This Smoothing Hair Treatment Gave Me The Perfect Air Dry In 85% Humidity

Photo: Courtesy of Megan Decker.
The only thing that bums me out about summer is the promise of humidity. I don’t mind the heat, but when my hair grows twice its normal size and I have to wrestle it back into a bun or under a baseball hat, I find myself annoyed and distracted from both the salty rim of my margarita and the company I’m with. Of course, there are specific hair products that help, like cuticle-sealing glosses and leave-in conditioners. But I was intrigued when I learned about a new hair treatment, described as a vegan alternative to a keratin treatment, that offers semi-permanent frizz protection for a solid five months — long enough to carry me and my flyaways through summer and beyond.
The salon professional hair-care line Kerasilk, which was formerly part of the larger Goldwell brand offerings but now is its own independent label, recently relaunched a new-and-improved treatment that hairstylist Harry Josh, an ambassador for the brand, describes as the “Goldilocks” of smoothing treatments: It’s adjustable, so your stylist can tweak it until it’s just right for you. If you want to smooth or straighten the hair for a result similar to a keratin treatment, you can build the treatment to max strength by allowing it to sit on the hair and then applying heat to seal it. If you want a lighter result to cut down on frizz without altering the natural hair pattern, there’s a diluted, “refined” version. I recently visited Clare Malarkey at Voe Studio to try out the latter.

How does Kerasilk work?

The Kerasilk treatment is very similar to a traditional keratin treatment — the application process, time in the salon, longevity, and cost are comparable. However, the formula is different. Instead of keratin (a protein naturally occurring in the body used to smooth the cuticle of the hair), Kerasilk treats the hair with a proprietary vegan protein called biomimetic silk, a lab-derived silk (no harm to the silkworm). The treatment is applied to the surface of the hair without penetrating its core, so you’re not getting a strong manipulation of the curl pattern as you might with a relaxer.
Kerasilk is also unique in that it offers a less intense version of the treatment, whereas most keratin treatments tend to be a one-strength treatment across all hair types and textures. Personally, I’ve found other smoothing treatments to be a bit heavy, sour-smelling (a common complaint due to formaldehyde), and harsh on my hair, which is naturally thick and wavy — something that I want to maintain. 
With Kerasilk, the goal was to be able to air dry my hair in the summer to bring out its natural wave but almost deflate the excess body so it falls a little smoother without product or a blowout. According to Sal McKinzie, Education Development Trainer at Kao Salon, this is possible. “The Refinement service removes the frizz and will combat humidity but does not alter the natural curl pattern of the hair,” he explains.
The whole Kerasilk Refinement application process takes 3 to 4 hours from start to finish. The hair goes from wet to dry three times. First, there’s a clarifying shampoo, then the hair gets rough dried with a blow dryer. The Kerasilk treatment is applied onto dry hair and sits for 15 minutes. The treatment is then rinsed out and the hair gets blow dried again, then flat ironed to seal it in. Following the flat iron, there’s a third rinse and a neutralizing serum is applied to the hair. From there it can be blown out, air dried, or diffused for curl, however you want to walk out of the salon — as in, it doesn’t have to be flattened straight like it’s 2015.

What hair types can use Kerasilk?

The Kerasilk treatment is compatible across hair textures because it’s customizable. “There are two services that you can discuss with your stylist to achieve the results you’re looking for,” says McKinzie.
The stronger option, called the Control service, is for “maximum strength curl reduction” and “maximum frizz control.” This is the treatment Malarkey recommends to most clients looking for a smoothing treatment that will rival the results of a keratin. The cost is the same as the Refinement, but the result is more dramatic. Plus, it’s actually a quicker service in the salon because the Kerasilk formula doesn’t get rinsed out of the hair at all. The second rinse that happens with the Refinement service is to dilute the treatment — the Control cuts out that step.
The Refinement is a better option for anyone committed to maintaining the full integrity of their hair’s natural texture. According to McKinzie, the Refinement offers “minimal curl reduction” but “maximum frizz control.” However, if you have 4C hair, both treatments will work to minimize frizz without relaxing the tightness of the curl. “This is not going to make your hair straight,” Malarkey clarifies. “If that’s what you’re looking for, this isn’t necessarily the treatment for you.”
My hair before the Kerasilk treatment
My hair after the Kerasilk treatment

How much does a Kerasilk treatment cost?

At Voe Studios in Brooklyn, the Kerasilk treatment costs $395 and should last between five and six months. (You can use the salon finder to price check your local salon.) As for the worth-it factor, it all depends on your hair goals. For me, this treatment did exactly what I hoped it would. My hair is smoother, not so much in texture as in the way it doesn't puff up in the presence of humidity. I recently put it to the test in 85% humidity and the air dry was literally a breeze (like, wind in my hair). Styling in general is less of a pain because another fringe benefit of the treatment is that it speeds up blow dry time (in my case, cutting it in half). 

How do you maintain the results of a Kerasilk treatment?

As for aftercare, I was told to use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner because sulfates can strip the treatment faster. Another good tip heading into summer: Malarkey says it's important to rinse your hair with fresh water before dipping into chlorine or salt water, to create a barrier between the hair and potentially corrosive chemicals. Ideally, you’d keep your hair out of hard water altogether. 

Are there more affordable alternatives to a Kerasilk treatment?

When I asked Malarkey about alternatives to a Kerasilk treatment, she said there's not an at-home dupe. She does not recommend using any at-home keratin systems because it's tricky to get precise results on your own and you risk potential protein buildup in your hair, which can lead to breakage. However, treating your hair with a clear gloss would have a similar, though much more temporary result. The in-salon cost for a gloss is usually around $100. "If you can't afford an in-salon Kerasilk treatment, I'd recommend a clear gloss," Malarkey says. "That would be the super, super light version of this."

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