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Chemical Straightening

Anabel Kingsley

Brand President

Published Jan 2016

Unlike keratin treatments, which are temporary and wash out after about 3 months, chemical relaxers are permanent, and last until your hair grows out.

The chemicals most commonly used in relaxers are sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, and sodium thioglycolate.

Are Relaxers Harmful to Your Hair?

Chemically straightening your hair can be extremely satisfying, and we know how important it is to feel happy with your style. However, we urge you to be careful if you decide to have your hair relaxed. This is because the high heat and strong chemicals used in relaxers risk making your hair dry, brittle and prone to breakage.

The Risks of Hair Relaxing

If your hair is in good condition and has never been previously relaxed, you are likely to be fine. However, if your hair is already delicate (for example, if you have natural tightly coiled curls, or heavily bleached hair), relaxers can seriously damage your strands.

If left on too long, relaxers can cause mass hair breakage. Also, the act of straightening your hair out during the processing can sometimes overstretch the hair shafts. 

This leaves insufficient elasticity for your hair to withstand normal styling procedures, such as brushing and blow-drying.

It can be difficult to stop relaxing your hair once you start. This is because relaxers are permanent, so your style will look inconsistent once your natural texture starts to grow back in. However, overlapping already relaxed hair with new chemicals can cause your hair to break. We recommend you do not have your hair relaxed more than once every 3-4 months.

The chemicals used in relaxing treatments are very strong, and are applied near to your scalp. If the treatment is done incorrectly, you can get chemical burns on your scalp, and this can result in infection, scarring and permanent hair loss. Be sure to choose your stylist carefully.

The Benefits of Hair Relaxing

On the other hand, for people with hair that is difficult to manage, or who are unhappy with having curly / frizzy hair, chemical straightening is an extremely attractive option. It can provide an instant morale boost, and it can make your daily styling routine a great deal easier.

Relaxing may even, in some ways, be beneficial to your hair’s condition. Once your hair is straightened, none of the other harmful procedures (like hot oil, pressing, pulling, flat irons, and hot combs) are needed.

Also, because it is much easier to style relaxed hair, you will hopefully be prepared to wash it more frequently — and frequent washing is highly beneficial to hair and scalp health!

Caring for Relaxed Hair

Chemical straightening leaves your hair more vulnerable to damage and breakage. We recommend the following steps to help keep your strands in as strong and healthy a condition as possible, before and after the process.

Use regular intensive conditioning treatments, such as our award-winning Elasticizer Extreme, to restore moisture to your hair. Try to deep-condition your hair twice a week for 2 weeks prior to relaxing, and then once a week thereafter.

If you are able to visit a Philip Kingsley Clinic in London or New York, come in for a deep-conditioning spa treatment from one of our expert Trichotherapists. Your Trichotherapist will be happy to give you advice on all aspects of caring for your particular hair type and condition.

Avoid relaxing treatments if the skin on your scalp is inflamed or broken.

If your scalp becomes inflamed or irritated after straightening, apply a solution of cold milk and water in equal parts. This should help to soothe it. If the irritation continues, you should consult a Trichologist or dermatologist.

 Relaxing previously unprocessed, or ‘virgin’, hair rarely results in disaster. However, in our Trichological clinics we have seen many cases where straightening previously relaxed or colour-processed hair results in extreme dryness and breakage. 

This is especially true of the ends of your hair. Shield your strands with a thermal protective treatment before the straightening solution is applied. However, in our Trichological clinics we have seen many cases where straightening previously relaxed or colour-processed hair results in extreme dryness and breakage. This is especially true of the ends of your hair. Shield your strands with a thermal protective treatment before the straightening solution is applied.

If you would like to find out more about caring for relaxed hair, our Clinics in London and New York specialise in all aspects of hair and scalp health, and will be delighted to welcome you. 

 


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