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Is Bumble and Bumble Concen-Straight Smoothing Treatment temporary?

Angel19i asks… I have 4a type Afro-Caribbean hair and would like the flexibility of straightening it every once in a while. But just blow drying & flat ironing only last a few days before my hair poofs up & according to your post on Keratin Straightening products other methods rearrange the bonds in your hair & aren’t that safe. And the Bumble and Bumble Concen-Straight doesn’t have any of the ingredients listed on the post so what I want to know is it safe for a temporary way to straighten my hair and will my hair return to normal after the treatment wears off?

The Beauty Brains respond

Considering all the new straightening products that were launched in the last few years, this is a great question. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at our post on Keratin straighteners for more background on the various hair straightening technologies on the market.

What does B&B say about Concen-Straight?

According to B&B, this single use straightener is used with heat tools to “smooth hair for manageability and frizz reduction for up to 30 shampoos.” They also claims that it is “Formaldehyde free. Cysteine free. Lye free.” This means it uses chemistry that is different than Brazilian straighteners, Garnier’s Blow Dry Perfector Kit, or hydroxide relaxers. However, it is based on a technology that functions similarly. Let’s take a look at the ingredients and see:

Concen-straight Ingredients

Water, Sodium Metabisulfite, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Dimethicone, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Sulfate, Fragrance (Parfum), PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Pearl Powder, Sapphire Powder, Malachite, Tourmaline, Transglutaminase, Polylysine, Methyl Trimethicone, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Caprylyl Glycol, Maltodextrin, Tetrasodium Iminodisuccinate, Dimethiconol, Dipropylene Glycol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Eugenol, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, BHT, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Benzyl Alcohol.

You’ll notice that the first ingredient (after water) is sodium metabisulfite. This means this product is based on similar technology used in bisulfite perms from the 1970s.

How do bisulfite perms work?

Perms are designed to add curl to hair so the product is applied to hair that is wrapped around curling rods. These perms contain sodium bisulfite which reduces, or breaks, the sulfur-sulfur bonds in hair. These sulfur bonds are like little bridges that lock protein strands together and make hair keeps its shape. When these bridges are broken, the hair relaxes hair and disrupts its natural shape. In the second step a neutralizer solution is applied to oxidize the bonds. This oxidation reaction re-forms the sulfur-sulfur bridges and locks the curls in place. After removing the rods the curls will retain their shape until the hair grows out.

Concen-straight (ya gotta love that clever name!) is essentially half of this perming process. But this time the product is applied as hair is straightened: the metabisulfite breaks the bonds so hair is relaxed, but nothing is added to neutralize and reform the sulfur bridges. The result is straighter hair, but the effect is not truly permanent because over time (about 30 shampoos worth per the product instructions) the bonds will auto-oxidize and the hair will more or less return to its original shape.