Keratin hair straightening is billed as a miracle solution for women with difficult-to-control, curly, coarse or frizzy hair. This treatment works well for some, but may not be appropriate for everyone, since the costs can be relatively high and maintenance can be inconvenient. Here's what you need to know about keratin-based hair straightening techniques.
7 things You Should Know About Keratin Hair Straightening
1. How it Works
Keratin hair straightening relies on a protein already found in your hair, skin and fingernails. Keratin can be used to fill in gaps in the hair cuticle where it has previously been damaged, producing a smoother, softer feel. During the straightening process, this protein is mixed with formaldehyde, applied to the hair, then sealed in using a flat iron. The final product is sleek, straight hair that lasts for a few months, after which it must be touched up.
2. Time Frame
The actual process of applying the keratin and straightening the hair will take at least 90 minutes. The longer your hair is, the longer your appointment should be. After this, you'll need to take special care of your hair for four days. Then you can treat it the way you normally do. The treatment itself can be expected to last for two to two and a half months.
The initial maintenance period is the most inconvenient. For the first four days after your keratin hair straightening treatment, you'll need to avoid washing it or getting it wet, because it takes this long for the solution to work properly. If you do get your hair wet, blow dry or flat iron it immediately to reduce damage to the treatment. You also have to avoid wearing your hair up during this period, since the strands can permanently develop kinks from hair binders and bobby pins. After this period, you can wash, blow dry and style however you choose. Just make sure you use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo to keep the treatment from being stripped away from your hair prematurely. (link is to our previous article on using sulfate free products and shampoo)
The price of a keratin hair straightening treatment varies according to the salon and your hair length. Initial treatments also tend to cost more than touch ups, with most running between $200 and $400. After the initial treatment, you'll need to come back to the salon for retreatment every few months. Most stylists charge about $75 to touch up the hair that has grown in since your last treatment.
5. Health Concerns
This treatment relies heavily on formaldehyde, a chemical thought to be carcinogenic. This chemical has a strong, irritating odor that can give you a sore through, headache or eye irritation. The amount of formaldehyde varies by salon, but concentrations of less than 2 percent don't work well. Stronger treatments are more effective, but also smell stronger and carry a bigger health risk. At concentrations above about 8 percent, the FDA considers the treatment a health hazard. Because of the potential risks of formaldehyde, many salons will not perform these treatments on pregnant women or nursing mothers.
6. Damage Risk
Like most other methods of permanently straightening the hair, keratin-based straightening processes come with a risk of hair damage. This has little to do with the formaldehyde and keratin solution. Instead, the damage is caused by the flat irons used to straighten the hair after the treatment. All irons have the potential to dry out the hair and encourage follicle cracking and splitting. Hotter irons produce more damage, scorching the hair and producing ends that eventually break and fray. Flat irons can also cause mechanical damage when they compress the hair. Stylists should use the coolest iron possible and treat the hair carefully during the process.
7. Home Systems
There are some home Keratin systems that get mixed reviews. The consensus seems to be that these systems will have some benefits, but are not as effective as salon Keratin straightening services. For a look at some of the home systems with consumer Keratin reviews, take a look here at Folica, our favorite online source for hair products. Or, see Folica’s top 10 Keratin products. Pictured is the Rio de Keratin Home Keratin System.
A keratin-based hair straightening technique can help people with difficult or unmanageable hair enjoy straight locks and easier hair care, but it does come with a number of disadvantages. Take the time to consider the costs, time requirements and possible health and hair problems this process can cause. For the best and safest results, choose a salon that's willing to be up front about the type of flat iron used and the formaldehyde percentage of their products.