japanese hair straightening

Curious about Japanese hair straightening?


Let us answer your questions about the process and help you decide if a thermal reconditioning procedure is a good fit for you. Keep reading to get an overview of the process or search our directory to find a salon near you.



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The Basics of Japanese Hair Straightening

Japanese hair straightening is a popular way of permanently straightening hair that originated in Japan in the 1990’s. It promises to turn wavy, coarse, or curly hair into pin-straight locks by treating the hair with chemicals which break the protein bonds in the hair that give it its shape.

This process is also known as “thermal reconditioning” since it also uses very special flat irons that heat to precise temperatures to complement the work of the chemical solution. This straightening process first became popular in the United States in New York City in the early 2000’s and is now available at salons across the country.


Read More: Japanese vs Keratin Straightening: 5 Considerations


The Benefits

This permanent hair straightening process has many benefits. The most obvious one is the sleek, frizz free look. But beyond the appearance factor, the greatest benefit is likely to be time saved each day on not having to fight to dry, wavy or curly hair with a blow dryer and brush.

Hair that has been straightened by thermal reconditioning is much quicker to dry. It requires very little attention out of the shower, giving you a professional look with minimal effort. You are also saved from the hassle of fighting frizz from humidity or physical activity.
Watch the procedure in action!

How It Works

The Japanese hair straightening process is extensive, taking at least 3 to 4 hours. It can girl hair straightenedtake up to 8 hours depending on the length, thickness, and condition of the hair being treated.

The key to this method of hair straightening is the special solution that chemically alters the bonds (disulfide/cystine) which give shape to the individual strands of hair. This allows for the hair to be permanently straightened.

1) Consultation

Due to the risks involved with the process (you are making a permanent change to your hair, or at least to the hair that is on you head at the time of the procedure), all professional stylists will meet for a consultation before scheduling you for thermal reconditioning. This is a crucial step as not all hair types can be helped by this technique.

2) Shampoo

If you are confirmed as a good candidate, the actual straightening process will begin with a shampoo and partial drying.

3) Solution is Applied

Unless you have a history of hair coloring or other chemical treatments, the solution or activator will be applied to your hair after the shampooing and will be given time to process. A strand test will be used to determine when your hair is ready to proceed.

4) Ironing

If you pass the strand test, the hair will be rinsed, conditioner and heat protector will be applied, and it will be ironed at very precise temperatures.

5) Neutralizer is Applied

A neutralizer is then applied and left on in order to stabilize the balance of the pH.

6) Blow Drying

More conditioner and heat protectant are then applied before a final blow drying. For a more detailed step by step description of the process, visit our step by step guide.

There are a several brands of solutions or activator that are used for thermal reconditioning, Yuko, Liscio, and iStraight by Innosys to name a few. The Yuko hair straightening system was developed in Japan by Yuko Yamashita and is considered by many to be the gold standard.

Immediately following the procedure, you will have to keep your hair dry and free from all kinks for 48 to 72 hours. This means no ponytail holders, hair clips, hats, or combs of any kind. During this time there may still be chemical residue inside the shaft of the individual hairs. Pressure on the hair could cause a bend that will not go away. Even tucking and leaving hair behind the ear could result in a distortion.

Keep reading to learn more about caring for your hair following the treatment.

Hair Styles that Will Benefit the Most

Certain types of hair will benefit the most from Japanese hair straightening, and some types should not even consider the process. In general, this procedure is a good fit for those with loose curls or wavy hair who are tired of fighting their hair with a flat iron every day.

A complete guide for determining if you a good candidate is available on our Is It Right for Me page.

Japanese hair straightening before after

courtesy of www.yukobyana.com

The benefit is less for those with tight curls since the process would take longer and therefore be more expensive, and because touch ups would be needed more frequently as new hair grows from the roots. (The straightening process is permanent but only to the hair that is treated at the time.)

For women with African hair, this may not be a good straightening solution. Thermal reconditioning is also unpredictable for women who are pregnant or nursing since pregnancy and breast feeding have such an impact on a woman’s normal hormonal balance.

If you have recently had your hair colored, bleached, or relaxed, be sure to tell your stylist as these processes affect the health of your hair. Moving forward with the Japanese hair straightening process will require extra care and consideration. The stylist may recommend another straightening procedure altogether.

Cost of Japanese Hair Straightening

The cost to get your hair straightened with this thermal reconditioning method varies depending on time the procedure will take. This is determined by the length and volume of your hair as well as other factors such how much processing your hair has already undergone. A typical procedure will cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000.

It may be possible to find someone to do it cheaper than this, but be wary of a salon that offers to put your hair through this degree of reconditioning for much less. Painful stories of burnt hair or even hair loss are often the result of cheap work done by an inexperienced stylist.

Touch ups are typically needed anywhere from 6 to 9 months later depending on the amount of curl in the new growth. These should take less time than the original visit and cost significantly less as well.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to find a cheap stylist for touch ups.

Consistently flattening the new growth to match the old is just as challenging as performing the original procedure.

Other Considerations

Because of the intense processing your hair goes through with Japanese straightening, you will need to be sure to let your stylist know if you have previously used relaxers in your hair. Whether or not the product worked, they will need to know if the relaxer was a hydroxide base (sodium, potassium, calcium, or lithium hydroxide) or a thioglycolate base.

The solutions used in thermal reconditioning are thio based and are compatible with other thio based relaxers. However, they are NOT compatible with any hydroxide based products. If you aren’t sure what type of relaxer was previously used, your stylist may perform a strand test to check.

Informing the stylist of your history of hair coloring is just as critical. Tell her the type and frequency of color used as well as whether it was done at home or by a professional. Even if the treatment was done six months to a year ago and has since been covered, you need to share it upfront. Giving more detail is always better!

A professional stylist or technician will be sure to tell you if you are not a good candidate for thermal reconditioning and suggest other alternatives.

Read our comparison of Japanese hair straightening and Keratin treatments.

Visit our Is It Right for Me? page to walk through a list of questions to help you discern if it would a good fit given your hair’s style and history.

Speaking of your stylist, it is also important for you to question her in the consultation. The degree of your chosen stylist’s experience with the Japanese hair straightening process is one of, if not the, greatest factor in the outcome. You want to choose someone who has performed the procedure hundreds of times, not someone who is cutting you a deal in order to get in some “real world experience.”

We have put together a list of questions to ask as you search for a qualified stylist.

Caring for Your Hair

As is stated above, it is critical that you protect your hair from water and any kind of even minor bending during the first two or three days following the Japanese hair straightening procedure. Even though the stylist may be done, the work of the chemicals on your hair is still in process. The neutralizer needs to absorb oxygen from the air as your hair settles into a new shape.

Special shampoos and conditioners will help to maintain the health and shine of your new hairstyle. A thermal heat protector is recommended to avoid damage from flat ironing or blow drying.

It is possible to color your hair after a permanent hair straightening procedure, but you should wait at least two weeks and have it done by a professional. A protein treatment ahead of time will help to insure great results from the coloring treatment.

As with any highly delicate process, things can go wrong. Sometimes they can go really wrong, especially if you tried to cut corners on the experience level of your stylist. Examples of problems resulting from a poorly done straightening procedure can include unnatural “bends” in the hair, tight scalp, breakage, and hair loss.

If you’ve experienced any of these issues, we have some suggestions that may help reduce the damage. And, of course, you should always speak to the owner of the beauty shop or salon about your problems. They should at least refund your money even if they don’t actively work to remedy the situation.

Japanese hair straightening is not for everyone. But if you are one of the many women who are looking for a long term hair straightening solution, it could be the perfect option to looking great while saving time and money in the long run.

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