Here's What Keratin Can And Can't Do For Your Hair

Do you suffer from wiry, unruly hair, and are desperate to tame it? If all the anti-frizz shampoos, conditioners, and oils in the world aren't enough, a keratin treatment may be your best option in preventing you from looking like Monica from "Friends" in that one episode in which they went to Barbados. 

When keratin treatments (often called Brazilian Blowouts after their country of origin) first hit salons in the 2000s, they were seen as a revolutionary straightening and smoothing option for those with curly or coarse hair, given that straight hair was all the rage at the time. But what exactly goes into a keratin treatment? "Keratin treatments are a semi-permanent hair straightening treatment that smooth and add shine to frizzy hair," celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons told Harper's Bazaar

Keratin is a protein found in our hair that prevents breakage, per Byrdie, so many believe a treatment with this label would do wonders for your strands. While keratin treatments may seem like the answer to all your hair related problems, they come with their pros and cons. Here's what keratin can and can't do for your hair.

What keratin can do for your hair

Keratin treatments are known as the ultimate frizz fighters for sleek, silky hair that you can endlessly run your fingers through. The effects last for months, even after regularly shampooing. The process involves having a stylist use a brush to evenly spread the formula through your strands. The formula breaks curl creating bonds in your follicles. The stylist then locks it in with a straightener, finishing a process that can take hours, per Healthline.

Healthline reports that keratin treatments can strengthen your hair and make your locks more manageable, even cutting drying time in half. "It cuts the time it takes to get ready. My hair is shiny and looks like it did 20 years ago, even if it's rainy," Mary Leitschuh told the Chicago Tribune. Keratin treatments can also be beneficial for the hair's health, because those with the treatment would be less likely to resort to using heated styling tools, like blow dryers or straighteners, on a regular basis.

Due to the price of a keratin treatment (a whopping $250-$500, according to Cosmopolitan), you may opt for a keratin shampoo in order to save money — but they are not meant to be a replacement for the actual treatment, according to Elle. "Incorporating [keratin] into a topical formulation will do very little other than mild conditioning of the hair," cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos told the outlet. Therefore, a treatment at the salon is your best option for that gorgeous glossy effect.

What keratin can't do for your hair

While keratin treatments may add shine at first, older keratin treatments run the risk of making your hair look too drab and lifeless. "In my experience with my clients, keratin treatments used to make hair super-limp and volume-less," hairstylist Clayton Hawkins told Elle. However, Today notes that more recent treatments have gentler formulas that use less heat, while still offering shine to your hair. Traditional treatments also come with an awkward "growing out" phase, where the top part of your head contains your natural hair texture, as noted by Allure. Also, if you have color treated hair, the treatment can lighten the dye, sometimes leaving a brassy tone, according to Harper's Bazaar.

And despite potentially making your hair more manageable, keratin treatments can cause damage that's much more serious than over-treated hair. The straightening ingredient of formaldehyde used in the process can be dangerous once inhaled, causing nosebleeds, eye irritation, nausea, and sore throats. Byrdie reports that this element can also potentially cause cancer. In fact, many hairstylists refuse to perform the treatment for their own safety. Luckily, there are formaldehyde-free options out there, but Allure reports that they're not as powerful at de-frizzing your hair, and the results don't last as long.

Overall, if you want that silky, bone straight look, a keratin treatment is the way to go. Just be mindful of the potential cons, and enjoy your sleek locks for up to five months.