Permanent hair straightening seems to be a relatively new fad in the US but I have Asian friends who, when returning to the US from visiting their homeland, always come back with fabulous straight and gorgeous hair. I knew I wanted to get it done when visiting Southeast Asia on this trip – but I wasn’t even sure what to call the process!
I’ve had a keratin treatment done in the past (not the same as rebonding), and this is also done widely in Asia for a fraction of the cost in the US. But I wanted something more permanent. When not traveling (aka working), I’m constantly wearing my hair up – as a chemist I needed it out of my face, but also I just have so much frizzy hair – it was just easier to deal with.
When I did wear my hair down, it took hours to straighten it with an iron and that only lasts a day or two. I wore it up so often (95% of the time) that no one ever recognized me with it down. And forget about a short style – I feel like it takes more effort and products to make those look halfway decent on me!
As we’ve traveled, the blow dryer, straightener, and frizz ease products were left behind. I decided to wear my hair back for the duration! Take a look at this awesome family photo – minus the pile of frizz on my head!
What is hair rebonding?
I learned that what I need was called “hair rebonding” – a popular and permanent hair straightening solution. Hair rebonding is a chemical treatment that breaks the di-sulfide bonds in the hair (excuse the chemist in me). That means you won’t be able to recurl it – even with a curling iron – after this treatment.
Where to Go
I went to Going Straight for my hair rebonding – it’s a chain that specializes in hair straightening treatments. The one I went to was in Robinsons Place mall in Manila. There we lots of other salons that also offered the service – but here I just walked in and was treated right away. They also offer Brazilian blowouts, keratin treatments, hair coloring, mani/pedis, etc.
I learned from my stylist that hair rebonding is incredibly popular in the Philippines. I also noticed that nearly every salon that I saw in the Philippines offered the treatment.
Cost of Hair Rebonding in Manila
In the US a typical hair rebonding treatment can cost anywhere from $500-$1,500, according to Oprah’s website :). That’s a lot of money – but after 3 months of having the treatment – I love it so much – that I would probably spend this type of money in the US as well. This from a girl who gets 1-2 cheap haircuts a year.
Lucky for me, in the Philippines hair rebonding costs anywhere from 5,000-10,000 pesos ($115-$230) – an amazing deal! The cost depends on the thickness of your hair, length, and the salon.
At Going Straight I was given the hair bonding service, cellophane treatment, and a hair cut for 5,600 pesos ($126) including tip. Although its not part of Filipino culture to tip, I think hair styling is an exception to that rule. These girls certainly deserved it after many long hours on their feet!
I don’t think they realized how thick my hair is as it was tied back and it’s very deceiving. I’ve never had a hair stylist NOT comment or say – “your hair is the thickest I’ve seen!” Each hair is thin – but there are many – so I knew the quote for my length was a great deal.
The Rebonding Process
I was told the process would take about 3 hrs. When we started it was 4:00 pm and the mall closed at 9:00 pm so plenty of time. I read that in the US it’s often 8 hrs – especially for my length of hair. But Going Straight had 2 women working on my hair the entire time (never had that before!) Don’t forget to use the bathroom before you start – it’s a long process!
First your hair is washed with shampoo, no conditioner, then they dry it. Take a look at my hair after this blow drying. This is what we are dealing with people.
The relaxant is then applied to your hair (each and every hair – but it’s fast) and is left for about 30-45 min – the stylist comes to check when its done. After the relaxant they brought over a steamer helmet to steam the hair for 30 min or so. All the timing depends on the type of hair you have – mine was thick and kinky so several checks were done throughout each process. Next the relaxant is washed out, and I was blow dried again.
Then they apply a keratin lotion to all of your hair and the fun begins – the flat ironing. Let me tell you – this was painful – extremely painful. Luckily I’ve had very little pain in my life – no broken bones, had a c-section for the twins, etc. So for me – this pain was intense. They take a little section of hair at a time (10 hairs??) and flat iron it with the worst hair pulling iron in the world, repeatedly, 20 times a section…
One woman was worse than the other (maybe the flat iron?), but I was definitely in tears. They did this for more than 2 hrs straight – the longest part of the process. I felt bad for them too – I can’t imagine keeping my arms in the air for that long. They also do this to 2-3 women a day, 6 days a week – so they are buff!
At this point it was also getting late and the salon was clearing out – so the only sounds were the crunch, pull, whimper of my straightening. I tried to make conversation throughout to keep my mind off of the pain and they kept telling me there is a Filipina expression about “pain is beauty”. Something about how any pain is worth it for true beauty.
Um ok… I kept cracking jokes about how painful it was and shrinking into my chair to try and hide from them. I asked if I was their worst client ever – and they said many girls come to get their hair done as early as 10 – and those girls really cry, so I wasn’t so bad. I can’t imagine Aurora going through that at 18 – never mind 10!
