5 must-know facts before your next keratin treatment

Jul. 20, 2020
If you want to defrizz your without frying your hair, read this article.
If you have particularly curly or frizzy hair, sometimes going to a salon to straighten your hair really is the only option. Keratin treatments have been around a long time now and have been a popular in-salon hair-smoothing choice. The funny thing though is that keratin doesn’t actually straighten your hair – it’s just a marketing gimmick. Read on to find out the truth.
Keratin is actually a natural protein found in your hair and nails. It’s made up of sulfur-containing amino acids which are chained together in a ‘disulfide bond’. This gives this protein extraordinary strength – just think of how difficult it actually is to break a strand of hair; it’s resistant to pulling, stretching and even pounding – making it an ideal structural protein. Unfortunately, natural external damage from the sun, pollutants in the air, or chemicals from products you apply to your hair can cause the keratin to become depleted, making your hair dry and brittle.
Enter keratin treatment. Unlike straighteners (sometimes called flat irons), which work by breaking down the disulfide bonds that bend your strands of hair and make them curly to truly straighten them, keratin treatments instead replenish the amount of keratin in your hair to make it look smooth, shiny and free of frizz. So you can liken a keratin treatment to construction work repairing the potholes on a road. 
But before you walk in to your salon for a hair-straightening appointment again, it’s worth remembering the following five important things.
  • Some ingredients that smooth your hair aren’t good for your hair
Traditional relaxers and Japanese straightening treatments use chemicals like ammonium thioglycolate and sodium hydroxide to permanently break the disulfide bonds and change the feel of your hair. Though very effective and long-lasting, they can be quite damaging to your hair. Because they last till your hair grows out, you could also be victim to an awkward growing-out phase. Although keratin treatments do not need these ingredients, many use formaldehyde, which, despite its ability to lock your hair in place for at least a good few weeks, is also a suspected carcinogen. 
  • “Formaldehyde-free” can be a lie, even coming from a stylist or hair-care company
  • Strictly speaking, no hair treatment actually contains formaldehyde, because formaldhyde is a gas. They do however, contain methylene glycol, formalin and/or methanol, which are chemicals that can release formaldehyde under heat or when mixed with water. So other than asking if your hair-treatment contains formaldehyde, now that you’ve brushed up on your hair-straightening facts, you might want to ask them what exactly is straightening your hair to get the facts straight. 
  • There are alternatives to formaldehyde
  • Luckily enough for all of us, there are now new hair-smoothing treatments that do not require the use of formaldehyde – Goldwell Kerasilk, Supersilk Smoothing System, Cezanne Perfect Finish, Trissola Solo and Keratin Complex all use glyoxylic acid instead. The catch: they’re not quite as powerful as the chemicals listed above. You’ll most likely get 2-3 months of staying power, and you may not get that dramatic softening effect as with formaldehyde treatments. 
  • Find a sulfate-free shampoo
  • It could be the one that salon recommends, but it doesn’t have to be. Also, avoid using Beach-wave sprays altogether – those guys are packed with sulfates that can undo the defrizzing you’ve just gone through. 
  • You can keratin-treat your hair at home too
  • The kits you can get in drugstores largely do the same job. They’re not damaging because they’re not designed to break the tough disulfide bonds holding your hair together. Instead, they kind of put a wrapper around your hair shaft to avoid them from curling and to keep out humidity, which can lead to curling and frizzing. Of course, you can’t expect these treatments to be anywhere near as long-lasting as what you’d get in a salon; they mostly last for about a week at best. But the good news that they can be as cheap as $10 a pop, which is a sharp contrast to the $200 you’d expect to have to fork out at a salon. You won’t get the technician’s experience and recommendation, and maybe some of the fancy product recommendations. But hey, for $10 for a week vs. $200 for 3 months? Hmm, maybe it is worth doing it at home.
    What has been your experience with straightening your hair? Do you get comparable results at home or do you still prefer the classic treatment at a salon? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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