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What is a Keratin Treatment?

Here’s what you need to consider before you book this popular hair smoothing treatment.
December 12, 2022

There are a lot of hair care trends and techniques to keep up with, but there’s one, in particular, we want to dive a bit deeper into and that is the ultra-popular and a little controversial keratin treatment. If you’re not familiar, a keratin smoothing treatment is an in-salon service that promises to deliver straighter hair with lots of shine and smooth texture, after a single process. 

If you have naturally frizzy, unmanageable hair it may sound like a dream but there’s some important information you should know before you rush to book an appointment. Read on as we walk you through what keratin is, what keratin treatments really do, how long they last and how to take care of your hair post-treatment.

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What Is Keratin?

Before we delve into keratin treatments, it’s important to identify what keratin even is. If you’ve ever been curious about what hair is made of, keratin is likely a term that popped up on your Google search. Keratin is the main protein in your skin, your hair, your nails according to the Cleveland Clinic. Keratin protects the hair from frizz, damage and breakage which is why it’s so important for your hair and why something like a keratin treatment is able to strengthen and improve your hair.

What Does a Keratin Treatment Do?

While there are different variations of keratin treatment formulas, the basic premise is this: A professional hairstylist will use a combination of chemicals and heat to straighten and rearrange your hair’s natural bonds, usually using formaldehyde, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). 

After the chemical solution is applied to the hair, the stylist will apply a keratin protein conditioner to keep hair from becoming dry and brittle. The end result, if all goes well, is straighter, smoother-looking tresses, as well as hair that is easier to manage, healthier and silky. According to the NCBI, this popular type of hair treatment now goes by a wide variety of names, including a Brazilian blowout, smoothing treatment, acetic acid treatment and hair botox.

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Which Hair Types Can Benefit From a Keratin Smoothing Treatment?

The keratin treatment process works on all hair types including fine hair, natural, curly, wavy, and coily hair and can even be a good option for damaged hair as it helps to seal damaged bonds and repair split ends. Since the treatment is centered around smoothing hair and removing frizz, it’s very popular among those with frizzy, curly, wavy and even natural hair. However, it’s worth noting that if you have curly hair, the treatment’s chemicals fill your hair with protein, smoothing your hair, which could temporarily affect your curl pattern. 

But, it’s not going to change your hair structure like a natural hair relaxer or chemical straightener, and it will eventually wash out after a few months. Ultimately, before you commit to the treatment, it’s important to speak with a hair professional who can walk you through the best options for your specific hair type and texture. 

Are Keratin Treatments Good for Your Hair?

Keratin treatments can be good for the hair. When done properly, a keratin treatment won’t damage your hair, rather your strands will appear shinier, healthier and less frizzy. The treatment will fade over time and the chemicals used on the hair are less harsh than those in a relaxer or a Japanese straightening treatment. 

Can a Keratin Treatment Damage Your Hair?

If your hair is significantly damaged or very fine in texture, the process of a keratin treatment is lengthy and involves sealing the hair with the chemical formula and using heat to lock in the mixture, which can be damaging if your hair is already vulnerable. Repeated keratin treatments can also pose a threat to the integrity of your hair so space out your treatments every four to six months if possible. 

As we mentioned before, many keratin treatments have a formaldehyde-based formula. According to research by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, in some cases unacceptably high concentrations of formaldehyde might be used in these treatments, which can be damaging to your strands. Additionally, formaldehyde is a carcinogen and poses a threat when it’s inhaled, according to the NCBI

So again, it’s super important that you do your research and work with a professional who knows what they’re doing, and that includes having a space with proper ventilation or opting for a formaldehyde-free formula.  

How Much Do Keratin Treatments Cost?

As with any salon service, the cost varies based on your location, popularity and your stylist’s level of experience. That being said, you can generally expect a keratin smoothing treatment to cost somewhere between $300 and $900. 

Can You Do a Keratin Treatment at Home?

While there are at-home keratin treatment kits on the market and you may save yourself some money, we strongly advise against attempting to chemically straighten your strands at home. Since keratin hair straightening involves restructuring your hair’s natural bonds, your best bet is to go to a professional. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the formulas in at-home kits aren’t as potent as those used in the salon, so the results won’t be salon-quality.

How Long Does a Keratin Treatment Last?

The amount of time your keratin treatment lasts depends on how well you care for it. Typically, you can expect this type of hair treatment to last for up to six months but it’s also worth noting that as your hair grows out, your roots will no longer be treated. How fast your hair grows can definitely play a role in the lasting potential of your keratin treatment, especially if you rely on it to tame wavy or curly hair texture. 

How to Take Care Of Your Hair After a Keratin Treatment

Any time you apply strong chemicals to your hair, whether it be when you dye your hair with permanent hair color or when you receive a keratin treatment, it's incredibly important to take extra steps in your hair care routine to keep your strands looking healthy after the fact. This includes switching out your regular shampoo and conditioner and using a system that includes a hair mask and a leave-in product on the regular. 

The L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Simply Clean Shampoo with Essential Oil and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Simply Clean Conditioner with Essential Oil are suitable for all hair types and formulated without synthetic fragrance, sulfates, parabens, added phthalates or dye. This is important because harsh ingredients like sulfates can strip your hair of your keratin treatment.

After washing your hair, follow up with the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Simply Clean Midnight Color Care Serum, an indulgent smoothing treatment that adds shine and makes your hair easier to style. If you have curly or way hair, try the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Simply Clean Curl Cocoon Creme, a leave-in conditioner that shapes curls and adds moisture back to your strands. 

In addition to using sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, a few times a week, use a smoothing hair treatment like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water Lamellar Hair Treatment, in place of conditioner.  It works in just seconds to rid hair of tangles while adding moisture and enhancing shine. 

If your hair feels weak, reach for a bonding system like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid. This two-part regimen contains a pre-shampoo treatment, a shampoo and a conditioner formulated with citric acid to strengthen weak hair bonds inside and out. They’re also free of sulfates, parabens, added phthalates and dye, so it’s safe for your keratin-infused tresses.

Next: The Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for Hair, According to an Expert

Edited by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn

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