While hair smoothening and hair straightening are terms sometimes used interchangeably, each of these refer to different treatments done on your hair, even if the root cause of them is the same. Hair smoothening/straightening are methods that make hair more manageable and help deal with frizzy hair that can often look dull and messy. Hair straightening is more of a styling technique and is comparatively temporary, while the effects of smoothening are visible for a few months after a session.
However, it cannot be denied that both techniques can damage your hair, which is something your salon or stylist often neglects to mention to you. The processes involved in them are actually quite harmful, and listed below are some of the ways in which hair smoothening or straightening can damage your hair.
The heat associated with the straightening processes is one of the main causes for this damage to be observed, though in some cases it might also be a response to the chemical products used. The continuous and excessive use of heat to straighten your hair can leave it feeling dry in terms of texture, causing your hair to lose its natural shine and luster. This happens because straightening/smoothening causes hair to lose its natural moisture. It has similar effects on the scalp and can be even worse for individual who already had dry hair/scalp.
Making hair oily
While this might seem like a counter to the previous side effect about dry hair, oily hair is in fact a problem that arises when serums are used in order to maintain the smoothened or straightened hair. Sometimes, these serums are used to “combat” dry hair. While it is possible that the dry hair might go away through overuse of these serums, you are now presented with a new problem – your hair does not go back to its natural texture. Instead, it becomes very oily, leading to it having an unhealthy look and shine that most people would rather avoid!
Hair thinning and hair loss
One of the unmistakable side effects of these styling techniques is that they cause excessive hair loss in the long run. While this might not be noticed initially, as time passes it becomes more difficult to avoid.
Even before the excessive hair loss, hair that is exposed to chemicals and heat loses its natural strength and becomes weaker over time. This causes not just hair thinning but can also lead to loosening of hair at the root, leading to eventual hair loss over and above the normal amounts observed. The permanence of this problem is such that it may take well over a few months (sometimes over a couple of years) for your hair to regain its normal volume.
Another unavoidable consequence of opting for either of these treatments is observing split ends. Yes, you guessed it right, the harsh chemicals used in your hair lead to split ends over time. This is because the hair at the ends has been exposed to the chemicals and such treatments the longest, leading to the most visible effects being observed there. Additionally, there’s no real way to “fix” this problem, aside from not opting for such treatments in the future as a preventive measure.
The added layer of this problem is that your hair begins to look visibly more brittle, far from the healthy and smooth look one hopes for when they choose to straighten or smoothen their hair.
Damage to the scalp
The use of chemicals in the processes not only causes damage to the scalp, it can also lead to inflammation of the scalp in response to these chemicals. Despite the assurance of using products with fewer chemicals, even minimal exposure to them can be quite toxic and lead to more consequences. In fact, some studies suggest that the salon environment where such procedures are conducted can in itself be harmful – and if that little exposure can cause damage, imagine how much your scalp would suffer if in direct contact with these chemicals!
Research has indicated that the chemicals used in the process can alter the structure of hair cells, thereby adversely impacting the natural bounce and texture of the hair. Not only this, such damage can in some cases be irreversible. Additionally, through causing damage to the hair root, these treatments can permanently destroy follicles, preventing hair regrowth in that spot permanently.
Dandruff can occur as a consequence of hair straightening or smoothening in one of two ways. The heat used in the process can cause the scalp to become dry, itchy, and flaky over time, leading to dandruff in some people. This also happens because the process rids your hair of its natural moisture. On the other hand, an adverse reaction to the chemicals itself can trigger itchiness of the scalp and related problems.
While some individuals experience some redness or discomfort immediately after styling their hair using one of these techniques, some might not experience such an adverse reaction until much later. Consequently, dandruff becomes another problem that requires treatment and leads some of the damages mentioned above, such as hair loss. The dandruff problem might become so severe that it may require a doctor for its treatment.
This problem may also arise as a consequence of an initial allergic reaction to the chemicals, as salons often do not test how each individual’s skin responds to them. For most people, however, it is safe to assume that their hair should not have to withstand such difficult conditions (i.e. heat/chemicals) and that some kind of response to such treatments is expected.
Other damaging effects
It must be noted here that hair smoothening and straightening does not damage only your hair. The chemicals and products used to have lasting effects on other parts of the human body as well. For instance, the solutions used can cause some individuals to experience nausea as a side effect. Yet others may have an adverse allergic reaction to the chemicals and may experience scalp, eye and even throat irritation as a consequence.