Along with blow-dries and hair glossing, keratin treatments are one of the most popular hair maintenance procedures, according to hairstylists. Whether you're looking to minimise frizz, temporarily reduce some of the weight of thick, heavy hair or impart a mirror-like shine, keratin is hailed by experts in the industry as transformative and worthwhile. But there's a catch.
While keratin treatments differ slightly, the consensus is that they are all time-consuming. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you can expect to spend many hours in the salon chair having the treatment applied and sometimes blow-dried in. That's before any extras, like conditioning treatments and styling. As well as this, keratin treatments can be pricy. At some London salons, you can expect to pay anywhere from £100 to £500 per appointment. The long-lasting results may be worth it, but that's still a big chunk of money.
That said, it seems the downsides haven't put many of us off in our quest for smoother, more manageable hair. Interestingly, our commitment to keratin treatments has resulted in a number of brands jumping on board. Virtue, for example, harnesses human keratin in its shampoo and conditioner collection, which is adored by celebrity hairstylists like Adir Abergel.
While keratin-infused products make a great addition to any frizzy hair routine, nothing has piqued the interest of the keratin-obsessed quite like Easilocks' SOS Keratin Rescue Treatment. Essentially a keratin relaxer, it's the first keratin treatment package you can do at home, created by Shane O'Sullivan, hairstylist, founder and creative director of Easilocks. Even better? It's just £29.99, a snip of the price of salon versions, and easily available on the high street at Superdrug.
As a beauty editor who has a lot of hair which can be frizzy, difficult to manage and wavy in odd places, I've tried my fair share of keratin treatments. I tried to wean myself off them for a while but found I yearned for that easy smoothness. Professionally, I think the best is KeraStraight, which lasts for months on end, but my budget means it's a little too expensive to book treatments back to back. I was sceptical of Easilocks' version, which claims silky smooth hair in a matter of 10 minutes, for up to 12 weeks. Even now it sounds too good to be true, but boy, did it deliver.
The pre-mixed formula comes with a sponge, which I found difficult to use as I've got a lot of hair, so I broke the rules (don't tell Shane) and applied it like a mask (using the provided gloves, of course). Okay, the formula smelled like rotten egg, but I could withstand it for silky lengths. I brushed it through with a comb, left it on for 10 minutes and rinsed it out. My hair felt very dry in the shower, so I broke the rules again and finished with a dollop of conditioner.
As I got to blow-drying my hair, I was shocked at how smooth it felt already. It took me all of two minutes to rough dry and there wasn't a single frizzy, flyaway strand. In fact, my hair was virtually poker straight, save for a couple of sections which it looked like I'd missed in a rush. When I went over those bits with straighteners, it took me a fraction of the time it usually does to smooth them out. My hair did smell funny for a week afterwards (almost like fake tan), even after a good number of washes, but I'm willing to overlook that for more manageable hair. Overall, I'm hooked, but does it work on a range of hair textures?
"As a woman with very bushy, unruly, curly hair, a keratin treatment has always seemed attractive to me. A hair treatment that de-frizzes and cuts your styling time in half? Sign me the hell up. But there has always been a caveat: Will my hair return to its natural state? My curls cause me grief but I love them. On top of that, keratin treatments typically cost between £200-£500 and I don't have that kind of money to spend on my hair. So I was stumped – until the Easilocks SOS treatment landed on my desk.
Promising to de-frizz my hair in just 10 minutes, the treatment was exactly what I was looking for. At a fraction of the salon price, it answered my financial prayers. That said, I was nervous about trusting myself to execute the treatment in the comfort of my own home. What if my hair falls out? What if my curls completely straighten and they don't return? What if I have an adverse reaction?
I decided to bite the bullet and test it out. I washed my hair using the sulphate-free shampoo provided, then, following the instructions on the box, I divided my hair into four parts, carefully applied the keratin treatment and let it work its magic for 10 minutes. The treatment didn't burn or itch, but my god did it stink – the eggy, chemical smell lingered in my bathroom for hours.
I rinsed my hair in the shower for 20 minutes until the formula was completely rinsed out. Instantly I could feel a difference. My tightly coiled curls were now straight, sleek and had zero snag. My hair felt super clean but a little dry, so I piled on the deep conditioner provided and left it to penetrate for 10 minutes. After rinsing and towel-drying, I decided to let my hair dry naturally to see how it looked – and I was shocked by the results. My hair was bone straight. No blow-dry, no straighteners, just a simple wash 'n' go.
After a few days without washing and styling, I wet my hair and again, it was bone straight. I panicked; I'm not used to my hair being this straight. Would my curls ever return?
One month later and my curls are back – to some extent. My hair hasn't quite returned to its natural 3C/4A curl pattern – some sections are still straight, it doesn't look as voluminous as it was, and it's now halfway between curly and frizzy with a few straight strands at the top. I've even considered The Big Chop, just to get over this awkward stage. But it was a good experiment and if my end goal was continuously straight hair, I'd definitely do it again. For now, though, it's back to my curls I go."
Shane says that your curl pattern will not change permanently when using the SOS Keratin Rescue Treatment. "We have tried the SOS on lots of different hair types and textures and when you follow the instructions carefully, the curl or wave always goes back to normal, only smoother."
The results are undeniable and this really works. But I had a few more questions for Shane. Firstly, why does it smell so potent, and does the whiff fade? "The keratin itself has a characteristic smell," said Shane. "However, it would only leave a strong residue smell if the hair is not rinsed or shampooed enough. For this reason, we recommend rinsing the hair for double the application time. For example, if the application is left on the hair for five minutes, then rinsing and shampooing time will be 10 minutes. It may feel like a long time when you're under the shower head, but it's worth it when you get the super silky results."
Secondly, what would happen if we left it on for longer than the instructions state? "The hair could become really dry with potential damage or breakage," said Shane. "But once you follow the instructions, the SOS will not damage your hair. It will leave you with frizz-free and easily manageable hair for up to 12 weeks."
Lastly, what sort of aftercare should we consider to maintain results? Sulphate-free shampoo is a must to preserve the keratin, but Shane mentions that when using hot tools and blow-drying the brand highly recommends heat protection products, such as the Easilocks Rose Gold Oil, £14.99, to keep the hair nourished. Also try Kérastase Resistance Ciment Thermique, £23.80, or Monat Studio One Thermal Protect Styling Shield, £27.