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Keratin Hair Treatments: What to Expect

New keratin-based treatments may save you hours each day.

WebMD Feature

Longing for smoother, straighter hair? Keratin hair-straightening treatments are a popular option at salons.

If you're thinking about trying it, you should know this:

  • What Is Keratin? It's a protein that's naturally in your hair.
  • How It Works: A stylist applies a keratin hair-straightening product to your hair and then uses the heat of a flat iron to seal it in. The process takes about 90 minutes or longer, depending on your hair's length. Salon keratin products include Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy by Coppola, Global Keratin Complex, the La-Brasiliana treatment, Brazilian Keratin Treatment, the Brazilian Blowout, and Brazilian Hair Straightening. 
  • Time-Saving Tresses: If you usually style your hair straight, a keratin hair-straightening treatment could shorten your blow-dry time by 40% to 60%, says hair stylist Henri Borday of New York's Mizu salon and corporate educator for Global Keratin.
  • Farewell, Frizz: You can forget about frizzy hair after treatment. "You could walk out in moist or light rain and your hair won’t change," Borday says.
  • Wait Before You Wash: You shouldn't wash your hair for three or four days after getting the treatment. That's because the solution takes time to work, he says.
  • Upkeep: After you get a keratin hair treatment, and after the don't-wash waiting period, you should use sodium-sulfate-free shampoo to help maintain the treatment.
  • How Long It Lasts: Expect the results to last two to 2 1/2 months.

Keratin treatments won't make your hair break, but the flat-ironing might. "The hair breakage has nothing to do with the treatments and everything to do with the flat irons that are used to dry and seal the hair afterward," says New York dermatologist Neil Sadick, MD. "Some stylists may use a flat iron that is way too hot and scorches hair, making it break off."

"Keratin is more of a restorative treatment," Borday says. "Even if you have a good hair type, it still strengthens the hair shaft and makes your hair more resilient."

Sadick recommends checking with a dermatologist before getting a keratin treatment if you have psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis .

Formaldehyde Factor

You may have heard about formaldehyde in salon keratin products. 

Formaldehyde has been linked to health problems, especially for people who regularly work with it. The main health concern about formaldehyde in keratin products has been about salon workers, not people who get keratin hair treatments.

How much formaldehyde is in these products? That varies. The FDA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have looked into formaldehyde levels in some of these products. 

"You can ask salon professionals if they know whether a product contains formaldehyde-related ingredients or other ingredients you may wish to avoid," the FDA's web site states. If you have a bad reaction to the treatment, the FDA asks that you report it to them.

"Most companies that put out keratin treatments use safe levels. But the problematic part and where these treatments got a bad rap came when salons were mixing their own to incorporate more formaldehyde," Borday says.

Brush Up on Beauty

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