Meet your Japanese Hair Straightening/TR stylist

Meet your Japanese Hair Straightening/TR stylist

TR is not about leap of faith or a reputable salon or a stylist who is very nice. Allowing a bunch of well-intentioned hairdressers to do TR will eventually cause irreversible damage to the hair and follicle. The stylist's skill and experience and understanding the Science of Permanent Japanese Hair Straightening, is very important. When we TR techs own the information, we automatically do it correctly. This is when we can truly be creative. Whether it's Michael Jordan sinking a basket, Albert Einstein theorizing a new mathematical equation or Leornardo Da Vinci creating a new masterpiece, they don't think about the text book way they learned to do their craft, they just do it. After all, when we stylists know the science behind our art, there is no limit to where our imagination can take us.

Cosmetic procedures such as TR, do not damage the hair follicle within the scalp, and so do not cause hair loss. Only a serious chemical burn to the skin of the scalp that destroys the follicle cells can do so. Burns like this can follow indiscriminate over-use of permanent hair straightening solutions, and therefore these solutions must be handled carefully at all times. But take an enthusiastic amateur embarking on bleaching and doing a TR without any basic knowledge or experience, and combine this with a hair dryer used on its hottest setting and a flat iron set at 180°C, you have a recipe for disaster.

When people actually lose their hair it is my opinion that the follicle is damaged through excessive pulling and traction as well as the chemical depilatory action of softening the hair with thioglycolate. Depilatories like Neet or Nair are based on thio and these thio containing TR products should never be applied to the scalp. We know that hair grows back after a depilatory so there must be other action on the follicle. I suspect it's a combination of the longer time on the hair, the traction and perhaps the heat increasing penetration.

When a stylist is armed with knowledge about hair and chemicals, it makes a big difference in getting a “good TR” or a “botched TR”. In order to know how TR works, it is important to have an understanding of hair and its reaction to certain chemical processes. It is also important to have an understanding of how water and the pH scale affect the hair and chemicals used on the hair. It is this extra step that has moved some TR stylists from the era of "apply, hope and pray it turns out okay" to the era of science _ the Scientific Approach to Beauty.

Today's consumer is faced with much technical information which may be confusing.

Many judgments are made based on emotion, misinformation, or hearsay on TR message boards, rather than sound facts. TR is not simply a mixture of ingredients. Ten different cooks can mix eggs, flour, milk, sugar and shortening and arrive at ten different cakes, some of which would be inedible. TR should be judged on how it performs, its safety, ease of use, elegance, and the professional TR stylist that stands behind it.

Japanese Hair Straightening, also known as Thermal Reconditioning/TR.

Basically the technology is thioglycolate/dithioglycolate in a cream form to “relax” the curl pattern. After sufficient relaxation has taken place, the cream is rinsed from the hair and the hair is dried at least enough to use the iron. Please note that there are usually a number of treatments/shampoo/conditioners etc. that accompany various systems. Very small sections are then “ironed” by “clicking the iron open and shut” through each section twice or three times. This can take a couple of hours for long hair. The hair is then oxidized with bromate (most Japanese systems) or peroxide (other systems) dried and ironed again. The temperature ranges from 150°C – 200°C depending on the hair condition.

First of all, stylists must understand that they are using an alkaline thioglycolate solution (cream) on the hair. Therefore, like any other perm, the strength must be appropriate to the hair condition. Just like perming, there is hair that shouldn’t be straightened because of weakness, breakage, etc. The second thing to remember is that when that cream is on the hair, it is breaking bonds and the hair is in a weakened state. Excessive manipulation of the “swelled” weakened hair can cause breakage.

Hair porosity.

The hair has different porosity levels, some sections have higher porosity levels, absorbing and retaining chemicals more quickly, therefore, a pre-treatment, such as PPT and other treatments is applied to the hair. If the hair is highlight treated, the TR stylist must do further protection to help even penetration (porosity levels) of the thio solution. Otherwise, the weaker highlighted sections will process quickly and becomes over-processed and eventually the hair will break.

I am sure you heard of "bends" after TR.

There are two ways that bends can occur near the root area during the TR process; the chemical was applied to the scalp or the hair was ironed in the wrong direction. If there are bends left on your hair shaped like an "L"noticeable right after TR; it means the hair was miss-ironed.

