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The Science Behind Hair Straightening: A Comprehensive Guide for Hairdressers - Vitta Gold™ Global

The Science Behind Hair Straightening: A Comprehensive Guide for Hairdressers


Hair straightening is a sought-after haircare technique that has gained immense popularity among individuals worldwide. As a hairdresser, having a comprehensive understanding of the science behind hair straightening is essential to provide your clients with effective and safe hair straightening solutions. This article aims to delve into the scientific principles behind various hair straightening methods, their impact on hair structure, and the necessary precautions to ensure optimal results while prioritizing hair health.

  1. Hair Structure and Composition:

To excel in hair straightening techniques, it is crucial for hairdressers to have a thorough understanding of hair structure and composition. Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin, which forms the outer layer known as the cuticle. The cuticle acts as a protective barrier for the inner layer called the cortex, which contributes to hair strength, elasticity, and overall structure.

hair cells

The cuticle consists of overlapping scales that protect the hair shaft. When the scales are smooth and lie flat, the hair appears shiny and healthy. However, when the scales are lifted or damaged, the hair becomes frizzy and prone to tangles. Hair straightening methods aim to modify the hair's structure to create a smoother, straighter appearance.

Anatomically, hair has three layers: the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. The outermost layer is the cuticle, which is composed of keratin and consists of overlapping scales, similar to shingles on a roof. The cuticle acts as a barrier and protects the layer below it, the cortex. A normal and intact cuticle has 6 to 8 layers, depending on ethnicity, with a smooth surface that reflects light and limits friction between the strands.

The outer surface of the cuticle scales is coated with a thin membrane called the epicuticle, and each cuticle cell is composed of three protein layers: the first layer is resistant with a high cystine content; the exocuticle, also rich in cystine; and the endocuticle, with a low cystine content.

The cortex represents the majority of the hair shaft and is formed by microfibrils, long filaments oriented parallel to the fiber axis. Each microfibril consists of intermediate filaments of keratin, also known as microfibrils, and the matrix, composed of proteins associated with keratin. It is the thickest layer located around the medulla, which is the innermost part of the hair and contains melanin granules that determine the hair color. It is also responsible for the volume of the hair and its high tensile strength and mechanical resistance because it contains the majority of the keratin.

The Science Behind Hair Straightening: A Comprehensive Guide for Hairdressers

The main component of the hair fiber is keratin. The remaining constituents include other proteins, water, lipids, pigments, and trace elements. Due to its specific conformation and chemical bonds, keratin is responsible for the stiffness, strength, and insolubility of the hair. Among the amino acids that make up keratin, cystine is one of the most important. Each cystine unit contains two cysteine amino acids from different portions of the peptide chains, connected by two sulfur atoms, forming a strong bond called a disulfide bridge. Another important structural component of the hair shaft is 18-methyl eicosanoic acid (18-MEA), which forms a hydrophobic layer that prevents water from wetting and penetrating the hair, thereby altering its physical properties. The removal of the fatty acid layer reduces the shine of the hair, making it more prone to static electricity and frizz induced by humidity.

The spiral shape of the hair is determined by the asymmetric expression of proteins in the hair follicles. Since it is not currently possible to modify the shape of the hair follicle, the only way to change the appearance of the hair is by modifying its physical and chemical properties.

  1. Physical or Thermal Straightening Agents:

Physical or thermal straightening agents are temporary solutions that alter the hair's structure without permanently changing its chemical composition. These methods rely on the application of heat or mechanical techniques to straighten the hair. Let's explore some of these techniques:

Physical or Thermal Straightening Agents

Hot Comb:

This method was developed in the late 19th century and became popular in the early 20th century by Madame C.J. Walker, who combined a hot comb with pressing oil. It is a temporary straightening method as it only alters weak hydrogen bonds in a process called keratin hydrolysis. The initial technique involved applying a petrolatum-based ointment to the hair, followed by straightening with a heated metal comb. Over time, the technique has been refined. However, with the introduction of new methods, the use of hot combs has diminished.

Hair Dryer and Flat Iron:

Physical and chemical techniques that combine mechanical and thermal straightening, such as blow-drying and flat ironing, are temporary solutions that last until the next wash. The hair needs to be wet so that hydrogen bonds break and there is a transitional opening of the helical structure of the hair, causing it to relax. The combined use of a hair dryer and flat iron dehydrates the hair, keeping it straight.

How to Avoid Hair Heat-Related Damage?

To minimize the potential damage caused by these heat-based techniques, incorporating Repair Masks into your hair care routine is essential. Repair Masks can help repair and rejuvenate hair strands that are constantly exposed to heat application, promoting healthier-looking hair.

Additionally, using a Hair Serum with Thermal Protection can act as a highly effective defense against heat damage. This serum provides a safeguard while straightening your hair with heat, ensuring that you can achieve a sleek look without compromising its health.

For a comprehensive hair care regimen, consider including Shampoo, Conditioner, and Hair Masks enriched with ingredients like Amino Acids, Tannins, and straightening-effective oils. These products can offer daily nourishment and support, further enhancing the straightening effect when used in at-home treatments. By incorporating these protective and reparative measures into your routine, you can enjoy beautifully straightened hair while minimizing the risk of heat-related damage.

