A keratin hair treatment can be either a salon treatment or an at-home procedure that uses proteins to smooth the hair cuticle and create straighter, shinier hair. The protein keratin is naturally found in human hair, and keratin treatments are aimed at restoring this protein to frizzy, curly or damaged hair. Some controversy surrounds the salon treatments, many of which have been found to contain dangerous levels of the suspected carcinogen formaldehyde. Using an at-home keratin hair treatment generally is safer and less expensive, but it might not last as long or have effects as strong as the salon versions.
The purpose of a keratin hair treatment is to smooth and relax hair that is curly, frizzy or generally damaged and unruly. Rough or broken cuticles cause hair to become frizzy, which is especially common with curly hair because of its naturally bent shape. Bonding keratin to the hair fills in the rough cuticles and smoothes them out, reducing frizz and helping to temporarily straighten the hair. Generally, a salon-processed keratin hair treatment will last two to three months, depending on the strength of the product and how often the hair is washed. Many salon keratin treatments are quite expensive, sometimes costing several hundred US Dollars.
Salon keratin treatments generally involve applying a blend of keratin and formaldehyde to the hair, bonding the keratin to the hair with a very hot straightening iron and then removing any excess product. After the treatment has been applied, customers cannot wash their hair for 72 hours, to allow the treatment to set properly. After the wait time has elapsed, customers are instructed to wash their hair with specialty or sulfate-free shampoos to extend the life of the treatment. After a keratin hair treatment, many people find that they have shinier, straighter hair that does not require as much blow drying or heat styling as it did before the treatment.
One of the significant criticisms of keratin treatments is the presence of formaldehyde, a chemical that is believed to cause cancer and other health problems, in the products. The formaldehyde is mostly present in the strongest, longest-lasting treatments, but traces of the chemical or its derivatives can sometimes be found in products claiming to be formaldehyde-free. The best way to ensure that a keratin hair treatment does not contain formaldehyde is to use an at-home product.
Over-the-counter, at-home keratin treatments are less expensive than salon versions, but they do not contain formaldehyde and generally are far less expensive. By not containing formaldehyde, they are milder but will not last as long as salon treatments. At-home treatments can range from keratin-infused shampoos, conditioners and daily-use styling products to miniature versions of the pricier professional treatments. The wide variety ensures that people who are tentative about using a keratin hair treatment can test out products before spending large amounts of money on professional services.