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Get It Straight: The Rundown on At-Home Straightening

Don't we always want what we can't have? Curly-haired girls pine for glossy, swingy straight locks, while those with pin-straight manes long for the body, texture, and versatility of curls.

If you decide to try a straight style, there are three types of treatments you can choose from. The strongest are sodium hydroxide and guanidine hydroxide (aka "no-lye"), which break down the hair cuticle so that it softens and can be relaxed internally. Because both of these can be drying, they are only recommended for thick, coarse hair. A gentler alternative is ammonium thioglycolate (the same super-smelly ingredient used in perms). This is less effective, but it's also less damaging to your hair.

Professional straightening, while costly, is the safest option because of the chemicals involved. If you do decide to go the at-home route, I have a couple product suggestions, so


One option that is getting rave reviews from users is the PhytoSpecific Relaxer 2 ($60). This is a guanidine hydroxide-based straightening kit that uses egg and a "soy complex" to straighten hair gently and effectively, while protecting against damage.

Revlon's Realistic Extra Conditioning Creme Relaxer System ($7) is a more affordable but slightly stronger option. It is sodium hydroxide-based, so it should be used only on the thickest and coarsest of hair.

Something to keep in mind is that relaxed hair needs extra taking care of. That means deep conditioning twice a week, using a leave-in conditioner, and laying off the highlights for at least two months. For those of you craving a change, this is a doable process, as long as you're committed to taking care of the results.


Join The Conversation
leanneluvsu leanneluvsu 9 years
I think its because you all have scorched your hair into place.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Hautie, I've had weirdly long-lasting effects from heat styling as well! I used to use the Enzo Milano ceramic curling iron a lot (1/2 inch barrel--if I'm going to go to all the effort to curl my hair, I want it super curly) and my hair would totally take several shampoos to go back to straight!
Hautie Hautie 9 years
I have long curly hair... and I never wanted it to be permanently straight. But I do on occasion do it straight, when there is no hint of rain, and the dew level is really low. I hate flat irons. So I use a 1 1/2 barrel Golden Hot curling iron. Which has heat settings from 200-500 degree's. I section my hair off into fourths and do it one section at a time. The reason I use the barrel iron is cause I actually want a slight curl on my ends. I want nice soft bouncy hair... not pin straight cooked looking hair. The odd thing... it takes a couple of shampoo's for my curls to kick back up and look normal after a straighten.
leanneluvsu leanneluvsu 9 years
Phytospecific and Mizani Butter Blends are the best to use, IMO.
leanneluvsu leanneluvsu 9 years
Do not do your relaxers at home. If you don't know much about relaxers, then I would suggest you don't use them. There's a lot of work that much be done in between and if you don't, all of your hair will break off because of the harsh chemicals. I get my touch-ups every 4 to 6 months, and I just take care of my hair in between.
get-real get-real 9 years
Touch ups every 8 to 10 weeks is best for your hair.
get-real get-real 9 years
I get my hair relaxed professionally. It is ideal because you can't see all parts of your head, to see the reaction of the chemicals. Also you can get a trim at the same time. I use Affirm which is very good. It is milder (I think no lye). I don't have to flat iron it. I wash and go or use a blow dryer. The best thing to do is use roller sets which gives lots of volume. I think naturally curly hair is beautiful too. Lots of versatility. I've only had a relaxer for a little more than a year.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
I get my hair relaxed at the salon and get touch-ups every few months. But I have been thinking about investing in a good flat iron. I keep hearing good things about CHI, Sedu, and ghd, which one is best?
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
Thanks for the research Bella! I may try the Phyto straightener. I love all their other products, and I love messin' with my hair!
Schlem33 Schlem33 9 years
I was blessed with a full thick head of curly hair....bummer. I wear it curly maybe 2 times per year. I was at an Aveda concept salon a couple of days ago and the girl next to me had her hair dry and straight in 10 minutes (no joke) and I commented to my stylist about how I wish my hair dried that quick (not to mention straight!) Turns out, this girl has super curly hair too but she just had a Brazilian professional straightening done. I could not believe it from her before pictures the owner of the salon showed me. I was envious. Her hair looked so healthy too, I could imagine how much that would change one's life! I seriously plan my evenings around which night I have to wash and straighten my hair, haha it's sad :)
briannaNicole briannaNicole 9 years
Of course the flat iron is damaging seems curly haired girls just can't catch a break!!
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
And all I want is curls and waves...
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I could never do this to my hair!
hebrew-hunny hebrew-hunny 9 years
I used a relaxer for years but they are so damaging. Now I just use a flatiron.
Fiend Fiend 9 years
Bella im glad you did a post on relaxing. Many people do not know about the benefits of the process. I'd just like to point out that you should add kiddie relaxers (such as "just for me", or "optimum for kids") as alternative options to the ones you have listed. They are way gentler and would be a better option for non african american hair types. And for any african americans who don't want their hair super straight it is an option as well. And the benefit of relaxing your hair is that using the chemicals is a once every 6-8 week process (depending on how fast your hair grows; you need at least 1 inch of new growth for a touch up)and you don't need to use heating tools as much to smooth out your hair. I relax my hair every 8 weeks and i never use a flat iron or curling iron. I just get a wash and set and im good. Maybe towards touch up time i will get a blow out but usually thats only in the summer. Also always make to get regular trimms to keep split ends at bay.
glam-sugar glam-sugar 9 years
I use my flat iron and Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum. I also use a leave in conditioner twice a week to keep my hair from drying out.
SugarCat SugarCat 9 years
I straighten my waves with a blowdryer and flat iron. I know people who have paid $600 or more to have it straightened professionally. Insanity!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I don't need to worry about this, a flat iron works fine but if I did... I would never do an "at home" one. I would be too nervous of all the major mistakes that could happen.
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