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Japanese Hair Straightening Treatments

Are you a candidate, are they dangerous & do they work?



Wavy or curly hair becomes straight with Japanese straightening treatments.

Digital Vision for Getty Images

Japanese hair straightening is a popular method of straightening curly or wavy hair into pin-straight locks. It's a bit controversial, because it can wreck havoc on hair if done by an inexperienced stylist but some women swear by this method for straightening their unruly curls.

So should you get this? How does it compare to the keratin hair treatment (also known as Brazilian hair straightening), is the treatment dangerous and does it work?

I give you the full rundown in this article.

The History of Japanese Hair Treatment's Popularity in the US

Japanese hair straightening treatments (also called thermal reconditioning) were all the rage in New York City in the early 2000s. For women with curly hair who wanted straight hair, it seemed a miracle procedure. You walk into the salon with curly hair, drop $150-$800 for hours of chemical treatment and flat-ironing and walk out with super sleek straight hair that stays straight until it grows out.

The treatments were so popular, they jumped coasts and became popular on the West Coast and then in big cities across the country. Until Brazilian hair straightening caught on. Soon, Brazilian hair straightening, which uses keratin and formaldehyde, became The Hair Straightening Treatment of the Moment and the Japanese method fell to the wayside.

And then reports emerged of how much formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) was used in the Brazilian treatments and the popularity of the treatments decreased. Now Japanese hair straightening has enjoyed a minor surge in popularity due to the bad media coverage Brazilian treatments have received.

You can get Japanese hair straightening treatments in New York City, but mainly in trendy little Japanese and Korean salons sprinkled throughout downtown and in Queens, NY. The big hitter salons, such as Eva Scrivo, Ted Gibson, Mark Garrison, Charles Worthington and Ric Pipino no longer offer Japanese treatments, according to NY Magazine. Why? For some, the damage inflicted on hair wasn't worth it.

How Japanese Hair Straightening Works

Japanese Hair Straightening relies on a special solution that's applied to hair. This solution breaks down the hair's bond that gives it it's shape allowing it to become pin-straight with the help of a flat-iron.

The hair is saturated with this solution, rinsed, dried with a blowdryer and then flat-ironed with a ceramic iron in small 1/8th sections. A neutralizer is then applied which locks the style in place.

The entire process is labor and time-intensive. Depending on the length of your hair and its thickness, you can expect to be in the salon for a few hours.

How Long Does it Last & How Much Does it Cost?

Treatments will last about 6 months -- twice as long as the Brazilian straightening method. The costs range depending on where you live. In cities where prices are competitive, you will pay less. For example, at the time of this writing you could get a treatment done in the Queens borough of NY for $150, while the more upscale spots in downtown Manhattan charge $400 and up.

Is This Treatment Bad for Your Hair?

If you have this treatment done by someone who doesn't know what they are doing, you can be left with what some stylists are calling "disastrous results" -- fried hair, hair that falls out, etc. 

If your hair has been colored or if you've had other chemical treatments, you risk damaging your hair with this treatment. The stylist should know if your hair is a good candidate for treatment. Be honest, if you've had your hair colored or highlighted, you must speak up about it.

I recommend you get this done only by someone who specializes in this treatment. Ask how many they've done and for how many years before you sign up. If you are in a big city like New York or

Japanese hair straightening is permanent. You can't reverse the treatment once it's done and forget about getting a perm or anything involving chemicals to restore your hair's natural waves.

How to Take Care of Your Hair Post-Treatment

You have to be very careful with your new pin-straight hair after treatment. You can't wash it or pull it up into a ponytail for at least 3 days while it sets.

What are the Expected Results?

You can expect to have shiny, pin-straight hair with absolutely no wave in it for abut 6 months. I've read that this new style stays this way until it grows out and it won't take a curl, so put away your curling iron for now.

More on hair straightening:

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