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Hair Relaxers: Breaking Nature's Bonds

Thanks to hair relaxers, you can walk into a salon curly and leave straight. Zoom in on the chemistry of your curls with Groupon?s introduction.

Human hair is flexible enough to run wild as a mountain stream one day and fall as straight as water over the Hoover Dam the next. But to make lasting changes to its texture, you need to go beyond the reach of styling tools down to the chemical level. All hair is made of keratin, a hard protein that?s also central to our skin, nails, and exoskeletons. To form a single hair, keratin molecules link together in different patterns with the help of three types of chemical bonds: hydrogen bonds and salt bonds, both of which break easily in water and reform when dry, and disulphide bonds, which can only be broken by certain chemicals. In straight hair, the disulphide bonds are evenly aligned. In curly hair, however, the bonds occur irregularly and at odd angles, causing the hair to twist and kink on its way down.

When you style your hair with heat or water alone, you break the weaker hydrogen and salt bonds to allow your do to take a new shape. Once water touches your hair, however, the bonds reform in their customary way, and you?re back where you started. Chemical relaxers, therefore, work by dissolving the hair's tough, waterproof disulphide bonds and preventing them from reforming in their normal pattern.

The most powerful hair relaxers contain sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye. Given lye?s presence in drain openers and oven cleaners, you might guess that it can be quite harsh on human skin, which is why no-lye relaxers made from guanidine hydroxide are also common. There is a trade-off, however: some find that lye relaxers are harder on the scalp but gentler on hair, and work more quickly so that you can get back to staring at your hair in the mirror sooner. An experienced stylist can recommend the best method for your hair.

1521 Superior Ave
Pittsburgh,
PA
US

Owners and principal members of the stylist team Emilio and Gino corral their decades of experience to create two distinct spaces where clients revel in personalized services. They staff more than 60 aesthetes, each of whom receives focused training on adjusting hair, skin, nail, and massage services to clients? stated preferences and lifestyle. During and after haircuts, the team uses a house brand of products to style strands and address specific hair problems such as color fading, excessive oil, or naturally occurring pipe cleaners. During facials, the aestheticians home in on what lies below bangs by cleansing, toning, exfoliating, and moisturizing skin, and tension dissipates during therapists' restful massage sessions. The downtown Pittsburgh location also plays host to an elegant serata?a private, chandelier-lit escape where bridal parties can enjoy ultimate relaxation before addressing the fact that their friend is marrying a panda bear.

301 5th Ave.
Pittsburgh,
PA
US

While some spas claim to be relaxing, Spa Jema goes above and beyond, aiming to become a tranquil urban oasis for its clients. Sleek hardwood floors fill the 5,000-square-foot space, through the lounge and treatment rooms equipped with brick fireplaces, candles, and couches, which give off a homey vibe not unlike that of grandma’s Ouija board. Their services augment the calming atmosphere and include fruit-filled facials, deep-tissue massages, and pampering spa packages.

117 1st Ave
Pittsburgh,
PA
US

Premier Salon and Spa's stylists have studied hair and beauty in New York City, London, and Paris, but clients don't just come for the team's worldly talents?they also come for the view. Perched 11 stories high inside Macy's Department Store, the space features private styling rooms that offer exclusive peeks at the cityscape and the bald spots of passing pedestrians.

Wielding products from Aveda, Pureology, and Goldwell, the stylists fashion bold cuts and brilliant highlights?services that earned the salon multiple awards from Citysearch. Meanwhile, soothing ambient music fills private suites during massages, waxing services, and customized Dermalogica facials.

400 5th Ave
Pittsburgh,
PA
US

In the early 1960s, a young man dropped out of high school and got a job cutting hair at Saks Fifth Avenue. According to TribLive, he made $4.95 for his first haircut, and as this new job transformed into a burgeoning passion, he decided to sell his car to pay for tuition at Pittsburgh Beauty Academy. Philip Pelusi, this blue-collar boy with a modest past, eventually came to own 13 of his own salons, create signature hair and skincare product lines, and garner a slew of accolades, including being named one of the top 10 stylists in the country by InStyle magazine.

At Philip Pelusi Salons, each of the stylists specialize in Pelusi’s patented Volumetric haircutting method. Following architectural principles, the method takes face shape and hair texture into consideration as scissor snips carefully build from the bottom up to create a style that follows the hair’s natural growth pattern and preexisting electrical wiring. To complement this structural approach, the staff calls on Pelusi’s own line of eco-friendly, plant-derived salon formulas that are bolstered with sunscreens, proteins, and moisturizers to keep strands healthy. The salon magnate’s skincare and cosmetics formulas follow the same nourishing recipes and take a starring role in the salons’ menu of facials and makeup services.

301 Grant St
Pittsburgh,
PA
US

At Bella Faccia Skin Care, pampering begins even before customers meet with a staff member. Those waiting in the lobby for a nourishing facial or exfoliating body scrub can sit down in a mechanical massage chair, where motorized arms uproot stress from its hiding place. The nearby coffee bar—also stocked with spring water, tea, and juice—houses single-serving Keurig machines that brew java from the small cups that grow on coffee plants. Of course, these conveniences are only a prelude to the pampering each client receives when enjoying a fruit and vitamin peel or eyebrow wax given by one of the experienced staff aestheticians.

139 Wabash St
Pittsburgh,
PA
US