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Achieve sleek, frizz-free locks with Japanese hair straightening. Learn about the process, benefits, and maintenance in this comprehensive guide.

Japanese Hair Straightening: Everything You Need to Know

Achieve sleek, frizz-free locks with Japanese hair straightening. Learn about the process, benefits, and maintenance in this comprehensive guide.
Japanese Hair Straightening: Everything You Need to Know

There are endless ways to achieve sleek, straight hair, but if it's permanent, absolutely frizz-free results you're after, you need to have Japanese hair straightening on your radar. This hair straightening method is nothing new—it first rose to popularity in the early 2000s when pin-straight hair dominated runways and hair salons. The technique still has many loyal fans, thanks to how it can transform even the curliest hair into silky smooth strands.

We chatted with Kei Hirata, the CEO and creative director of THREE DEGREES SALON in New York City, to get the scoop on all things Japanese hair straightening. While it is one of the best hair straightening treatments available, it's essential to consider whether you make a good candidate, how to maintain permanent hair straightening, and potential downsides before taking the plunge. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to decide if it's the right choice for you.

Good hair day by @keihirata_323 and @threedegreessalon.

What Is Japanese Hair Straightening?

Japanese hair straightening, also known as Japanese thermal reconditioning, is a permanent chemical hair straightening that originated in Japan in the '90s and became popular in the early 2000s. Much like other well-known hair straightening techniques, Japanese hair straightening is a multi-step service performed by a stylist in specialty salons.

“It's a permanent hair treatment designed to transform curly, frizzy, or wavy locks into sleek, straight perfection,” Hirata explains. “The treatment not only straightens the hair but also often imparts a smooth and glossy texture.”

The service begins with a thorough cleanse and dry before your stylist applies a chemical solution containing a strong compound like ammonium thioglycolate (the compound used in chemical perms) to break down the hair's natural protein, keratin completely. After the keratin has been broken down, it can be reshaped to your desire, in this case, pin-straight. A stylist will flat iron your hair at high temperatures to set the new shape.

Once your desired straightness is achieved, a neutralizing solution is applied to the hair to rebond the protein structure and lock in your new look. To finish up, your stylist will rinse the neutralizing solution, condition, and style your hair.

It's important to reiterate that the results of this chemical hair straightening service are usually permanent. That means your hair will stay straight until it grows out. Once performed, your hair will no longer be able to hold a curl or wave and will lack body.

If you change your mind about Japanese hair straightening, Hirata says that a digital perm technique is the only way to recreate your texture. However, he warns that this can be a very damaging practice and may not provide you with the results you’re looking for. If you want to return to your natural hair, it’s often better to wait for your hair to grow out and then cut off the straight ends.

Good hair day by @threedegreessalon.

Benefits of Japanese Hair Straightening

If you want straight hair all day, every day, look no further than Japanese hair straightening. However, Hirata says the best benefits of his signature service go far beyond having straight hair.

“Japanese hair straightening is long-lasting, low maintenance, and versatile—some even claim hair health improvement as it seals the cuticles, reducing split ends and breakage.”

If reducing split ends isn't enough to make you want to book an appointment, the additional benefits below may sway your stance.

Permanent results

As mentioned above, this is a permanent hair smoothing service, so the treatment won't wash out after a few months. While this service isn't for those with commitment issues, the permanent results will be a total game-changer if you're 100% committed to the straight hair life.


You can easily achieve straight hair without Japanese hair straightening, but straight hair that's also frizz-free? That may be a job for a chemical service. If frizz and humidity take your straight hair from sleek to sloppy in seconds, you'll be happy to know that Japanese hair straightening can withstand even the wettest weather.

Reduced styling time

Flat ironing your hair every day can take up a lot of time. Opting for Japanese hair straightening will ensure you wake up with silky, sleek strands every morning and are out the door in no time.

Shiny, reflective hair

If your straightened hair always seems dull, Japanese hair straightening may be able to bring it back to life. The chemical process helps smooth strands for a shiny, reflective surface that sparkles.

Downsides of Japanese Hair Straightening

While Japanese hair straightening offers many benefits, it's important to consider the potential drawbacks before heading to the salon.


The price will vary depending on your hair, location, and stylist, but Japanese hair straightening can cost anywhere from $300 to $1000. There is also a yearly maintenance cost for touch-ups every couple of months.


If you're considering Japanese hair straightening, chances are good you're hoping to cut down on your daily styling routine. While permanently straightening your hair will help you achieve your goal, first, you will have to endure an hours-long salon appointment. This multi-step process must be done with precision for the best results.

