The rumors are true — there’s evidence that keratin treatments can damage your hair. But fear not! We’ve got your tips for slaying frizz for good.
Raise your hand if you’ve struggled with frizz? You’re in gorgeous company, because all our stylists have probably recommended keratin treatments (aka Brazilian blowouts) to tame our manes, at one point or another. It’s long been considered the magic potion for smooth, shiny, perfectly behaved locks in just one appointment.
Too bad it’s really more of a glass slipper when you take a closer look; there’s mounting evidence that keratin treatments can damage your hair.
If you’ve got your hopes set on getting a keratin treatment to tackle frizz once and for all, we’re here to provide an essential perspective on everything you need to know about the legendary Brazilian blowout before you book your first or next appointment.
What Is Keratin?
Keratin is a family of proteins that make up hair, nails, the outer layer of skin, even animal feathers and horns. If that tells you anything, keratin is a strong, protective protein that coats more fragile cells underneath. Concerning hair, keratin is largely responsible for preventing breakage, frizz, and heat damage.
GREAT NEWS — we’re constantly producing keratin! Cells called keratinocytes are responsible for this constant production of the protein, which also explains why we shed, making room for new hair.
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill we can take or diet we can go on to stimulate more keratin production. It’s genetic, and thus cannot be altered nor controlled.
If the keratin in your hair has become damaged or depleted due to over-styling your hair, constantly applying heat or chemicals to it, your protective keratin proteins are being broken down faster than your body can replace them, creating overly porous hair, and frizz.
Gah! We know; naturally, we all want to offset this damage, and that’s where stylist-recommended keratin treatments come in. So, let’s explore what that really means.
What Does a Keratin Treatment Do?
There are two types of keratin treatments out there. The first doesn’t actually use keratin at all, but more closely resembles a traditional hair straightening procedure. This was the original “keratin treatment” to hit the market, and is extremely problematic in terms of your holistic health, not just the health of your hair.
The original keratin treatments used a derivative of formaldehyde. Oh gosh. Right? That does not sound like a word we want to hear when it comes to our haircare.
The hair was soaked in it, and then a flat iron was used to breakdown the hair proteins and restructure them to give the stick-straight impression so many of us covet, today. This keratin treatment can damage hair very easily. Fortunately, formaldehyde-based keratin treatments are decreasing in popularity. It’s now possible to find keratin treatments using glyoxylic acid, instead, which is safer.
The second type of keratin treatment applies keratin directly to the hair. Instead of breaking the protein bonds and reforming them, the treatment delivers a high dose of keratin directly to the hair alongside chemicals designed to help seal the keratin to your follicles. This true keratin treatment offers the same smoother & shinier results as a the formaldehyde treatment exposed above, without the health-negating side effects.
Yet, while gentler on the follicles, this true keratin treatment can still damage your hair. It demands that your hair be left nearly untouched for days after, so the treatment can continue to strengthen. Combing your hair, tying it back, or even sleeping on it wrong can result in kinks or dents to your hair after a true keratin treatment.
Looks good, but does beauty really have to be pain?
Three Things to Be Aware of Before Getting a Keratin Treatment
On its own, keratin treatments won’t always damage your hair. However, there are a few things to be aware of before booking yourself a treatment.
1. Formaldehyde Is Carcinogenic, But Alternatives Exist
There’s a lot of research showing formaldehyde-based keratin treatments are neither safe nor healthy. For example, a 2014 study analyzed the formaldehyde levels in seven different commercial keratin treatments. Six were found to have five times the formaldehyde considered safe for human exposure. Perhaps even more shocking, five of these six brands advertised themselves as “formaldehyde-free.”
Furthermore, since all the way back in 1989, formaldehyde has been linked to cancer.
Thankfully, as a result, alternatives to formaldehyde keratin treatments now exist. Ask your stylist about these and avoid exposure to this dangerous chemical.
2. Not All Treatments Are Equal
There’s quite a bit of misinformation out there about what constitutes a true keratin treatment. It’s not uncommon to find a number of procedures or products lumped together under the umbrella term keratin treatment.
Do your homework — like you are now! — before agreeing to a treatment at a salon or purchasing a product from the store. Investigate the ingredients and understand what you’re getting into, and putting on your hair, before committing to any keratin treatments or products.
3. It’s Not a Bulletproof Method
While keratin treatments are advertised as a three-to-six month hair care cure all for frizz, it might not always work quite as well you hope. The success of a keratin treatment has as much to do with the type of treatment you get as it does with your hair type and how well you handle your hair in the hours and days following your treatment. There’s plenty that can still go wrong – and it will take three to six months before it reverses. Eek!
Alternatives to a Keratin Treatment for Frizz
The dangers of formaldehyde and the other chemicals sometimes found in keratin treatments have sent a lot of people in search of natural alternatives to frizz or natural hair straightening treatments. If you’re looking for something gentler than a keratin treatment, consider:
- Argan protein treatments. Argan oil functions similarly to a keratin treatment, helping fortify your hair, reduce frizz, and increase shine. It will have a mild straightening quality to it, however.
- Formaldehyde-free keratin shampoos. You can find some shampoos available that will deliver a dose of keratin to your hair. However, be sure to read the ingredients carefully.
- Moisturizing hair straightening mask. Consider a mask of agave nectar, olive oil, and coconut oil to moisturize, de-frizz, and gently straighten your hair.
Don’t Risk Hair Damage With a Keratin Treatment
Miracle cure-all in the battle against frizz? Not exactly.
A keratin treatment can damage your hair, resulting in an even more unruly mane. With all the misinformation out there, get that keratin treatment with caution. Always keep your health, and the health of your gorgeous, natural hair in mind.
In the meantime, cut back on frizz with a dedicated hair towel. Maybe you’re already using one! Either way, check out our microfiber hair towels that dry your hair fast, hands-free.