Everything Old Is New
Even as new temporary treatments hit the market, many women rely on the permanent gold standard: Japanese hair-straightening.
“My clients still choose this method because it doesn’t wash out over a few months and you don’t have to do anything at home to have straight hair,” says Akiko Yoshihara of Georgetown’s Ozuki Salon, which specializes in Japanese hair treatments.
Also called thermal reconditioning, this straightening option was introduced in the US in 1998 and relies on Cosmetic Ingredient Review-approved ammonium thioglycolate.
Hair is saturated with a solution containing a chemical that breaks the bonds giving each strand its shape; after that, it’s rinsed, blow-dried, and painstakingly flatironed. Once a neutralizer is applied, the hair is permanently straightened, like a perm in reverse.
“People often think that Japanese straightening can only make hair stick-straight, but an experienced stylist can control the level of straightening and leave in some texture and volume,” says Yoshihara.
The process can take more than four hours, depending on the thickness, texture, and length of hair, and can cost $250 or more.
Once the treatment is over, hair is the very definition of wash-and-wear—smooth, straight, and frizz-free even after air-drying. Many people can go a full year without a touchup, but those with kinkier hair should schedule appointments every six to eight months to treat hair that’s grown out.
Keep in mind that the only way to return hair to its natural curl is by waiting for it to grow out completely. Because it contains chemicals that can damage hair, it’s not a good choice for those with very blond, bleached hair or with highlights that cover more than half of the hair.
“You’re weakening the hair bond with a chemical, so it is damaging, especially for someone whose hair is already dry and damaged,” says Yoshihara. “But using a flatiron every day is a lot worse for your hair than getting one of these treatments.”
Where to Straighten Your Hair
These salons are recommended for each type of hair straightening.
Manuel Salon. Favored by the embassy set, Venezuelan export Manuel Solorzano has been taming high-maintenance hair for more than 25 years. He is complimented as much for his cut and color abilities as for his straightening. Treatment starts at $400. 3256 Jones Ct., NW; 202-965-0484.
Studio 355 Hair & Day Spa. Frizz-fighter Paul Lochard has been in the business a long time: He started his career in Washington cutting with Nancy Reagan’s mane man, Robin Weir. Treatment starts at $350. 11755 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda; 301-230-2929.
Christie Adam Salon & Spa. Nora Battey and Mirian Sell preserve curls and waves but virtually wipe out flyaways, so locks require considerably fewer products and less maintenance. Treatment starts at $350. 1025-F Seneca Rd., Great Falls; 703-430-4800.
Roche Salon. Roche was an early adopter of Yuko Anti-Frizz, and it also maintains a loyal clientele for Yuko permanent straightening (similar to Japanese straightening). Expert stylist Ruth Harper offers both. Treatment starts at $300. 3000 K St., NW, 202-775-0775; 1624 I St., NW, 202-887-8150.
Salon Rafik. After 30 years of styling, owner Rafik Gregorian performs most of the Yuko Anti-Frizz treatments himself after a consultation to review your texture, styling habits, and goals. Starts at $200. 3307 M St., NW; 202-965-4000.
Inari Salon & Spa. The resident smoothing stylist, Dana Hirankit, carefully evaluates each strand and discusses all the pros and cons of treatment before you commit to this or any of her other straightening alternatives. Starts at $550. 1425 K St., NW; 202-898-6350.
Japanese Hair Straightening Salon. Straightening expert Jian Huang has amassed a following of formerly curly-haired converts thanks to his customized approach, follow-up (he’s been known to check in with clients a week after treatment to make sure they’re happy with their results), and bargain rates (shoulder-length hair runs $250). 9547 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax; 703-939-2830.
Ozuki Salon. As the area’s only salon specializing in Japanese-style cuts and treatments, Ozuki is a home away from home for many Asian transplants—as well as those who just want sleek, smooth locks. Treatment starts at $500. 1025 Thomas Jefferson St., NW; 202-342-7591.