Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Straight Talk: What to Know About Keratin Treatments

Sep 06, 2017 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell
By Becca Newell

For dream hair status, it’s all about eliminating the three F’s: frizz, flyaways, and fuss. And if any—or all—of those don’t occur naturally, there is a solution that doesn’t require hours of flat-ironing every day. Straightening treatments, à la keratin, help to transform unmanageable, frizzy locks into sleek, glossy strands, so every day is a salon-quality hairstyle kind of day.

Keratin is a protein found naturally in hair (and your nails and skin!) that helps to protect cells against stress and damage. Over the last decade or so, it’s become synonymous with silky, straight hair, thanks to the namesake treatment. Besides a boost in hair strength and shine, one of the most appealing aspects of this popular practice is the ease of everyday styling. According to WebMD, keratin treatments can cut blow-dry time by 40 to 60 percent. Similarly, you can bid adieu to the daily grind of straightening hair via a flat iron, which in addition to freeing up some time every morning, also contributes to better hair health, since continuous use of hot tools can damage hair.

If you’ve never undergone a keratin treatment, it’s typically a two-step process performed by a stylist—applying a keratin product to strands and then flat-ironing hair to “seal in” the treatment. Once heat (via flat ironing) is applied to tresses, the chemicals in the treatment break down hair’s bonds, so they can be semi-permanently reset to be naturally straight—or at least straighter, with zero frizz and plenty of shine. Typically, results last two to three months. The entire process takes about 90 minutes, although longer hair may require additional time, and can cost a few hundred dollars, if not more!

There are a variety of keratin treatments available and while each one is comparable to the next, in terms of smooth and glossy tresses, they’re not all created equally. In recent years, the FDA has received inquiries about the use of formaldehyde (or ingredients that, when heated, release formaldehyde) in keratin treatments. The concern surrounds the potential of inhaling formaldehyde by salon professionals and their clients during the straightening process. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says formaldehyde can “irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes, and lungs; and is linked to nose and lung cancer.” Though data suggests these negative effects are more likely to occur through consistent and continual exposure to formaldehyde, it’s still important to ensure the salon has appropriate ventilation.

If you’re apprehensive about formaldehyde or a similar ingredient, there are formaldehyde-free treatments on the market. While these formulations can help to smooth strands, add shine, and increase manageability, they’re not so well known for straightening hair, particularly tresses with waves and curls on the more stubborn side. Additionally, the end result doesn’t last as long.

Post-Treatment No-Nos

Some treatments require the following actions be avoided for the first three to four days:

Washing hair

Working out (or sweating in general)

Tying or clipping hair back

Tucking hair behind the ears

Tips for Treatment’s Longevity

Limit hair’s exposure to saltwater and chlorine

Loosely tie hair back with soft ponytail holders

Cleanse hair with sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner

Skip styling products, including hairspray

Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase

Keratin-esque Treatments

Brazilian Straightening/Brazilian Blowout:
A more customizable approach to silky, frizz-free hair—you can lose or keep any waves or curls—with no wait-to-wash period afterwards.

A formaldehyde-free formula that grants smoother, stronger, and healthier hair with no “downtime,” so you can wash and style immediately following treatment.

Thermal Reconditioning/Japanese Straightening:
For permanently pin-straight hair that remains unfazed by curling irons and other styling tools. However, there are reports that repeated treatments can cause significant damage to hair.

Products We Love

Fondant Fluidealiste Conditioner by Kérastase Paris, $45, David Alexander Salon & Spa, Annapolis

Bain Fluidealiste Sulfate-Free Shampoo by Kérastase Paris, $43, David Alexander Salon & Spa, Annapolis

Hot Off the Press Thermal Protection Hairspray by Paul Mitchell, $16.50, The Temple Annapolis

DAFNI Go Hair Straightening Brush by DAFNI, $99,

Express Ion Smooth+ by Paul Mitchell, $160, The Temple Annapolis