Keratin: The Last Hair Straightening Frontier - Into The Gloss

Keratin: The Last Hair Straightening Frontier

hair

Ah keratin, most confusing and seductive of straightening treatments. There's a lot of marketing, a lot of conflicting information, and a lot of people with follicular/emotional scarring from the Great Brazilian Freakout of '09 (NEVER FORGET). Usually, we'd just run around screaming "Keratiiiiiin" like ersatz beauty-industry versions of Animal from The Muppets, but this is important, so instead we teamed up with Rudy Pena, the "Curl and DeFrizz Specialist" (great job title) at Julien Farel Salon—he does this all day, every day—for a handy straightening guide.

Here are 10 key facts about keratin (plus a Beyoncé hair gif, because welcome to the internet):

Fact the First: WTF Is Keratin Straightening? This TF Is Keratin Straightening
Your hair is made of keratin, so a keratin treatment pretty much consists of marinating yourself in even more of the stuff until it sticks (heat helps this process). It smooths out the surface of follicles and, depending on how much you use, releases curls, takes out waves, etc. It makes hair shinier and helps prevent breakage, too. It's not cheap—salons can charge anywhere from $200–$600—and it's tricky. So don't grab the first Groupon you see.

Fact 2: Keratin Treatments, Unlike Face Tattoos, Aren't Permanent
Keratin washes out eventually. Most treatments last about eight weeks, but it could be up to six months. Obviously, this is something you want to ask about beforehand unless you enjoy literally any kind of surprise, even like "Surprise! Your hair is straight for half a year!"

Fact 3: Keratin Straighteners Shouldn't Be Carcinogenic
If you're freaked out by the low level of formaldehyde that's produced during classic keratin treatments, be direct when you make your appointment and say you'll only accept formaldehyde-free services (there are a lot of new options). "Not only is it a more pleasant olfactory experience, it's also safer for your skin and eyes," Pena says.

Fact 4: You Can Use Keratin To Get Rid Of Frizz Without Straightening Your Curls
If all you want is slightly smoother texture, keratin can do that, too. Ask for a weaker formulation that won't release curls. Pena loves the Zero Frizz Quickie treatment in particular because "there's no downtime; you can wash your hair that night, and you're back to natural in six to eight weeks." Coincidentally, Pena also created Zero Frizz Quickie, but we won't hold that against him.

Fact 5: There Are Tons Of Different Keratin Treatments For Different Hair Types
It's not one-size-fits-all. In fact, you don't want a salon that only offers a single keratin treatment, because it's probably not the best one for your texture and thickness. "If you use the same formula on fine hair that you do on thick, it'll just be flat and stick to your scalp," Pena explains. And on the flip side, if the formula's not strong enough, it'll be like you just spent $400 on...absolutely nothing.

Fact 6: Keratin Works On Straight Hair, Too
Got coarse, thick, frizzy hair that's straight? Keratin could be your new favorite thing. A light treatment can make it shinier and smoother, so you only have bed head if you actually want it.

Fact 7: Keratin Straighteners Aren't Relaxers
Unlike keratin, relaxers are permanent. They change your texture, so you have to want stick-straight hair forever—or at least until your roots need touching up. They're also easier to do at home, whereas keratin treatments are usually in salons.

Fact 8: Keratin Straightening Isn't (Or At Least Shouldn't Be) A Super-Intensive Process
A stylist combs a bunch of it into your strands, leaves it on 'til your follicles are good and coated, then flat irons your hair to seal it in. Older formulas require you not to wash or style your hair for 72 hours, which is why you should find a place that uses newer no-wait straighteners if you can.

Fact 9: You Can, In Fact, Use Keratin Treatments On Dyed Or Bleached Hair
They can actually make bleached hair feel healthier. The same doesn't hold true for other straighteners, though. "If your hair's dyed, stay away from flat irons, relaxers, or Japanese straightening," Pena warns.

Fact 10: Maintenance Is The Key To Keratin Success
If you want your fancy new shininess to last, you might have to drop your regular shampoo and stop washing so much altogether. You can shampoo three times a week max, but there better not be actual suds involved. "Stay away from cleansers that bubble," Pena advises. "If your shampoo has a detergent ingredient like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), which is literally found in laundry soap, it'll just strip your hair." (Good sulfate-free lines: Pureology Essential Repair and Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo and Conditioner.) Also no good? Salt water and chlorine. So surf spray's not an option, and make sure to coat your hair with a protective cream or oil before you make any literal waves.

If you have more questions, let us know about your keratin concerns in the comments and we'll try to get them answered by Mr. Pena himself!

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Miss Y.

    Great article, this answers more or less every question I had about Keratin. Will investigate at my hairdresser if he has the right treatment for me!

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you so much for reading!

  • D

    you should do one on perms. I'm in love with my perm

    • ITGLacey

      Well now I need to know what kind of perm you have! Do tell, please...

