Everything You Need To Know About Keratin Treatment

Photo: Alex Suprun
Glossy, smooth, tumbling hair: it’s almost a fact of life that it isn’t easy to achieve without countless products, lots of heat and, most of the time, a hairdresser. But there is a treatment – a beacon of hope amid so much hair hardship – that can remedy a thousand hair woes, most noticeably: frizz. Here’s everything you need to know about keratin.
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What is keratin?

“The hair is made up of naturally occurring fibrous protein called keratin,” says Matt Hawes, creative master stylist at Josh Wood in London. “It protects the hair from humidity, which in turn causes frizz.” Day-to-day life, styling, chemicals and the environment all cause this self-protecting hair mechanism to disintegrate, which makes it weaker and therefore more prone to breakage and wayward unruly hairs. In an ideal world – a world in which we were all at full keratin – our hair would be shiny, sleek and smooth.
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As for the treatment…

A keratin treatment – or ‘Brazilian Blowout’ as you might have heard it called – is a way of rebuilding lost keratin. “It puts the protein back, and fortifies overly porous (or damaged) hair,” Hawes says, which leaves the hair smoother and healthier in appearance.

The biggest misconception about keratin treatments is that they are a way of permanently straightening the hair. This is not the case; they relax the hair, restore manageability and smooth without causing permanent damage, unlike straightening treatments, which can break the hair bond. You’ll get all the shine, bounce and health of hair that’s been primped by a hairdresser, so expect to at least halve at-home styling time.
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What’s the process?

To begin with, the hairdresser will wash hair with a clarifying shampoo to open up the cuticle and ensure there isn’t any grime preventing the formula from penetrating and doing its job. After a rough blow-dry, the keratin treatment is evenly distributed through small sections of hair. “It’s similar to applying colour,” says Hawes, and then it’s left to penetrate for 20-40 minutes.

After that, the remainder is blow-dried into hair. And finally? “A professional heat-regulated flat iron is run through the lengths to seal the keratin in.” It tends to be regulated at 450 degrees, which, if you hadn’t guessed, is pretty hot. It takes about two hours, longer if your hair is super long, thick or tough to get through.
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And after?

Hold your horses with washing your hair post-treatment. You should wait at least 24 hours before washing hair but it can be up to 72 – this is to allow the hair bonds that have been re-linked to fully set, so bide your time, no matter how greasy it might look or feel. Your hairdresser will advise for how long exactly you should avoid water.

The same rule applies for styling and tying hair up; you don’t want to create any kind of kink. And when you do eventually wash it, avoid sulphate-filled shampoos. A good all-rounder is Oribe’s Ultra Gentle Shampoo, £26, curly girls will love Bumble and Bumble’s Bb. Curl Sulphate-Free Shampoo, £23, and those with parched hair should try Living Proof’s Restore Shampoo, £12.
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How long does it last?

While Hawes advises that most keratin treatments last around three months, depending on the client’s at-home regime and hair type, other experts say that it can last for up to five whole months. That’s 3-5 months of no-fuss-needed hair, i.e. a beautiful thing.

The other plus is that keratin doesn’t grow out weirdly (which tends to leave a kink in the roots), rather it just fades away and hair gradually slides back into its former self. By which time, you’ll be after another one. “We recommend around four treatments per year,” Hawes says.
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Can every hair type have it?

Pretty much anyone can have it, though it works best on those with finer, more porous hair; the more porous the hair, the easier it will accept the keratin treatment.

While it works on all hair types, afro hair included, the effects will be different on each individual. Those with curly hair shouldn’t expect poker-straight hair, nor should they expect to lose their natural curl. Instead, it’ll be infinitely more manageable, less frizz-prone and with an added glossy shine.

Afro hair types should expect to be in the hairdresser’s for longer but, as Hawes points out, "It will improve the brush-tug tangling, so you’ll see less shed," making it stronger and easier to handle.

Keratin has no problems with dyed hair, either; the rule is to stunt the treatment for two weeks before or two weeks after your colour. If you’ve got super bleached, damaged hair, consult your hairdresser before trying it as the heat and chemicals combined can spell disaster if hair isn’t up to it.
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Anything else?

If you’re pregnant, then, like many other hair and body treatments that use chemicals, this one isn’t advised. The main points to remember are to visit a certified salon, not the cheapest of the bunch (you get what you pay for), and try to opt for a formaldehyde-free treatment. Formaldehyde can cause cancer when inhaled consistently over time so, while it isn’t necessarily a danger to you, it does put the hair stylist at risk. Few salons still use it but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
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How much does it cost?

The cost depends on where you go and how long your hair is. Prices start at £280 for shorter hair at Josh Wood but they do come cheaper.
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