The Brazilian Blowout is a specific brand of semi-permanent protein treatment that helps reduce frizz and smooths the hair cuticle for shinier, silkier hair. And, unlike relaxers or Japanese hair straightening, Brazilian Blowouts do not permanently alter the hair's texture and require no down time. The terms "Brazilian Blowout" and "keratin treatment" are often used interchangeably, but there's a key difference: Brazilian Blowouts are a specific brand name of liquid keratin treatment that are often mistakenly used as an umbrella term for all keratin treatments (similarly to how the brand name Kleenex is often used to refer to all facial tissue). As such, a true Brazilian Blowout can only be performed in-salon by a stylist who has been specifically certified in Brazilian Blowouts. However, with the proper precautions, you can recreate similar Brazilian Blowout effects with a DIY keratin treatment.
What Is a Brazilian Blowout?
A Brazilian Blowout is a branded salon treatment done with its own proprietary line of products that smooths the hair by creating a protective protein layer around the hair shaft to eliminate frizz and seal the cuticle.
How Do Brazilian Blowouts Work?
Brazilian Blowouts consist of applying a liquid protein solution to the hair. This solution adds a protective layer around your strands, coating the cuticles so that they appear fuller, smoother and shinier. These treatments last 3 months depending on your hair type, but there isn't a hair type that can't consider getting the job done. Even if your hair is more fine, fragile, or already chemically treated in some way, your Brazilian Blowout can be altered in its potency to accommodate your hair and still provide a smoother outcome. One of the perks to Brazilian Blowouts is that you don't need to avoid washing it for days afterward, and from there, the treatment can last for three to six months with proper care.
Can You Give Yourself a DIY Keratin Treatment or Brazilian Blowout?
Remember, the Brazilian Blowout is a specific brand name of an in-salon liquid keratin treatment, so you can't get a true Brazilian Blowout without a certified stylist. However, it is possible to create a similar result with a more DIY-friendly keratin treatment at home. We always lean towards putting these matters into the hands of a pro, especially with treatments that involve harsh chemicals like formaldehyde (as is the case with Brazilian Blowouts). When looking to get a real Brazilian Blowout using the brand's line of products, you'll want to go to a pro that's certified in performing these treatments and have a thorough consultation about your desires. And as for DIY keratin treatments, every stylist we spoke with strongly advised against doing so, noting that it's easy to accidentally purchase a formula that's intended only for professional use. Consequently, improper application of that professional product or poor ventilation can cause serious health complications. If for some reason you absolutely must try this at home, a consultation with a professional stylist will still be required. Seek out a certified professional who can approve you doing this at home; help you source a safe, formaldehyde-free formula that's suited for novice at-home use; and give you guided tips on how to customize your treatment to meet your desired outcome.
Here's What You'll Need:
- Color brush and bowl
- Protective gloves. "Our skin absorbs chemicals and they enter our blood stream," Garwood tells us. "Try as much as possible to keep product off your skin."
- Clips for sectioning
- A cape or towel for added protection
- A comb
- A good blowdryer. "Parlux is my favorite," says Duenas.
- A flat iron with wide, titanium plates that can adjust up to 450 degrees
- A small flat iron for detailing the hairline
- Barrier cream to apply around your hairline. Garwood says this could help prevent any irritations around your face.
- Most importantly, a well-ventilated area
This last requirement is of the utmost importance, and as Duenas points out, it's likely the biggest risk you face by attempting this at home. "The product does have harsh chemicals," she says. "Without proper ventilation, it could cause irritation in the eyes." If you can, do this treatment outside for maximum air flow. With our warnings in mind, read on for a step-by-step in DIY salon quality smoothing treatment at home.
Meet the Expert
- Nidia Duenas is a Pure Brazilian certified stylist and colorist at ROIL salon in Beverly Hills. She's been offering Brazilian Blowouts for the last fourteen years.
- Michelle Garwood is a session stylist and colorist based in Perth, Australia. Having spent the last 6 years working in London and New York, she has recently relocated to the salon George and Ivy.
