Keratin treatment products are everywhere, as they are touted as the “can do” treatment to fix any and all hair problems. If you were curious about what exactly a keratin hair treatment is, I am happy to say I can help!
A keratin treatment is one type of “thing”, while keratin treatment products are a whole slew of other things. Truthfully, a keratin hair treatment, especially one done in a salon, is designed to strengthen and increase the health of your hair. It isn’t a cure-all, but it is pretty damn close!
Keratin Hair Treatment Guide: Contents
• What Is a Keratin Treatment and What Does It Do to Your Hair?
• Best Keratin Treatment Products to Try at Home
• Keratin Treatment Benefits for Your Hair
• Keratin Treatment Side Effects to Know About
• Facts to Know About Keratin Hair Treatment Before Getting One
• What Happens at a Keratin Treatment?
• How Much Does a Keratin Treatment Cost?
• How Long Does a Keratin Hair Treatment Last?
• Keratin Treatment at Home: How-To Steps to Follow
A keratin treatment is a chemical hair treatment that coats the hair with liquid keratin protein, sealing in moisture and keeping hair looking shiny, feeling soft and frizz-free. It loosens curls without permanently destroying the curl pattern.
For wavy and loose curly hair, the client (that’s you!) can enjoy soft, straight hair that doesn’t require daily straightening. It’s beneficial for over-processed hair and can even be used on color-treated hair without causing further issues.
Keratin treatments allow people to maintain straightened yet healthy frizz-free hair for months. The process puts keratin in the gaps of your hair follicles, smoothing the strands, maintaining shiny, frizz-free strands without excessive amounts of time, daily heat and potential damage.
A keratin treatment is a chemical process, and the results last, on average, between 2 and 6 months. Keratin makes up more than 90% of your hair and it contains 16 different amino acids as well.
Even though the process is a chemical one, keratin is an essential protein that is naturally found in your hair. Not all straight hair is healthy after all, so it is the addition and sealing in of the keratin in the porous areas of your hair follicle that produces the healthy shine, movement and bounce. When getting a keratin treatment in a salon, your stylist will customize your blend to suit your hair type, health and desired outcome.
The important thing to remember is that this isn’t a “relaxer” or Japanese hair straightening treatment. Keratin treatments are not meant to do permanent damage to hair. If your hair is curly, your curls should return undaunted as long as your stylist (and you) did not get heat happy with the flat iron and damage your strands.
Keratin treatment products are marketed like mini pick-me-ups for your hair, but in a lot of cases, the word “Keratin” is just slapped on the bottle to increase sales. Keratin treatment products are supposed to help you improve the health of your hair at home.
They won’t offer the shocking 180-degree improvement that a salon keratin treatment can, but a good quality product can still make a noticeable difference in the look, feel and general health of your hair. Our top recommendations are listed below.
1. It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin
This keratin treatment is designed to nourish hair with sunflower seed extract, silk amino acids, keratin amino acids and hydrolyzed keratin. It can be used alone or as maintenance to keep your salon keratin treatment looking fresh and well cared for. It can be used on all hair types and aids in sealing the cuticles of your hair for a silkier, shinier appearance. You can pick up a bottle from Ulta.
2. Keranique Volumizing Keratin Conditioner
Designed specifically for people with thin or thinning hair, this keratin conditioner is designed to weightlessly provide hair with protection and hydration. The final product with use is meant to be shiny, manageable hair with good movement. The infused Keratin Amino Complex is meant to penetrate into the hair follicles while protecting and reinforcing the hair on the outside as well. Order yours from Sephora!
3. Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy Keratin Color Care Shampoo
This keratin shampoo was created to clean gently while imparting protection specifically for color-treated hair. Not only does the formula cater to color-treated hair, but also to keratin-treated hair, extending the lifetime of the hairstyle. The formula uses soy and wheat proteins along with keratin to help hair be smooth and shiny. You can buy a bottle at Ulta Beauty.
4. AG Hair Keratin Repair Refuel Sulfate-Free Strengthening Shampoo
AG Hair’s keratin shampoo is designed to liven up dull, dry and damaged hair by nourishing it while gently cleaning it. The keratin amino acids included in the formula are meant to strengthen and soften hair with long-lasting results. You can order a bottle of this shampoo for yourself from Ulta.
5. Matrix Biolage Advanced Keratindose Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray
Matrix’s keratin spray is designed to make a visible difference in softness and shine after the first applications. The difference after the first use is hair that is 90% more conditioned. This keratin treatment product is perfect for hair that has been color-treated, damaged or over-processed, and it also strengthens weak and fragile hair. You can get a bottle of this spray at Ulta.
