The thing that makes a keratin treatment different than other hair products and fads is that it actually delivers what it promises: beautiful, shiny, frizz-free hair.
Unfortunately, there are tons of misconceptions and mysteries surrounding what exactly a keratin treatment is. Whether you’re headed to a salon or thinking about trying one of the DIY keratin hair products on the market, you need to know what to look for.
Here are the facts about the keratin treatment process. If you know what to ask for and understand what to expect, you can have movie-quality hair with bounce and shine you never thought possible. All thanks to a keratin treatment.
What Is Keratin?
First it’s important to understand that keratin is responsible for creating pretty much anything found on the outer layer of the human body, including hair, nails, and skin. It’s produced and excreted by our cells and a deficiency can result in weak nails and hair. Luckily it’s found in plenty of foods, including:
- Foods rich in vitamin C
Why Use Keratin for Hair?
If you’ve ever made a papier-mâché volcano in grade school, you understand the principal of a keratin treatment. The basic idea of keratin therapy is to fill the hair’s pores and strengthen the cuticles, eliminating frizz and boosting shine.
This can be done by slathering keratin onto your hair.
It’s not the most hair-friendly option.
A traditional keratin treatment involves lots of chemicals that react together and produce a toxic forming gas when put under intense heat, the kind of heat that comes from, say, a flat iron.
The result breaks down the bonds within the hair, allowing your strands to straighten. Then, the treatment seals your hair with keratin (and chemicals), giving it an air-tight cover that can last for months.
Keratin hair straightening works because the solution actually breaks down portions of your hair strands that give it its texture and shape. This is what allows your hair to straighten out. Though the effect will be offset some by your new shimmer and bounce, the keratin treatment will actually thin your hair a bit.
Also, the fumes are not to be taken lightly. It’s actually the gas formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.
That shine, though.
What Is a Keratin Hair Treatment?
There are a lot of different names you may have heard for this, but, technically speaking, a traditional keratin treatment is completely different than some of the other names it’s often confused with, including a Brazilian blowout, keratin smoothing treatment, and keratin straightening treatment.
What’s worse, all four will get you much different results.
To further confuse things, the power of keratin has picked up a lot of well-earned buzz. It’s being added into all kinds of everyday hair products.
So, don’t get confused when you’re sifting through the tons of products that say “keratin” on their labels but don’t offer the results of a traditional keratin treatment.
So, how do you know the difference?
What Is a Keratin Treatment Process?
While the term “keratin treatment” is used as a blanket term that covers a lot of different approaches, a traditional keratin treatment is pretty well-defined, especially in its step-by-step instructions. When you consult your stylist, or if you’re looking for a keratin straightening treatment at the store, see how closely they follow these guidelines.
- Wash your hair thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo
- Dry hair completely
- Separate hair by combing through
- Coat hair evenly with keratin treatment using styling brush
- Dry hair with blow dryer
- Flat iron the hair (if you’re trying this at home, make sure you use an anti-static flat iron)
- Do not bend the hair for three days
- Wash out thoroughly
If the steps don’t resemble these very closely (especially Nos. 7 and 8), then you’re probably not getting a traditional keratin treatment, but a newer procedure like a Brazilian blowout. In this variation, the solution is left in for hours, not days, and is washed out at the end.
How Long Does a Keratin Treatment Last?
There are a ton of factors that affect this, but the answer varies from three to six months when using an actual keratin treatment. Your hair’s health, texture, conditioning level, and purity can all determine just how well the solution absorbs into the strands, which accounts for how long it’ll work.
Products and procedures labeled “keratin smoothing treatment” and Brazilian blowouts often aren’t applied as harshly as a regular keratin treatment. That means not only do they not straighten your hair as well as a keratin treatment, they typically only last between a few weeks to three months. Their focus is typically on simply eliminating frizz instead of straightening as well.
How to Make Your Keratin Treatment Last
Here are a few tips to make sure your keratin treatments lasts closer to six months, instead of just three:
- Look for a keratin treatment that needs to be left in for three days as these are usually the longest lasting.
- During those three days, do nothing to bend your hair, including ponytails, clips, or even tucking it behind your ear. Don’t even look at it funny.
- At the end of three days, you’re going to want to lather up your favorite shampoo and clean your hair like you never have before. Fight that urge. Using a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo is the single greatest change you can make to increase the life of your new do because it won’t strip the solution from your hair like regular shampoos. This can extend your keratin treatment’s life by weeks.
Can Your Keratin Be Formaldehyde-Free?
Thanks to keratin’s popularity, manufacturer’s are figuring out more and more ways to use it in our hair products. While it may not offer the huge, mane-changing results some of the bottles claim, it’s very rarely going to be a bad thing.
This push has also caused companies to explore formaldehyde-free keratin hair products. While the results are still in the early phases, formaldehyde remains an essential ingredient in the most effective keratin treatments, when super-shiny, straight hair is the goal.
Should You Try a Keratin Treatment?
Giving your hair a protective, straightening layer of keratin will certainly change your hair’s appearance, but it’s no walk in the park for its fibers. The intense heat is damaging and the process needs to be done in an open or well-ventilated area.
If your goal is to tame some unruly locks and minimize frizz, there are certainly other options that aren’t as taxing on your tresses. There are plenty of all-natural shampoos and conditioners that will manage your curls without frying them into submission with chemicals.
But if you’re looking for hair that’s fit for a red carpet and you understand everything that comes with getting there, a keratin treatment is a no-lose way to get the look you’ve only dreamed of.