It is widely acknowledged that regularly using chemicals or heat to straighten your hair tends to lead to, at best, damaged hair and, at worst, scalp burns and hair loss
Whilst this applies to all hair types
, the most at risk is Afro hair due to it being both the most naturally brittle and - for reasons ranging from style preferences to societal pressure
- Black hair from type 3a to 4c, with its kinks and coils, are among those most likely to be artificially straightened. This is one of the reasons that various studies have found there are a number of hair loss conditions which disproportionately affect Black women
Hair straightening product claims to increase strength
Using heated hair straighteners
can reach searing temperatures high enough to boil moisture in the hair, melting the hair shaft and causing breakage, whilst hot comb alopecia
is a form of hairloss specifically caused by an old method of Afro hair straightening using traditional straightening methods involving hot oil, which could burn the scalp.
Modern options using chemical relaxers to change the hair structure may provide a poker-straight look, but these products are frequently associated with health risks
as well as hair loss from chemical trauma
, especially with regular use.
Now, American hair therapy development company Chemyunion
has created a new solution as an alternative to these damaging practices, using Raman spectroscopy technology. Not only does the New Jersey-based brand say its innovation - named Seriliss RA - can straighten Afro hair, it also claims it can protect the hair, improving its strength, health and shine with repeated use.
"This effect is possible due to a highly effective protein complex that promotes the preservation of cystine and permeation of sericin, a double mechanism of action responsible for increasing hair strength, also confirmed by an advanced image hair analysis," Chemyunion states in a press release regarding this new product dated 16th April 2018.
It further advises that the product can offer a 'Superior immediate and long lasting straightening effect... Increased strength by 14 per cent... Increased cross sectional area by 11 per cent... 24 per cent straighter hair after 10 washings... 20 per cent shinier hair after 10 washings."
What the press release and company website does not make clear, however, is the precise clinical trial details and how these figures and claims were arrived at. As this is considered a cosmetic product, it is not eligible for review or approval from the US regulatory board, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Continues below...
Belgravia Superintendent Pharmacist and Senior Hair Loss Specialist, Christina Chikaher
, advised caution for anyone trying out this product, which is currently offered on a trial basis via the Chemyunion website:
"Any new development that can offer the flexibility of changing hairstyles whilst reducing the risks of associated damage, particularly for Afro hair which tends to be far more fragile than Asian and Caucasian hair types due to its make-up, would be extremely welcome, especially if it has these added benefits such as strengthening and improving hair health. BUT, what I would stress is that - in my experience - anything that seems to good to be true usually is, so anyone trying this should be very careful to follow the instructions provided to the letter.
Also, never apply anything to your hair or scalp if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. Furthermore, if you have any kind of scalp condition or open cut, I would not recommend applying any kinds of chemical styling product to the hair or scalp as it may aggravate these issues
Always do a patch test at least 24 hours in advance, and should you notice any unusual feeling in your scalp during the application - a tingling or burning, anything out of the ordinary - wash it off immediately with lukewarm water and a gentle shampoo.
It can also be a good idea to test the product on a small strand of hair prior to full application as this will give a better indication of the final outcome and could potentially reduce the risk of any damage. Should you develop an extreme reaction, depending on the severity, get assistance as soon as possible from the emergency services or your GP.
I personally would want to see more evidence before trying this myself given it is a virtually unknown product, but for anyone who does want to give it a go, just be sensible and proceed with caution
Avoiding damaged hair and hair loss
There are, of course, other ways of wearing Afro hair in order to completely avoid the heat styling and chemical relaxer conundrums. The Natural Hair movement
has been growing exponentially in recent years as women of colour in particular, begin to understand the damaging effects of chemical and heat styling, not to mention traditional protective hairstyles
, and take power from wearing their hair in its natural state.
Perhaps surprisingly, this can involve 'straightened' hair - but in this case the hair is painstakingly woven using a method called African Threading
, and requires neither heat nor chemicals but, depending on hair length, can take a significant amount of time. Hair is often prepared in the evening so the threads can be taken out the next day, though some people make styles out of the woven bunches, meaning they can be left in during the day too.
Whilst it will not give the poker straight look of relaxers or flat irons, it is a solid alternative for people of colour looking to change up their look without compromising their hair health. Due to the tight banding required, it is still inadvisable to use this styling method too frequently without giving the hair a restorative period in between otherwise hair breakage
Anyone concerned about thinning hair, a receding hairline, sudden or unusual levels of hair fall, should consult a specialist as soon as possible. A quick diagnosis can result in a timely, appropriate course of hair loss treatment
being administered where needed, as well as professional advice regarding how to prevent hair loss in future.