The Safest Ways to Straighten Hair
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Straight On1 of 11
By Emili Vesilind
For those of us with unruly manes, the Brazilian Blowout and its spin-offs seemed like gifts from above. But our love affair with straightening treatments ended when controversy over a cancer-causing ingredient in the elixirs — formaldehyde — began. How’s a frizzy gal to get sleek tresses safely these days? Here are a few tips to help you get the kinks out.
Flat Iron2 of 11
Manual straightening with a flat iron is still the safest way to get pin-straight tresses, say hairdressers, and irons from tool brand Royale are among the quickest and most effective on the market. The Tourmaline Pro — the brand’s top-drawer straightener — boasts 100- percent ceramic plates (some irons have plates that are merely coated with ceramic) that seal moisture in instead of wicking it out.
Best Balm3 of 11
But even the swankiest straightening irons take their toll on hair over time. Which is why using the right products is “essential” to safeguarding your locks, said Maurice Dadoun, creative director for the Frédéric Fekkai salon in Los Angeles, who uses Fekkai Coiff Ironless Straightening Balm to coax hair into uncurling during the blow-dry stage. “It adds shine and is made to specifically smooth the hair.”
In a Lather4 of 11
Shampoo and conditioner are also integral to keeping ironed hair soft and silky, said Dadoun, who suggests finding products that are “made for your hair type.” A good rule of thumb: Choose a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo and a rich conditioner, like the ones in Serge Normant’s new Meta hair care line, before using any hot tool.
Spray It5 of 11
John Frieda, who’s been fighting frizz for decades with his best-selling Frizz-Ease serum, has debuted a semi-permanent styling spray, Frizz-Ease 3-Day Straight, which you spritz onto damp hair before blow-drying and ironing. The “semi-permanent” label is a little iffy — since the next shampoo will undo any of the product’s effects — but the spray does a stellar job of keeping hard-to-handle manes in line for a few days running.
Relaxed Effect6 of 11
Chemical relaxers, which have historically been used on African-American hair, are now being used on ultra-curly hair of all ethnicities to get locks straighter, if not quite poker-straight. The process uses sodium or guanidine hydroxide to relax hair.
Relaxed Effect7 of 11
This process is different from the formaldehyde and/or glutaraldehyde used in thermal reconditioning (aka Japanese straightening) and keratin treatments (i.e., the Brazilian Blowout). This concoction can’t be used on hair that’s been highlighted or double-processed (bleached then colored), said Dadoun, for risk of breakage.
Go Coco8 of 11
Want to skip the salon entirely? Hair care company Rio de Keratin has created an all-natural alternative to chemical hair-straightening. Dubbed the Cocolada Treatment, it promises to relax — not completely straighten — curls. The first at-home nontoxic straightening product, it coats hair with keratin proteins (same as the hard-core salon stuff, but without the chemicals) to add shine and zap frizz.
Silicon Valley9 of 11
Hairdressers know that when it comes to keeping locks smooth, waxy pomades and sticky sprays don’t cut it. Silicon-based potions, such as Bumble & Bumble’s DeFRIZZ, act as a barrier against humidity, keeping your straight style frizz-free.
Brush Savvy10 of 11
A blowout won’t give you a stick-straight mane, but with the right tools you can get pretty darn close. The Super Solano hairdryer, which features a hair-protecting ceramic grill and three speeds, is a favorite of top celeb stylists, including Sally Hershberger, who's also a fan of Spornette's wood-and-boar-bristled round brushes.
Brush Savvy11 of 11
To dry, section hair off into roughly one-inch squares, and — using a large round brush (the longer the hair, the bigger the brush barrel) — point the hairdryer down on the hair shaft as you pull each section out with the brush. Lock in the look with your dryer’s cool-air button, or by poking your pretty head in the freezer for a few seconds.