The Ever-Popular Keratin Straightening Treatment: What Really Happens

Eunice Lucero | 31 March 2016

Imagine a life without frizz. *drops mic*

If you haven’t considered getting a keratin straightening treatment, then we envy your willpower.

The hair straightening process has been touted as everything from a life-changing method to the best way to achieve wash-and-wear hair, and we’ve succumbed to its seductive powers time and again. A single keratin treatment can mean the difference between doing that mad-dash to work (with half-wet hair) to having an extra half hour of sleep and a perfect hair day all week. It can also provide that crucial extra push of hair confidence everyone needs from time to time, especially when the weather isn’t being all too kind on our strands.

More About the Keratin Straightening Treatment

keratin straightening treatment on shiny medium hair
Keratin treatments remove kinks but can still keep volume and bounce, depending on your desired level. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

The outer layer of our hair strands and nails are made up of a structural protein called keratin. Certain lifestyle aggressors, styling and chemical processes can all work to weaken the integrity of hair keratin, opening our cuticles to more damage and resulting in a rougher, drier, more porous look and feel. Keratin treatments work by essentially bonding a keratin-infused synthetic treatment to these weakened spots—“spackling,” if you will—using heat via a flat iron. This gives hair a smoother, shinier and silkier result which lasts anywhere from a few weeks to three months, depending on your hair’s current state.

Key Facts about the Keratin Straightening Treatment

A keratin straightening treatment isn’t a permanent fix

And we’re okay with that: Although hair is relatively frizz-proof for the next few months, getting it done still entails some chemicals and heat styling which, as with all things, is only good in moderation. Take all salons’ claims with a grain of salt, and remember that this treatment is supposed to wash out over time.

It isn’t cheap

Unlike other popular blow-out treatments that aren’t as long-lasting such as the Brazilian Blowout, most keratin treatments start at $200 upwards. Fans of the process though easily write the expense off as a worthy investment, considering how much it can shave off in daily styling time and product usage.

It can be used on curly or wavy hair

Contrary to popular belief, a keratin treatment isn’t exclusively for those with straight or frizzy hair alone. Those with wavy and curly hair can also benefit from the treatment, as the latter’s formulation or intensity can be tailored to your needs. This bespoke factor is also what makes it such a hit with hair straightening aficionados, who’ve probably experienced less natural-looking strands from first-generation straighteners. Tell your stylist that you simply want smoother, more manageable and frizz-free results without letting go of your curls—s/he’ll be happy to adjust.

keratin straightening treatment on blonde curly hair
Curly or wavy hair can also benefit from a keratin treatment (and keep their curls intact!). Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

It uses chemicals, and some keratin treatments can contain formaldehyde

Although the concentrations are not said to be harmful, they are what give the treatment its staying power, so be prepared. If you’re really uncomfortable, opt for the newer non-formaldehyde versions that also have a gentler scent.

A keratin treatment is okay for colored or processed hair

Although not recommended concurrently, a keratin treatment can be applied around two weeks after coloring to help improve the texture and appearance of damaged strands, as well as provide a shinier, more vibrantly uniform sheen to your newly-dyed tresses.

 Some treatments have downtime

Stylists suggest not touching or wetting hair at least 72 hours after a particularly potent keratin straightening treatment (yes, this includes tucking hair behind your ears). This is to prevent any bends from forming in your hair while the product is “setting.” There are other formulations that don’t require this, but we suggest not messing with your ’do for the first few days for the best and most immaculate results.

If you can’t commit to that much downtime, invest in a keratin-infused take-home hair system instead. The TRESemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth Collection—which includes a Shampoo, Conditioner and Heat Activated Treatment—can help mirror salon-like results for up to a week.

Have you ever gotten a keratin straightening treatment? What was your experience like?

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