What Does Keratin Do for Hair?

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Keratin hair treatments are a relatively recent trend in the hair care industry that originated in the early 2000s. They’ve since gained a lot of traction thanks to their lucrative promise of coating hair strands and taming frizzy hair into submission.

So what does keratin do for hair? Are salon keratin treatments the best method to achieve smooth hair, or should you skip them for other straightening treatments? Here’s everything you need to know about keratin treatments and whether or not you should go for the Brazilian blowout!

Is Keratin Natural?

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Keratin is a naturally occurring protective protein that makes up the outer layer of our hair, skin, and nails. It’s also found in animal feathers, hair, hooves, and horns, where most commercial keratin treatments get it.

Human hair fiber has three layers: the inner medulla, the middle cortex, and the outer cuticle.

The hair cuticle is our main concern here as it’s made of overlapping keratin layers that look almost like fish scales. Its main job is to protect the hair shaft, make the hair fiber waterproof, and prevent breakage.

However, with chemical and heat damage, the keratin layer gets stripped and causes the hair to become more porous and susceptible to damageOpens in a new tab..

How Do Keratin Treatments Work?

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Keratin hair treatments at the salon usually involve applying a keratin solution that contains formaldehyde to wet hair and leaving it on for a few minutes. The stylist then goes on to blow dry and straighten the hair using a flat iron, which “sets” the treatment on the hair’s surface so it lasts for a few weeks.

The formaldehyde in the keratin treatment loosens the bonds on the hair cuticle, allowing the keratin to fill in the gaps usually found in damaged hair. This often relaxes the hair texture a bit and leaves the hair shiny and frizz-free.

That said, keratin treatment products differ from hair straightening products in how they work.

Products that aim to straighten hair, like a chemical relaxer, for example, contain ammonium thioglycolate and sodium hydroxide. These harsh chemicals break the disulfide bonds between hair molecules. The result is completely straight hair with no texture whatsoever.

Keratin Treatment Pros and Cons: Is Getting a Keratin Treatment Good for the Hair?

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If you’re still on the fence about salon keratin treatments, here are the pros and cons to consider:


They Last for a Few Weeks/Months

Professional keratin treatments found at reputable hair salons should last you for about six to eight weeks. During that time, you’ll enjoy healthy hair that looks and feels amazing, which is especially great if you have thick hair that’s a struggle to manage.

Better Hair Growth

You might notice your hair length getting a boost after a keratin treatment. It has less to do with the keratin product directly affecting the hair follicle and more to do with how these treatments strengthen hair and reduce frizz and breakage, allowing you to retain length better.

You Can Keep Your Natural Curls

Unlike other hair smoothing products that completely erase any curl pattern you might have, keratin treatments tend to tame curly hair without straightening it. You might notice your curls have become looser, but the effect is usually temporary and washes out over time.


Formaldehyde Exposure

Most keratin hair treatments contain formaldehyde, a chemical that irritates the nose, eyes, and lungs. That’s why pregnant women can’t get keratin treatments.

That said, some keratin treatments offer a formaldehyde-free formula that uses glyoxylic acid instead. These formulas create fewer fumes and are usually safer for a wider variety of hair types.

High Cost

With a price range of $300 – $800 per treatment, the cost of getting regular keratin hair treatments can quickly add up.

Sure, you can find DIY keratin treatments at beauty supply stores and online, but using them on yourself could be dangerous, time-consuming, and offers underwhelming results.

Potential Hair Loss

Although keratin treatments should leave you with stronger hair, incorrect aftercare practices can contribute to breakage and loss of hair.

To prevent ending up with damaged hair, avoid washing your hair for the two to three days following the treatment. Then, use a sulfate-free shampoo, don’t detangle wet hair, and sleep on a satin pillowcase or wrap your hair with a silk scarf or bonnet. This reduces friction and protects your hair until your next salon visit.

Do Other Keratin Products Work As Well As Keratin Treatments Do?

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Hair Products

Hair oilsOpens in a new tab., shampoos, and conditioners that contain keratin as an ingredient are becoming more popular nowadays. They promise the same benefits as a professional keratin treatment at a fraction of the cost. While they might have a similar smoothing effect, it’s usually temporary and fades away in a few hours or days.

Keratin Supplements

When it comes to keratin supplements, they’re scientifically proven to improve muscle massOpens in a new tab., but no studies were conducted on how they affect hair health.

Just make sure to ask your doctor whether they’re safe for you to take, as some people with kidney disease might struggle to eliminate them from their system.

To Wrap Up

You’ve seen them endorsed by one celebrity hairstylist after the other, but are keratin hair treatments all they’re cracked out to be?

The answer is yes! Thanks to new technologies in hair cosmetics, you can now get the smooth, silky, luscious hairOpens in a new tab. you’ve always wanted. Keratin treatments coat the hair fiber, patching up damaged areas and leaving the hair healthy and shiny.

Just make sure you’re not allergic to formaldehyde fumes or request a formaldehyde-free product to avoid the worst of keratin treatment side effects. And remember that caring for your hair after treatment is crucial to prevent breakage and damaged hair.

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