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Everything You Need to Know About Japanese Hair Straightening

Experts break down the popular treatment that straightens curls and smoothes out frizz.

<p>Jonathan Storey/Getty Images</p>

Jonathan Storey/Getty Images

Anyone with curly, frizzy hair is no stranger to two-plus hour-long blowouts and endless hair straightener passes to iron out smooth locks. Luckily, there’s an easier and more permanent route for silky, pin-straight hair—Japanese hair straightening, a treatment developed to re-shape each strand for ultra-smooth, sleek hair. But, as with most seemingly miraculous solutions, it’s not without its downsides and risks.

We went straight to the experts to break down everything you need to know about the risky, high-impact treatment—from costs to aftercare to important considerations. If you’re in the market for the best straightening solution for your hair, read on for a mini masterclass in Japanese hair straightening.



Meet the Experts

  • Amy Abramite is a hairstylist and creative director at Maxine Salon in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Jerome Lordet is the owner of the New York City hair salon Jerome Lordet Salon.



How Is Japanese Hair Straightening Done?

Similar to a straight perm, Japanese hair straightening uses a chemical solution to break down and soften the hair’s bonds, which are responsible for hair structure and shape. This relaxes the curl pattern and allows hair to become pin-straight when flat ironed (more on that in a second).

The solution is applied, left to sit on the hair for around 30 minutes, then rinsed, followed by a blow drying and flat ironing session that changes the hair’s texture by smoothing the cuticle and eliminating frizz, explains salon owner Jerome Lordet. But this isn’t your average flat iron: Stylists use a ceramic iron and work across the hair in small sections, around an eighth of an inch at a time.

Next, the stylist applies a neutralizer to lock the style and shape in place, leaving hair straight and silky smooth. It’s rinsed and followed by another blow dry and flat iron styling to finish the service. All this to say, it’s certainly a process, and depending on hair length and natural texture, can take anywhere from an hour or two to the better part of a day, Lordet says.



What Is Japanese Hair Straightening?

According to Amy Abramite of Maxine Salon, Japanese thermal hair straightening is a permanent rebonding process that eliminates curls and frizz. The technique was invented in Japan in the 1990s (hence the name) to achieve permanently straight, frizz-free hair, Abramite explains. Fast forward a decade and it became popular in salons worldwide, though it was particularly popular in New York City.

“Back in the early 2000s, we had [people] wanting that super straight hair all the time,” Lordet recalls. “It was also referred to as ‘thermal reconditioning,’ and it was often the first time people saw a treatment that permanently straightened their curls.”



Results of Japanese Hair Straightening

Post-treatment, you can expect smooth, shiny, sleek hair with a notable decrease in everyday frizz. When it comes to hair, results are rarely forever but Japanese hair straightening truly is permanent—well, sort of. (It’s important to note that Japanese hair straightening lasts about twice as long as traditional keratin straightening treatments, which are semi-permanent and wash out over time.)

Japanese hair straightening is irreversible on the hair that’s treated, but it won’t change the texture of any new hair growth, which, according to Lordet, will generally start to show around six months post-treatment for most people. That being said, both experts recommend root touch-ups every eight to 10 months.

The treatment may have varying levels of success depending on hair texture, particularly for those in the Black community. For this reason, as well as the large potential for damage, both experts strongly suggest going to a reputable salon to ensure the best results.

Is Japanese Hair Straightening Damaging?

There’s quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Japanese hair straightening can cause serious hair damage. That being said, there’s always risk involved in chemical treatments of any kind and caution must be used to protect the integrity of the hair. According to Abramite, a consultation with a licensed, experienced stylist can help you determine if you’re a good candidate for the service.

“Since there are chemicals involved in this style, if done wrong, there can be permanent damage—especially if working on dyed hair, previously damaged hair or just an incompatible hair type,” Lordet warns. “To avoid these results, I strongly recommend doing a test strand and doing your research on going to the right stylist. If you get the treatment continually, it can break weak or broken hair over the years.”



Warning

Both experts note that the risk of damage is higher for those with colored or chemically processed hair, which they cite as yet another reason to do your research and seek out the most reputable salon.



Caring for a Japanese Hair Straightening Treatment

Given the risk involved with Japanese hair straightening, proper after-care is essential. For at least three days post-treatment, hair must remain completely dry and undisturbed, Abramite says. This means no water or styling products and no tension of any kind (think ponytails, elastics, clips, pins, headbands, and hats). During the first 72 hours, hair is ultra-sensitive and still rebonding, meaning it can permanently take on a kink or dent if pressure is applied.

Once hair has returned to its natural pH levels (which should occur after those three days), it’s safe to return to regular shampooing and conditioning. However, Lordet recommends using hair masks after the first few washes to restore follicle strength and minimize damage. Both experts strongly suggest avoiding any other sort of chemical hair treatment—it’ll only further damage the hair, so be prepared to commit to fully growing it out.

Japanese Hair Straightening vs. Keratin Treatment vs. a Brazilian Blowout

The main difference between Japanese hair straightening and other treatments is that it's permanent. It actually changes the hair's chemical structure instead of just coating the outer layer of your hair. Keratin treatments and Brazilian blowouts are semi-permanent and will eventually wash out, unlike Japanese hair straightening, which remains straight until new hair grows.

A keratin treatment adds protein to the hair, making it stronger and reducing damage. This results in straighter, smoother, and frizz-free hair. You can expect a keratin treatment to last up to four months.

Similarly, a Brazilian blowout also aims to smooth out curls and frizz. However, it doesn't help fight hair damage. Lasting three to four months with proper care, a Brazilian blowout will result in straighter hair with subsequent treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does Japanese hair straightening cost?

While some salons no longer offer Japanese hair straightening treatments due to the damage they can potentially inflict on hair, they’re still widely available across the country, especially in larger cities. Prices vary depending on location, hair texture, and length. In general, you can expect to pay between $400 and $800.

How long will the results of Japanese hair straightening last?

Because it's a permanent treatment, Japanese hair straightening will last until you either cut the hair or it has completely grown out. Depending on your hair texture and the care and upkeep you provide after the treatment, you'll have straight hair for about six months. At this point, you'll likely need a touch-up to treat new hair growth, while the remaining hair will continue to show the hair treatment's results.

Can you curl your hair after a Japanese straightening treatment?

Because it's permanent, your hair will remain straight after undergoing a Japanese hair straightening treatment until new hair grows or you cut your locks. The treated hair will not curl again when wet or washed and the hair's texture will be altered. While you can add some waves using a curling iron for style, this is only temporary and the hair will revert to straight once the style is brushed or washed out.

Related: The 9 Best Hair Straighteners of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

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