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Think about these side effects before you choose hair straightening

Are hair straightening treatments actually worth it?

Written by Bhakti Paun Sharma |Updated : August 26, 2015 11:56 AM IST

The hair styling industry is buzzing with various treatments and techniques to tame curls and frizzy hair and give you poker straight hair. But is exposing your hair to harsh chemicals worth it? Did you know you could straighten your hair at home?

We discussed the side effects of various hair straightening methods with expert stylist and salon owner, Vikas Marwah. According to him, caring for your hair post-treatment is essential if you wish to maintain the health of your hair and ensure the treatment lasts for long. Here are the side effects associated with each type of hair straightening treatment.

Read: Which is the best hair straightening treatment?

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Thermal reconditioning

As you already know, thermal reconditioning or bonding, as it is usually termed, is a heavy chemical process wherein chemicals are applied on hair to break the bonds and turn the curls to get poker straight hair. However, do you know that if not done properly and at a good salon, hair straightening can cause serious damage to your hair?

Side effects

  • Chemically treated hair needs proper care. If you fail to follow the instructions given by your hair expert post straightening, you will experience excessive dryness. Dry hair tends to be more brittle and starts looking frizzy even if you have straightened the hair only a few weeks back.
  • Chemicals applied during straightening should not touch the scalp and roots. Most stylists ensure that they leave a centimeter s gap before applying chemicals, but if this is not done, itchy scalp, dandruff, redness and rashes are common. If these symptoms persist even after a few days of treatment, you must consult a doctor.
  • Frequent touch-ups and hair straightening treatments can lead to damage of hair follicles leading to hair fall. Hence, stylists suggest proper care so that the treatment lasts at least a year and the frequency of touch ups reduces too.
  • Greying of hair is also one side effect of thermal reconditioning especially if the products used are spurious.

Chemical relaxers

While hair relaxers were introduced as an alternative to thermal reconditioning and provide the same results, these too have side effects on your hair and skin. Lye relaxers use sodium hydroxide with a strength between 10-14pH. This same chemical is used in drain cleaners too. Hence, lye relaxers can be very damaging.

Side effects

  • A review study conducted on 90 female members from the students and faculty of AJ Institute of Medical Sciences, Mangalore indicated that 67% women suffered from frizzy hair, 61% from dandruff, 47% from hair loss, 40% from hair thinning, 22% from greying and 17% suffered from split ends after this treatment.
  • Hair loss and dryness increase if you use chemical relaxers on already damaged scalp or unhealthy chemically treated hair. Speak to your stylist in detail about the pros and cons of the treatment before opting for it.
  • Hot styling tools, if used on chemically straightened hair, can lead to brittle and lifeless hair. Hair products formulated for straightened hair must be used for long lasting effects. Constant touch-ups can cause severe damage to the shaft.
  • Chemicals used for this treatment should be tested on a small area on the neck or elbow to check for any irritation on infection. If observed, refrain from undergoing the treatment.

Keratin treatment

Keratin is a protein supplement treatment that works perfectly for taming frizzy hair. It can make curly hair look manageable and wavy hair looks straight, but the effects last for not more than 3 months. When compared to the chemical hair straightening methods, keratin treatment is less damaging and has fewer side effects.

Read: Is keratin treatment effective in reducing frizz?

Side effects:

  • The formaldehyde used in keratin treatments often leads to a runny nose, eye irritation, headache and itching owing to the strong fumes released during the treatment. Wearing a mask can help prevent these side effects, says Vikas Marwah.
  • Sensitive skin can have reactions because of keratin. If you have experienced any allergic reactions to formaldehyde before, request your stylist to test the product on your skin first.


Cysteine treatment has gained much popularity in less than a year. It is better than keratin as it contains no formaldehyde and can be easily done on chemically treated hair too. The results, however, last no longer than 3 months and the treatment reduces frizz and provides sheen but does not give you poker straight hair.

Side effects:

  • If genuine products are not used, it may lead to irritation in the scalp and itchiness.
  • It is important to use anti-frizz shampoos and conditioners post treatment for long lasting results. If proper care is not taken, the effect reduces with every wash and your hair will be back to normal in few weeks.

Image source: Shutterstock

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  1. Vinma H Shetty, Narendra J Shetty, and Dhanya Gopinath Nair. Chemical Hair Relaxers Have Adverse Effects a Myth or Reality. Int J Trichology. 2013 Jan-Mar; 5(1): 26 28. doi: 10.4103/0974-7753.114710

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