Hair Straightening Vs. Hair Smoothing: Differences, Side Effects, And Maintenance Tips

Many women prefer straight or silky hair. It has a nice sheen to it and is simple to keep clean. Wavy and curly hair is very lovely, but it requires regular attention. Even though a consistent hair care regimen can assist, not all of us have time to nourish our hair with oil sessions and hair treatments. This is why hair smoothing and straightening treatments help you change the structure of your tresses and make them more manageable. Although both treatments give you smoother hair, there is a little variation between them.

Hair straightening originated before hair smoothing. Hair straightening was first performed on African hair. This treatment was created to help those with shaggy hair, but it immediately became fashionable. Hair smoothing, often known as Brazilian keratin treatment or Brazilian blowout, was invented in Brazil in 2003. There is a slew of other distinctions between these two techniques. Continue reading to learn more.

What Is Hair Straightening?

There are two types of hair straightening treatments: permanent and temporary. Temporary straightening is done with heat-styling tools like hot irons or hot combs. Here, functioning cohesive and adhesive forces work in a highly viscous system to keep the fibers parallel. The straight hair you get as a result of these procedures is temporary. Your hair goes back to its natural texture when you wash it.

Permanent hair straightening is a process by which the structure of your hair is altered to give you pin-straight hair. The chemical relaxers used in this process permanently break the bonds in your hair shaft. Heat is applied to restructure your hair, and more chemicals are used to seal the newly formed bonds. The alkaline agent in the chemical relaxer breaks the keratin bonds in curly/wavy hair to stretch and smoothen them (1).

Hair straightening treatments offer various benefits, including reduced frizz, manageable curls, improved and groomed appearance, easy maintenance and detangling, and less time consumption. It gives your hair a sleek and polished look that many find appealing. It provides versatility, allowing you to experiment with different styles and making daily hair maintenance more manageable.

This study examined hair product usage among African-American women throughout their life course and its correlation with socioeconomic status (SES). Among 1,555 participants, most women reported ever using chemical relaxers/straighteners (89%), with frequency increasing from childhood to adolescence and decreasing in adulthood. Similar patterns were observed for leave-in/leave-on conditioner use. Latent class analysis identified three patterns of adulthood hair product usage, with higher SES associated with more frequent use of multiple product types. These findings highlight the need to consider nuanced patterns of hair product use beyond a simple ever/never classification, as they may vary by SES.

How Does It Work?

Alkaline straighteners contain 1-10% sodium hydroxide (lye-relaxer), lithium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, or a combination of these ingredients. The high pH of these chemicals helps open the cuticle scales and penetrate the hair fibers. When these chemicals come in contact with the cortex, they react with keratin to break and rearrange the disulfide bridges to stretch them out, thus giving you straight hair (1).

While this process causes more damage than hair smoothing, it can straighten even the curliest of hair and is permanent. Thus, the treated hair remains straight until your natural hair grows out (1). Permanent hair straightening is also known as ‘Japanese straightening.’

Hair straighteners work on all hair types, from wavy to kinky curly hair. Depending on the hair texture, the procedure will need to be repeated every 8-12 weeks. One important thing to remember is that permanent straightening uses hydroxides or thioglycolate that are incompatible with bleached hair.

Side Effects Of Hair Straightening

Chemical relaxers should not be applied to the scalp as they can burn your skin. This is why it is recommended to use some petrolatum along the hairline and on the ears before the application of the relaxer to prevent alkaline burns (1).

Wrong technique may cause scalp burns and hair breakage (1).

The swelling of hair fibers and the opening of cuticle scales can make the hair susceptible to friction, thus lowering its resistance and strength (1).

The most commonly reported side effects of permanent hair straightening are curly hair, dandruff, hair loss, thinning and weakening of hair, graying of hair, and split ends (1).

Michelle Govindasamy, a beauty and lifestyle blogger, stopped straightening her hair for six months and saw noticeable differences in her hair health. She writes, “…I could hardly spot a split end. I definitely had way less split ends than ever before. I had less hair falling out & breaking off as well, which was awesome! My hair was growing much faster than before… Overall, my hair feels better than ever before. I also like that it is bouncy and not flat (straightening made my hair look really flat). Damage, split ends, and dryness are far less noticeable on my hair now, and I am loving it (i).”

How To Straighten Your Hair At Home: Tutorial & Natural WaysWhat Is Hair Smoothing?

Hair smoothing is a temporary treatment that is considered to be a procedure under hair straightening by some people. This professional treatment improves the manageability and appearance of your hair. The process involves saturating your hair with a formaldehyde solution, followed by drying it out and using a flat iron to lock your hair in a straight position (1). However, the chemicals used for smoothing hair are not as strong as the ones used in hair straightening treatments. This makes this treatment less damaging, but it is not ideal for all hair types.

Hair smoothening treatments help control frizz, add shine and glossiness, make it easier to style hair and improve hair texture. It adds a touch of elegance to your appearance, enhancing your overall confidence. It simplifies daily styling routines, saving time and effort. It gives curly hair a temporary smooth look.

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