Vol.2, No.9

Hair straightener product reviews

Straight hair can be sleek and beautiful. Find out which product and methods are best for your hair, before you straighten.

Hair straightener products
There are several methods to straighten your hair. Before you choose a product it is best to decide if you want to permanently straighten your hair or if you want to go straight temporarily.

For those just wanting to take a hiatus from the curls or kinks, thermal straightening is the best option. Thermal straightening tools include blow dryers, hot combs, flat irons and curling irons. The best blow dryer with a ceramic grill is the Vidal Sassoon VS754. Other top rated blow dryers are the Conair Ion Shine Folding Handle Blow Dryer 149QI, Super Solano by Solano International and CHI Ceramic Ionic Hair Dryer. Blow dryers should be used in conjunction with a round brush to achieve the straightest results.

Hot combs, a staple in most African American beauty shops, are especially popular with those who have completely natural hair. They are sometimes referred to as "pressing combs". Kentucky Maid, Golden Supreme, Helen of Troy, and Gold Medal make the most used pressing combs available. Although "pressing hair" is a lost art, it is still one of the safest temporary procedures that you can do to straighten your hair.

One of the most popular straightening tools today is the ceramic flat iron. Consumers rated the Sedu as the best because it there is no hair pulling, snagging or breaking. Thus it cuts the straightening time to half. It also works to "anti-frizz" the hair. Sedu has three models of flat irons in the top ten lists. Next on the list are Solia, then Bion Digital, Kenta Flat Iron, HAI ConvertAble, and the Chi Flat Iron.

Probably a surprise to most is the curling iron as a straightening tool. Even though a curling iron is typically used to curl the hair, it is a precursor to the flat iron. When the curling iron is held backwards it straightens and smoothes the hair. Gold 'N Hot ranks right in the top ten of best curling irons. Conair and Hot Tools also makes highly rated curling irons. The wider diameter barrels are best for straightening the hair.

While using the thermal straightening tool of choice don't forget the sprays, gels, lotions or pomades that protect the hair from the heat. Depending on your hair type and length some type of pre-treatment must be done before straightening the hair with heat. Chemicals are also another widely used method of straightening the hair. Unlike thermal straightening, chemical straighteners or relaxers are permanent.

There are three basic types of chemical hair relaxers. These are sodium hydroxide and guanidine hydroxide, which may or may not require pre-shampooing, and ammonium thioglycolate, which may require a pre-shampooing.

Sodium hydroxide is the strongest of the three relaxers producing the most dramatic results. Sodium hydroxide is a caustic type of chemical that actually softens hair fibers. The chemical also causes the hair to swell at the same time. As the sodium hydroxide solution is applied to the hair, it penetrates into the cortical layer and breaks the cross-bonds. Guanidine hydroxide relaxers are referred to as "no-lye" relaxers and tend to be less damaging than sodium hydroxide relaxers even though some report they are more drying. These products, however, still may do some damage to the hair.

Sodium and guanidine hydroxide based relaxers are more commonly used by African Americans. Revlon, Dark and Lovely, Cream of Nature, Kerasoft, Motions, TCB, Organic Root Stimulator and Botanicals are among the best rated and most popular. While some of the products are over the counter and available for at home use, precaution must always be taken. It is also very important to nourish and condition your hair more when applying a permanent relaxer or straightener.

Ammonium thioglycolate (nicknamed "thio relaxer") is much less drastic in its action than the sodium hydroxide and even, in some cases, the guanidine hydroxide. It acts a little differently by softening and relaxing overly curly hair through changes to the hair's cystine linkage. Since thio relaxers are considered much milder, the risk of hair damage is also reduced by comparison to the sodium hydroxide.