Hair by Shona Cataldo for the 2007 AHFAwards


Image below Caterina Di Biase @ Heading Out Hair & Beauty, Melbourne, Australia.

Image below Anthony Nader @ Raw Hair Sydney.


Yasmin Harland for the 2007 AHFAwards

Paula Kelly for the 2007 AHFAwards

Mark Faulkner for 2007 AHFAwards

Above and below Atilio Dusa for the 2007 AHFAwards


Straightening your Hair Permanently

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We interviewed Belinda Jeffery of La Boutique, a renowned hair technical specialist with many awards to her credit on the pros and cons of conventional permanent straightening. For information on the new Thermal or Japanese method use the link in the top left corner.

Belinda believes that : "straightening is a very specialised area and not just because I am one but because so many things can go wrong should only ever be done by a specialist. Hair must be assessed for suitability as the process won't always work and can be very damaging to some types of hair". She also recommends that a piece of your hair is tested to see how it reacts before you have a straightener.

"You have to be aware of the limitations as it is not always possible to straighten if your hair has had a lot done to it in the past".

With most products on the market today you can't permanently relax or straighten your hair if:

  • it has been permanently coloured/tinted with a high volume strength peroxide or bleached. Even if only a little is left in the ends of your hair you will need to have it cut out first! Semi or non-permanent colours do not effect the ability to straighten hair chemically.
  • you swim in chlorinated water a lot (salt water is fine, in fact it's good for it!).
  • you have fine blonde hair. It can be done but can look dry and damaged and frizz easily.

Best results with chemical straightening are found with:

  • Strong dark hair
  • Grey hair

Belinda reckons that "Hair has to retain a healthy shine and dark hair does this naturally and is not adversely affected by the chemicals used in the process. Really curly hair will never go dead straight but will relax to such a degree that you can get it straight easily when you blow-dry it".

What's involved?

The process and the associated treatments and cut, will take from 2 hours for short hair to about 5 hours for really long hair. " A treatment is always necessary to restore moisture and sheen, and a cut is needed to remove dry ends and because a cut that works on curly hair never works on straight". It will cost between $AU80 and $AU200 and then you need 'at-home' products to go with it. "For me take-home products are the most important area of the whole straightening process, if you don't use all the right shampoos, treatments and blow-dry protecting sprays it doesn't last and can look dry and frizzy" says Belinda.

'At home' care:

  • It is very important not to wash your hair for 2 days following a chemical straightening process as washing prior to this can cause the curl to come back.
  • You will need a specially designed shampoo and conditioner.
  • A once-a-week treatment is also a part of keeping your hair in good shape.
  • Always use a thermal protector when blow-drying to prevent heat damage from your hairdryer.

Up keep:

Depending on the length of your hair, every 2 to 3 months is the average time between straightenings. If you decide to grow it out, i.e. go back to curly, some curl will return overtime to the straightened hair but it will only be completely gone when it's cut out. If you decide to colour your hair again, you will have to wait until the straightened hair has been cut out as the colour over the old straightened hair is damaging. You can however, use a semi/non permanent colour with no problems.

At the end of the day, choosing what you want is what it's all about and we hope these tips will help you make the right decisions about how to go about it.

With thanks to Belinda Jeffery of La Boutique Sydney, Anthony Nader of Raw Hair Sydney, Paul Brown Hawaii and Margaret of Makarizo Perth for information and reference material.

General Information:

Products that are used to straighten hair on a permanent basis are referred to as either "relaxers" or "straighteners".

When thinking about straightening your hair, a little extra knowledge about the process and any contraindications can be of invaluable help.

What does it involve?

Straightening is a way of chemically altering the structure of your hair so as to break the bonds that keep it curly, then reforming your hair in a straighter or less curly form. The process is very similar to having a perm (not that you would have had one if you have naturally curly hair but your friends might)!

Firstly, a lotion is applied for anything from 5 to 30 min on average, this is then rinsed away and a second lotion applied for another 5 to 10 min. Finally lots of conditioners are applied. Times vary depending on products used and this information is given only as a guide to help you feel more comfortable. However if concerned, don't just sit in the chair like a stunned mullet expecting the hairdresser to work out telepathically that you have a problem. Speak up!

You will need about 2 hours salon time to get this done and a haircut will need to be added to that. The cut should not be missed as the shape that worked in the past was for curly hair and your new straighter hair will not suit the old shape.

Get your hairdresser to recommend aftercare products or consult our Diagnosis section. Chemically straightened hair will need more intense products to keep it healthy than it did before.

The result is as permanent as the time it takes for new hair to grow. It does, however, relax or get a little less straight over time as the straightened bonds in the hair can reform, to a small degree, making your hair more wavy than when first done. This can be seen as a positive, as a curly or afro regrowth and "dead pan" straight ends can look a little funny.

Colouring/Bleaching and Straightening in combination:

Having your hair coloured and using a straightener could result in damage to your hair. It's not that either of these are dangerous or damaging by themselves, but when they are combined, they can be simply too much for your poor old hair to handle.

VirtualHairCare would not recommend the following:

  • A mix of bleach (all over or in heavy highlight form) and straighteners.
  • A mix of permanent tint of 30vol (9%) plus and straighteners.

VirtualHairCare would recommend that you try:

  • Semi or demi permanent colour that lasts for 6 to 8 weeks with your straightener.
  • Temporary or wash-in/washout colour which will often last a few washes over straightened hair (check out the colour section for detailed information).

Try booking a consultation with a straightening specialist and getting an opinion on whether a straightener would work with what is already on your hair. A professional hairdresser will often take what is called a "test strand" (basically a clipping of your hair) and pop it in to a bowl with the chemical straightener to assess its ability to remain in good condition. If the result is that you should not try this on your hair please take this advice. It is always possible to find a less professional hairdresser who will do what you want and the result could be that you end up with the new "emergency short look", so please don't take our warning lightly!

Too straight after a relaxer or straightener?

If you find yourself in this position it is often because too strong a straightener was used for your hair type. Try a cut with a few layers next time and make sure you tell your hairdresser that your had a problem so that they don't use the same product again.



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