Introduction: How to Do a Thermal Reconditioning Treatment at Home

About: I'm a housewife in the Twin Cities with a big DIY streak and delusions of grandeur. It's a good life.

Do you have curly hair? Me too. Do you have $400+ to drop on a thermal reconditioning treatment to have healthy, straight hair? Me neither. I took the plunge and decided to do it myself, at home. Read on to learn from my experiences and get a good thermal reconditioning treatment for a fraction of the salon cost!

Step 1: Step 1: Deciding If Home Thermal Reconditioning Is Right for You..

Doing a thermal recondition at home isnt for everyone. First and foremost, it is A LOT of work. Seriously. In the pictures following you will see my hair get straighter while my face gets more and more exhausted. Though my trial and error should keep you from spending as much time in the bathroom as I did, its still a lengthy process.

There is also a risk, as with any chemical hair treatment, that it could go poorly. Whether you are still deciding or know you want to do this, DO A TEST PATCH. Part of a thermal recondition is a thio relaxer, which can cause hair problems if your hair has been previously treated with chemical relaxers or dyes. When I did this, all of my hair had been processed with a sodium hydroxide relaxer except for a few inches of new growth, and I had no problems. But then, I have hair like rock climbing cables.

Hair type is also a consideration. I have multiethnic hair, and so many thermal treatments are not suitable for my hair. For this instructable, I used Rusk Thermal Str8, which is formulated to work on any type of hair. These days, I use One N Only Brand Thermal Ionic, Resistant formula, which is available at practically every Sally Beauty for ~$25. I recommend trying a test patch of ONO first  to see if it works for you, as it is about a third of the cost of the Rusk stuff. 

Step 2: Test Patch

Choose a small and inconspicuous patch of hair to be tested. Comb through a small amount of the Step 1 solution. You can cover it in saran wrap if you like- it makes it a bit easier to keep the hair held out straight, and it seems to accelerate the processing a bit. This isn't absolutely necessary though. Use the knot test to determine how long it needs to be processed. I used to have a great site listed here that had instructions and a video showing how to do it, but it got taken down sometime over the years. Boo. 

Heres how you do it:

After about 5 minutes, take your treated strand, and tie it in a loose knot, just tight enough that you cannot see through the middle at all. Then let go. If your hair bounces and you can see through the center of your knot again, then it isn't done yet. Keep the solution in until the knot stays closed even after you let go. For me, this is about 30 to 45 minutes.

Wash out the solution and flat iron. Comb through a small amount of the Step 2 solution, let rest for 5 minutes, wash out, let dry, and check the condition. 

If you have problems with breakage or are unsatisfied with the hair after this test patch is completed, DO NOT process the rest of your hair.

Make sure to record your processing time!!

Step 3: Applying Step 1

Comb through the hair and part down the center. Step 1 is the Thio relaxer, and it is not a fun thing to get on your hands; wear gloves (or Saran Wrap) while applying. Rusk comes with quite a bit, but be careful not to overapply to any section of the hair to ensure that all parts get enough. Any remaining can be put on after all parts are covered-it actually helps to make the hair relax more evenly. Set a timer for whatever your processing time for your test strand was. It will probably take close to that amount of time for all of your hair, but just to be safe, do a knot test every 5 or 10 minutes and on different parts of your hair to make sure it all gets processed thoroughly. Rinse well.

Step 4: Flat Iron

This is by far the most time consuming step, and you have a few options. Try to recruit a few friends to help if you can.

Rusk recommends doing it this way:
First blow dry your hair until it is about half dry. Then put in a heat protectant- either the one rusk recommends or any silicone or soy based hair serum(hair spray not recommended). Finish blow drying, and begin flat ironing,

ONO does it this way:
Again, blow dray hair until it is half dry. Then, let it air dry naturally the rest of the way. Flat iron.

Both methods have worked equally well for me. Whichever you use, be sure to iron the hair completely straight from root to end, and make sure that it stays flat out while you're straightening the rest. Keep in mind that the hair is delicate in this stage, so don't pull it hard and try to keep brushing to a minimum.

Step 5: Applying Step 2

Now that the hair is completely flat ironed, apply the second step. Though i used nearly all of Step 1, I had a good bit of Step 2 left over, so don't sweat that. allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash out thoroughly. Rusk calls for the hair to be conditioned after Step 2, but ONO doesn't. Both ways work fine for me. If you do decide to condition, make sure to leave it on for at least a minute.

Note: this stuff is RANK. Unfortunately, I was unprepared for this, and so one of my nice towels ended up ruined and my bathroom reeked for a week. I've since gotten better at containing the stink, but my bathroom always smells a little funny for a few hours after. Make sure to be careful applying this stuff so as to not get it around the bathroom, and use a towel you aren't terribly attached to when you get out of the shower, and give it a good wash right away.

Step 6: Flat Ironing...again

I know, I know, terrible, right? Well by this point, it actually shouldn't be that bad. My hair usually turns into a tornado after the blowdrier hits it, but mine barely flinched at this point in the process- completely amazing. Do the same as before, drying most of the way, then applying your chosen hair protectant, and straighten. Flat ironing was also a breeze at this stage, and took about 20 minutes for my whole head- versus well over 2 hours for the first flat iron.

Its been a little while, and I don't have a set of ONO Thermal Ionic instructions on hand, but I'm pretty sure that with ONO you can skip this step altogether. Crazy that the cheaper one is easier, right? I think it has to do with the fact that Rusk promises to work on absolutely any head...but that's just a guess.

Step 7: Behold Your Awesomeness

You now have sweet, thermally reconditioned hair. Bask in your glory. Rejoice at your bank statement. Swing your hair in the breeze. Stay out of water for 48 hours.