For many people, chemical treatments are a regular part of their beauty routine. A trip to the salon often means more than a cut and blowout; it can mean hours spent changing the hair’s color, texture, or overall look. While chemical treatments give you an opportunity to experiment with different looks, they can also damage the hair. Understanding some of the hair issues associated with chemical treatments—and how to treat them—is essential to maintain healthy, shiny locks.
The most popular form of chemical treatment is hair coloring. Whether you’re erasing stray gray hairs or turning that mousy brown into a vibrant red, hair color is a quick way to revamp your look. Hair color comes in three forms—temporary dyes, semi-permanent dyes, and permanent dyes. Temporary dyes merely cover the hair without penetrating the hair shaft. Semi-permanent dyes penetrate the hair shaft, making it last longer. Permanent dyes result in more significant chemical changes to the hair shaft, allowing the dye to remain until new hair grows. In general, darker dyes have more chemicals. Hair color can be applied as all-over color or as highlights or lowlights, which result in a more subtle change.
Stylists also use chemical treatments to change your hair’s texture. Chemical hair relaxers, which usually consist of sodium hydroxide or ammonium thioglycolate, turn curly hair straight. Conversely, perms can add wave and curls to straight hair, also relying on chemicals to change your look. Coarse, frizzy hair can be transformed to straight hair with hair-straightening treatments, some of which include chemicals. While many of these treatments claim to use keratin, a protein, to straighten hair, formaldehyde has been found in some of these straighteners.
Finally, hair bleaching relies on chemicals to be effective. Dramatic changes in hair color often require bleaching to strip the hair of the natural or artificial color and allow the hair to absorb the new color. Hair bleaching typically uses chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide or ammonium hydroxide.
Chemical hair treatments are highly effective due to the potency of the chemicals used to create the change. However, these strong chemicals can also cause some hair issues beyond the color change or texture change. First, chemical treatments can cause hair to feel and look dry and brittle. The chemicals can dissolve the protective layer on hair strands, resulting in damage to the hair cuticle. Damaged, stripped cuticles are less able to retain moisture, which can result in dry hair.
This damage caused by chemical treatments can also cause your hair to lose some of its smoothness and shine. If you notice coarser, frizzier hair, regular chemical treatments are often to blame. Dull, lackluster hair is also a problem caused by chemical treatments. Your weakened hair strands also might break more easily after a chemical treatment.
In extreme cases, a chemical treatment can result in redness, irritation, burning, or even hair loss. Typically, these issues occur when you already have scalp irritation or the chemical treatment is applied incorrectly—for example, if a stylist improperly mixes the chemical solution, it could cause a reaction. However, these side effects are less common than the dry, coarse hair caused by chemical treatments.
The obvious way to eliminate issues caused by chemical treatments is to stop having the treatments done. However, you might not be willing to say goodbye to your blonde locks or your chemically straightened hair simply to enjoy healthier hair. If you plan to continue with chemical treatments, there are several ways to minimize damage in the salon or at home.
Prevent and treat issues related to chemical treatments with the help of a professional. Many salons offer hot-oil treatments, which are deep-conditioning treatments that help restore shine to your hair. Salons also offer other deep-conditioning treatments, which include a range of ingredients such as botanicals, antioxidants, and ceramides, to add nourishment to your hair to repair any damage.
Salon treatments can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, turn to over-the-counter remedies for damaged hair. Incorporate a deep conditioner into your weekly hair-care routine—using a deep conditioner a couple of times a week can restore moisture and shine to your hair. If you use heat-styling products on your hair, which can exacerbate hair damage, spray your hair with a heat protectant to reduce the risk of further damaging your hair by blow drying, curling, or straightening. You can also find over-the-counter moisturizers, which hydrate your hair, leaving it sleek and shiny. Opt for a hair care regimen that is specially labeled for use on chemically treated hair. These types of programs generally avoid harsh chemicals which can damage your hair even more while preserving the effect of chemical treatments.
Finally, you can turn to home remedies to boost your hair health after a chemical treatment. Drink plenty of water every day; a better hydrated body means better hydrated hair. Add omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in such foods as salmon and flaxseed, to your diet. These healthy foods can combat dry and brittle hair, helping to restore shine. Finally, if you don’t want to spend money on a pricey hot-oil treatment in a salon, make your own solution at home. Simply mix together equal parts olive oil and canola oil, and heat the mixture in the microwave. Comb the solution through your hair, and rinse with a gentle shampoo for healthier, shinier hair.
Chemical treatments are a way of life for many people. While they might leave your hair the color or texture you want, they can also damage your hair. However, you can fight this damage with a variety of professional solutions and home remedies to restore shine and health to your chemically treated hair.