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What You Need to Know About Hair-Smoothing Treatments

Brazilian blow-outs and keratin treatments are all the rage these days. Do you know how they work? And if they're safe?

Are Hair-Smoothing Treatments Safe? continued...

Be sure to choose a salon that does the service in a well-ventilated area. "Do your homework. Ask the salon for the exact name of the product they use and Google that name along with 'material safety data sheet,'" Vater says.

Or try one of the new smoothing treatments that swap out formaldehyde for gentler ingredients. Rather than break the hair's disulfide bonds, they bend or suspend them, leaving hair frizz-free and shiny but not stick-straight.

Vater sees this as an advantage: "You're not stuck with one-note hair that won't hold a curl," he says. "Instead, you have volume at the roots, and you can achieve broken waves or soft spiral curls if you want."

Curl Power

Want to embrace your curls instead of straightening your hair? Here's how:

Choose the right cut. To avoid what San Diego hairstylist Don Bewley describes as "curly hair that looks like a topiary," ask for a cut that gives your ringlets a structured silhouette. That means long layers -- no shorter than six inches, save for a few face-framing pieces -- and a sharp line at the ends. 

Use moisturizing products. Well-hydrated hair is less likely to soak up humidity. Build a frizz-defense by using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner in the shower. Squeeze out extra water, then immediately apply a leave-in conditioner or styling product that contains silicone. "Your hair is most submissive while it's still wet," says stylist Natasha Sunshine, owner of Byu-ti Hair Therapy salon in Santa Monica, Calif.

Do the twist. Take small sections of your damp hair and wrap around your fingers, twirling away from your face, Sunshine suggests. Then keep your hands off while your hair air-dries into soft, shiny curls. 

Have a go-to style. On days when you don't have time for curl control, pull your waves into a tight braid with a nickel-sized mix of hair gel and leave-in conditioner. "It's more chic and modern than a slick ponytail," says stylist Tina Dizon, owner of The Private Room, a Beverly Hills, Calif., salon.

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