Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rupali Goswami (Beauty Expert) on 09th Nov 2020

Can chemical treatments damage hair texture? Things you should know before chemically treating your hair 

Can chemical treatments damage hair texture?

Hair damage goes beyond just split ends, frizz, and dry hair. When your hair goes through a rough condition, there is a high possibility that it has caused extreme damage to your hair and has the tendency to develop cracks in the outer layer that is also known as cuticles.
Once the cuticles are opened, the risk of hair damage increases, causing breakage, making it dull or resulting in tangled hair.

Chemical treatments are a regular thing for many people in their beauty routine. A visit to a hair salon doesn’t necessarily mean it is just for a haircut or a blow-dry but can also mean that you are going under a chemical treatment, including change in hair color, texture, and other things.

Chemical treatments are a great way to experiment with your hair, but it deeply impacts your hair leaving behind a lot of damage. Knowing some things before going under chemical treatments can help you figure out some of the hair issues associated with it and what you can do to treat them to keep your locks healthy, safe and shiny.  

What are chemical hair treatments? 

From bleaching your hair to changing the hair's texture, it all comes under chemical hair treatments.

The bleaching process typically includes ammonium hydroxide or hydrogen peroxide.

Other chemical treatments used to change the hair's texture, those chemical relaxers include ammonium thioglycolate or sodium hydroxide to turn your curly hair to straight.  

Types of Chemical hair treatments

Different chemical treatments can leave your hair in a vulnerable state, causing many issues like hair loss, dry or dull hair, and heat damage.

Let us first understand what the different types of chemical hair treatments are: 

1. Chemical Perms:  

Chemicals are most commonly used to perm hair. The primary role of chemical perms is to add texture and curls to the hair to add more volume and versatility to straight hair. Chemical treatments like these work by breaking bonds of the hair shaft to reform that leaves your hair vulnerable and exposed to damage.

It contains an acidic element known as glyceryl monothioglycolate and an alkaline element known as ammonium thioglycolate. Acidic perms are mild and used for the hair that is delicate and softer. Whereas alkaline perms are used for more strong and rough hair.  


To give your hair a chance to recover from the damage, give it at least two to three weeks before or after applying hair color. 

2. Chemical Relaxers:

The process of chemical relaxers is quite different from chemical perms. Relaxers work by losing the curls for a straightening effect, but the chemicals used for them are still pretty harsh on your hair as they penetrate the hair shaft and break the natural bonds in your cuticles. Relaxers also harm the elasticity and strength of the hair.

Relaxers are generally found in the dorm of a cream or lotion used by the people with tight curls that chemically straighten the hair. It contains strong alkali and some forms of formaldehyde and ammonium thioglycolate. 

3. Keratin treatments: 

The chemical process of converting frizzy hair into soft and shiny hair is what keratin treatment does. Even if you have the tightest curls, it is known to straighten out your hair thoroughly.

Not always, but keratin treatment usually requires a very high heat to work on the hair. It contains the formulation levels of formaldehyde that is a known carcinogen mixed with keratin proteins that work by filling up the hair's cracks and repairing any damage.

Keratin treatments can be beneficial in some ways for your hair, but the most important thing to consider here is that formaldehyde releases fumes that can be harmful to your health. 

4. Bleaching:

Hair bleaching is a technique in which chemical hair dyes are used that strips off the natural colour of your hair strands.

The alkaline agent in bleaching opens up the cuticles and the oxidative agents that penetrate the cortex, which dissolves the natural melanin of the hair. It can result in susceptible breakage and weak cuticles. The longer you leave the bleaching agents in your hair, the lighter your hair becomes.

It is recommended to bleach your hair in multiple applications until you see the desired results rather than going for it all at once. 

Things you should know before chemically treating your hair 

Just like going for a haircut, chemical hair treatments are becoming more common these days. Experimenting with your hair is a good idea and an excellent way to take your look to another level, but chemically treating your hair comes with a lot of responsibility. There are some things that you should know before making up your mind about any hair treatments.  

1. It can change the structure and texture of your hair: 

Keratin is known as a protein that naturally occurs in the hair. Some chemical treatments include coating each strand of the hair with a powerful chemical, then heating it to activate the formula. This process can affect the keratin chains held together, which can change the structure and texture of your hair.

Treatments like Japanese straightening perm and Brazilian blowout are two of the most common treatments that claim to give you straight and smooth hair.

While both the chemical treatments affect your hair structure, the Japanese straightening perm treatment is known to be a permanent one, and that’s why it contains much stronger chemicals that are more prone to damage your hair. 

2. It can result in health issues and hair damage:

You can experience some serious side effects which are more immediate than your hair structure. Hair loss, burnt hair, and dry or dull hair can be some of the most common issues seen in many cases. Hair damage is one thing, but these chemical treatments can also harm your health.

Experts at Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that inhaling formaldehyde can result in allergic reactions to the lungs, eyes, skin, asthma, and can even cause blindness if it gets inside your eyes. 

3. High levels of toxic ingredients can be found in chemical smoothing treatments: 

As we mentioned above, formaldehyde is a harmful chemical compound that is not good to have around. Many people and even stylists complain about having issues like burning sensations, difficulty breathing, and burning eyes when exposed to keratin chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group says that people who have undergone these chemical treatments also experience headaches, dizziness, ulcers, damage in the eye, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, and vomiting.  

During the procedure, the chemical compound is supposed to touch nowhere else besides the actual hair, but if the mishap happens and comes in direct contact with your skin, it can cause rashes on the scalp, neck, and face.  

4. Hair chemicals that are “Formaldehyde-free” can still contain or release the ingredient:

Research in 2011 by the Environmental Working Group found that products labeled as formaldehyde-free can still contain this chemical compound. Almost 16 companies that make EWG tests hair straighteners did not include formaldehyde in their products, but they were found to be using this dangerous chemical.

These companies found their way out by claiming that this type of chemical is mixed with water, which creates an all-new chemical known as methylene glycol. These are just different names used in the place of formaldehyde. 

5. Hair that is treated chemically can continue to release toxins even when you are out of the salon: 

Let’s say that ingredients used in some chemical treatments do not include formaldehyde. Still, when you use a straightener, curling iron, or blowdryer after you go home, it can release harmful fumes that can irritate your skin. Because of this, formaldehyde can form up when some chemicals are heated up. 

6. It is much safer to opt for natural treatments: 

Yes! It is not the same as a straightening procedure or any chemical treatment, but trying supplements with natural dietary intake can positively impact your hair's quality and health.

Even though you feel it is not enough, chemical hair treatments are not worth the risk that can put your hair through a lot of damage.

When you opt for natural treatment, you can stop worrying about harmful chemicals and excessive hair damage. Natural remedies do not contain toxic ingredients, chemicals, and synthetic fillers commonly found in chemical treatments.  

Did You Know:

As the natural oils get ripped off from the hair when you overheat them, the additional risk of dryness starts happening in your scalp and hair. 


Till the invention of the time machine, you do not have the power to undo the hair damage caused by chemical treatments. So, just little things like changing your habits, protecting your hair, and giving it some more love can save your hair from major damage.

Chemical hair treatments can make you look great but are also harmful to both your hair and health. At the same time, some plant-based supplements and home remedies can help you recover from that damage such as regularly oiling your hair, applying a hair mask once or twice a week, and other things to keep the health of your hair in check. Last but not least, always consider consulting a pro. They know best!