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Japanese Hair Straightening - An Update!


Jessica Simpson - People's Choice Awards - Waves & Curls January 2006

Japanese Hair Straightening is also known as Thermal Reconditioning (TR), The Yuko System (Yuko) and chemical hair straightening.

The name Japanese Hair Straightening comes from the fact that the technique originated in Japan.

Although some forms of the treatment were better known then others, as the demand for stick straight strands grew, many versions of the process were introduced from a wide range of hair manufacturers.

The technique which used a combination of texture changing chemicals and extremely hot straightening irons became the rage that lasted non-stop (depending on who you talk to) until early 2005.

Although some naturally curly people addicted to straight hair continue to have various versions of the thermal reconditioning treatments applied to their locks, in general the stick straight hair movement has been replaced by a love of natural texture.

This means that stick straight strands that were dependent on an initial costly chemical straightening treatment and regular touchups has been replaced with a love of natural curls, waves and overall soft movement.

Thermal Reconditioning is still being performed in the US and is still popular with some consumers. However, there is a definite trend away from Thermal Reconditioning treatments in general.

A famous celebrity hairdresser shared his agony over dealing with the heavily damaged tresses of a major TV star from Thermal Reconditioning. He confidentially explained that her hair had broken off at the roots and he had to resort to a series of wigs and spot extensions for her current acting commitments.

I also recently talked to a well known curly hair expert who confirmed that naturally curly people have been leaving the TR trend behind.

Japanese Hair Straightening or TR has fallen out of popular favor not only because of the hot new hair fashion love for texture but for other reasons listed below:

1. Cost

Depending on where the Thermal Reconditioning was performed, it can cost from $350 up to $1,000 or more. The costs were based on the amount of time it would take the hairdresser to apply the treatment along with other factors that varied by salon.

2. Upkeep

Although the thermal reconditioning treatments rendered naturally curly hair stick straight, once the roots great back in, there was an obvious regrowth line. This required regular TR touch-ups to the roots.

Although TR would remove most of the natural curl and wave, in many cases, additional home maintenance is required. This included the used of straightening balms and hot irons.

3. Time Commitment

As people get even busier with jobs, families and other activities, hair consumers are less willing to invest the time it might take to have the TR treatment applied to their strands. As a rule, consumers are interested in quick, easy and simple styles that look great. TR treated hair does require more time and commitment to maintain than natural waves and curls which can often be worn in a wash and wear style.

4. Strand Damage

The chemical straightening process, while changing the textures from wavy and curly to straight, was generally very drying to the strands. At home use of straighteners and other styling products and tools caused a high degree of hair damage to a high percentage of TR treated hair.

5. Styling Limits

Although many people initially loved the new freedom of TR induced stick straight tresses, some were surprised to discovered that their straightened hair had minimal texture. This meant that unless they were willing to always have straight strands, their styling options were limited.

6. Hair Trend Changes

With the new craze for waves, curls and other texture, many people that originally were addicted to the TR method, followed the latest craze for texture and packed their straightening irons away.

7. Curl Pride

The movement to embrace and love naturally curly hair has become stronger over the past few years. Social pressures to confirm to straight tresses has lessened. Natural curls are now considered sexy, sassy, sultry and hot.

As celebrity hairdresser Ken Paves (Jessica & Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne) has pointed out, the trend is for women to "do their own hair thing" meaning that women are bucking trends. They are finding their own beauty within their natural hair type and textures. This means that the pressure to use expensive texture changing techniques has fallen out of heavy favor.

8. Focus On Extensions, Wigs & Related Hair Options

With the craze for add-on hair and wigs, there are no options for people that want to temporarily change their texture. While add-on hair and hair extensions may not work for some, wigs are a hot new hair trend that can work for anyone to instantly change out their texture without excessive cost or potential damage to their strands.


Like fashion, hair trends change on a regular basis. Although Japanese Hair Straightening was very hot in 2001 - 2004, it has lost a lot of its popularity with the new trend for natural textures. Curls, waves and even natural kinks are the hottest hairstyles going.

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- Revised Publication Date: 05/22/10

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