[Editor's note 5/24/2012: this product has been discontinued until further noticed.]
It is universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of curls wants straighter hair, while those with pin-straight strands want waves.
For the former group, finding a safe and effective way to straighten hair has proved challenging to say the least. (If you haven’t already heard about the recent Brazilian keratin dust-up, click here.)
Now, the first at-home treatment available in drugstores, Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-day Smoothing Kit, promises to leave hair sleeker and shinier without the dangers of formaldehyde—or even the inconvenience of a trip to the salon. And it only costs a cool $12.99.
So does it really work? Experts say yes. The key is an ingredient called ammonium thioglycolate—the same chemical compound that’s used in old-school perm solutions.
“The high pH of ammonium thioglycolate breaks hair’s disulphide bonds, which are responsible for the permanent shape (i.e. curly or straight) of the hair,” explains YouBeauty Cosmetic Chemistry Expert Ni’Kita Wilson. “When hair is neutralized, those bonds reform in a new shape—curly if the bonds were restored while the hair was set in curlers, or straight if the hair was pulled straight.”
The Suave kit is applied to damp hair, which is combed straight and treated with a Smoothing Cream to loosen hair’s curl pattern. It’s followed by a Cuticle Seal Cream that breaks hair’s disulphide bonds and locks in the new, smoother shape.
If all this talk of breaking hair’s bonds sounds a bit harsh, that’s because it can be. “Hair that’s already been chemically altered can be weakened by permanent smoothing products, and that can potentially lead to breakage,” says Wilson.
This doesn’t mean at-home smoothing kits are a bad idea—it just means you need to do your homework before using one to make sure it won’t be too harsh for your hair. Typically, hair that’s been relaxed, highlighted or recently dyed is a no-go, as is hair that’s fragile or brittle. Make sure you check out the product’s website (Suave has a quiz you can take to find out if the smoothing kit is right for you) and read the package directions thoroughly. It’s one thing to skip the instruction manual when you’re setting up your new DVD player, but this is your hair we’re talking about.
One more thing to keep in mind: At-home smoothing kits most likely aren’t going to give you Demi Moore-like straightness, especially if your hair is very curly to begin with. “Hair won’t be bone-straight, but you’ll get a straighter look,” confirms Wilson.
The bottom line: Manage your expectations, follow the directions, and you may well be on your way to smoother, shinier strands—safely.
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