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Brazilian hair straightening is the topical application of chemicals to hair to make it straight, smooth, and shiny. Although there are some at-home Brazilian hair straightening kits, it is typically performed by a professional hair stylist who has been trained to use the product. It is a very expensive procedure, but it lasts for several months.
Much like dying hair or getting a perm, getting a keratin treatment takes a considerable amount of time, and the typical straightening process takes anywhere from one and a half to three hours to complete. The hair is washed and combed straight, followed by a meticulous application of the Brazilian hair straightening product. It is then allowed to set for at least 20 minutes, blow dried, and hot-ironed straight.
The active ingredient in Brazilian hair straightening treatments is the chemical keratin. This is a protein that occurs naturally in hair. It acts as a filler, mending breaks and cracks in the hair shaft and making the hair appear smoother and silkier.
Initially, keratin treatments used formaldehyde as a bonding agent to hold the molecules of the keratin together. Government safety standards now limit the amount of formadehyde which can be used in hair and beauty products, as there were some negative effects. Although potent, the strength of the bond decreases as the percentage of formaldehyde decreases.
Some consumers experienced allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing and irritation to the eyes and skin, to formaldehyde based treatments, although many did not. As a safety precaution, some hair product companies require stylists to use safety goggles, masks, and gloves on both themselves and their clients while applying the hair treatment. These measures help to reduce any negative effects of the product while it is being applied.
Consumer concern with using a product which contains formaldehyde spurred the production of non-formaldehyde based formulas. These products use different chemicals to bond the keratin protein. Typically, these formulas produce an equally satisfying result. Although formadehyde based formulas can last up to six months, the lifespan of non-formadehyde products is about three months.
Many formulas also require a waiting period of three to five days after treatment. During this time, the hair cannot be washed, since dampness can deactivate or wash out the chemicals. It is also recommended that the hair remain loose, since tying it back, pushing it behind the ear, or wearing it in a clip can result in a semi-permanent crimp. Non-formaldehyde treatments typically do not require the waiting period after treatment. Hair can be styled, washed, and worn up without compromising the Brazilian hair straightening process.
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