Keratin Treatments: Are they Safe and What’s Really Involved?


What is a Keratin Treatment

Keratin treatments are used to straighten the hair. Keratin is a protein that is found in hair, nails and skin and makes the hair straighter, shinier and bouncier without the use of chemical relaxers. For many years, African American women have been using keratin treatments instead of chemical relaxers because relaxers alter the structure of the hair and ultimately leads to damage and breakage. Although keratin treatments do not contain the same chemicals as relaxers, these treatments do contain formaldehyde.

The Keratin Treatment

The keratin treatment is becoming more and more popular among women with curly or kinky textured hair – especially those whose goal is to avoid the damage caused by chemical processing and heat styles. Although the process does require the hair to be flat ironed, it lasts much longer than flat ironing the hair alone.

Additionally, this treatment can be used on relaxed or colored hair. The goal of the keratin is to infuse hair with these essential proteins to defrizz, smooth, add shine and make it easier to style–but without permanently altering the hair’s curl structure, like with a relaxer. Also, the treatment rinses out in about twelve weeks.

What is Involved?

In order for the Keratin treatment to work, heat must be applied.   There are some at-home products available, however, the keratin treatment should always be applied by a hair care professional. Moreover, the client and stylist should wear protective masks and gloves and a fan should be in place to ventilate the area. Here is how the keratin treatment is applied:

  1. Shampoo with a clarifying product.
  2. Blow dry.
  3. Section the hair in small and apply the Brazilian Keratin Treatment, very much the same way that a relaxer is applied. The product is not placed on the scalp.
  4. Dry the hair again with the treatment on it.
  5. Flat iron the hair with a flat iron that gets extremely hot. A professional flat iron should be used. The flat iron passes over each small section about ten times.
  6. The treatment is temporary, but it can last about three months.

 Is it Safe?

One major concern of using keratin treatment is the effect it could possibly have on your health. The Department of labor issued a hazard alert for keratin treatments, indicating the dangers of the formaldehyde (an ingredient in the keratin treatment also used for embalming—also associated with high cancer risks). Keratin treatments have not been banned, however, there are dangers associated with being exposed to the chemicals during the treatment process that could pose health concerns for the client and the stylist.

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