Japanese Hair Straightening

straight, sleek hair

If you're looking to turn your tight spirals into smooth, sleek strands, Japanese hair straightening may be the right treatment for you. The process, also referred to as thermal reconditioning, is a professional treatment that can only be performed by a trained salon stylist. The treatment works best on super curly, coarse hair that isn't color-treated, but there are variations your stylist can use if you do color your hair to reduce the likelihood of damage.

The Basic Process

Although the process can vary depending on hair type and texture, the basic Japanese hair straightening treatment involves multiple steps. Expect to spend about three to six hours at the salon depending on your hair texture.

  • Your stylist will first wash and condition your hair with shampoo and a special protein-based conditioner
  • The first chemical, thioglycolate, also known as the retexturizer, is applied to hair to break down the protein and change hair's texture. Expect to sit under a hairdryer for up to 40 minutes while the chemical works its magic, or the stylist will opt to blow out your hair using a blowdryer.
  • While the thioglycolate is still in hair, your stylist will flat iron your hair, working in small sections.
  • A chemical neutralizer is then applied to hair and it's back under the dryer or another blow out.
  • After a shampoo and another round of straightening with a flat iron, the process is finished.

Caring for Your Hair Post-Treatment

Post-treatment care is absolutely crucial to maintaining your newly straightened locks, which when cared for properly, can last anywhere from four to six months. A few dos and don'ts will keep your straightened mane intact:

  • Don't let hair come in contact with water, even a light misting, for 72 hours.
  • Don't put hair into a ponytail or clip for 72 hours. This can create a bend in the hair that you won't be able to remove.
  • Don't color hair for at least two months after your Japanese hair straightening treatment. Check with your stylist to see if you should wait even longer.
  • Do use UV protection spray on hair or a large hat to protect from the sun.
  • Do use gentle shampoos and conditioners that are free of harsh salts and sulfates.

Things to Consider Before the Process

  • Ask to see before and after pictures of their clients who have used this treatment.
  • Find out early which straightening product they use. One popular brand is Yuko.
  • Make a list of everything you've used on your hair--hair dyes, perms and so on, so that you can inform your stylist at the time of your appointment.
  • Clear your schedule; the treatment will take several hours.
  • Keep in mind that your hair will not hold a curl after the treatment.

The Cons

While waking up with straight hair sans blow drying can be a dream come true for some, there are some cons to consider when thinking about taking the plunge with this treatment.

  • One of the major cons of this treatment is the hefty price tag. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to upwards of $600 for the treatment. Although your super smooth strands will last for months, it's still a major investment.
  • The time involved can be prohibitive for some. You really have to plan out your day in order to spend up to six hours in a salon having your hair straightened.
  • The service is not recommended for all types of hair, and cannot be performed on hair that was previously relaxed.

How to Find Salons That Offer Japanese Hair Straightening

It's important to remember that this treatment is a specialized process, one that some stylists are not qualified to perform. Stylists are specially-trained to perform the treatment and salons will specifically state this out on their website or salon menu. The treatment has only increased in popularity since its debut in the late 1990s, so many salons now offer the service.

Resources like Citysearch and Magic Yellow act as online yellow pages where you can type in specific search criteria, in this case, salons that offer Japanese straightening. From there the local results will pop up.

If you're interested in a particular salon and would like to know if they offer the service, simply visit the salon's website and take a look at the treatment menu. Additionally, you can also call the salon you're interested in visiting, and ask if they perform this service.

Wash and Go

If you regularly wrestle with your tight curls, spending hours blow drying them into straight strands on a daily basis, Japanese straightening can free you of your routine and leave you with wash and go hair. Just be sure to find a reputable salon and stylist who's qualified to perform the service.

Japanese Hair Straightening