No one understands this better than I do. Not only do I randomly struggle with my own locks, I receive thousands of emails every year from the tress traumatized.
Although hair trends constantly change, the trend of wanting the type and texture of hair that Mother Nature gave to someone else, is always present. Curly heads want to go straight and the straighties would kill for some gorgeous ringlets. Thick tressed folks want to have thinner strands and the volume impaired lust for massive strands. And so it goes....on and on.
I agree with the multitude of hair professionals that encourage people to embrace their natural hair type and texture to achieve unique hair beauty. I also understand and respect the fact that some people feel the need to tangle with Mother Nature and strive to achieve styles not consistent with their natural texture and hair type.
Going Straight At What Cost?
While I sincerely try to help with hair problems, I have learned that the most successful hair maestros like Ken Paves, Anthony Mascolo (A Toni & Guy Founder) and Peter Lamas stay focused on the hair challenge at hand.
My current challenge, based on my recent jammed email inbox, is addressing how to temporarily transform unruly curls, waves and tresses with attitude into sleek shiny strands that are devoid of so much as a tiny wrinkle.
Can anyone with any type or texture of hair achieve sheets of ultra straight strands? When it comes to hair I have learned that anything is ultimately possible with enough time, money, product, styling tools and determination.
Of course even though anything is possible, it may not be easy or ultimately worth the price. Only the person that is determined to achieve perfectly straight tresses can decide how much time, money and effort they are willing to invest in the transformational process.
Not All Straight Strands Are Equal
Believe it or not, there is a percentage of the population that was born with stick straight strands. My gorgeous niece Brigid is one of those enviable people. And yes, Brigid craves natural waves like mine while I would love to trade for her straightness.
If you were not born with straight strands like Brigid you basically have the following options for achieving stick straight locks:
Chemical straightening which is also known to hair consumers as Japanese straightening, Yuko, thermal reconditioning, Brazilian straightening or Keratin processing, may be time consuming and costly.
Chemical straightening is not advised for people with damaged, previously chemically treated hair or for hair that is fragile. While chemical straightening has come a long ways from the early days, there are still risks and the key to success is a highly skilled professional who has lots of experience with this type of chemical service.
2. Chemical Relaxers which are similar to chemical straighteners except that hair is temporarily relaxed rather than permanently straightened.
It is important to note that while many relaxers will soften curls and waves, the majority will not provide perfectly straight hair. Only the strong chemical straighteners will provide absolutely stick straight locks.
3. Temporary Straighteners that are applied after hair is washed and before it is blow dried and flat ironed straight. There are many excellent temporary straighteners on the market. I have personally had the best luck with Robert Hallowell's Prawduct the flat factor and Rene Furterer - Fioravanti Straightening Gel.
However, what works for me may not work for everyone. I have also had great results with Phytodefrisant Balm which helps eliminate my hair frizz.
Please note that Phytodefrisant Balm does not guarantee that it will help to temporarily straighten hair although many combine it with a paddle brush and a blow dryer for great results.
4. Hair Wrapping involves separating damp strands into individual panels of hair and wrapping them tightly around the head so that they dry perfectly straight. Wet sets where hair is set on very large rollers and dried under a hood dryer and then flat ironed is another option. Sleeping in a high ponytail might help straighten hair for some.
5. Hair extensions and wigs. Some people will have hair extensions strategically applied to weight down existing curls and waves. Others will just pin the dreaded curls and waves down and pop on a stick straight wig. Although this option is probably not the most popular, it does deserve mention.
Other options include naturally weighing curls and waves down by wearing hair longer and thicker. Of course this option only works for certain hair types but it also needs to be considered along with the option to wear curly hair very short to remove any pesky ringlets.
Start With The Right Cut
If you wish to chemically straighten or relax your hair you will need to do extensive research to discover the best method for your hair type and texture. Start by reading up on the topic and then visiting some stylists for consultations to analyze whether your own hair is well suited for chemical straightening.
If you're interested in temporary straightening you will need to look at several other factors including starting with the right haircut.
The reason that stylists preach the Right Cut Theory is because it is the absolute truth. If you dream of perfectly sleek strands but your hair is damaged or in need of a good shaping, you must start with the best possible hair palate if you hope to achieve the best results.
If you desire temporary stick straight strands you definitely must start with your stylist. You may not want to hear that you have to have the assistance of your stylist but trust me, it is important to have a hair professional on your team. It makes all the difference in what you are able to achieve.
When you visit your hair consultant explain your ultimate hair goals in detail. If you wish to temporarily straighten your hair at home rather than having salon blowouts, explain that you will need to start with the best possible style to maximize your potential tress sleekness.
If your hair is thick, damaged or overly bulky ask your stylist to create some scissors magic to layer, thin or shape unwieldy strands to make them more amenable to straightening.
Use The Right Tools
Once you have the best possible hairstyle for straightening, invest in the correct tools. Use a shampoo designed for your hair type and texture.
Always utilize a good leave-in conditioner combined with a good heat protectant product since you will be using hot tools that can stress even the healthiest of locks.
Select products designed for your hair type. If you have fine or thin strands, select the lightest conditioning products and straightening gels. If your hair is damaged, slather on a product that will help protect against additional damage.
Invest in an excellent straightening brush and blow dryer. Whether you prefer to use a good paddle brush or a round brush, consider the best brush for your budget.
Even if you perfectly brush and blow dry your hair straight, you may still need to use a flat iron for heavy duty or spot straightening. When possible consider utilizing ceramic irons which work quickly and are considered to be somewhat less damaging than traditional irons.
Remember to always divide and conquer. The mistake that many people make is that they try to flat iron too much hair at a time. It is better to iron smaller chunks of hair than larger chunks. Yes it may take a little longer but the results will probably be much more to your liking.
Another mistake that is made is not holding the hair in the iron long enough. Make sure that each strand is left between the plates for enough time to have an impact. Of course it is important not to leave the hair in contact with the iron for too long or damage can occur, especially over long term use.
If you have the best possible hairstyle, the best products, brush and hot tools but are still unable to achieve your ultimate look, ask your stylist to take some time and teach you.
Understand The Risks
It is important that you consider the possibility that your hair will instantly lose its straight sleekness if it is subjected to a sudden heat wave or thunderstorm.
Have a backup plan that includes some handy hair clips or pins so you can instantly recover from an unexpected onslaught of frizz, curls, waves or droopy strands.
Once you have learned how to achieve your ultimate look, keep practicing. You will get better over time and can shorten the time commitment for blow drying.
Stick straight strands are definitely possible for those with natural curls or waves. Whether the straightness comes from chemical straighteners or relaxers or is temporarily created via a blow dryer and straightening balms, there are definitely options to change your texture with practice and learning what products work best for you and your hair.
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- Revised Publication Date: 05/22/10