Keratin hair treatments are often heralded as a miracle treatment or an alternative to chemical straightening. While it's not a miracle solution, it is a very effective treatment that has a variety of haircare benefits. Below we cut through the noise and share the facts and firsthand experience of keratin treatments.
What is keratin? And what is a keratin hair treatment?
Keratin in its most basic form is the protein or building block from which our skin, hair and nails are formed. A keratin treatment refers to a particular type of deep conditioning used on hair to relax the texture and improve the health of hair. In essence, these treatments inject keratin into the holes or breaks in the hair follicle. New keratin bonds are created and this has the effect of making the hair smoother and making it less prone to frizz - because water is unable to penetrate into the hair and disturb it.
There are lot's of different brands of keratin treatment. I recently had one done and mine was Kerasilk by Goldwell, but as with any hair product, there are lots of other brands available depending on your needs.
Is is similar to chemical straightening?
A common misconception is that this is a chemical straightening treatment. It's not. A keratin treatment actually makes your hair healthier. For some people, your hair will appear straighter as it's smoother and less likely to tangle or frizz.
What does it do? What's the effect?
Your hair will appear and feel healthier, because it actually is. In fact, two weeks following my keratin treatment, I had a hair health assessment and I scored a 78 percent. According to the team, it was the highest score they'd seen across the whole day.
For many people, especially if your hair is naturally drier, prone to trans-seasonal damage, curly or a bit damaged, a keratin treatment can straighten out your locks. It certainly did for me. I went from having curls at about 2c or 3a on the curl scale to near straight hair - perhaps with a little flick on the ends.
Other interesting side effects are that my hair dries faster. All the breaks gaps in the follicle are filled up with keratin, and my hair holds less water now. One downside, my hair is also getting oily much faster now. I have to wash it at least three times a week whereas before I was washing it once. I believe this is due to the Kerasilk shampoo and conditioner I'm using to prolong and protect the treatment. But I don't mind washing my hair more often now that it's so low maintenance.
How long does keratin last?
Up to six months generally. But all the treatments are different. Some make last a little longer, some may fade faster. My Goldwell Kerasilk lasts for three to five months. But it all depends on how you care for it, what shampoo you use and how often you wash your hair. If you follow the aftercare instructions correctly, you should get five to six months depending on the brand of keratin treatment.
How long does the treatment take?
Anywhere from two to four hours. Your hair will need to be washed thoroughly with a shampoo that strips any leftover product from your hair so there's nothing to interfere with the treatment. Then the keratin is applied and worked into the hair strands with hot tools, a drier and a hot straightening iron. After that, your hair is washed again to clean any remaining product and finally, styled as you prefer.
The time obviously varies on the length of your hair. My long hair, about waist length, took three hours to treat.
How do you care for it?
This very much depends on the brand you get. Every treatment has a different set of instructions. The universal rule of keratin is to steer very clear of sulfate shampoos as they will remove the treatment from your hair. You should only use products that are sulfate-free. It's always recommended that you use the companion shampoo and conditioner to the treatment you received. As such, I use the Goldwell Kerasilk shampoo and conditioner to wash my hair and help my keratin last as long as possible.
Other than that, many keratin treatments specify that you cannot bend, crease or tie your hair for 24-48 hours to allow the treatment to set. This means no buns, no ponytails and no tucking your hair behind your ears or your hair can set in a funny way. It's also common that you will not be able to wet your hair for 24-48 hours or you can deactivate the treatment. It can make showering a bit hard, but it's worth it
The treatment I had, Goldwell Kerasilk, is comparatively low maintenance. You can tie it up, and wet it from the get go. Which was good news as I had my treatment on a very rainy day and I inevitably got a bit wet walking to the car.
Can you do keratin treatments at home?
Technically yes, there are at home treatments available. But I wouldn't expect the same results. Many of the top treatments are salon only because they need to be applied by a trained professional.
For best results, I would go into a salon.
How much is it?
Keratin treatments are anywhere from $200 to $500. The price depends on the treatment and the salon you visit. Goldwell Kerasilk is $250 - $450 depending on the length of your hair. I personally would recommend the Kerasilk treatment, it's priced very reasonably given it works so well and is so easy to maintain. But there are lots of other good brands out there. Chatting to your hair professional will help you get the best idea of what will work for your hair.
Do keratin treatments contain formaldehyde?
Some do, yes. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and rather than debate what levels are safe, because I am not a scientist, it's best to just avoid formulas with formaldehyde. This is where it gets a bit tricky. Many formulas labelled formaldehyde-free are not. Because the product created formaldehyde when it comes into contact with water and heat during the sealing process.
Goldwell Kerasilk is totally formaldehyde-free - even when heat and water are applied. There are a few others that allege to be formaldehyde-free, but I haven't researched them all in enough detail to recommend them. Definitely do your research before committing to a treatment and always go to a reputable salon.