Everything you need to know about keratin hair treatments

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Chloe Burcham
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From the infamous Brazilian blow-dry to the frizz-fighting KeraStraight, keep reading for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about keratin treatments…

If you’ve ever moaned about your hair in some capacity to your hairdresser, chances are they will have suggested a keratin treatment.

Why? Because keratin treatments are great at amping up shine, smoothing the hair cuticle and generally giving you salon-worthy manageability, for months on end.

Need to know more? We’ve got all your questions, answered.

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What is a keratin treatment?

If you’re confused about keratin treatments, join the queue. Because ‘keratin treatment’ has basically become a bit of an umbrella term for a lot of hair smoothing, in-salon treatments available. So before booking in, you’ll want to figure out which is right for you.

Back in the day, the most popular keratin treatment was the Brazillian blow-dry — a powerful straightening treatment that could relax even the tightest of curls.

While this treatment is still widely popular, the Brazilian blow-dry uses formaldehyde in order to lock the hair into its new straighter shape. As exposure (especially repeat exposure) to formaldehyde can pose health risks, there are now increasingly popular treatments available that don’t contain the same harsh chemicals.

Keratin treatments such as KeraStraight, KeraSilk and Cezanne use ingredients like glycolic acid (the exfoliator that’s found in tonnes of skincare products) and sericin (a component of silk) to help smooth the hair follicle without formaldehyde. While these won’t give you the same poker-straight results as a Brazillian blow-dry, they will smooth curls and kinks. Expect sleeker, softer, smoother hair that’s a lot more manageable.

Who can have a keratin treatment?

Pretty much anyone who deals with frizz and struggles to manage their hair texture can benefit from a keratin treatment. Whilst curly and wavy hair types might notice a slight relaxing, most keratin treatments will retain your hair’s natural curl pattern — as they’re designed to smooth the hair, rather than straighten it.

What happens during a keratin treatment?

So, what can you expect when getting a keratin treatment? While every salon and client is different — you’re best to book out around two-four hours of your day when getting a keratin treatment.

Your hair stylist will wash and roughly blow dry your hair. This is to remove any dirt, grease or dry shampoo from your hair before they start, as the treatment works best on clean hair. The keratin treatment will then be applied all over your hair, and left for around 30 minutes.

Once the treatment has worked its magic, your hair will be rinsed and your stylist will then start the process of applying heat to lock in the treatment. First, they’ll blow dry your hair, before straightening every single strand to give you a poker-straight style slicker than your 90s dreams.

After your hair has been straightened to within an inch of its life, you’ll be free to go. But you won’t be able to wash, style, tie up or tuck your hair behind your ears for a good 24 to 48 hours — as this can affect the treatment’s results.

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Are keratin treatments damaging?

While it’s safe to say that most keratin treatments won’t damage your hair — some treatments can, so it’s worth looking out for these. Traditional hair relaxers and Japanese straightening treatments use harsh chemicals like ammonium thioglycolate and sodium hydroxide to permanently break the bonds inside the hair structure, so that it can be reset and rebuilt straight. These treatments are permanent and grow-out over time. This can leave you with damage, not to mention an awkward-looking grow-out phase.

Keratin treatments don’t break the bonds inside the hair but form a smooth coating over the hair instead. They’re not permanent, so will wash out over time, meaning you won’t have any growing out issues.

How long does a keratin treatment last?

Depending on how rigorous your after-care routine is, you can expect your keratin treatment to last between three and five months. To get the most out of your keratin treatment (and keep your hair looking smoother for longer) use a sulphate-free shampoo and avoid chlorine and salt water.

How much does a keratin treatment cost?

Keratin treatments can vary massively in price — depending on your location, the salon itself and offers. In central London, you can expect to pay around £200 for a keratin treatment.

Keratin treatment after-care: best post-treatment products

Keep your hair looking silky smooth with these after-care picks:

  • KeraStraight Moisture Enhance Shampoo

    keratin treatment aftercare

    If you’ve had a keratin treatment, always opt for a sulphate-free shampoo. Sulphate-rich formulas can strip the hair of its natural oils (and the keratin treatment) shortening your results.

    KeraStraight Moisture Enhance Shampoo, £19

  • Color WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray

    Keep your shine for longer with Color Wow’s Dream Coat. This genius heat-activated spray acts in the same way as an in-salon keratin treatment, locking in shine and smoothing each hair strand.

    Color WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray, £25

  • Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask

    If your hair is in need of some extra TLC, this keratin-based hair mask will help. It uses the exact same strain of protein that’s found in human hair, so that it can bind directly to areas of damage and fill them in. Clever.

    Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask, £28

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Image credit: Getty