  1. Possible Harmful Chemical Hair Straightening Methods:

Harsh chemicals hair straightening involves altering the hair's natural structure using heavy chemical solutions. These solutions break the disulfide bonds within the hair, allowing it to be reshaped and straightened - sometimes at high costs. Let's explore some popular but potential harmful chemical hair straightening methods:

how to avoid Possible Harmful Chemical Hair Straightening Methods

Alkaline Straighteners: A Word of Warning for Non-Permanent Hair Straightening

Alkaline straighteners offer a non-permanent solution for those seeking to straighten very curly hair. However, it's essential to proceed with caution, as these chemical solutions come with notable downsides. The high pH levels and the structural changes they induce can lead to dry, brittle, and less lustrous hair, increasing the risk of damage. Before choosing alkaline straightening, it's crucial to weigh the potential drawbacks carefully and prioritize hair care to minimize adverse effects.

Thiols: The Dark Side of Hair Straightening Chemicals

Thiols constitute another group of chemicals used for hair straightening, but they come with significant drawbacks. This category includes ammonium thioglycolate (AT), aminomethylpropanol thioglycolate, and ethanolamine thioglycolate. While thiols can straighten the hair by breaking the sulfide bonds of cystine amino acids and forming two cysteines for each cystine, their adverse effects must be carefully considered.

Despite their potential effectiveness, thiols have several significant downsides. Their main application is to straighten curly and wavy hair. However, the most popular variant, AT, is known for its unpleasant odor and can be more irritating to the skin. Additionally, the solution concentration for AT typically ranges from 7.5% to 11%, with a pH between 9 and 9.3, adding to the potential discomfort during the application process. In conclusion, while thiols offer a method for hair straightening, their disadvantages should not be overlooked. Exploring safer and less harmful alternatives is essential to protect the health and well-being of your hair and scalp.

Consulting with a professional stylist and exploring less damaging alternatives is advisable to ensure the best possible outcome for your hair. Consider temporary heat-based methods or keratin treatments that offer straightening effects without compromising the hair's health to the same extent. Additionally, incorporating reparative hair masks and protective hair serums with thermal defense can help mitigate the impact of heat-based styling.

  1. The Healthy Solution: Organic-Based Hair Straightening:

Brazilian Keratin Protein Treatments: The Key for Healthy, Effective Hair Straightening Services

The Brazilian Keratin Protein Treatment, also known as Hair Straightening Protein or Hair Straightening Keratin, is more than just a popular hair straightening technique; it is a transformative hair care experience. By harnessing the power of keratin-based, protein-based, and amino acids-based products, these treatments offer a multi-faceted approach to hair care. Their primary objective is to relax the hair, reduce frizz, and enhance manageability while preserving its healthy look. The inclusion of these vital ingredients not only delivers stunning straightening results but also bestows the hair with added nourishment and nutrition.

hair straightener 7 oils brazilian keratin science straightening healthy organic protein

The true magic of Hair Straightening Protein and Keratin procedures unfolds during the application of the specialized solution infused with keratin and/or protein, often complemented by components like glyoxylic acid and other derivatives. As this potent concoction is applied, it penetrates deeply through the hair cuticles, targeting the very core of the hair strands. It acts upon the hydrogen bonds and amino acid tyrosine within the cortex, initiating a remarkable transformation. 

The result is the creation of a biopolymerized structure that not only imparts a sleek and straight appearance but also fortifies the hair, reinforcing its strength and resilience. With the infusion of essential protein and keratin, the hair is fortified from within, maintaining its healthy and vibrant appearance for extended periods. The semi-permanent results of this treatment can impressively keep the hair straight for up to 3 to 5 months, ensuring a prolonged period of delight with the revitalized hair. The combined benefits of relaxation, frizz reduction, enhanced manageability, and nourishment make the Brazilian Keratin Protein Treatment an all-encompassing solution for those seeking not only straight hair but also a luxurious hair care experience.

blonde hair science hair straightening brazilian keratin color protection

Additionally, there are innovative Brazilian Hair Botox Treatments available in the hair care industry that combine hair smoothing with repair and rejuvenation benefits. These treatments often contain a blend of nourishing ingredients, including proteins and amino acids, which help to replenish and revitalize damaged hair, resulting in improved manageability, reduced frizz, and enhanced shine.

  1. Precautions, Hair Care and Recovery Hair Treatment:

As a hairdresser, it is your responsibility to guide your clients on proper hair care and maintenance after hair straightening procedures. Here are some crucial precautions to consider:

Consultation and Assessment:

Conduct a thorough consultation to assess your client's hair type, condition, and desired outcome. This will help you determine the most suitable hair straightening method and provide tailored advice for maintenance.

Professional Expertise:

Stay updated with the latest hair straightening techniques and invest in continuous education to enhance your skills and knowledge. This will enable you to offer a wider range of options and address your clients' specific needs effectively.

Post-Straightening Haircare:

Post-straightening haircare is vital for maintaining sleekness and vitality. Educate clients on using specialized products for chemically treated or heat-styled hair. Opt for natural-based products with Brazilian fruits and oils for deep hydration and restoring strength. Include Serums and Oils for protection against heat and environmental stressors, ensuring prolonged results and radiant hair health.

Regular Maintenance:

Advise your clients on the importance of regular touch-ups and treatments to maintain the longevity of their straightened hair. Provide personalized recommendations based on their hair type, condition, and lifestyle.

Damage Prevention:

Teach your clients how to minimize heat damage by demonstrating proper heat-styling techniques, the use of heat protectant products, and the importance of avoiding excessive heat exposure.


As a hairdresser, understanding the science behind hair straightening techniques is essential for providing quality service and ensuring the satisfaction and hair health of your clients. By having a comprehensive knowledge of the various methods, their impact on hair structure, and the necessary precautions, you can confidently offer effective and safe hair straightening solutions. Remember, prioritizing hair care and continuously updating your expertise will enable you to excel in the field of hair straightening, providing your clients with beautiful, straight hair without compromising their hair's health.

hair cells science behind hair straightening

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