  • Camille

    I used to get Japanese Straight perms every 6 months. It makes your hair super slick, shiny, and soft. But it also makes your hair look very flat and each session takes around 6 hours. I switched to keratin treatment and I'm never going back! It's just like the perm but it retains your hair's volume and takes a shorter amount of time. Each treatment lasts for 6 months for me.

    • Pam B.

      Where do you go for keratin?

      And how curly is your hair naturally?

      Thanks!

    • Aubrey Green

      Yes - do tell where you go!?

  • curlgirlnomore

    I'm a mixed race girl with CRAZY, curly, coarse hair, I have been debating doing a keratin treatment for awhile now but don't want to loose all my curls! (sometimes they cooperate with me and look great!) How would my hair fair with this treatment? and what salons in the nyc area would you recommend ?! thanks!

    • ITGLacey

      Hey! This actually sounds like a great option for you, because a stylist can apply a very light treatment that will make your strands a little smoother but not mess with your texture.

  • Genevieve

    Maybe this is a silly question... But if you have curly / wavy hair & have keratin treatment will it naturally dry straight or will you still have to blow dry it straight...?

    • ITGLacey

      Hey! It depends. If you already have loose waves & the treatment is heavy enough, then it'll be straight both wet & dry. Most people, though, will retain their curl & need to blow dry if they want it completely straight.

      • Aubrey Green

        Would the blow drying then prevent you from having to use a flat iron?

        Someone really needs to come up with something that works out of the shower :).

  • ITGLacey

    Traditional perms basically reshape your hair structure depending on the diameter of the rollers the stylist puts in your hair, so theoretically... yes!

    It might be easier to use something like keratin to release your curl a little without taking it all the way out, though—depends on your thickness.

    • Aubrey Green

      Thank you. Can you guys test this theory out - which is better and why, etc?

      • ITGLacey

        Hmmmm... I'm gonna need a brave volunteer (or some perm solution and a bunch of hair extensions; whichever I can find first)

        • Aubrey Green

          :). Maybe asking a salon( a stylist that has done both treatments on someone ), at-least that's a start. If they say neither one is too damaging, etc I would totally volunteer - although I do live in California, so not sure if that's a problem.

  • ITGLacey

    I'll ask him!

    • http://julienfarel.com Christina

      Hi! This is Christina from Julien Farel and Rudy definitely does house calls in the NY tri-state area. Please feel free to contact me at cgerald@julienfarel.com to set this up.

  • Pam B.

    Can you provide a list (to any extent) of who does what where in ny?

    I've had a couple keratin experiences, and in general the stylists seem to have given me answers I want to hear rather than an actual idea of the effect I'll get.

    For example, who in ny does a good keratin that will take curl out and last for a longer amount of time?

    Could you even just recommend a couple of salons that do a variety of types of keratin processes?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated!!

  • Elisabeth

    Any LA salons that are trustworthy that you can recommend?

  • http://www.makeupreviewshall.com/ Makeup Reviews Hall

    Thank you so much for explaining almost to such an extent in detail.

  • Lexi

    This was a super helpful article. I've thought about it, but had been too freaked out to seriously consider it. Thanks ITG!

  • Peter

    So I'm a guy trying to grow my hair out a little—think not-quite shoulder length *surfer hair*, but once it gets to a certain point in the growing-out process, it just gets super poofy. It grows out, not down... Would keratin be the best way to sleek the poof? I feel like I read in Nick Axelrod's Top Shelf long ago that he's had this problem... Has he ever tried keratin?

    • ITGNick

      My hair is really curly but fine, and I've had a few keratin treatments. I was happy with the result--they didn't make my hair stick-straight, but just smoother and nicer/more manageable. Sounds like you would probably like it, but just know that it doesn't completely straighten your hair (as a relaxer would), and you'll get better results the second and third time you do it.

  • Francisca Magis

    can you please, please make a list of NYC salons to get great keratin treatments? trying to find the right place with the massive amounts of salons is so intimidating!

    • Alice Pizorri

      High Horse Salon in Williamsburg does a lovely job!!

    • Bhidepooj

      Hi! Were you able to get a list of salons in NYC that does good Keratin?

  • Anon

    Could this be done over hennaed hair?

  • Chrissy

    I have done keratins several times. The second time I did it, it did not work on my hair. My hairdresser redid it and it seemed better, but not as good as the first time. So I waited a year and just tried a new one. This one did NOTHING to my hair! I was so disappointed.
    My hair is very thick and course. I mean very! I do not want to use a straightner because it is too stick straight.
    Can you possibly recommend a keratin that might work? Or is a straightner my only option? Or am I doomed?!
    Thank you.

  • millerc

    I just did a at home keratin treatment and I love it.The clarifying shampoo was recommended before the application But dryad out my color treated hair. I want to apply the keratin treatment again when it wears off or in two months. Do I have to use a clarifying shampoo again before the second application? Thanks

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