Experimenting with one’s hair can be a way of discovering and expressing one’s sense of self and style. So its important that we understand some popular salon hair treatments and see how they work and affect our hair, skin and health before trying them.
Hair straightening is very popular with youngsters these days. This can be achieved at home by using electric straighteners daily or by getting them chemically straightened at a salon. The professional treatments include the permanent rebonding method or various semi permanent techniques. Permanent method like the Japanese rebonding technique is more suited for heavy curly hair, which results in poker straight hair till they eventually grow out. This is a chemically intensive process taking few hours wherein hair relaxers containing sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, formaldehyde are used to break natural hair bonds and new ones are created and sealed by application of intense heat. Although a harsh and expensive process, it does save from daily use of irons and is low maintenance. The semi permanent smoothing relaxes the frizz and leads to smooth shiny hair for few months but the hair don’t become unnaturally straight. Also smoothened hair can be curled with rollers when needed. Newer semi permanent methods include the keratin complex treatment, the Brazilian blowout and the cysteine treatment. While the keratin treatment is very popular it raises concerns of formaldehyde use (a known carcinogen and potential health hazard), which is needed to seal in the keratin complex. The latest cysteine method is touted as a safer and less expensive method.
Hair colouring again although potentially harmful, is acceptable if done with good quality products and by experts. Hair colour is basically a mixture of chemical dyes and although ingredients can vary, but may contain ammonia, resorcinol, PPD or hydrogen peroxide etc. all of which are potential skin allergens. In permanent hair colouring, strong chemicals are used to open up the hair cuticle and colour is deposited in the inner cortex. Ammonia is a common ingredient of concern causing skin, lung and psychiatric problems but then the salon workers are more at risk than a person going in for an occasional hair colour. Also the harmless sounding ‘ammonia free’ products may contain ethanolamine which is also toxic but will not give off the typical ‘ammonia fumes’. So instead of going in for permanent or whole length colours, one can opt for semi permanent colouring/washouts, off scalp techniques like highlighting, streaks, dip dyes/ombre look; and always prefer gentle hair colour (20-30 volumes of developer or less).
Although none of these treatments are theoretically safe, the sheer volume of these procedures happening these days is mind-boggling. So if you want to go ahead with these, a patch test 48 hours prior is a good idea to ensure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. In case you have an irritated or dry scaly scalp, abnormal hair fall or other health problems, get these treated first. Find a good reputed salon and discuss your needs with the expert before making a final decision. Use recommended products afterwards but no need to go in for the exorbitant ones. Always use conditioners and hair protecting/reconstructing serums to protect hair from sun and environmental damage.
Hair is a reflection of your health and an important part of your look. So it’s imperative you take time out to manage and groom it in a safe and appropriate manner.