Can damage hair

While Japanese hair straightening can provide sleek, straight hair, it's essential to consider the potential damage it can cause to the hair. The chemicals used in the process can be harsh and may lead to dryness, breakage, or other damage, particularly if not applied or maintained properly. Also, certain hair colors, especially those with red or henna tones, may not be compatible with Japanese straightening due to potential color alteration.


While your daily styling routine will likely be minimal, you will still need to head to the salon every few months for root touch-ups to ensure your new growth matches the texture of your permanently straightened stands. You will also likely have to make changes to your styling routine and product line-up to keep your hair in tip-top shape.

Good hair day by @mr_alexandrycosta.

Is Japanese Hair Straightening Right for Me?

Considering these potential downsides, it's essential to consult with a professional stylist experienced in Japanese hair straightening before opting for the treatment. During a consultation, your stylist will discuss your hair type and current condition, your desired results, your current lifestyle and haircare routine, and the cost and maintenance. This information will help determine whether or not Japanese hair straightening is right for you.

“Japanese hair straightening is ideal for individuals with curly, wavy, or frizzy hair who desire a sleek, straight look,” Hirata explains. “It is particularly effective for those with natural curls or challenging-to-manage hair textures.”

While thermal reconditioning is a customizable treatment that allows the stylist to adjust the level of straightening based on your preference, it’s not suitable for all hair types. Hirata advises against the service for those with fine or thin hair, as it reduces volume. The service is also not recommended for those with tightly coiled curls.

Good hair day by @jas_ana.

Japanese Hair Straightening vs. Keratin Treatment

Japanese hair straightening and keratin hair treatments are both popular methods for achieving smoother, straighter hair, but they differ in their techniques, ingredients, and results.

  • Japanese hair straightening breaks down, rearranges, and rebonds the protein in your hair. In contrast, a keratin treatment merely coats the hair cuticle with a chemical compound that strengthens and smooths the hair.
  • Japanese hair straightening is a permanent treatment, unlike keratin treatments, which wash out over a few months.
  • Japanese hair straightening uses stronger chemicals to permanently alter the shape of your strands, which can lead to more damage. Keratin treatments can sometimes help to strengthen strands.
  • Japanese hair straightening may not be suitable for all hair types, while keratin treatments can be customized to suit many different hair types and conditions.

Good hair day by @anhwisle and

How Do You Care For Your Hair After Japanese Straightening?

Right after you leave your appointment, Hirata stresses the importance of not washing your hair for at least 48 to 72 hours so as not to disturb the chemical process. Once the three-day period is over, we suggest making a few tweaks to your routine to keep your newly smoothed hair looking and feeling its best.

Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner

Choose sulfate-free, gentle shampoos and conditioners specifically formulated for chemically treated hair. We love the Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Muroto Volume Shampoo and Conditioner for newly straightened hair that needs a plump look and feel. If you have very thick hair, consider using Mizani Press Agent Thermal Smoothing Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner for extra smoothing benefits.

Incorporate a deep conditioner

Use a deep conditioning treatment once a week to keep your hair hydrated and nourished. Look for conditioning masks or treatments specifically designed for chemically treated hair, like Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Ultimate Reset Extreme Repair Hair Mask, to help maintain your mane’s healthy appearance.

Minimize heat styling

Avoid using heat styling tools such as flat irons and curling irons, as excessive heat can damage the hair and cause it to revert to its natural texture. If you need to use heat styling tools, turn them to their lowest temperature setting and apply a heat protectant formula first. We’re partial to Redken’s Acidic Color Gloss Heat Protection Leave-In Treatment, which helps protect hair against heat and provides intense, molecular-level shine.

Maintain regular salon appointments

Schedule regular trims every 6-8 weeks to remove split ends and keep your hair looking healthy and vibrant. Trimming also helps to maintain the shape of your hairstyle and prevent breakage.

Style with care

Try to stay away from hairstyles that pull on the hair or cause tension, such as tight ponytails or braids. Tension can weaken the hair and cause breakage, especially in chemically treated hair.

The Bottom Line on Japanese Hair Straightening

While Japanese hair straightening is one of the only salon services that can help you achieve permanent, sleek, frizz-free, straight hair, it may not be the right styling solution for everyone. Considerations such as time, cost, and hair damage should be carefully discussed with a professional stylist with experience in this technique. The guidance of a professional before, during, and after your service will ensure your hair looks its best for years to come.

Next Up: Is Your Hair Damaged? Here’s How To Identify, Manage, And Prevent Damage

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Header photo credits: @keihirata_323 and @threedegreessalon

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