I get asked these questions every day, so I thought I would write up a guide to help readers learn more about the treatments, the concerns, and all the other ins and outs of keratin smoothing systems.
I am often asked, “Which one is best?” but the truth is, this is like asking which car is best. It depends on many factors and priorities: your hair type and condition, your desired result, your color and other hair service regimen, even your workout habits! Here I will outline my most popular treatments.
Brazilian Blowout: The most-requested treatment on the market, Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Treatment delivers unparalleled shine, softness, conditioning and de-frizzing power. It also reduces curl and bulk dramatically, but maintains a natural look and finish. The outcome can vary based on hair type; it may make fine, wavy, colored hair quite straight but will be yield more moderate results on thicker, coarser, curlier and healthier (virgin/uncolored) hair. Results last around 3 months on average, at which time most clients find they have faded in such a way that natural regrowth is only mildly noticeable. Brazilian Blowout also boasts a major convenience advantage over many of its competitors: your service is complete when you leave the salon, meaning you can see your results, your hair is styled as you wish, and you have no wait time before you can wet, wash, or wear hair in different styles!
Want something stronger, without going into the category of permanent straighteners? Global Keratin for Resistant Hair or Keratin Complex may be better for you. Global Keratin makes four treatments, and the one made for resistant hair can remove up to 95% of curl. Because it comes in a moisturizing base, it also softens coarser textures and leaves the hair flexible even though it is considerably straighter. Keratin Complex is another option, though it can be a bit of a double-edged sword: in the process of making hair straighter, Keratin Complex yields a stiffer result that some may like and others may not. I mostly use this treatment on clients who are growing out a relaxer or Japanese straightener, as it matches this texture a bit better. When used on previously untreated hair, it removes a lot of curl and bulk, and is a very powerful shield against humidity. Each of these treatments lasts 4-6 months, but it is important to consider that the regrowth during that time could be as much as three inches, which can be quite noticeable, especially on textures that curl close to the scalp. Another consideration: when you leave the salon, your hair will be ironed very straight and must stay straight, dry and without clips for a significant period (48 hours for GK, 72 for Keratin Complex, and even 96 for some other treatments.) This may be a deterrent for athletes or those who must wear their hair pulled back for work, but many who seek these stronger results find it is worth planning around their appointment a few times a year.
Want something gentler? Try Brazilian Blowout Zero Plus, Cadiveu Acai Therapy, Agave Oil Smoothing Treatment or Pure Brazilian Clear. If you have fine to medium hair that is frizzy and you want to enhance shine, remove frizz but not straighten or flatten out hair, one of these methylene glycol-free treatments may be best for you. How to choose?
- BB Zero+ maintains body and curl structure, and is the fastest of these processes; it can often be completed in only one hour.
- Cadiveu Acai Therapy offers shine and defrizzing with the added benefit of plumping/thickening fine hair.
- Agave Oil offers an extremely soft-to-the-touch finish and penetrates the hair to soften texture without breaking it down (oh and it smells amaaaaazing!)
- Pure Brazilian Clear is the only one of these whose reps say it can be used while pregnant or nursing, which is a big concern for some stylists and clients.
Each of these treatments is significantly milder than Brazilian Blowout or traditional keratin treatments, but results still last approximately 2-3 months.
What about safety?
There has been a lot of buzz about the safety of keratin/smoothing treatments, as well as a lot of confusing/conflicting information. The FDA has even gotten involved in one case, to ensure that labeling and advertising are accurate to keep both workers and consumers informed. Formaldehyde is released into the air as a byproduct of the process when methylene glycol or related ingredients are part of the formula. If you have a known allergy, you should of course not perform or receive treatments containing these ingredients. If you frequently have reactions to cosmetics, lotions and fragrances, you may want to ask your salon to test you for irritation (you could stop by for a visit during a scheduled treatment to see if any fumes in the air bother you) or avoid full-strength keratin treatments and opt for the gentler alternatives listed above.
The safety concern is intensified for salon workers, whose working air quality can be affected by fumes on a regular basis. The Professional Keratin Smoothing Council was formed to help train salons and stylists on safety procedures while using these products. While manufacturers’ instructions and Material Safety Data Sheets are required to outline this information, the PKSC goes a step further in educating members on proper application, processing, and ventilation. Founding member Aerovex Systems provides badges for salons that implement three-zone protection to cleanse salon air, protecting both staff and clients.
In the end, only you can choose which product, salon and stylist are best for you. Click here for more advice on choosing a salon and stylist.