Relaxers and Straightening

Straightened hair before and after
PPhoto: Kotin/Shutterstock
Q: What is the difference between a traditional relaxer, Japanese straightening and Brazilian straightening?
A: Traditional relaxers use sodium or other hydroxide substances to break the chemical side bonds in the hair in order to remove curl from the hair. This process permanently breaks these side bonds and leaves the hair weaker than untreated hair would be, albeit straighter.
You cannot use any perming service on any hair that has been treated with hydroxide relaxers. This is a common choice among most of the women with African-American ethnic hair types. The results are permanent, but the hair's new growth must be retouched every 6-8 weeks on average. The cost is generally comparable with standard perm services.
The Japanese straightening service is a cornstarch-based system that is designed to create a non-coating, straightening system that uses heat oxidation to seal the hair and rebuild it from the inside using the formulations and special irons that reach approximately 350 degrees. The Japanese straightening process is not suited to very kinky hair and is therefore not indicated for African-American hair.
The results last as much as 6 to 9 months before needing to be retouched for the new growth (depending on the amount of curl in the hair). It is an expensive service with prices that range from U.S. $400 and up, depending on the length of the hair. Some salons charge an hourly rate for the service, which takes several hours to complete.
The Brazilian Straightening process is the newest system on the scene, offering long-lasting straightening results using a keratin-based process. Because it is so new, little information is available. However, the Brazilian process is reportedly less expensive (approximately U.S. $170-250) and takes approximately one and a half hours to complete.
See also:
Permanent hair straightening
What is Thermal Restructuring?