Relaxants that straighten and smooth hair have become one of the most popular hair treatments over the last few years.
Cayman is no exception. In fact, women who have never used the treatments before they come here find that it is the only thing that keeps their hair under control.
Although the Cayman lifestyle and climate may be a little slice of paradise, the humidity, sun, salt and air conditioning play havoc with hair and, for a lot of us, that means dried out frizz -a look that flatters no one.
The solution for most is a straightening treatment that leaves the hair sleek and shiny for a few months.
These treatments do not come cheap and there are a lot of different ones out there so its best to know a bit about them and how they are going to work for you before you choose the treatment.
Hair stylist Francis Omar, who has just opened Rock Gorgeous Hair salon along with wife Kelly, at Coconut Plaza is a mine of information about all things hair related and how products work on your hair.
Omar explains that first you should know the difference between a relaxer and the less harsh sealants or smoothers such as the various keratin treatments and the Brazilian Blowout (the term “Brazilian Blowout” is a trademarked brand name) and how they work.
“Relaxers actually break and re-bond the hair structure. Their main ingredient is sodium hydroxide, which is the active ingredient in Nair (a hair removal product for the body),” says Omar.
He says one of the drawbacks of relaxers is, “when the natural hair structure reforms over time damage may be very noticeable, causing the hair to break.
Also a relaxer or straightener changes and straightens the hair bond forever until it is cut off.”
Japanese hair straightening, he says, is also permanent.
”It changes the actual structure of the hair. In doing so, there is an obvious difference between the new hair growth and the hair that has been treated”.
Omar says it can also have unpredictable results. “It can leave the hair flat, too straight and with little to no shine or lustre.”
Keratin treatments on the other hand are temporary, lasting up to three months depending on the hair.
Keratin is the substance of which the hair and nails are made.
Applying products containing keratin to human hair returns the keratin to the hair shaft’s cortex and fills it up, turning it soft and shiny again.
Debbie Thompson at Today’s Image salon where they use keratin treatments says “the treatment controls frizz and cuts down on the amount of styling the hair needs and because keratin is what the hair is made up of, it is not damaging.”
She says keratin treatments are suitable for Caucasian hair, while for Afro Caribbean hair, it’s best to alternate a straightening treatment and the keratin treatment.
At Rock Gorgeous Hair, stylists use the Brazilian Blowout, which has keratin in it but that is not the main ingredient.
Omar refers to the treatment as a “sealant”, which gradually leaves the hair since it only sits on the outside of the hair shaft.
“We have been testing out five other similar products over the past couple of years and by far Brazilian Blowout is the best frizz killer out there and lasts the best in humid environments.”
The Brazilian Blowout does not penetrate into the hair cortex but work by smoothing the hair with the use of a patented polymer that bonds the amino acids to the hair surface.
Omar says “think of it as a condom for the hair. Sounds funny but that’s exactly what it is. Like a silicone layer that smooths each strand of hair and seals the cuticle super tight which straightens out the curl and frizz.”
He says he sees the most shine and zero drawbacks. “[With] most Keratin smoothers you must avoid washing or even touching the hair for three to four days, where the Blowout is rinsed out the same day to show our clients immediate results.
You can even swim in the ocean and pool without any effects. It also seems to last the longest.”
The Brazilian Blowout has had some bad press recently. When it was tested, it contained high levels of formaldehyde but many of the other keratin treatments also contain formaldehyde.
Omar says, “The Brazilian Blowout claims to be 100 per cent safe and formalahyde free, although tests have been done where it was measured to be higher then the standard allowance.
The research showed that in its untouchable state in the bottle, it is indeed an extremely small amount, yet when combined with heat sources such as the intense ironing and blowdrying, the percentage rises above the [US Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards.”
“We always use precaution when doing this service. We always wear gloves and use a fan to direct the fumes away from the clients face at all times and offer towels/mask if they desire,” Omar says.
Francis Omar’s guide to hair smoothing treatments:
Sodium hydroxide is the strongest of all treatments and is used in most, if not all, Afro-Caribbean hair types.
This will get the hair absolutely the straightest but will cause the most breakage.
Also, at four weeks, the natural hair grows in at the roots and is drastically noticeable.
Ammonium thioglycolate is a milder form of relaxer.
It is best used on mixed hair types or very wavy hair.
This is the same chemical used to perm (curl) the hair, except in a thicker consistency and applied in a straightening form.
Our favourite form of this product is called “Rusk” Anti-Curl.
Many times we will use this product on our curly textured hair clients and for extra silkiness and straightening and apply the Brazilian Blowout product right on top.
This is a great option for someone who is trying to get away from the strong sodium hydroxide relaxers or who just desires softer, shinier hair.
The Brazilian Blowout actually works best on chemically treated hair, and helps to improve the hair’s condition by fortifying each strand with essential amino acids. I
t can be put on top of a relaxer.
Perform the relaxer first, Brazilian Blowout next, and then neutralise at the very end of both treatments.