Formaldehyde-free Brazilian Blowout and Keratin Treatment Alternatives
After a few years of soaring populaity, Brazilian Blowout and the keratin treatment industry came under fire regarding ingredients that could be potentially dangerous. Methylene glycol, which releases formaldehyde when heated, is present in varying concentrations in most of these products, causing concern over their safety. The debate continues; although air testing has shown most products to be safely within guidelines, and filtration options have become widely available to salons to help control fumes, many concerned clients, stylists and salons are seeking alternative treatments. There are now several options on the market that do not contain any methylene glycol, however their efficacy can vary greatly. Some are better for certain hair textures, or add great shine but don’t help much with controlling curl, and while none of them can replicate the exact same results as the original Brazilian Blowout or keratin treatments, they definitely have their place in the salon. Some are safe for children, which is a common inquiry, and some are even safe while pregnant and nursing!!
Other benefits to this new generation of treatments? Lower heat settings–most of these treatments are performed using a flat iron on lower heat settings than traditional smoothing treatments, and do not require the 1-4 day waiting period before washing your styling your hair, that most keratin treatments do!
So leave it to me…the keratin treatment geek…to try a slew of them, and report the results to you! My rating system is based on comparing the products’ results on multiple criteria, against each other and against the results I have seen from Brazilian Blowout and/or keratin treatments on the same hair types, and when possible, the same hair (many of my test models have had multiple treatments over the past few years.)
One important note to make is that none of these products are marketed as straighteners, a common misconception about smoothing treatments. Even original strength keratin treatments are not straighteners, though many can reduce curl significantly. This new generation of treatments is generally not as effective in that area (which could be a pro for some, or a con for others,) but some of the treatments can help control or reduce curl, and each product’s ability to do so will be rated individually. As with any hair treatment, outcome can vary based on hair type, processing and aftercare. A note to stylists: please take the time to learn each product’s recommendations and procedures before doing them; they are not all the same, and focusing on the little details can make a big difference in the results!
1. Before Pure Brazilian Clear (client had previously used other keratin treatments, causing the straighter ends you see here)
2. Before Pure Brazilian Clear
3. After Pure Brazilian Clear and fresh color, air-dried naturally
4. After Pure Brazilian Clear and fresh color, styled
Company’s Description: This salon proven, plant derived formula combines essential hair nutrients, fortifying amino acids, Brazilian keratin along with glyoxylic acid to achieve smooth, frizz-free hair without the use of any harsh chemicals. The perfect alternative for those who are looking for a softer, more voluminous effect.
Unique Active Ingredients: Essential hair nutrients, fortifying amino acids, Brazilian keratin along with glyoxylic acid.
Stylist’s Review: Clear delivers a great result, beating out competitors when tested side-by-side; it reduced more curl and frizz than both Pravana Perfection SmootOut and Brazilian Blowout Zero, when compared side-by-side on the same client’s hair. The treatment takes a bit longer than others, since it has a processing time, but the results are worth the wait!
Client’s Review: Both models brave enough to try the half-and-half experiment reported that even friends who didn’t know they had done it, noticed that one side of their hair was less curly/frizzy!
Best Aftercare: Pure Brazilian shampoo, conditioner and deep conditioning mask, available at salons offering the treatment. Lasts up to 12 weeks.
Standout Pros: Safe for kids, AND while pregnant or nursing!!
Cons: The processing time can be up to one hour, so bring a book or tablet to keep yourself busy.
Extra tip: Color should be done after the treatment, as it can cause more fading than some other treatments. This is safe to do, and reversing the order with this product does not prevent color from penetrating sand depositing evenly.
1. Before Brazilian Blowout Zero+, air-dried
2. After Brazilian Blowout Zero+, air-dried
3. Before Brazilian Blowout Zero+, air-dried
4. After Brazilian Blowout Zero+, styled
Company’s Description: A new & improved proprietary plant-derived Kerasafe™ Bonding System effectively deposits and seals essential amino acids onto the hair for a smooth, frizz-free surface.