If the hair is straight but bends appear with new-growth; it means the chemical was applied to the scalp. You get a "crimp" in your straight hair right at the roots and will be noticeable as a prickly small bump in the areas where the chemical touched the scalp. As you probably know, solution that has seeped onto the scalp is the primary, though not the only cause of hair breakage. This type of bend is known as "reduction" (Permanent reduction is defined as the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs re-growing).

Here is a photo of a "bend" caused bad ironing technique.

Hair "bends" is another form of hair breakage. They start as cracks in the cuticle which eventually deepen and break or “fray” the cortical bundles. If bends are attempted to be removed, it needs to be done chemically and thermally. The problem is it will increase the chances of damage and the hair becomes completely frayed. It is to your advantage to choose a skilled TR stylist that understands the science behind their art.




Ironing techniques:

As I said, there are only two ways that bends can occur near the root area during the TR process, the chemical was applied to the scalp or the hair was ironed in the wrong direction. It is the heat and method of pressing the hair with thermal iron that helps restructure the hair bonds and give the hair the desired look. This process also irons the “style” into the hair permanently. It is like cosmetic surgery.

Frankly, the ironing process is not easy. It takes considerable skill and patience. The hair has to be ironed at a correct degree angle in 1/4inch (thickness) sections. The ironing on each panel has to be in the direction of hair growth, which is usually a 90 degree angle. Otherwise, if you notice bends left on your hair shaped like an "L" (see "bend hair" photo above) right after TR; it means the hair was miss-ironed. And if the hair is straight but bends appear with re-growth; it means the chemical was applied to the scalp. Moreover, it is important that you do NOT feel the heat of the iron on the scalp during the ironing.

What do I think are going to be the biggest problems?

Breakage from manipulation of the hair by stylists who think "it looks easy". Doing this process on hair that shouldn’t be done to begin with. Choosing the wrong strength and odor in the hair from poor rinsing.

TR products by its nature, disrupts the structure of the hair: it has to do so for the TR perm to be successful. In order to change the shape of the hair, TR perm solutions first break the disulfide bonds that give the hair shaft its structure. The hair is then put into its new shape and 'neutralized'. Neutralization reforms the chemical bonds in their new positions; a process that fixes the hair permanently into its new shape.

Whether a TR will take well depends on the basic nature of the hair, its past history of chemical treatments, if any, and the skill of the technician or stylist. Hair that has had a long history with tinting or bleaching may have become so damaged as to be near the limit of what it will tolerate.

The secrets of satisfactory TR lie in the manufacturer's formulation of the product and the stylist's expertise in choosing the right strength, applying the neutralizing lotion after just the right length of time and rinsing, so that the perm TR is fixed but the hair is damaged as little as possible.

A TR stylist who has more experience with mistakes know their basics so well that they can make a magic. Let’s face it…Picasso could do more with 3 broken crayons than the average man could with a palate of the finest paint. And by the way, some salons use two or maybe three stylists to do a TR. This helps them to do it much faster. You wouldn't let two or three stylists cutting/coloring or doing highlight on your hair, why would you allow more than one stylist to do a critical job like a TR!

TR is a chemical process; experience plays a major role in the choice of hair TR stylist.

A stylist who is now performing Thermal Reconditioning should already have had an experience with sodium hydroxide (lye) relaxer method and "Cold" (old technology) thioglycolate hair straightening method. The stylist should know how to work with every hair type and every type of hair problem and know how to trouble-shoot. We are talking about putting your hair in the hands of a stylist that give your hair that present curly look and restructuring the bonds so the hair that is treated will be permanently straight. That means we are talking about the structural stability of your hair.

This section was designed to help take the mystery of meeting and evaluating your TR stylist during the consultation.

You’ve no doubt have first hand information as to whether your hair shape is a good candidate for TR. Normally the TR stylist will offer a free preliminary consultation. It is important that all questions about your health, previous chemical processes be answered carefully. Get at least 3 consultations from 3 different salons. Consultation should take about 30 to 45 minutes. After the TR consultation and if you are a good candidate for TR, the stylist should give you “Guideline for before and after TR”.

The consultation is very important because some hair type will respond well to the procedure and others will not.  Some Biracial clients seem to have softer curls, so it may be recommended.  Remember TR was invented in Japan where the hair isn’t exactly curly.  For a woman who is blow-drying her hair straight every day, the investment in time/money may be worth it.