Once the torture, I mean straightening, was complete they applied a neutralizer to “rebond” the hair and stabilize the hair structure. The neutralizer is then kept in your hair for about 30 min. I think mine wasn’t left in that long because it was getting late – already almost 4 hrs later, and the mall was closing within the hour. After this they rinse off the neutralizer with cold water and blow dried the hair again.
You may be wondering – where was Matt and the kids during all this? Since we originally thought it would only be 3 hrs, they decided to hang out in the mall, shop, eat dinner etc. They returned at the 3 hr mark to see that I was no where near finished so they brought back food for me and went back off to find a toy store.
After over 4 hrs Aurora decided she wanted to stay for some of the salon action. So she stayed while Matt went off to do some more laps around the mall with Jasper.
At this point, I was ready for my “cellophane treatment” which was included as part of my rebonding package. This is a glossing serum they apply to your hair to make it shiny and helps restore dry and damaged hair. They apply the cream and again you wait, maybe another 30 min.
They typically wrap your head in some cellophane for this, and if it’s done without a rebonding treatment they will also stick you under a hair dryer helmet. For me, no cellophane and about 10-15 min since at this time the mall was actually closing!
I didn’t know ahead of time, but you can actually color your hair with the serum treatment. They informed me the color only lasts 2 weeks and is washed out quickly. This color isn’t harsh (no ammonia or peroxides) and is just deposited on your hair – so the color you choose needs to be darker than your natural color or it will have a muted effect. They showed me (and now Aurora too) a board with the different colors.
Aurora thought I should definitely go for the pink color (surprise, surprise). I was actually so tired at this point – and I’ve never colored my hair (outside of a few highlights) or even thought about what color it should be, so I said fine to her sheer delight.
Since my hair is darker than pink it came out looking darker, and I actually felt like an Asian pop star with the reddish color. After rinsing and drying my hair, they gave me a quick trim. A bit of a miscommunication as I just wanted it straight on the bottom and they gave me some layers – but it was now almost an hour after the mall had closed – so I’d worry about another trim later. Here is the final look, what do you think?
Post Rebonding Hair Care
Its really important to take good care of your hair after rebonding since the hair has been stripped and is more fragile than normal hair. Get it trimmed regularly avoid harsh chemicals (like more dying, etc), and avoid too much sun exposure (haven’t really paid to close attention to that one myself though).
Clips, Braids, and Elastics
Once I was done, I went to put in my trusted hair elastic that I came in the salon with. “NOOOO” shouted the owner of the salon! Apparently you aren’t supposed to put any hair bands, clips, etc. into your hair for at least a month – and even then you need to do it sparingly.
I asked about braids – that is also a no go as the hair is very sensitive to kinking. I put my hair behind my ears and again was reprimanded that I shouldn’t do that either. Oh dear – I’m not used to having my hair in my face and now I’ve committed to it! They almost fainted when I put my glasses on (as that also pushes the hair out) but I need to be able to see!
I haven’t had problems with damage thus far – I’ve found telephone wire elastics like these to be the best at not kinking my hair. I see a lot of other Asian women who have rebonded hear wearing scrunchies – but I’m not ready to bring back the 80’s quite yet.
Getting Hair Wet
Once your hair is rebonded, you need to wait at least 2-3 days before you wash it or get it wet. Then you are supposed to keep contact with pools and oceans at a minimum as the hair is sensitive to damage. I just put my hair up before going into a pool (now that I’m past my 1 month mark!) and make sure to wash it well after diving in the ocean.
The hair color did wash out in about 2-3 weeks. Be careful with drying your hair on hotel towels – I accidentally turned a white towel fuchsia because of the dye rinsing out. Often women will get a cellophane treatment several times a year after rebonding to keep a shiny glossy look. You can also do the cellophane treatment, like this one, on your own to save money.
Tip: Cellophane treatments are a healthy way to color your hair, regardless of if you are doing rebonding.
Products for Rebonded Hair
It’s important to use good quality shampoo and conditioner – I’ve been using these Loreal sulfate free products even before I had this rebonding treatment and they are perfect for not causing buildup or damage to your hair.
Leave in conditioner like this one is also useful. It’s pricey but a little goes a long way.
I also use John Frieda Frizz-Ease Sheer Solution as you only need 5-10 drops for my long hair and its a perfect small bottle for traveling. It’s great for before combing your hair – my salon recommended a wood comb with wide wooden teeth like this one.
After 3 months, I still really love the way it looks – just as good as when I had it done – which I would never say about a keratin treatment. I haven’t had to do anything but comb it (no drying or straightening) so it’s been perfect for travel!
Given the cost savings of having hair rebonding treatment done in the Philippines, and my love for the Philippines after our visit, perhaps I’ll just need to revisit annually to get my hair touched up!