Hands using straightening iron on hair


Models parade through hair care commercials, showing off sleek, shiny and straight-as-a-pin hair that women envy. In the past, to achieve those results, women would turn to relaxers and other products with harsh chemicals that ravaged their frizzy or curly hair. With the recent introduction of new straightening or smoothing treatments at salons, women can come away with both manageable and healthy hair. “Before, the treatments killed all the spirit out of the hair,” says Eclips Salon stylist Jesse Kline. “Now, women have the opportunity to get their hair to a place where they like it, without damaging it.”

One popular straightening treatment to arrive on the scene in the last few years is the Brazilian Blowout, which aims to eliminate frizz and straighten hair. However, in early fall, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued warnings about the product after tests found that it contained significant amounts of the dangerous chemical formaldehyde. “When the hair is heated during the treatment, the product vaporizes and releases formaldehyde into the air, which is hazardous to both the stylist and client,” Kline notes.

With Brazilian Blowout forced to reconfigure its solution, local salons have turned to alternatives that can achieve the same results. At Ethos Aveda Salon, stylists offer an Aveda Smooth Infusion Retexturizing System, which can produce either straight, controlled-body, or controlled- curl results, depending on the client’s wishes. “The product contains 74 percent naturally derived ingredients, which help repair the hair as it’s processing,” says Ethos designer Maren Keen. Applying the chemicals reshapes the bonds of the hair and conditioners are sealed within when a ceramic flat iron or curling iron uses heat as a catalyst to lock in the desired shape, Keen explains. Aveda’s treatment permanently reconfigures the hair, so results last four to six months, depending on how quickly a client’s hair grows.

Both Dominic Michael Salon and Eclips use the Pravana keratin smoothing system, which focuses more on taming unruly frizz, eliminating 95 percent of the fly-aways, Kline says. “Pravana puts almost a seal on the outside of the hair to smooth it, but you would still need a flat iron to fully straighten it,” adds Dominic Michael stylist Alexa Joly. The two-hour treatment lasts approximately three months before the solution wears off. “You’ll need a little touch-up, like you’d refresh your hair color,” Joly says.

The Pravana and Aveda treatments are formaldehyde-free, but other options that contain very low levels of the chemical still can be used safely. Dominic Michael also offers Brasil Cacau for clients who want completely straight hair. “The Brasil treatment actually breaks down the keratin bonds and puts them back together in a linear form,” Joly says. Brasil contains a minimal amount of formaldehyde and the salon only uses it at its Chesterfield location where proper ventilation reduces any fumes. “If you apply the proper amount of product and do not overuse it, it won’t become hazardous,” Joly notes.

Although these new treatments—with more appearing in the marketplace on a weekly basis—can significantly reduce women’s hair care hassles, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of all the options. With the cost of the straightening or smoothing treatments ranging from $150 to $300, depending on the salon and length of hair, all three stylists recommend that potential clients talk with their hairdressers before undergoing the process. “We encourage people to come in for a complimentary consultation,” Keen says. “We want to assess the clients’ hair, find out what they’ve used in the past, and help decide what’s best for them.”

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