Keratin is one of the most durable proteins in nature and the main ingredient in the outer layer of hair. When applied to hair via products or a longer-lasting treatment, keratin smoothes, straightens and eliminates frizz.
Your hair type will determine which keratin formula and concentration will deliver the desired sleekness. For example: anyone after frizzles locks can benefit from products that contain keratin but the keratin treatments are best left to coarse and curly hair types. Read on for more info.
Keratin Treatment FAQs
What is it?
A keratin treatment is a temporary straightening process that transforms frizzy, unruly hair into straight, shiny, healthy hair. Using a high-temp flat iron, the keratin treatment is infused into hair, sealing the cuticle and repairing damage. Hair is stronger, smoother and more manageable.
Is it permanent?
Nope. Keratin treatments are temporary, but results last about six weeks. (The more often you wash, the more quickly hair returns to normal.)
Will it work for my hair?
Keratin treatments are best for thick, curly, frizzy or coarse hair. Because it actually repairs hair, keratin treatments are also good for damaged or chemically treated hair (colored, permed, relaxed, highlighted or bleached). Keratin treatments are not intended for fine, straight or thin hair. (Though, this hair type can enjoy the benefits of keratin by using keratin products rather than undergoing the treatment.)
Does it damage hair?
No. Sealing keratin into cuticles can actually repair and strengthen hair.
Keratin Treatment Overview
- Shine. Softness. Smooth, frizz-free strands that are unfazed by humidity.
- Moisture and damage repair.
- Dramatically decreased drying and styling time.
- Sealed color.
- No grow out. With regular shampooing, hair slowly returns to its pretreatment state.
- Wash hair less frequently to maintain the look longer. For maximum longevity, use a shampoo that doesn’t contain Sodium Chloride. A product with UV protection is important too.
- Exposure to chlorine, salt water or excessive sun exposure will shorten the lifespan of the treatment.
- Hair can be cut immediately after the treatment.
- Hair can be colored before or two weeks afterward. (Coloring hair prior to the treatment seals in the color, helping to prevent fading.)
- Repeat Keratin Treatments will be applied throughout hair the same way as the first treatment.
- Success can be skill and tool dependent.
- Scalp and hair sometimes don’t feel as clean as prior to the treatment.
- At-home application requires proper tools and precautions.
Keratin Treatments & Colored or Chemically Treated Hair
Celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger of Sally Hershberger salons in New York and L.A. says Keratin can only improve treated hair. The treatment moisturizes and adds to existing chemical treatments already present. It also helps to seal color into hair. The best time to get a keratin treatment is prior to a hair color service, or 10 days after a color treatment. Keratin treatments are also extremely beneficial for hair that has had thermal reconditioning or sodium hydroxide relaxers.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is one of the most abundant organic substances in the universe. It is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and found in things like car exhaust, smoke and smog. Simply: Formaldehyde is a common air pollutant that can be toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic – especially when exposure is high or frequent. Symptoms of reaction range from watery eyes to headaches or difficulty breathing. Many keratin treatments contain formaldehyde or a similar compound that becomes formaldehyde when heated. The Cosmetic Ingredients Review Expert Panel recommends no more than 0.2 percent and many manufacturers adhere to this standard, but some keratin products contain much more. (The FDA doesn’t regulate keratin treatments and doesn’t list formaldehyde as a restricted ingredient.)
What will formaldehyde do to my hair?
Keratin treatments combine high heat, formaldehyde and keratin to break bonds in the hair, which temporarily changes its shape. Then, keratin bonds to hair’s rough edges, coating the cuticle, straightening it and creating smoothness and shine. The process is not damaging. As well as straightening, it repairs hair, improves strength and adds shine.
For a truly formaldehyde-free treatment, look for products that don’t contain any “hyde” family ingredients.
Other Straightening Treatments
Japanese Straightening vs. Keratin Treatments
- Japanese straightening thermally and chemically restructures hair bonds, whereas Keratin reconditions hair. (The change is permanent.)
- Japanese straightening makes hair extremely straight and flat. Keratin treatments allow hair’s natural texture to emerge, especially as they slowly wash out.
- While the keratin treatment washes out over time. Japanese straightening grows out, which requires upkeep. As a result, Keratin doesn’t last as long as Japanese Straightening, but it also doesn’t involve a grow-out phase.
- Both Japanese and Keratin treatment applications use high-heat flat irons to close the product into the hair cuticle.
Brazilian Blowouts vs. Keratin Treatments
- Brazilian Blowouts are “lighter” than keratin treatments. You might consider them a blowout with a bonus.
- Hair will be frizz-free but less straight.
- While Keratin treatments have a 3-day no washing period, Brazilian blowouts can be washed immediately.
- Brazilian blowouts do not contain formaldehyde.
What do I need to do it at home?
- Keratin Treatment: This product is essential to the keratin treatment process. It will be infused into the cuticle – smoothing, straightening and strengthening your hair. Shop Keratin Treatments »
- High-temperature Flat Iron: Most treatments require a flat iron that heats up to 400 degrees or higher. The high temperature is necessary for proper application and it’s also helpful for maintaining your treatment. Shop Keratin Treatment Flat Irons »
- Fine Tooth Comb: You’ll use this when distributing the treatment and to assist with precise flat ironing.
- Sodium Chloride Free Shampoo: Sodium Chloride (salt) will fade your keratin treatment. Avoid products that contain the ingredient to enjoy longer-lasting straightness. Shop Sodium Chloride Free Shampoos »
More Ways to Enjoy Keratin
Your hair doesn’t have to be entirely unruly to deserve the benefits that Keratin delivers. Shampoos, conditioners and styling products can help you combat frizz and enjoy healthier, more manageable hair every day.