Keratin blow dries differ everywhere. While some treatments only last for a few weeks, many take months to grow out, with some people reporting that certain formulas have the ability to change the nature of their hair completely.
The latter is true for me, but since giving up the smoothing treatments, I've been in limbo when it comes to styling my hair. There are days when I wholeheartedly embrace my frizz, flyaways and waves (well, what's left of them) and others when I want to channel the poker-straight, glass hair trend that's all over Instagram. In other words, I just don't want to commit fully anymore.
One thing I do miss, though, is how my hair feels after a hefty dose of keratin: healthier, softer and a hell of a lot stronger thanks to its ability to repair and reinforce rough, split and fragile strands. So when US haircare brand Virtue landed on my desk, claiming to provide hair with a keratin hit minus the wasted hours and dedication, I was pretty intrigued. Even more interesting? The brand's unique keratin, Alpha Keratin 60ku™, which is the mainstay ingredient in each product, is derived from ethically sourced human hair.
"Virtue’s exclusive technology is a truly unique protein for haircare," Adir Abergel, hairstylist and Virtue's creative director, told R29. His clients include the likes of Emma Watson, Emma Roberts and Jessica Biel. "Other forms of 'keratin' currently on the market are derived from animal products such as feathers and sheep’s wool and are harshly broken down, leaving little more than amino acid fragments," he continued. "This protein is extracted from ethically sourced human hair and maintains its natural structure, making it highly functional and effective. In all my years in the industry, I’ve never seen anything like it."
Like most bestselling US brands new to the UK, the 14-strong product line has been snapped up by Cult Beauty and consists of shampoo, conditioner, masks, serums and other styling products. The only thing is, most hairstylists would argue that keratin is only effective when hair is subjected to heat and other substances which have the power to deliver it into the hair shaft. So how do these particular products work?
According to the brand, Alpha Keratin 60ku™ is virtually identical to keratin in its native form. It is therefore "accepted by the hair as a natural extension of itself" and is clinically shown to restore the structural integrity. "Other forms of keratin need glues or polymers or some other process to bind to the hair shaft, but Alpha Keratin 60ku™ is a whole, fully functional human keratin protein that is recognised by the hair as its own," added Abergel. "Independent third-party testing has shown that it is able to locate the damaged spots on the hair and adhere to them naturally, repairing those spots to give you your healthiest, most beautiful hair possible. It’s like a GPS system for damage, going only where it is needed," – and the best part is that it's compatible with all hair types. "It doesn't discriminate or 'see' hair by texture or ethnicity. It just sees hair – specifically damaged hair – and goes where it’s needed to rebuild," said Abergel.
I went away armed with the Smooth Shampoo, £34, and Smooth Conditioner, £36, sceptical that one quick wash would tame my frizzy bits and make my thick hair feel like silk, but I needn't have been. The shampoo is rich but lathers up a treat, while the conditioner is more like a buttery mask and instantly feels like it's doing your hair some good. Unlike in-salon treatments, this type of keratin is undetectable on hair. There isn't a strange smell nor a heavy, greasy feel or dreaded itchiness. After a month of consistent use (I wash my hair one to two times a week), I can safely say that my lengths have probably never felt softer, stronger or looked healthier, despite the amount of heated tool abuse I often subject them to. And although the price points are higher than your usual shampoo and conditioner duo, in comparison to keratin treatments, which can cost anything up to £250, it's a good deal.