It's truly shocking that I haven't always been a keratin treatment devotee. I have a lot of hair. It's thick, long, naturally wavy (2B S-curls, to be specific), and, for the past two years, bleach blonde—a high-maintenance decision that is laughably at odds with my aggressively low-key approach to haircare. Most of the time, my hair is poofy, dry, and shapeless; a mess that no amount of Shu Uemura Essence Absolue ($69) can rescue. But, on the occasional good hair day, I'm rewarded with an enviable pile of soft, beachy, defined, curly waves—a texture I refuse to let any chemical-heavy straightening treatment take away. After all, those good hair days are good.
What Is a Keratin Treatment?
A semi-permanent hair treatment that smooths and adds shine to frizzy hair.
My stance on keratin was officially changed during a touch-up appointment at L.A.'s Mèche salon. My color guru and friend Matt Rez suggested that I try out a natural keratin treatment called Cezanne. Rez assured me that the treatment would allow me to maintain my beloved natural waves, sans frizz and effort. The best part? Unlike traditional keratin, Cezanne would let me to shower right after the process. I leapt at the chance of getting next-to-perfect hair without having to sacrifice any of my laziness.
Why I Chose This Natural Keratin Treatment
I waited a few weeks to let my fresh color settle before finding myself back at Mèche, this time in the chair of colorist Tania Whittier, who has embraced the Cezanne treatment as her specialty. She says that she actually first learned about the natural keratin alternative the same way many of her clients do: while seeking out a formaldehyde-free substitute to traditional smoothing treatments. Formaldehyde is incredibly effective at penetrating deep into the hair cuticle and providing optimal smoothness, but it's also a known carcinogen.
While safety should obviously be the top priority, efficacy is important too. Whittier says that Cezanne is the first of its kind to deliver the five star, frizz free results her clients are seeking. "Formaldehyde treatments are done by pushing the keratin into the cuticle with heat, and the formaldehyde acts as its finishing product," she says. "It gives the illusion of shine, but over time, the hair becomes dry because it's too harsh on the hair, especially fragile hair. Cezanne uses lemon and crab apple extracts to gently open the cuticle of the hair to allow the keratin to enter the cortex."
The other thing that makes Cezanne unique, and the factor that ultimately convinced me to take the plunge, is that it's truly customizable to a targeted texture. After the treatment is applied and blow-dried, a flat iron is used to seal in the keratin. If I wanted to go really straight and sleek, Whittier would just pass over my strands several times with the flat iron and use more heat. But, I really love my waves, so I requested that we maintain as much of my natural bend as possible, while obviously eliminating all frizz and dryness.
My Soft Waves Held Up Well Post-Treatment
All in all, the treatment took less than two hours from start to finish—barely a blip compared to the time I'm used to spending at the salon. I walked out with hair that was stick-straight but oh so smooth. Whittier promised that as soon as I washed my hair—which I was allowed to do immediately—it would air-dry to a softer, smoother version of my original texture. Clearly impatient, I dunked my head in the sink as soon as I got home. Shocked—and overjoyed—I marveled as my waves began to reappear bouncier, softer, and shinier than ever before.
My main priority with the natural treatment was to repair my breakage from bleach and eliminate my frizz. To be transparent, my texture definitely lost some of its bend, especially in the weeks immediately following the treatment. My 2B waves fell into a more tousled, 2A structure. But it still looked like my hair, and the wash-and-go ease of it all made the treatment completely worthwhile. After around two months (Cezanne can last up to four), my original texture slowly started to return, while the frizz that typically accompanies it stayed far, far away.
After around two months, my original texture slowly started to return, while the frizz that typically accompanies it stayed far, far away.
The next time my new, soft, healthy hair and I were back in Rez's chair he says, "This was such a good decision for you." I couldn't agree more.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Formaldehyde. Updated January 17, 2020.