Choose Your Formula
Genuine Brazilian Blowout solutions are not something that you can buy from any local beauty store, since they contain harsh chemicals and are a specific brand that is only sold for professional use. "These treatments can contain roughly 10 percent formaldehyde," explains Michelle Garwood of George and Ivy hair studio in East Fremantle Western Australia, which is why these products aren't widely available. "Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical (among other things)," she warns, "and it can affect pregnant women by causing birth defects or cause fertility issues for women who wish to fall pregnant." Aside from formaldehyde, these formulas contain a number of other strong, potentially hazardous ingredients as well. You may find professional-grade keratin treatments online available for purchase, but we strongly urge you not to purchase these formulas. If it's labeled as "professional use," then stay away from it, as these formulas are extremely dangerous for inexperienced users. Instead, we recommend purchasing a formaldehyde-free formula specifically created for at-home use. The effects won't be quite as strong as a professional formula, but you also run significantly less risk of running into serious health complications from improper use. Your hair is not worth your health.
Consider a more natural formula like the Nutree Amazonliss Keratin Smoothing Hair Straightening Set ($55), which has over 500 five-star reviews on Amazon. Just be sure to read all of the instructions and warnings thoroughly. Even at-home formulas are not without health risk, and even though Nutree's formula is formaldehyde-free, it still contains powerful chemicals.
Perform a Patch Test
Garwood advises that with any chemical product (including any formaldehyde-free protein treatment you might purchase online), you want to do a patch test at least 48 hours before you apply anything near the scalp. A patch test is more about addressing any potential reaction you may have to the treatment, whereas a strand test (which you may have heard of before with highlighting your own hair) is something you do to gauge the results on the hair. "A patch test will tell you if you're allergic to any of the ingredients," she says. "Follow manufacturers' instructions on how to patch test and try applying it to your inner wrist so as not to do it near your throat, in case there's a reaction. If you find any burns or irritations to your skin, contact your physician immediately for medical advice.
Wash Your Hair (Multiple Times)
To get started, you'll need to wash your hair. Not just once, but three times. According to Duenas, your blowout solution works best on porous hair. "Shampooing the hair three times allows the cuticle to open up so the product can be absorbed," she says. "Otherwise, it won't work."
Prep Your Strands and Environment
After you've thoroughly washed your hair, you're going to take three simple steps to get you and your hair ready to move forward:
- Gently towel dry
- Section your hair into four quadrants: two in the front (from behind your ears forward), and two and in the back.
- Take caution: Put your gloves on, cover your shoulders with a towel or cape, and get set up in a well-ventilated area. It might be worth wearing a face mask if you have one.
Apply the Treatment From Root to Tip
When it comes time to apply your treatment, Duenas tell us to get started on the back sections first. You'll be using the pointed end of your color brush as you would a tail comb to weave out small subsections of hair. Start by taking thin, diagonal slices from the top and once you've painted it with solution, the way you would with hair color, gently lay it over onto the other side (avoiding the front sections of your hair). "Your subsections are going to depend on the thickness of your hair," Duenas says, "so the thicker the hair, the thinner your subsections will be."
You'll apply at the root first and make your way down through the ends. "Your roots are normally the curliest and thickest part of the hair," Duenas tells us, "so it's important to apply at the roots first." Then you're going to take your comb and run it down the hair shaft, she tells us. "The remaining product should spread to the ends. The ends don't require as much product as the roots do."
Also, a little goes a long way with these solutions. Keep your application lightly saturated. You don't need to scoop up a glob onto your brush. "You only need to get it to a point of saturation that makes the hair feel like it's somewhat wet again," says Duenas. The longer the product stays on, the flatter your strands will get in their outcome, but Duenas says no other issues could arise if left on for too long. It's better to move about with caution and confidence.
During this entire process, don't forget the seriousness of the chemicals you're dealing with. Stop immediately and consult a physician if you experience any scalp irritation, intense dizziness, any hot feeling around the product's application, or anything else that resembles some sort of allergic reaction.
Blow Dry Your Product In
After your hair is saturated and the solution is evenly distributed to your hair, you're going to grab your blow dryer. This is the part that may cause dizziness or lightheadedness because the heat is what emits those potent chemicals into the air. Please keep this in mind and be prepared to stop if needed.
