Keratin straightening: Also known as the Brazilian blowout, keratin straightening is considered a miracle by many curly-haired gals. In this process, the hair is coated with a keratin solution and pressed in place with a flat iron. The solution can help restore the hair shaft and make your hair more resilient than before, but trouble occurs if the stylist uses a flat iron that’s too hot.
Scorching is common, and that can lead to mega-breakage, so if you notice broken hair after your treatment, speak up next time and ask your stylist to turn down the heat. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that most keratin solutions contain formaldehyde, a highly toxic carcinogen, which is why we don’t give this service the thumb’s up.
Straightening: Permanent relaxing chemically breaks microscopic bonds in the hair so the strands can be manipulated into a straight style. Red hair and African-American hair can be more difficult to straighten, and more likely to suffer damage. The straightening process weakens the hair structure, so breakage and splitting are common. Relaxing virgin hair can be damaging, but most of the trouble arises when the solution is applied to already-straightened areas. Even if your stylist is applying the solution only to your roots, it’s difficult to avoid at least some overlap.
Body wave or perm: Perms chemically break microscopic bonds in the hair so the strands can be manipulated into a wavier style. The bonds reform in a curlier shape, a delicate process that continues for two to three days after treatment (which is why you can’t wash your hair). Perming virgin hair isn’t terribly damaging (though it still breaks down the hair’s structure), but trouble arises when the solution is applied to already-permed areas. Brillo hair! Even if your stylist is applying the solution only to your roots, it’s difficult to avoid at least some overlap.
Swimming in chlorinated pools, sporting tight braids and stressing out can leave you with less than healthy hair. Find out why these habits are harmful.
Tight twists or braids: Tight twists and braids cause what’s known as tensile stress, which is basically a constant tugging on the hair follicle. Regular tensile stress can cause permanent hair loss, known as traction hair loss. For African-American women, tight twists and braids commonly lead to hair loss at the hairline, and in the middle of the scalp, a condition that’s even more likely among women who also have Type 2 diabetes (though scientists aren’t sure why yet). The only way to prevent this type of hair loss is to chillax on the super-tight braids—give your hair follicles a chance to recover.
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