Yahoo May 31, 2023



Everything You Need to Know About Japanese Hair Straightening for Sleek, Silky Locks


Experts break down the popular treatment that breaks down stubborn curls and frizz.

For those with curly, frizzy, hard-to-maintain hair, you’re likely no stranger to two-plus hour-long blowouts and endless hair straightener passes to iron out unwanted kinks and frizz. Luckily, if you’re dreaming of silky smooth, pin-straight hair, there’s an easier and permanent route. Meet Japanese hair straightening, a treatment developed to re-shape each strand for ultra-smooth, sleek hair. But, as is the case with most seemingly miraculous solutions, it’s not without its downsides and risks—namely the potential for some serious hair damage.

We went straight to the experts to break down everything you need to know about the risky, high-impact treatment—from costs to aftercare to important considerations. If you’re on the market for the best straightening solution for your needs, read on for a mini masterclass in Japanese hair straightening.

What is Japanese hair straightening?

According to Amy Abramite, creative director and hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, Ill., Japanese thermal hair straightening is a permanent rebonding process that eliminates curls and frizz. 

Similar to a straight perm, Japanese hair straightening uses a chemical solution to break down and soften the hair’s bonds, which are responsible for hair structure and shape. This relaxes the curl pattern and allows hair to become pin-straight when flat ironed (more on that in second). The solution is applied, left to sit on the hair for around 30 minutes and then rinsed, followed by a blow drying and flat ironing session that works to change the hair’s texture by smoothing the cuticle and eliminating frizz, explains Jerome Lordet, salon and style director at Pierre Michel Salon in New York City. But this isn’t your average flat iron: Stylists use a ceramic iron and work across the hair in small sections, around an eighth of an inch at a time.

Next, the stylist applies a neutralizer to lock the style and shape in place, leaving hair straight and silky smooth. It’s rinsed and followed by another blow dry and flat iron styling to finish the service. All this to say, it’s certainly a process, and depending on hair length and natural texture, can take anywhere from an hour or two to the better part of a day, Lordet says.

The technique was invented in Japan in the 1990s (hence the name) to achieve permanently straight, frizz-free hair, Abramite explains. Fast forward a decade and it became popular in salons around the world, though it was particularly popular in New York City.

“Back in the early 2000s, we had women wanting that super straight hair all the time,” Lordet recalls. “It was also referred to as ‘thermal reconditioning’, and it was often the first time people saw a treatment that permanently straightened their curls.”

What are the results of Japanese hair straightening?

Post-treatment, you can expect smooth, shiny, sleek hair with a notable decrease in everyday frizz.

When it comes to hair, results are rarely forever but Japanese hair straightening really is permanent—well, sort of. The treatment is irreversible on the hair that’s treated, but it won’t change the texture of any new hair growth, which, according to Lordet, will generally start to show around six months post-treatment for most people. That being said, both experts recommend root touch ups every eight to 10 months.

It’s important to note Japanese hair straightening lasts about twice as long as traditional keratin straightening treatments, which are semi-permanent and wash out over time.

Is Japanese hair straightening damaging?

There’s quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Japanese hair straightening can cause serious hair damage.

“Since there are chemicals involved in this style, if done wrong, there can be permanent damage—especially if working on dyed hair, previously damaged hair, or just an incompatible hair type,” Lordet warns, “To avoid these results, I strongly recommend doing a test strand and doing your research on going to the right stylist. If you get the treatment continually, it can break weak or broken hair over the years.”

That being said, there’s always risk involved in chemical treatments of any kind and caution must be used to protect the integrity of the hair. According to Abramite, a consultation with a licensed, experienced stylist can help you determine if you’re a good candidate for the service.

How much does Japanese hair straightening cost?

While some salons no longer offer Japanese hair straightening treatments due to the damage it can potentially inflict on hair, they’re still widely available across the country, especially in larger cities. Prices vary depending on location, but expect to pay between $400 and $800.

How do you care for a Japanese hair straightening treatment?

Given the risk that comes with Japanese hair straightening, proper after-care is essential. For at least three days post-treatment, hair must remain completely dry and undisturbed, Abramite says. This means no water or styling products as well as no tension of any kind (think ponytails, elastics, clips, pins, headbands, and hats). During the first 72 hours, hair is ultra sensitive and still rebonding, meaning it can permanently take on a kink or dent if pressure is applied.

Once hair has returned to its natural pH levels (which should occur after those three days), it’s safe to go back to regular shampooing and conditioning, though Lordet recommends using hair masks after the first few washes to restore follicle strength and minimize damage.

Both experts strongly suggest avoiding any other sort of chemical hair treatment—it’ll only further damage the hair, so be prepared to commit to fully growing it out.

Is there anything else to consider before getting Japanese hair straightening?

The treatment may have varying levels of success depending on hair texture, particularly for Black women. For this reason, as well as the large potential for damage, both experts strongly suggest going to a reputable salon to ensure the best results. They also note that the risk of damage is higher for those with colored or chemically processed hair, which they cite as yet another reason to do your research and seek out the most reputable salon.