A hair straightener is a tool designed to remove frizz and waves from hair, and there are a variety of ways to do it. Many companies make hair straighteners, while others make chemical hair relaxers; both irons and chemicals are designed to change the structure of your hair. It may seem obvious that this is damaging to the hair, and many hair experts recommend using specialized hair products on straightened hair to avoid over-damaging the hair.
Hair irons are very old, dating back to at least the 1700s. When many people think of these devices, they think of curling irons, which are designed to give curls to hair, but flat irons or tongs can also be found. When the hair is heated, the hydrogen bonds in the hair relax, allowing one to style the hair into the desired hairstyle. By heating a hair straightener, such as a tong or iron, and passing the hair through or under the straightener, people can achieve very straight, smooth hair.
Chemical hair straighteners are also ancient, although earlier versions tended to cause damage to the hair and scalp. These chemicals also change the structure of the hair, allowing the curls to relax without an external heat source. They usually work by applying and leaving it on for a while before removing it. Depending on the chemicals used, the hair may relax into a straightened appearance for a few hours or longer.
Many salons offer professional hair straightening services that supposedly last longer than at-home haircuts. The benefit of going to the salon is that stylists have experience with the damage that straightened hair can sometimes take, and they can take steps to avoid this damage by using moisturizer and other protective serums. Salon staff will also offer tips on maintaining and styling your new look.
The most common problem with straightening hair is dryness, which can lead to brittle hair. Using a moisturizing conditioner can help with this, as can washing with lukewarm or cold water to keep your hair from drying out from the heat. Many companies also make hair straighteners designed to minimize heat damage, using ceramic elements and other materials, and chemical straighteners often come with specialized conditioners to keep hair healthy.
People who regularly use hair straighteners may find that their hair becomes brittle and thinning. If this happens, it's best to ask the person to stop using the straightening method and allow the hair to return to its original shape. It also helps with a rich moisturizing conditioner. Some people find it best to cut their hair short and cut off the most damaged parts of the hair.