The keratin hair treatment: All your questions answered

The keratin hair treatment: here’s everything you need to know about the most talked about hair treatment around.

We’ll be the first to admit: there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about the keratin hair treatment. The scares, the scars, the successes and the horror stories: they’re all there, just floating around to be found on the internet, with each fact (or fiction!) confusing you more than the last. So if you’re one of the many thousands of women considering this so-called miracle straightening treatment, what are the things you should know before making the commitment?

Here at All Things Hair, we believe that the best possible option is always to educate yourself on the topic, whatever that may be. That way, you can confidently walk into a salon, armed with the knowledge – and confidence – that you’re making the right decision. Which is why we’ve done all the research to get the lowdown on keratin treatments, so you don’t have to.

Below are our answers to all the questions you should be asking, or perhaps didn’t even think to ask, about this hair straightening treatment.

keratin hair treatment Q&A: close up shot of three models with sleek, smooth hair, wearing all green and posing backstage at a fashion show
Here’s everything you need to know about the most hyped about treatment out there: keratin. Credit:

1. Q: What is it?

A: A keratin hair treatment is a chemical salon treatment that uses a blend of keratin (that’s protein to you and us) and other ingredients, in combination with heat to help eliminate frizz, soften kinks, and straighten out curls, while also making hair shinier and healthier-looking.

2. Q: Is it permanent?

A: No. Unlike traditional relaxers and Japanese hair straightening treatments (AKA thermal reconditioning), keratin treatments do not last forever. The process targets only the outer layer of the hair, rather than changing the inner structure of it, so on average, you can expect the results to last between 2-6 months.

3. Q: Can I do it at home?

A: Yes (sort of)! We’re not talking salon-type treatments here, though. But there are some brilliant home treatment kits like TRESemmé’s 7 Day Keratin Smooth Heat Activated Treatment that deliver great results by essentially coating the strands with a protective layer to keep humidity out.

These treatments don’t affect or change any bonds in the strands, so they won’t damage your hair either. Just have realistic expectations on how long the effects can last: usually, that can be anything up to a week.

4. Q: Will it damage my hair?

A: No. Actually, it should have quite the opposite effect. Remember that keratin is the main ingredient that makes up the outer layer of our hair. So if this is a process that literally soaks your strands in the stuff (and using heat to help seal it in!), then it should, in theory, make your hair feel stronger, healthier-looking, and glossier, right?

5. Q: How do I know if it’s for me?

A: If you’re a slave to the straightener or a prolific blow-dryer, forever trying to de-frizz and iron out your hair, there’s a good chance the keratin hair treatment is the one for you (it’ll significantly decrease your blow-dry time, that’s for sure).

On the other hand, if your hair is damaged, or lacks shine, it might be worth considering this treatment, as keratin can help repair the strands, too.

keratin hair treatment: close up shot of model with straight, long dark blonde hair. posing backstage at a fashion show
Not all keratin hair treatments are the same. Credit:

6. Q: Is it a one-size-fits-all procedure?

A: No. There’s an abundance of different types of keratin treatments – and you should definitely be weary of salons that offer only one single kind. Generally speaking, keratin treatments work best on thicker, coarser strands – and even natural hair – but there are milder formulas that are more suitable for finer hair, too.

7. Q: So how do I know which type of treatment is best for me?

A: As mentioned above, deciding on which type of treatment to go for depends entirely on your natural hair texture and, of course, the desired effect. If you want to get rid of frizz but retain those natural waves, ask your hairdresser for a weaker formulation that won’t straighten out your curls completely.

Conversely, if you have straight hair that’s frizzy and coarse in texture, a keratin treatment may also be your answer to smoother, shinier, more manageable tresses!

Up next: How to decide which treatment is right for you.

8. Q: Is it safe?

A: Yes — but not for everyone. The formulas used in keratin hair treatments often contain formaldehyde, or more specifically a chemical called formalin, which can transform back into formaldehyde when heated at 450 ℃. But don’t panic: that said, the level of formaldehyde produced during a salon treatment is completely safe.

Unless you suffer from certain allergies or have a sensitive scalp, in which case, you should always consult a GP before getting a treatment.

9. Q: But do formaldehyde-free keratin treatments work?

A: While there’s no such thing as an entirely chemical-free hair straightening treatment, formaldehyde-free formulas are now widely available in salons.

These types of treatments tend to be more pleasant in olfactory terms, plus they’re safer for your skin (sensitive scalp sufferers: take note). But understand that without formaldehyde, your hair can only be smoothed and frizz can be tamed, but it can’t actually be straightened, so results will vary significantly from formaldehyde formulas.

10. Q: Can I get it done if I have dyed or bleached hair?

A: Yes. Unlike other straightening treatments (home-use flat irons included), the keratin method is actually good for bleached and dyed hair, as it can help make it feel healthier and restore shine.

11. Q: How can I make the most out of my keratin hair treatment?

A: Look after your locks post-treatment. Consider washing your hair less often than you’re used to (preferably no more than three times a week), and do switch up your shampoo and conditioner to ones that are infused with keratin and/or contain less or no sulphates.

Editor’s tip: Our favourite keratin infused wash and care set? The TRESemmé 7 Day Smooth System Shampoo and Conditionerwhich’ll gently cleanse and nourish your mane.

Now you know the facts, you can confidently decide if a keratin hair treatment is for you.