Here we all are at the end of July, wondering how on earth the summer is half over already! Hopefully, you’ve found some time to get out in the sun – maybe cool off at your neighborhood beach or pool, go to your favorite outdoor concert, or have a picnic at the park with a bunch of girlfriends or that special someone.

Summer is great for so many reasons, one of my favorites being a new season for a new look. Of course, the easiest thing for a lot of us to change is our hair – and summer is always the most tempting time of year for curly-haired women to consider a keratin treatment.

This summer has been particularly bad for humidity across most of the USA, though meteorologists are now assuring us that those humid days might finally be coming to an end! Of course, even mild humidity can cause problems, especially for those women with, particularly curly hair. I have relatively straight hair naturally, and even I have had problems with frizz this summer, so I am never surprised when my more curly haired friends wonder if it would be better just to spend the money and get it straightened. I finally did a bit of research, and I’m here today to give you the pros and cons to help you decide whether a keratin hair treatment is right for you!

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What is Keratin?

One of the first things I learned when I started looking into keratin treatments is that “keratin” is really just a buzzword! Popular culture has decided that a “keratin treatment” equals a “permanent straightening solution,” but the word keratin refers to the protein that occurs naturally in your DNA and decides whether your hair is curly or straight. Keratin isn’t the thing that you put on your hair to straighten it; it’s the thing that’s being adjusted to make your hair look straight.

Of course, this begs the question: what is going into your hair when you get a keratin treatment? In most cases, the answer is formaldehyde. While your hair treatment won’t technically contain formaldehyde, it is the chemical that’s doing the work (and, yes, it’s the same chemical that is used in your high school biology class during dissections – don’t let that freak you out too much, though!). Formaldehyde is a gas that’s activated by heat and released into your hair when your stylist starts using the flat iron. The reason that formaldehyde works are because it’s effectively preserving the new makeup of your hair, teaching the curly hair to stay straight for longer than it usually would after flat ironing.

That said, you do need to be careful if you opt for a formaldehyde-based hair treatment. Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen if it’s inhaled too much, so be sure that you get your hair treated in a well-ventilated salon. Or, even better, see if your stylist would flat iron your hair outside – soak up some more sun and make the risk of inhaling the gas even lower.

What if I don’t want formaldehyde in my hair?

Up until recently, the only other option was a Japanese straightening treatment. It actually breaks down the chemical bonds in your hair and reconnects them to make your hair straight instead of curly. This treatment is very effective, but it’s also damaging and results in a very awkward growing out phase. With a formaldehyde-based treatment, your natural curls will gradually come back as the treatment wears off. If you break down the bonds in your hair as this other treatment option does, your naturally curly hair will grow in from the roots while the straightened hair stays just as straight as ever.

Luckily for you, though, a new option has recently arrived on the scene! Some treatments are reacting to the anti-formaldehyde wave and have started using glyoxylic acid as the main component of their straightening solution. Keep in mind, though; you will have to pay for the non-toxic version with time. Formaldehyde treatments, when done correctly, should basically eliminate curls and frizz for 2-3 months. Glyoxylic acid works differently – it’s not mean to straighten your hair, just de-frizz and add some shine. These type of treatments (like Cezanne or Trissola) are often referred to as smoothing or taming solutions rather than straightening treatments – though they still have the “keratin” in them!

Since the keratin smoothing treatments won’t make your hair perfectly straight, you’ll still have to commit to a few minutes with your flat iron in the morning if you want that straight rod hair – but it should work with you to keep the frizz level down when you go out in the humidity. Additionally, smoothing treatments are estimated to last longer than a formaldehyde-based straightening treatment! While the formaldehyde treatment lasts for 2-3 months, smoothing treatments can last for 4-6!

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Try it at Home!

Now that you have a better understanding of what’s going on with a keratin treatment, time for a little pro-tip. You can actually get similar results to a traditional keratin treatment from the comfort of your own home! Tresemmé has a pretty well-reviewed keratin treatment that you can pick up at your local drugstore. All you have to do is work it into damp hair, blow dry, and flat iron – it doesn’t last nearly as long, but it’s also way cheaper. If you can take the time to flat iron once a week or so, you might spend the least amount of money doing it this way.

A keratin treatment usually costs at least $200. Some things I read said that if you find one cheaper than this, it’s probably too good to be true! Stylists recommended that you only get a treatment once every four months or so. Let’s say you get your keratin treatment three times a year like clockwork. You’ll end up spending at least $600/year on those beautiful straight locks. A bottle of home-keratin treatment costs $5-10: if you bought a bottle every week, you’d spend about $520 a year. And as a bonus, you won’t be damaging your hair to get the straightening to last!

It’s Not Foolproof

Now, like any beauty treatment, there isn’t a 100% guarantee that your keratin treatment will take. When done correctly, a keratin treatment should eliminate all waves and frizz for as long as it lasts, but some women end up with more of a smoothing treatment effect and still have to iron out their waves. If your hair is colored, you might lose a shade or two of dye after the treatment. In most cases, though, this is due to the shampoo your stylist will recommend you switch to after the treatment.

You have to decide what’s right for you! There’s no make or break answer as to whether or not keratin is right for you personally. Hopefully, this has given you some more info to try to figure it out. Just make sure you know the pros and cons and make an informed decision. If you decide to go for it, I hope you can enjoy a few minutes cut off of your morning routine! If not, embrace the frizz for the last month or so of summer and go rock that curly hair!

Summary: Tips and Tricks!

  • Keratin ≠ smoothing treatment: it’s the protein that composes your hair structure.
  • Don’t feel bad if you choose formaldehyde! If those are the results you want, go for it. Just don’t treat your hair too often, and get it done where there’s a lot of air flow!
  • You should get new shampoo after your treatment, but don’t feel pressured into buying it at the salon! You’ll find a cheaper option at the store – anything sulfate-free will work.
  • Be careful right after your treatment!! You should really let your hair hang loose for 2-3 days after the treatment.  Otherwise, you might end up with unwanted dents from your braid or ponytail holder!
  • Keep in mind that salon treatments don’t require FDA approval. Make sure you know what your stylist is putting in your hair!
  • If you have a good relationship with your current stylist, trust his/her advice!

I hope that this article answers all your questions about keratin treatments! Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

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