The consultation is quite important because some hair type will respond well to the procedure and others will not. Some Biracial clients seem to have softer curls, so it may be recommended. Remember TR was invented in Japan where the hair isn’t exactly curly. For a woman who is blow-drying her hair straight every day, the investment in time/money may be worth it.

There are many degrees of curliness/texture within hair type. Generally, tightly coiled, tightly curled African hair type is not a good candidate for TR. On the other hand, milder, softer African hair types may react quite well.

Curly hair faces very specific challenges – dryness, tangle and frizz. Many clients find their curls unruly, unmanageable and often unpredictable; they want softness, natural looking, definition with touchability and absolutely no frizz. Improper manipulation of these characteristic twists and turns in the tightly curled hair shaft can be more stressful to excessively curly hair than straight hair. As we look deeper into the hair shaft, we see two vitally important layers - the cuticle and the cortex. Each layer performs a separate yet interdependent function. When properly understood and carefully manipulated, these layers work together to create healthy, shiny, resilient TR results. On the right type of hair the results of TR can be beautiful and inspiring for the person wearing the style. People with naturally curly hair will be relieved that they do not have to blow dry and iron their hair every morning. The technique is as important as the chemicals. I strongly recommend you go to an experienced trained professional stylist; someone who understands the chemical reaction on various types of hair.

Before You Jump!!! Be Sure you’re Prepared.

TR is not suitable for all types of hair. During the consultation, the TR stylist will explain to you the benefits of TR when used in the right situation for the right type of hair. You need to know a little bit about your hair so that you can evaluate the TR stylist’s recommendation. Otherwise, you may be getting the wrong recommendation. For example, the tight crimped curls like that of springy structure of African hair type, or anyone' hair which is derived from its twisted structure, is NOT suitable for TR. The tightly curled hair twists much more frequently on its axis than in the other groups. The cuticle is sharply kinked at the edges, and gets easily damaged at these points.

Finishing step.

Ask your stylist to finger-blow-dry your hair and NOT using a brush. This in fact will be the "actual" visible results when you first shampoo the hair at-home - In other words, what you see NOW, is what you get. If at this juncture the stylist uses a brush and a blow-dryer to style your hair, then most likely the TR stylist is camouflaging the problematic panels. You’ll leave the salon “thinking” this is how your hair would look-like. Finger blow-dry will give you a clear indication as to what your hair will look-like, when you first shampoo your hair at-home.

Finally, the TR stylist must dry your hair 100 percent and do quick final ironing. Having contact with water is the last thing you want to do for the first 48 - 72 hours. Skipping this step means not finishing the TR process correctly. I tell my clients to wait 72 hours before shampooing the hair. If the client is taking prescriptive medication or if the client is pregnant; it is best to wait four days (96 hours) before shampooing the hair.

TR touch-up.

To be perfectly honest, TR touch is not easy. It requires a lot more experience and skill. Failing to give good results is due to the stylist’s poor habits and not understanding the basics. The step procedure is exactly the same as virgin application, except the reforming thioglycolate (step 1) solution is applied on the new-growth and by over-lapping a bit, so that there are no visible ridges where the "new growth" meets the "previously" TRd section of head of hair. In addition, the previously TRd sections must be protected; using proteins to fill the previously TRd hair.

Maintaining the beauty of you TR:

A professional TR stylists will send you home with detailed print-out directions on how to maintain your newly TRd hair and a hair care regimen that will help ensure results. Hair requires a balance of elements - the element of moisture for flexibility and the element of protein for strength. Truly healthy, beautiful hair is possible only when these essential elements are in perfect proportion. Your TR stylist should customize, salon-exclusive hair-care system designed to keep hair in its ultimate moisture/protein balance - its ultimate state of health. It takes professional skill to analyze your hair properly and provide the right advice for your individual needs. Scientifically formulated products give it the beautiful shine, body and resilience of healthy hair.

TR Waivers.

You don’t want to sign your rights away. Think carefully before you sign a waiver and consider what it says. You would at least want to get your money back. Don’t forget, if you have a bad experience, there are consumer advocacy organizations and entities like the Better Business Bureau that will track consumer complaints. Unless you speak out, irresponsible TR practitioners will continue to provide the “services”. Maybe by giving a voice to this issue, you can help protect another person from having the same bad experience.