Your application essentially puts a keratin coat back into your hair shaft. Garwood tells us the keratin for these treatments is generally keratin derived from animal horns, hooves, wool, etc. By combining that keratin with heat and blow drying it into the hair, the heat will help it penetrate into the hair's cortex, she explains. "This part of the process rebonds any broken hydrogen, salt or disulfide bonds with natural occurring keratin to create solid, strong, multi-bonded strands within the hair." This re-bonding and essentially re-building of every strand is what enables your cuticles to lay flat, appearing smoother and shinier. "It's almost like concrete filling the holes of your hair," Garwood says.
Flat Iron Your Hair
Now that the hair is dried and the bonds of each strand have been rebuilt, it's time to seal it all in. This of course requires another round of heat because heat is what alters the state of the hair.
If you have finer hair that is more damaged or had been previously processed in some way prior to this treatment, heat your flat iron up to 400-425 degrees. For thicker, healthier hair, amp it up to 450 degrees.
The best types of flat irons for this process, as Duenas suggested above in our materials list, are 1) a wide plated flat iron with titanium plates and 2) a smaller, thinner-plated flat iron for detailing the hairline and getting those hard to reach areas. Wider plates help you cover more surface area, but when it comes to those roots, you really want that small iron to help you get as close as possible to ironing out any kinks. Titanium plates are going to heat up to high temperatures more quickly than ceramic plates and they'll evenly distribute the heat.
While this treatment is great for all hair types, Duenas warns, "if your hair is over-processed or broken and you're not careful with the temperature of the heat, results can be catastrophic." When you're consulting with your stylist, be sure this is something you both discuss in depth. As stated above, the temperature needs to be adjusted according to your hair texture. Exact temperatures should come from your stylist and be specified to your unique hair identity. "Be sure you trust your certified stylist and have a thorough consultation beforehand," says Duenas.
Do a Final Rinse
After flat ironing, it's time to do a final rinse. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why rinse the hair now that it's looking straight and smoothed out? Simply put, the solution is still on your strands.
One of the best ways you can take proper care of your blowout, beginning with this final rinse, is to use sulfate free shampoo. "Sulfates are foaming agents found in many shampoos, and they are quite abrasive on the hair," explains Garwood. "Sulfates remove natural oils and can agitate the cuticle. When our cuticles are damaged or agitated, the hair cannot hold onto the new keratin the blowout has put into the hair." Therefore, sulfates have the power to release those new bonds more quickly and prevent treatments from lasting as long. "A sulfate-free shampoo is far more beneficial to the longevity of your treatment and in general to all hair types," says Garwood.
Use a Deep Conditioner
After thoroughly rinsing, it's time for a deep conditioning treatment.
"Rinse and apply your conditioning masque," says Duenas, who advises leaving this on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing out. The importance to using a masque at this stage in the process and throughout your time with these newly smoothed out strands is to keep the hair strong and healthy while prolonging the results of this treatment. "Due to the chemicals and high heat temperatures your hair endures during a Brazilian Blowout, a sulfate-free, protein-based, reconstructive treatment is recommended," says Garwood. Moisture, Garwood reminds us, is what's needed to maintain smooth and healthy strands. Your moisture levels will always be dependent on your hair type. The more curl or texture you have, the more moisture you'll need.
While Brazilian Blowouts are meant to help take a lot of the work out of your styling routine, it's still important to use smoothing products like oils and leave-in conditioners that will help keep your hair feeling smooth and frizz-free. "Try keeping your product choices paraben- and sulfate-free where possible," Garwood advises. She also suggests looking for treatments that contain water-soluble silicons only. "Silicones give a glossy finish," she says, "but they can disguise underlying damage, so be careful that you're treating any hair damage correctly."
Blow Dry One Last Time
This final blow-dry doesn't have to be anything fancy now that your treatment is set in. You could even rough dry the hair just to see the results, Duenas tells us. If you want to let it air dry, that's fine too! Your hair's already been through a lot. What you'll get from this treatment is a smoother and straighter finish that appears shinier and healthier.
The biggest takeaway here is that there are a lot of dangers and potential risks with attempting a Brazilian Blowout at home. Do not make any effort to do this on your own without the approval, help, and detailed guidance from a certified professional, and strongly consider using alternative formaldehyde-free keratin products instead.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hair smoothing products that release formaldehyde when heated. Updated March 11, 2021.
D'Souza P, Rathi SK. Shampoo and conditioners: What a dermatologist should know? Indian J Dermatol. 2015;60(3):248-254. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.156355