied to keep the styling.
The Japanese straightening method can last for several months; it is quite expensive and can take up to eight hours to be completed. It is not recommended for damaged or colored hair. It is also recommended that this treatment is performed by an experienced stylist.
If you want to read more about Keratin Hair Straightening and Japanese Hair Straightening and its differences and cost, I will have another post coming up.
Hair Straightening products
As we have seen above, there are a number of products that can be used with or without heat tools to aid with the hair straightening process. I have listed below other products that will be helpful:
1. Straightening shampoo
Straightening shampoos contain a higher concentration of silicones and polymers that remain on the hair after rinsing. They will weigh the hair down in order to balance the natural tendency for frizzing and curling. It will not straighten hair completely, but it will assist in providing a straightening effect.
2. Straightening crème
Straightening crème comes in two versions. The first one contains a chemical that may last for several months, and the second version will last for only a day. The ingredients work in such a way so as to relax the hair, therefore providing a straightening effect. It is not recommended for damaged or colored hair.
3. Straightening serum
A straightening serum is a silicon compound intended to lock the natural oils in the hair in place and keep the hair’s moisture levels. It will help smooth the hair fast and control frizz.
4. Straightening conditioner
A straightening conditioner is very similar to a regular conditioner. Its function is to provide additional moisture to the hair, with the main difference being that the straightening conditioner provides a deeper moisturizing effect.
For those of you that wish to straighten your hair, there are various options to do so; some with and others without the use of heat tools. Obviously, the preferred method is to use the heatless methods. If you simply can’t live without your heat tools, I would strongly recommend that prior to straightening your hair to put all protective measures in place to reduce the damage to your hair to a minimum.