Question of the Day: Keratin Straightening Treatments

I’ve received some questions about keratin treatments, so I wanted to address them. Now, before I begin this post, I want to make it clear that I have never done a keratin treatment on my hair, and I don’t plan to. Why? Because if I want to wear my hair straight, I’ll just flat iron. Secondly, I don’t trust stylists with my hair unless they are doing an intricate style on it that I can’t do. Otherwise…girl bye.

So, let me start off by saying that naming the treatment a Brazilian Keratin Treatment or Keratin Straightening Treatment, you’ve already been misled. These names make one think that it’s the keratin in the treatment that actually straightens your hair, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Keratin does NOT straighten your hair – your hair is mostly made of keratin. If keratin is actually in your straightening treatment, its purpose is to strengthen and protect your hair (which is good, but making it the primary name is pretty misleading). According to reports, the keratin helps the formaldehyde bind to your hair, and smooth and straighten it.

Most of these treatments use formaldehyde in the formula (the aldehyde is what creates the smoothing), and honestly – I won’t even touch on the potential effects to your health, because I’m going to tell you…unless you are getting several and excessive treatments, you really won’t inhale enough formaldehyde to get cancer – that’s why the stylists were gloves and masks, not you. But either way, if you think the treatment is simple and healthy, you are most likely mistaken.

The part that is most damaging to your hair, in my opinion (and based on my research, but please chime in with additional insight), is the high heat that stylists often use to “seal” in the treatment. Come on, let’s be real – if  high heat will give you heat damage alone, why would high heat with a CH2O solution be any different? So, if your hair is prone to permanent heat damage with straightening, it’s also prone to damage with a KT. Remember, hair apparently begins to melt after using flat iron temperature above 420 degrees F, and often the stylists doing keratin treatments use 450 degrees.

Although the smoothing effects of the treatment are apparently temporary, I have seen several posts and articles from women who have seen their curls never come back (again,  I cannot speak from experience). If you love your curls, I do not recommend them. Heat damage is permanent, so even if the treatment solution does not damage your hair, heat can.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the ingredients to the salon versions of this treatment, but before you decide to get one, I HIGHLY advise doing a Google search and checking out others’ posts on their experiences. If your goal is to continuously wear your hair straight, you MAY be okay, but it’s not guaranteed – as seen in this post where a woman said her hair was falling out (but it also seems like she was flat ironing her hair a lot). If you want to go back to curly…I’d skip them and opt for regular flat ironing with proper heat protectants.

Again, I’ve never gotten one – so if you love them, great! I am not knocking them. All I am encouraging is for people to do their research and know how much heat their hair can take before the damage is permanent.

8 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Keratin Straightening Treatments

  1. Anikra says:

    I am a new reader here and I love your blog! I have been natural for 3 years and I most recently started getting keratin treatments and I love them! I have had 2 so far and my stylist uses the coppola keratin complex treatment, which has way less harmful ingredients than the brazilian treatment. I have not experienced any damage to my hair and my hair immediately curls back when I wash my hair after wearing it straight. Prior to the keratin treaments I had an extremely tightly coiled curl pattern (which was very hard to work with so I wore stretched styles 100% of the time) so the treatments have loosened my curl pattern.The benefits I have noticed in the last 6 months is that my hair has grown so much, I have way less frizzy wash and goes and when I do want to wear my hair straight it only takes me a little over an hour vs 4 and it does not frizz up when I sweat or go into humid climates. I have not had any issues thus far as far as me retaining length or loosing hair or having heat damage (one caveat, I only straighten my hair every couple of months) so I will continue to get them but I agree, do your research before you take that leap!

    • Elle says:

      Loosening of curl pattern is a sign of damage to the structure of your hair (it is also a sign of heat damage), which is why I stated that if your goal is to keep your natural curl pattern, these kinds of treatments may not be optimal. I personally do not want to loosen my curl pattern (if that is your goal that’s cool, not judging or being militant) so that would be an undesirable result. Thank you for sharing your experience – I do think that it is worth looking into if someone wears their hair straight more often (because it does take me FOREVER to blow out and flat iron my hair!!) or wants to loosen their curl pattern without getting a texturizer.

  2. Jennifer says:

    After seeing my mom’s keratin treatment fade, with her curls popping back to life, I was convinced that it would be the perfect way to keep my hair straight during fall & winter. Well, my curls came back with no evidence of heat damage, so my crazy a** figured, well shoot-might as well get it done again for Christmas. Not a smart move. My hair was sleek & sexy as I wante it to be–but when it started getting warm in late March, early April, I wanted my curls back. I think there are pieces in the front that have permanent heat damage. With weekly use of a clarifying shampoo (I use one by Paul Mitchell) I see my curls returning now. I just hate the fact that I’m shampooing so much because I prefer to co-wash. But at least now I can do a decent w&g without my new growth standing out too much. I miss my curls-they’re just about back to normal, just a bit loser than I remember.

  3. mrslmac says:

    I love all the information you’ve provided and the fact that you state that you haven’t done the treatment on yourself. Well written and shared!

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