Hair Straighteners

Written by Kimberly Clark
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No doubt you’ve heard the age-old adage that the grass is always greener on the other side. Basically this time weathered saying means that most people tend to want what they do not currently have. Now this assessment may just be an unfair over generalization of the human race, but it certainly seems to be true when it comes to the hair care industry.

It is estimated that Americans will spend approximately $7.5 billion dollars on hair care products and services in the year 2005. Ironically, the bulk of the money will be spent on products and services meant to reverse the natural condition of the individual’s hair. People with straight hair are attempting to go curly, whereas people with curly, kinky or wavy hair are desperately trying to straighten it out.

Fortunately for the latter category of people there are a lot of products and services on the market to choose from. Consumers looking for a semi-permanent hair straightening solution can opt to apply a chemical restructuring agent. However those who want to temporarily straighten out selected strands of hair can choose to use one of the many handheld straightening appliances.

Semi-Permanent Options

The semi-permanent hair straightening products that are used in salons and are available for sale to the public, typically involve some sort of application of a chemical restructuring agent to the hair. The most popular of these products are heavy creams known as chemical relaxers, which can keep the hair straight for six to eight weeks before needing to be reapplied. The products break down the structural bonds of the hair and usually take about a half hour to comb through and rinse out.

There are several different formulations of chemical relaxers, but the most common are the sodium hydroxide (lye) and guanidine hydroxide (no-lye) mixtures. The lye concentrations are stronger and thus penetrate the hair shaft faster. The no-lye products are considered less harsh, but they can be more irritating to the eyes and skin as well as very drying to the scalp.

Thermal reconditioning is another semi-permanent hair straightening method that involves applying a cornstarch-based chemical to the hair and then straightening it with a heated flat iron. This process is often referred to as Japanese thermal straightening or the Yukos System, after the Japan based company that popularized the technique. In total, the process generally takes about three to six hours to complete, but the effects can last up to six months.

Temporary Options

Because the chemical restructuring methods can be so harsh, drying, and ultimately damaging to the hair, some people shy away from the semi-permanent ways of hair straightening. Consumers in this category have several options to choose from, as the hair care industry is filled with various different types of hair straightening appliances. Also, even after the application of chemical relaxers to their hair, many people find that they still need to use a straightening device to achieve the hairstyles they desire.

Perhaps one of the oldest hair straightening devices is the hot comb. The comb is heated, either electrically or by placing it directly into a heated oven or a stove top fire, and then it is placed in the hair to press or straightening out the curls. For this reason, it is also commonly referred to as a pressing comb.

Using a blow dryer is another popular method of temporarily straightening the hair. Although for people with really curly or wavy hair, blow dryers generally have to be used in conjunction with another hair straightening device. For the majority of these people flat irons, which come in a variety of materials and styles, are the appliances of choice.


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