Unique Active Ingredients: proprietary plant-derived KeraSafe™ bonding system
Stylist’s Review: Zero has a different texture than the original Brazilian Blowout, which may surprise BB veterans, but it is easy to work with. Using too much product can cause an uncomfortable amount of steam, so even without the methylene glycol it is important the stylist applies only a small amount of product to the hair. It gives beautiful results for many clients who want to reduce frizz and mellow out their curls, but keep body and wave.
Client’s Review: “I walked in a frizzy mess and out with a beautiful head of hair! I couldn’t believe how incredibly soft my hair was, AND frizz-less!” This model also reported that even in the rain, her hair got wavier but did not frizz up.
Best Aftercare: Brazilian Blowout Acai Aftercare products, available at Certified Brazilian Blowout salons. Lasts up to 12 weeks; as with any semi-permanent treatment, fading is most apparent towards the end of the cycle, but some models saw effects even after 12 weeks!
Standout Pros: Proprietary plant-derived Kerasafe™, extraordinarily popular aftercare system including shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioning masque and an array of styling products
Cons: has been critiqued by clients and stylists for not giving the same results as the original, mainly that it doesn’t remove as much curl
1. Before Liqwd Q-Keratin
2. After Liqwd Q-Keratin (+ a few sassy adornments!)
Company’s Description: “the healthy alternative” to a keratin treatment, to enhance shine, get rid of frizz, and make hair more manageable without flattening it out. This product is NOT meant for curly-haired clients seeking straight, sleek hair.
Unique Active Ingredients: Quinoa! Yes, THAT quinoa. It provides a low-molecular weight protein/amino acid, which hydro-bonds the keratin in the product to the keratin in hair.
Stylist’s Review: The full treatment did as promised; it didn’t remove curl, but definitely added lots of shine and helped control frizz for about 6 weeks. The same product can be used for a mini-treatment, which provided my straight but flyaway-haired model with smooth, shiny locks for 3-4 weeks.
Client’s Review: I had this treatment done on my own hair, and my curls were defined, but in a flexible way like I’ve never seen before; I could sleep on my curls, and they would still look good in the morning! It was also crazy shiny! Thank you to Rima Uranga of Salon by Maxine at 310-205-2370, for providing my Liqwd Q-Keratin teatment. The model I did for the mini-treatment (shown above) said, “I can’t believe how shiny and soft it is. My haircut looks better, and I’ve gotten more compliments than ever!”
Best Aftercare: Liqwd Q-Keratin Enhancing shampoo and conditioner, and Q-Keratin Longevity Serum, available at salons offering the treatment
Standout Pros: awesome shine and curl definition
Cons: results fade in 6-8 weeks, which is quicker than most other treatments; product must be left in hair for 4 days before washing, clipping or styling
Extra tip: Treatment can be repeated after 5 days for stronger, long-lasting results, so long as the hair can handle another flat-ironing. Please not this still will not reduce curl.
1. Before Pravana Perfection SmoothOut
2. After Pravana Perfection SmoothOut
Company’s Description: new patent-pending innovation that instantly and safely transforms coarse, frizzy, hair to smooth and superbly shiny hair
Unique Active Ingredients: proprietary nano-amino acid complex that virtually alters the internal textural memory of the hair fiber to transform it to a smoother, frizz-free state
Stylist’s Review: Perfection SmoothOut is easy to work with, non-irritating and gives good results on a variety of hair types. The company recommends an extended processing time for very curly or resistant hair, or even a second treatment, which can be done immediately after to intensify results. The hair can feel a bit dry/stiff afterwards.
Client’s Review: “This treatment definitely made a big change in my hair. The spring dropped out of my curl, and when I blow it straight it stays that way!”
Best Aftercare: Pravana brand shampoo and conditioner, available at salons offering the treatment. Lasts 8-12 weeks.
Standout Pros: Safe for kids, AND while pregnant or nursing!
