Keratin Hair Treatments Have Stood the Test of Time, But Are They Right for You?

Updated 06/05/18
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Keratin Hair Treatments: Woman With Straight Brown Hair
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There's something so deeply satisfying about a post-salon hair swish. However, it's a joy that unfortunately only lasts until your next wash or until the weather takes a turn for the worst. When you're clocking in serious hours at the salon, you undoubtedly want them to count. You want that salon look to last as long as humanly possible, right? Well, a keratin hair treatment will definitely help you achieve just that.

You know the way your hair looks after an intense deep-conditioning session? That's what a keratin treatment will do, but rather than a few hours or days, the effect will last for months.

While keratin treatments—which are sometimes called Brazilian blowouts or blow-dries—are famed for creating super-smooth, shiny hair on the surface, it's worth knowing that they're essentially an intense form of styling. In horror story situations, they can leave you with fried and damaged strands. But not if you do your research, however. We wanted to find out more about the treatment from someone in the know, so we spoke with Matt Hawes, creative master stylist at Josh Wood Colour Atelier. He gave us the lowdown on keratin hair treatments.

Why Should I Get a Keratin Hair Treatment?

Keratin is one of those beauty buzzwords you often seen emblazoned on the front of a shampoo bottle—and for good reason. "The hair is made up of a naturally occurring fibrous protein called keratin, which protects the hair from humidity (which causes frizz)," explains Hawes, so it's little wonder why the treatment is so popular in hot countries like those in South America. "The hair loses this self-protecting mechanism from styling, chemicals and the environment," he says.

If you have fairly frizz-prone hair that you struggle to style, boosting the protein can help make hair work with you. "What a keratin treatment does is work with overly porous hair by putting the protein back in it. This helps rebuild strength and smooth frizz, leaving the hair smoother and healthier-looking," Hawes adds.

What Actually Happens During the Treatment?

Okay, so you've booked a treatment and you're waiting in the salon chair with some weeklies (or more accurately, your email inbox). So what happens next?

"The hair is initially washed with a specialised shampoo that opens up the cuticle, and then rough-dried," Hawes explains. "The keratin treatment is then evenly distributed through small sections, similar to applying colour. It's then left to penetrate for 40 minutes, driven to those damaged areas. Then the remainder is blow-dried into the hair. Lastly, a professional heat-regulated flat iron is run through the lengths to seal the keratin in."

We're not going to lie: This isn't a quick five-minute mask, and you'll definitely have to clear some time to fit the treatment in. After the initial treatment, you'll then have to keep your hair dry for around 72 hours. This gives the keratin time to properly penetrate the hair, at which point you can wash it as usual.

Which Hair Types Is It Suitable For?

While much of the beauty industry has waged a war against frizz (we're not of that thought, as the rhetoric often turns into curl-bashing that implies curls are a problem that needs to be solved), don't expect a keratin treatment to eliminate all of it. The treatments aren't a texture obliterator—your curls and natural texture will bounce back over time. They're just a great option for anyone who spends lots of time styling or straightening hair, as it can really speed things up in the morning.

Most hair types can get in on the action. "Pretty much anybody can have it—though finer, more-porous hair will see the best results, as the hair will accept the keratin more easily," says Hawes.

If you've got Afro hair and are looking for a way to soften it, Hawes has some advice: "Often, Afro hair needs something stronger if you want to make it straight. What a keratin treatment will do is improve that brush-tug tangling, so you'll see less shed. Keratin treatments are not straightening services (which can break your hair bond)—they'll simply restore manageability, providing that softening effect without causing permanent damage."

Is It Safe?

There's been a lot of talk about the safety of keratin treatments and the chemicals that are used. Original versions of the treatment used formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients to treat the hair, which is a possible carcinogenic. Now, more often than not, you'll find that salons offer formaldehyde-free versions. Be sure to do your research by talking to your stylist about the ingredients used in the treatment before booking.

Also, with any chemical hair treatment or manipulation of the hair, things tend to go wrong if you continue your usual hair routine once you go home or add further damage with excess heat. You'll need to treat your hair in the same way that you go all out for your Sunday skin routine.

Hawes suggests, "For optimal results, we would always recommend a sodium chloride-free shampoo." You'll also want to chill out on the straighteners, he says: "If the irons are too hot for the density of the hair, or passed along the hair too often, you can cause damage."

Where Should I Go for a Treatment?

You're in luck, as there are plenty of salons that offer keratin treatments. So you can get to work on finding the most suitable one for you, here are some we recommend: George Northwood (£250), Josh Wood Atelier (£280 to £405) and Taylor Taylor London (£210 and up). But beyond the capital, Treatwell is a great place to find revered keratin hair treatments in your area.

How Long Does It Last?

Apart from the hair-smoothing, shine-inducing, "less time struggling with a hairbrush" benefits of a keratin treatment, the results also last a fair while. Hawes says that each treatment lasts about three months, depending on the client's at-home regimen. He'd recommend around four treatments a year. However, nailing your hair routine can provide more longevity, and you might end up cutting down on the number of treatments you'll need to do.

On that note, keep scrolling to see a few products that go well with keratin-treated hair.

Keratin Hair Treatments: LivinLiving Proof No Frizz Shampoog Proof No Frizz Shampoo
Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo $6
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You'll need to swap out your shampoo for a sulfate-free one after your keratin hair treatment. This shampoo has a gentle formulation that will beat humidity and maintain all that new smoothness—sans sulphates.

Dizziak Deep Conditioner
Dizziak Deep Conditioner $22
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This is the equivalent of a decadent face mask for your hair. The rich formula is packed with coconut and argan oils—just what your hair needs after a chemical treatment. 

Silke London Poppy Hair Wrap
Silke London Poppy Hair Wrap $45
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The better care you take of your treated hair, the longer the results will last (and the less damage your hair will have). This wrap will reduce friction overnight and keep your locks in place.

There you have it—your keratin treatment go-to guide. Now your stress-free and swishy hair goals are one step closer. 

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