General Information     Japanese Straightening and Thermal Reconditioning for Women of Color, Is it a Viable Option?   Author: Susan Kelley
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Accurate information on Thermals for African-American hair might be one of the few dead-ends left on the information highway. Advice on the treatment for textured hair is scanty at best and wrong at worst.

Such was the case for Dr. Kim Fletcher five years ago when she began researching Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning – or Thermals as they’re more commonly known -- to straighten her curly hair permanently. “What I read online about Thermals for African-American hair was not a huge amount of information. And I was concerned that not enough African-Americans were doing it,” she recalls. “I didn’t know if I was going to hate how my hair looked … that was the biggest leap of faith for me.”

Black Hair-care Expert Gina Rivera, Dr. Fletcher’s stylist for the last four years, is one of the few Connecticut stylists with longtime experience doing Thermals on Black hair. “I’m shocked that some online sources still say the treatment is unhealthy for African-American hair. My clients love how healthy their hair is after a Thermal Reconditioning,” says Gina, who owns Hair’s Talent in Branford, Conn.

Determined to set the online record straight, Gina launched a campaign this year to update the web. Since posting videos of the treatment on YouTube and expanding her website, she’s been flooded with calls and emails from people worldwide. “They’re looking for facts about Thermal Reconditioning for Black hair, and most people want a referral to a stylist in their area,” Gina says. “I advise them to search for a trained stylist who has experience doing Thermals on textured hair. Without a trained stylist doing the treatment, a Thermal can damage the hair.”

THE GROWING DEMAND FOR THERMALS
From Gina’s vantage point, the demand for Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning -- and experts to do them -- continues to rise dramatically among Black populations. “That’s why so many clients come to Hair’s Talent from all over the country and all over the world, which amazes me,” she says.

 African American Hair
Gina strongly urges stylists to learn her tried-and-true method of treating Black hair textures with Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning, but encourages them to first learn about textured hair. To that end, she’s holding the first of a series of workshops at Hair’s Talent next month.

“It’s an important first step in learning the basics of healthy hair-care for African-American textured hair,” she explains. “Unfortunately, beauty schools are not spending enough time teaching future stylists how to work with real hair – without the aid of weaves, relaxers and extensions.” Gina feels her advanced classes will help stylists understand the need for healthy hair-care in the black community and the desire of many Black women to wear their tresses naturally.

Gina’s now preparing to launch a comprehensive training video for stylists on Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning, which will teach them how to treat all textures of Black hair, including hair that’s been chemically treated. The training program will clearly teach stylists all they need to know to provide Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning to clients of color. “I’m developing this training program because many stylists who haven’t done the treatment are contacting me now and want to know what product I use. They have no experience with the treatment, but have clients who want it,” she says.

“Using the right product is essential, but I tell them emphatically, it’s the art and science of adapting the product to treat individual hair textures that gets the best possible results.”

DR. KIM FLETCHER STYLES LESS TO LOOK HER BEST
“Kim” is always on call. It’s not unusual for her phone to ring in the still of the night calling on her to rush to the hospital. And though her curly hair was easy to care for, styling it at such times was clearly not an alternative. “If I had to get up at 2 a.m. to go to the hospital, that was a ponytail day or I’d pull my hair back into a bun,” says Kim.

“I had gone through phases wearing my hair curly, but it’s not easy to get up at two in the morning with curly hair. Curly hair just takes much more work than straight hair. So for me, straight hair is a function of what I need to do as an obstetrician.”

Relaxers helped but weren’t perfect. “I had relaxed my hair on and off since I was ten years old,” Kim relates. “One of the problems with Relaxers was the inconsistency in how my hair looked, depending on how much time I had to work with it. “

THERMAL DELIVERS SOFT, SMOOTH, SILKY HAIR
It’s been five years since Kim’s first Thermal, and she’s still ecstatic with her results. She tells friends, “The Thermal’s a great treatment; it makes your hair smooth and soft. The treatment is good for the hair and safe for the hair. My hair doesn’t break. It looks healthy and feels healthy. I’ve had this done for five years and I still get compliments.”

Kim also likes the flexibility that Thermals afford her when styling her hair. “There are certain styles I’d never try before the Thermal. I never wore bangs in the summertime when my hair was curly because you can’t wear bangs with curly hair. Now I can and I do.”

Today while on vacation, Kim got up and went to the beach. “I couldn’t ever have done that with my old relaxed hair,” she says. “The wind was blowing, it was cold, but my hair looked the same when I left the beach as it did when I got there.”

Gorgeous hair aside, Kim’s thrilled with the time she saves on its care. The early morning rush to the hospital is unavoidable for every obstetrician. But the Thermal lets Kim get up and go. “There’s nothing more convenient than getting out of bed and looking presentable without doing anything. Now, I can quickly style my hair in five or six minutes and get to the hospital. And that’s nice.”

CAREFREE HAIR INSPIRES WORKOUTS
Before her Japanese-Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning, Kim’s hair issues sometimes prevented her from working out. According to AARP, she’s not alone. In November 2009, AARP reported that, for many African-American women, hair issues commonly interfere with regular exercise regimes.

Before her Thermal, Kim would sometimes avoid working out on busy days. “Working out often means I need to wash my hair afterward. Before, if I didn’t have an hour’s worth of time to do my hair -- at least -- I would not even think about exercising.

“Now I can wash my hair and walk out the door in 45 minutes flat. So I can choose to exercise on a day when I don’t have a huge amount of time.”

MINIMAL MAINTENANCE
Dr. Fletcher now hits the salon three times a year to maintain her Thermal -- but admits she needs to make time for recommended protein treatments. As Gina tells her, “The protein treatments will extend the life of your Thermal and revitalize your hair.”

THINKING ABOUT A THERMAL?
Dr. Fletcher’s advice to other women considering Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning: be sure you’re prepared to style your roots between treatments as your hair grows out.

And she says, “Expense may be a consideration; everyone has to do their own math. But some people spend a lot on weaves or go to the salon often to keep up with their hair. I think the Thermal might be something they’d want to consider instead.”

Gina Rivera advises people with Black textured hair to do their homework before getting a Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning:

Check to see if any of your local salons do Thermals. If so, speak to their Thermal Reconditioning expert. “Ask about their training and experience with textured hair like yours. And ask to talk to clients with textured hair similar to yours who’ve had the treatment done. Also be sure the stylist uses a genuine Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning product. If you like what you hear, make an appointment for a visual consult. Getting your history, learning your goals, and checking the condition of your hair and scalp should be your stylist’s top priority before giving you a Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning.”

If you can’t find an expert in your area, have your stylist contact Gina Rivera about her training program soon to be launched on DVD. For detailed information about Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning for black and biracial hair, visit Gina’s website at www.hairstalent.com.

ABOUT DR. KIM FLETCHER: Dr. Kim Fletcher is an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Obstetrics-Gynecology & Infertility Group, which serves patients in New Haven County with five offices along the Connecticut shoreline. A graduate of Harvard University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Fletcher is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine and a Diplomate of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

ABOUT GINA RIVERA: Gina Rivera started doing Japanese Straightening-Thermal Reconditioning in 2000. She began doing Thermals on Black and biracial hair in 2004.

Email skproulx@comcast.net






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