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When in-salon keratin treatments exploded onto the scene over a decade ago, they were one of the most innovative new services the beauty industry had seen in quite some time. Finally, a semi-permanent solution for women looking to lock out frizz and smooth out unruly curls, no hot tools required. The star of the show? Keratin, a fibrous protein naturally found in the hair that’s responsible for keeping it both strong and smooth, and that acts as a barrier to lock out humidity. Less keratin makes the hair porous, and in turn more susceptible to frizzing and poofiness; keratin treatments work by delivering a hefty dose of the protein to fill in these "holes."
There are a variety of different types out there, some of which also take it one step further and actually chemically alter the structure of the hair, resulting in an even greater straightening effect. The bottom line: The salon versions are ideal for those who want to smooth out kink and curl, and who crave long-lasting results. There are some drawbacks, though. Not all, but many of pro-strength treatments do contain formaldehyde, an ingredient that can have some scary side effects. There’s also the time and money factor. Enter the beauty of at-home keratin treatments.
Make no mistake, these aren’t a one-to-one swap for the salon version, but rather a slightly less intense, much more convenient alternative. Rather than penetrating deep into the hair, they sit on the surface, acting more akin to a reparative conditioning treatment. Still, the keratin can have similar effects—making your strands stronger, smoother, and sleeker—they just won’t last as long. But if you’re in need of a quick fix, have damaged hair that could use some TLC, or just need the occasional smoothing hit, these at-home options are the way to go.
Check out our picks of the best keratin treatments out there.
Best Overall: Nexxus Keraphix Reconstructing Treatment
The at-home version of a more intense in-salon treatment (and a favorite among Byrdie editors), this protein-packed treatment uses not only keratin, but also collagen, elastin, and black rice extract. The result? A power dose of protein for every hair strand that helps repair damage almost instantly, all while leaving your mane silky and shiny, too. Also nice: You can easily apply it just where it’s needed (think beat up ends or frizzy roots), and it works equally well on all hair types.
Best Hydrating: CHI Keratin Silk Infusion and Silk Reconstructing Complex
True to its name, this will leave your strands silky soft and smooth, quenching even the most parched strands. Keratin rebuilds the cuticle (the outer layer of the hair), but it also contains silk, which helps the hair retain moisture and packs a heavy hit of hydration. If you have ultra-dry or ultra-damaged hair, this is a must.
Best for Minimalists: Paul Mitchell Awapuhi KeraTriplex Treatment
If you want better-looking hair, minimal effort required, reach for this guy. All you have to do is apply it to clean, damp hair once a week for five minutes, max. Rinse it out to reveal more hydrated, shinier, smoother, hair. Yes, it’s that easy. The fresh ginger and citrus scent is just an added bonus.
Best Oil: Lanza Keratin Healing Oil Hair Treatment
Keratin amino acids, the building blocks of keratin, are the key ingredient in this deeply hydrating oil. And despite how reparative it is, it truly acts almost more like a styler than a treatment. Use a little bit on damp hair before blow-drying and it will also add body, shorten the dry time, and provide heat protection.
Best Conditioner: Kérastase Resistance Conditioner for Damaged Hair
If you want to reap the benefits of keratin on the reg, choose this daily conditioner. Not only does it strengthen the hair fibers and help fend off breakage and split ends (yes, please), it also ups the shine and softness factors. Plus, it works great on all hair types and textures, from super straight to crazy kinky.
Best Heat Protectant: Phyto Phytokératine Repairing Thermal Protectant Spray
You know that heat styling takes a toll on your hair; it’s one of the things that can break down the natural keratin in your strands. So yes, using a heat protectant before blow-drying, curling, or straightening is essential, but you can up the benefits even further by choosing one that contains keratin, like this guy. It’s heat-activated and protects not only the surface of the hair but the inner core, too.
Best Hair Color: Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Intensive Caring Color
Like heat styling, coloring your hair also contributes to the breakdown of your natural keratin. That’s why we think it’s so brilliant that this permanent DIY color is infused with hydrolyzed keratin to help combat those effects from the outset. And with a special anti-breaking, bond-protecting technology, it even reduces breakage by an impressive 80 percent.
Best Budget: Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner
This perfectly portable, single-use pack rings in for just a few dollars, a major boon for anyone on a budget, or who isn’t sure if a keratin treatment is right for them. The keratin protein in the formula quickly restores softness and bounce and leaves hair with a glass-like sheen. It pulls double duty as a deep conditioner, too. We suggest taking it with you on any beach vacay (when your hair inevitably will take a beating) for an instant pick-me-up.
Best Drugstore: TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shine Serum
Keratin works synergistically with marula oil in this drugstore find, offering serious frizz-fighting (that lasts for up to 48 hours, we should add). Non-greasy and fast-absorbing, it also leaves hair gorgeously glossy, basically like you just walked out of a blowout.
Best for Curly Hair: It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin
Look, if you have really curly hair, none of these at-home options are going to leave you with super straight hair. But what they can do is help smooth and de-frizz your spirals, for a more defined, polished look. While this pick is effective on all hair types, it’s especially choice for curly girls, using a blend of both hydrolyzed keratin and keratin amino acids, as well as panthenol, a lightweight conditioning ingredient that won’t weigh down your ringlets.
Best for Colored Hair: Rita Hazan Weekly Remedy Treatment
Like we mentioned earlier, if you color your hair, you probably could use a little keratin boost. Pick up this treatment, an innovative two-part system. The step one formula opens your cuticle so that the keratin and conditioning ingredients can better penetrate. Follow immediately with step two, a formula that seals the cuticle back up, locking in all of those moisturizing and strengthening benefits. Especially nice for those who color their hair is the addition of protective UV filters and a color shield to ward off fading and color changes.
Best In-Between Treatments: Keratin Complex Infusion Therapy Keratin Replenisher
The Keratin Complex in-salon treatment is one of the more popular ones out there, ideal for reducing frizz, increasing strength, and still allowing for styling versatility (i.e. not leaving your hair stick straight). If you got it done at the salon, make sure to pick up this guy to use daily in between treatments. Hydrolyzed keratin is the second ingredient on the list, helping to keep your strands smooth and straight.