6. Keratin Complex Kerawhip Hydrating Cream Conditioner Hair Spray
The Kerawhip hydrating cream conditioner spray makes your hair softer and fuller whenever you use it. The difference is noticeable after only being applied for 10 minutes and rinsed out. The shininess and frizz control created whenever you use it will keep your hair look incredible. You can get a bottle for yourself from Amazon.
7. CHI Keratin Silk Infusion Keratin & Silk Reconstructing Complex
This keratin treatment product has a reconstructing complex that improves hair by hydrating and healing it using natural keratin to rebuild the hair cuticle. The silk included in the complex deeply penetrates to smooth out and lock moisture into the hair. The elasticity, health and shine of your hair are visibly, noticeably improved, and it will feel much softer. You can order a bottle from Ulta.
8. OGX Ever Straight Brazilian Keratin Therapy Conditioner
The OGX keratin conditioner is sulfate-free and uses hydrolyzed keratin and Brazilian cocoa oils to strengthen and smooth hair naturally. The formula utilizes coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter and keratin proteins to infuse the hair with moisture and shine so naturally that your hair will look like it glows. You can order a bottle from Ulta.
9. Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner Packette
This keratin protein smoothing deep conditioner moisturizes hair, leaving it smooth, well-conditioned, shiny and frizz-free! This particular deep conditioner is good for all hair types and restores damaged, over-processed hair and even reduces static. Everything in the formula for this conditioning treatment is designed to improve hair, so pick up a package from Ulta.
10. Blondeshell Keratin Complex Shampoo
When looking for a gentle shampoo to keep your blonde hair color bright while adding shine and strength to your hair, this is the best keratin treatment product to try. The chamomile complex includes botanical oils, vitamins and of course keratin. The shampoo prevents fading and brassiness to your blonde, gray or silver hair and will keep it bright and shiny while fighting frizz. Order yours from Amazon!
11. Keranique Lift & Repair Treatment Spray
Keranique’s keratin spray has actually been around for a while and was previously known as Keranique Amplifying Spray. Not only is this spray designed to repair your hair, but also it adds volume, shine and fullness to your overall style. The formula uses peppermint oil’s natural astringent properties to help balance out the oiliness that can weigh down hair. The spray also works as a heat protectant to prevent damage from styling. Order a bottle from Dermstore!
There are clearly a lot of benefits to getting a keratin treatment (otherwise it wouldn’t be as popular, right?), but you might be wondering what exactly these benefits are. Here are a few of the top ones and what it could mean for you.
• It is quite versatile. With the right stylist, a keratin treatment isn’t only for straight hair, as for really curly hair, the person would have a much looser curl pattern post treatment. For wavy hair, the results will be straight. Keratin treatments work on all hair types for men and women, whether color-treated or not. In a salon, the treatment is customizable based on your hair type, length, thickness, etc.
• Keratin treatments actually make your hair healthier. Keratin is a natural component of your hair, so keratin being introduced is basically filling the gaps of missing keratin that your hair has lost.
Your hair will be softer, shinier and much more manageable post treatment. The treatment will lock in moisture among the other keratin treatment benefits, which will make your hair look and feel shiny, healthy, soft and best of all – without any frizz.
• It means less damage. You no longer have to manually straighten your hair every day, and you will be able to maintain your smoother, straight hair without adding more heat to it each day when styling.
• Keratin treatment leads to a low-maintenance hair routine. Straighter hair that is shiny and without frizz can be managed quicker since there is no need to straighten it each day. The treatment lasts for months, which means lots of time saved and ease while getting ready for the day.
Nearly everything has a side effect, but in comparison to other treatments like relaxers and rebonding, keratin treatments still come out as a better option. So you are fully informed, here are a few side effects or cons of getting a keratin treatment. Weight them against the pros and benefits and see if a keratin treatment could be good for you.
• Allergies: Be very careful about the ingredients, as some people can develop an allergy. Some keratin hair treatments include formaldehyde. Most people with a formaldehyde allergy are aware, as it is so widely used amongst cosmetics, but just be very conscious that it can develop at any time.
• Chemicals: A keratin treatment is a chemical process – there is no way around it regardless of it being a salon or a DIY at-home treatment. You’re exposing your hair to chemicals, and in most cases, especially the stronger treatments, one of those chemicals is formaldehyde.
