Remember the 80s when a great hair day meant bigger the better? My sister and I would get our long hair permed every few months to achieve amazing feats of teased and lacquered hair.
A couple decades later I found myself working at a law firm and needing a hairstyle that was professional, stylish, and above all, low maintenance.
I have been getting the “magic” straight perm or thermal reconditioning (TR) on my hair since 2001 every 8 months at $350-$400 a pop. It is the only way I know how to maintain long, straight healthy looking hair that requires zero maintenance.
The natural texture of my hair is otherwise slightly frizzy. Without TR, I would need to spend time on my hair to make it look somewhat professional and would need to maintain a shorter haircut. I just don’t have the time and patience for any kind of maintenance, so I’ve found that the magic straight perm works the best for me (even if it is boring that I have had the same hair for 20 years).
Six months into the Covid quarantine, my unruly roots had grown out over 5 inches and I was tempted to shave my head. I decided to attempt the magic straight perm process at home. I ordered the treatment from Amazon, which comes with a straightening solution and a neutralizer. There are several brands to choose from (e.g., Yuko, Shiseido, Rusk) but I am most familiar with Liscio by Milbon.
The formula comes in three different strength levels- Mild, Normal and Strong. Any of them would work fine for me but I got strong only because that’s what I found on Amazon.
*Doing a straight perm or thermal reconditioning yourself at home is not for everyone. Please attempt at home only if you have gotten the treatment done before at a salon and know it works well for your hair type. Do not take the risk as it does not work well for all hair types
What you need for the Magic Straight Perm:
1. Plastic gloves
4. Thin Plastic Comb – to separate hair during treatment
5. Deep Conditioner – for after the treatment to keep hair healthy.
6. A Friend – If you have a lot of hair like me, ask a friend to help with the ironing – I did it all myself but my arms felt like they were going to fall off at the end. Next time I will ask my teenager to help.
Step 1: Prep hair and scalp
Start with clean, washed hair. Clean hair helps the straightening solution stick to the strands. Line your hairline and scalp with a little vaseline, and avoid getting the straightening cream directly on the scalp. If you are only straightening the outgrowth/roots, treat the ends of your hair with a good leave-in conditioner to protect it from damage.
Step 2 – Apply the straightening solution/activator
This is the solution that actively breaks down the protein bonds in your hair and relaxes it. Use clips to hold your hair up. Put on your gloves. Start at the nape of your neck, and apply the solution from about ¼ inch from your scalp to past where the outgrowth starts.
You can use a makeup brush to apply but I just used my fingers with gloves on.
DO NOT get the cream on your scalp, because it will burn your skin. Try to move fairly quickly so you don’t end up over-processing.
Leave in your hair for 25-30 minutes. Processing time can take anywhere between 10 minutes and 45 minutes depending on your hair thickness and texture. Perform a loop test to see when it’s ready. (See video above). For me, 25 minutes was plenty.
Step 3: Rinse
The next step is to rinse out the activator solution gently and thoroughly (do not shampoo). After rinsing out the solution, gently dry the hair with a towel. Do not scrub or pull as hair will be prone to breakage.
Step 4: Blow dry
Blow it mostly dry, but leave some moisture in your hair to prepare for flat ironing.
Step 5: Flat iron
Set your straightener to 350 degrees, and work in small sections to straighten. Take your time. At the salon, they use a professional flat iron set to a temperature of 350 degrees. My inexpensive Andis flat iron set at maximum heat did the job fine but it took me a lot of time and effort to get to get my hair perfectly pin straight.
Step 6: Apply the neutralizer
The neutralizer works to balance the pH of your hair. Apply evenly all over hair, and let sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing out.
Step 7: Rinse again
Make sure you rinse for at least 10 minutes and get any remaining solution out of your hair. No shampoo. Apply some deep conditioner and rinse.
Step 8: Final blow dry & flat iron
Blow drying your hair in the direction of the cuticles, and get it about 90 percent dry. Finally, flat iron again where needed to so that hair is completely straight.
Step 9: Keep hair dry
Avoid getting your hair wet for the next 48 to 72 hours. This is a key part of the process!
Step 10: Enjoy your super straight low maintenance hair!
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