Everything Stylists Need to Know About Chemical Straightening and Perming

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Through a perm or a straightening process, you can help your clients change their hair’s natural texture to get the smooth silkiness or the voluminous curls they’ve been dreaming of.

Through your hair stylist program, you’ve learned the anatomy of hair and how to manipulate it with chemical reactions that permanently curl or straighten hair. Of course, learning to chemically curl, straighten, and relax hair is covered in the standard curriculum of all cosmetology programs, but it’s always smart to brush up on what you’ve learned and stay up on the latest products and techniques – especially if you have regular clients that have made this their go-to look.

Hair History – Important Things to Consider When Using Chemical Straightening and Curling Products

Start by asking your client about their hair history. Be thorough! Has your client recently dyed their hair or performed any kind of treatment on it, including hair glazes, glosses, or straightening treatments? Cutting hair immediately after a treatment usually results in frizzy, uneven locks, so you may want to caution your client against doing a chemical treatment in the first week or so after a cut.

Although perming and straightening treatments are meant to last for six months at the longest, the treatments often cause permanent structural change to the hair. Because the treatment breaks down the disulfide bonds in the hair’s keratin protein, it can sometimes be difficult for the hair to return to its original shape.

This may result in easy breakage of the hair, especially near the hairline. It can also create a frizzy texture, but results will vary from person to person. How well the hair reacts to the treatment may also vary depending on how often your client has chemically treated their hair in the past. Clients who color their hair on a regular basis aren’t good candidates for permanent straightening treatments or curls, because damaged hair won’t maintain its curl, and the treatment may cause the hair to become rough and brittle rather than smooth and silky.

As a trusted stylist, a large part of your role is to recommend the best way for your clients to achieve glowing, healthy hair. By determining your client’s hair history, you can help them make an educated decision about whether a permanent treatment is right for their hair.

Everybody Just Relax – Everything You Need to Know About Using Chemical Strengthening Products  

Clients with tight, frizzy, curls often choose to relax or permanently straighten their hair. Relaxing the hair makes it easier to manipulate for everyday wear.

To straighten naturally curly, wavy, or frizzy hair, you’ll use either an acid or an alkaline method. The alkaline method is the more traditional approach and lasts longer, but it can also cause more damage to the hair in the long run.

To use the traditional alkaline method, you’ll apply an ammonium thioglycolate solution to the scalp and comb it through the hair, being sure to saturate each strand so that the texture doesn’t end up uneven. As you comb the solution through the hair and pull it straight with the brush, the ammonium will break down the disulfide bonds in the hair’s keratin—the protein structure that makes up the majority of the hair strands. As the disulfide bonds are broken, the hair no longer holds its natural shape, but can be re-shaped into a new texture.

After the hair is saturated in the ammonium solution and combed into straight, even strands, you’ll neutralize the solution with hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide stops the ammonium from reacting to the hair, and the disulfide bonds can now re-shape to the hair’s new texture: glossy, straight strands.

You may also use an acid treatment to re-shape the hair. This treatment has become more popular in recent years because it causes less damage to the hair, but it doesn’t last as long as the alkaline method. Instead of using ammonium to break down the hair’s disulfide bonds, you’ll use a glyceryl monothioglycolate solution to manipulate the hair’s keratin proteins. To neutralize the solution and re-shape the hair, you’ll use the heat of a straightener, carefully smoothing each strand.

Straightening treatments usually last from six to eight weeks before your client will need the style to be refreshed, though an acid treatment may only last for four weeks before your client notices their hair starting to return to its natural texture.

Bringing Back the Perm, Sort of – Everything You Need to Know About Using Chemical Curling Products

Perming isn’t just the style of the eighties—it’s a great modern way to re-texture your client’s hair. To coax your client’s naturally straight hair to create curls, you’ll need to break down the keratin bonds (the natural protein component) in the hair and allow the hair to be re-shaped around a curler. To re-shape the hair, you’ll put it into curlers. You can create any kind of curls your client would like by customizing the size of the curlers. While the eighties favored tight, voluminous curls, a more modern look can be created with larger, smooth curls.

If your client wants small, tight curls or big waves, you’ll just change the size of the curlers. You might also use different size curlers to create a more natural look rather than making each curl the same size.

After the hair is set in curlers, you’ll treat the hair with a perm solution that includes ammonium thioglycolate, which will break down the keratin molecules and open the disulfide bonds, and the hair will form around the curlers. The ammonium is responsible for the strong smell that we’ve come to associate with perms—but make sure to reassure your client that the smell will fade after one-two washes. Once the hair is set, you’ll add a hydrogen peroxide solution to the curls, which will neutralize the ammonium. Now the hair is naturally shaped in curls or waves.

Just like the acid straightening treatment, there is another method of perming hair known as the acid perm. Instead of using ammonium, you’ll use a glyceryl monothioglycolate solution to break down the keratin and then heat the curls by using a hair dryer. Although an acid perm is less damaging to the hair, it also does not last as long as a traditional perm and is better suited to creating waves than tight curls.

When applying a traditional alkaline perm, you’ll need to avoid using heat on the hair for at least 48 hours after treatment. The heat can react with the ammonium, causing the hair to become dry and brittle. Don’t forget to caution your clients to avoid any heat styling, including blow drying—even with their hair’s new texture, they may be tempted to use heat styling to freshen their look.

Perms are meant to last about six months, though the acid perm may last only three or four months. After about six months, your client will need to return for a refresher perm or allow their hair to return to its natural texture.

Considering Safety When Performing Texture Treatments

Through your cosmetology courses, you’ll learn about using chemicals to safely manipulate your client’s hair texture. Because the glyceryl component—the active component in most texture treatments—is so strong, it can cause eye irritation and redness if it gets close to your client’s eyes.

Also, because the hairs at the hairline can be new and fragile, letting the chemicals sit near the hairline too long can cause breakage and scalp irritation. You can avoid this irritation by diluting the solution that you use near the hairline. Since the hairline is closer to the face, you’ll also be able to avoid placing the strongest solution near to the eyes.

If you’re working with a cautious client who has never treated their hair before, you may want to perform the process on just a few strands to give your client an idea of how the finished product will look.

By considering your client’s needs and performing permanent treatments as carefully as possible, you can set yourself apart as a considerate and skilled stylist.

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