• Heat Damage: A lot of heat is applied first with blow-drying, then with the flat iron during the process of keratin treatment. In the hands of most stylists it isn’t a problem, but sometimes damage can happen. Doing the process at home can also include both steps – the blow dryer and the flat iron, and if you get overzealous, the damage can be pretty bad. In most cases this is fixed with a cute haircut, but if it can be avoided it should be.
• Application Woes: If your stylist isn’t well versed with keratin treatments, this could be a major problem. In a salon most keratin treatments are custom mixed for the client’s hair. Without the proper expertise chemical, heat or other damage can easily occur.
• General Health: Keratin hair treatments come in versions with and without formaldehyde. Those with formaldehyde are more effective, but they can be bad for your stylist’s health. You won’t really be affected by the fumes, but they have to breathe them in every time they give a treatment.
• Temporary: A keratin hair treatment is only temporary. Eventually, the treatment will wash out but with proper products and maintenance you can extend the life of the treatment.
• Frequency: Though the treatment can be good for your hair overall, you shouldn’t do this process more than a few times a year, or you will damage your hair.
• Not a Straightener: Though it is often implied (because of the flat iron at the end especially), a keratin treatment is not actually about straightening hair. It is a smoothing, softening and protective treatment designed to make hair more manageable. Keratin treatment temporarily loosens the curl pattern so coily hair becomes curly, curly becomes wavy, wavy and lightly textured hair becomes straight.
• Not for Everyone: Pregnant women shouldn’t get keratin treatments, nor should anyone with certain skin conditions. People with hair that is naturally fine or flat wouldn’t benefit from a keratin hair treatment very much, as it will still be shiny, but can appear flatter rather than fuller. Additionally, the formaldehyde-free treatment is not as effective on curlier textures.
Keratin treatments are overall a good option for kinky, coily, curly and wavy hair, as they combat frizz, lock in moisture and seal the hair follicle in a protein that is good for your hair. There are other hair treatments, but they are not as beneficial for your hair, especially if you don’t want to irreversibly affect your natural hair texture.
Since we keep talking about what a keratin treatment is, let’s take a quick look at what it isn’t.
Keratin vs. Brazilian Blowout
Neither a Brazilian blowout nor a keratin treatment is permanent. Both are actually very similar, but for people with finer or thinner hair, a Brazilian blowout is a more effective option.
A Brazilian blowout provides volume and movement while temporarily straightening hair. A keratin treatment is better for fuller, thicker and longer hair. While a Brazilian blowout takes between one and two hours to complete, a keratin treatment can take 3+ hours depending on the length and thickness of hair.
A keratin treatment has more restrictions than a Brazilian blowout. With the blowout option the results are instant but with a keratin treatment you cannot pin or tie up your hair, as it can put ‘dents’ in the finished product. It takes about 72 hours for the treatment to really set so you cannot wash your hair for 72 hours post treatment.
Keratin Treatment vs. Japanese Hair Straightening Treatment
Japanese hair straightening is a chemical process that is permanent though it will not affect the untreated hair at your roots as your hair grows out. The Japanese straightening treatments utilize thermal energy on lye or calcium-based solutions, which straighten hair.
Because of the way that the solution breaks down bonds in the hair and forces them straight, there is no way to recover your original texture on hair that has already been treated. In some cases, the hair is also damaged through the process.
Keratin doesn’t utilize the same chemicals and will eventually wear off, though heat is used to seal the treatment towards the end.
Keratin Treatment vs. Chemical Relaxer
A relaxer is a permanent chemical process as well that used to use lye and other harsh chemicals. Unlike a keratin treatment it doesn’t gradually wear off, so as your hair grows out, it is very noticeable, and your hair can be weaker at the line of demarcation.
The demarcation point is where your curlier new growth meets your relaxed hair, and this is often where the hair breaks off first. Additionally, relaxer breaks the bonds in the hair that make it curly, “relaxing” the curls. Keratin treatments alight and coat the strand for more loosely patterned and in some cases straighter hair.
Relaxers in the natural hair community have come under a lot of fire, as they are bad for not only the health of your hair but also the client. The ingredients have been changing in an effort to not be as harmful, but many people are turning to keratin treatments to deal with their hair more efficiently with less damage.
So, what exactly is the process for a keratin hair treatment? Why does it take so many hours to put in the treatment, and why do you have to wait 72 hours after the treatment to wash your hair? Let’s take a quick look at a breakdown for the keratin treatment.
As is the case with most major hair treatments, a consultation needs to be done. With a keratin treatment, however, this doesn’t have to be very far beforehand – it happens right at the beginning of your appointment.
First, your stylist will take a look at your hair, observe the texture, thickness and length and discuss the outcome that you want from the treatment. After this consultation, they will custom mix the treatment to suit your expectations.
• Part 1: The keratin treatment process usually takes about two hours. First, you get your hair washed – thoroughly. They want the keratin treatment to saturate your hair without anything blocking it. Most stylists will wash the hair three times, focusing on the strands rather than the scalp. From root to tip your hair is thoroughly cleansed.
• Part 2: The keratin treatment is applied to the hair only, while avoiding the scalp. When your hair is fully coated, it is then blow-dried (this will take a while) and finally flat-ironed to seal it in. Because of the chemicals like formaldehyde, this portion is typically done in a very well ventilated area.
Don’t be alarmed if your stylist wears a mask – they are exposed to the chemicals way more often than the clients. When you leave, your hair will be soft, shiny and smooth but you’re not done yet.
After your keratin treatment is put in, there is a period where you cannot wash your hair. There are actually several things to avoid. First, you cannot wash your hair for a few days, and the stylist will tell you how many (typically 72 hours, in some cases 96 hours).
You should avoid salt water and any products including ingredients not approved by your stylist that can break down the keratin before the treatment has set. Don’t pin your hair, tightly bun or style it, don’t even put it in a tight ponytail, as you can have bends or dents in the hair since it hasn’t fully set yet.
After your setting period, you will be all set! You can wash your hair, but only with sulfate-free products. This will help extend the life of your keratin treatment.
Be conscious that smooth and frizz-free hair will be yours for months, but using anything to create a “beachy” look or a “fluffy” look will include ingredients that counteract the keratin and everything you tried to achieve with the keratin treatment.
Don’t worry though! If you regularly stretch or straighten your curly or coily hair and you can handle the treatment process, you can really benefit from getting a keratin treatment.
A professional keratin treatment will vary in price based on the city and the salon. A more upscale salon will charge more. As the price can vary so widely, the cost of a keratin treatment can range between $150 and $800 (sometimes even more depending on what other services you include).
When considering your keratin treatment, be certain to investigate not just the expertise of the stylist but also the customer history of the salon. It is also good to ask about your specific hair type and thickness and the time it will take to complete as well as what is included in the service.
On average, the typical salon keratin treatment lasts about two months. The longevity of your style can be extended up to six months with good care using sulfate-free products. Other factors that can affect the length of time your keratin treatment lasts include:
• The texture of your hair
• Your dedication to aftercare
• How well you followed the immediate instructions post treatment
If you decide to go the DIY route, there are plenty of options that will help you along. There are several keratin leave-in sprays, deep conditioning keratin treatments and two-part systems that are available.
Here is the general way it goes when you give yourself an at-home keratin treatment.
• Choose the right product. Evaluate your hair and what it needs. Pick your product and make sure you have everything required like a shower cap to allow the keratin hair treatment to process.
• Vigorously wash your hair in the same manner that your stylist would. Stylists focus on the hair strands rather than the scalp and wash hair well approximately three times. This is the step to get your hair prepped for the keratin treatment.
• Apply the treatment. Typically a deep conditioner is a good at-home keratin treatment. Apply it evenly and thoroughly on damp hair making sure to coat the strands from root to tip.
• Let it sit. The amount of time the keratin treatment needs to sit to penetrate the hair follicle is always on the package but in many cases, it only requires about 10 minutes.
• Rinse or wring. Here is where some at-home keratin treatments vary. In some cases, you have to rinse the treatment out of your hair in other cases you just need to wring it out a bit and in other case you just move onto the next step.
• Now blow-dry your hair. Blow-drying your hair will take longer than normal, but you have to in order to get the product in really well. Be patient and blow-dry your hair evenly.
• Carefully flat-iron your hair. Be especially conscious of heat damage and work through the hair until the product is sealed in. Depending on the type of keratin treatment you use there will be instructions on how to tell you have done this step right.
If you decide to go with a keratin treatment, make certain to take care and follow the instructions to maintain your look for as long as possible. In most cases, the instructions are really easy to follow, whether they are on the back of a box or given to you by your stylist. Enjoy your look, easy of styling and versatility for as long as you can.
Photos via @alexandra_koz_bander, @alejandrafloreshair, @mandypaulino, @styledbychristina, @okevaaa