Cons: This product does not provide the shine or silky finish that others in this category do.
Extra tips: dark and/or vibrant colors should be done after the treatment, as it can cause more fading than some other treatments. This is safe to do, and reversing the order with this product does not prevent color from penetrating sand depositing evenly. Pravana Keratin Glazing can be done immediately after the treatment and/or color to provide a shinier/silkier finish. Also, Pravana has just informed me that the hair can be combed through during the processing time to increase curl reduction.
[Mild results could not be detected in photos]
Company’s Description: Hapuna provides a perfect balance of protein and moisture to hair, increasing strength and shine
Unique Active Ingredients: Each product is created with pure hawaiian artesian water and sea essences
Stylist’s Review: similar to Japanese straightening in that it has a processing time during which you have to check the hair; the process is more complicated than most keratin treatments.
Client’s Review: the hair definitely felt softer, and looked shinier, but it didn’t change the curl much
Best Aftercare: Paul Brown Hapuna products, available where the treatment is offered. The ‘natural straightening mist’ is a great detangler, and smells amazing (but doesn’t help straighten it more)
Standout Pros: amazing scent
Cons: very mild results
[Mild results could not be detected in photos]
Company’s Description: Anti-Frizz by Yuko is an innovative Japanese anti-frizz treatment, that will semi-permanently control frizz to make hair more manageable and healthy.
Unique Active Ingredients: silk, soy, wheat, meadow foam and palm oil. This products breaks only some of the hair’s bonds, unlike the Yuko Hair Straightening, which is permanent.
Stylist’s Review: the product is very creamy, applied like color and only has to process for 5-10 minutes
Client’s Review: the hair had a lot less volume after the treatment, but not a major change otherwise
Best Aftercare: Kokoro G shampoo and treatment, available where the treatment is offered
Standout Pros: safe on blonde hair, which the original Yuko treatment is not; less damaging than the permanent treatment
Cons: very mild results
[Mild results could not be detected in photos]
Company’s Description: an alternative to harsh chemicals that gives you smooth, glossy, gorgeous hair without chemical worries or compromise
Unique Active Ingredients: this product is more about advertising what’s NOT in it: it is 100% vegan, botanically based, paraben free and sulfate free
Stylist’s Review: this product was a bit tough to work with; its viscosity is like water, which makes it difficult to apply neatly, especially as it is applied to dry hair. It sort of beaded up on the hair at times, instead of absorbing. I found the overall process to be a bit tedious, which I normally do not shy away from, but in this case, I’m afraid the results didn’t make it worth the work.
Client’s Review: “I don’t see much of a difference.”
Best Aftercare: Zerran haircare, available at salons offering the treatment
Standout Pros: 100% vegan, safe for children and while pregnant or nursing
Cons: takes longer than other treatments, results very mild
I have also read and heard some buzz about a product called CHI Enviro, but my attempts to contact the company for information, training and products were not successful. I was contacted by Tela Beauty Organics BlowOut to include their product in my research, but unfortunately the rep did not come through with information, training or products, either. Some of the products and services reviewed in this post were provided for my review and/or as a professional courtesy; this has had no bearing on my opinions or reviews. Special thanks to Miwa of The Paint Shop, for her help as my stylist and her feedback on Paul Brown Hapuna, as well as Yuko Anti-Frizz! You can find Miwa at www.miwahairart.com or at 323-658-1930.
This has been quite an adventure, and these experiments go back nearly a year. Having tried several of these treatments on my friends, models, clients, and many of them on my own hair, the clear leader of the pack is Pure Brazilian Clear, winning 19 out of 20 possible stars! It gave the best overall performance for the qualities clients look for most, and also lends versatility with different processing options for different hair types and results.
I am happy to be offering Pure Brazilian Clear, Brazilian Blowout Zero, Liqwd Q-Keratin and Pravana Perfection SmoothOut in my studio. I also carry and use the original Brazilian Blowout, Global Keratin (now GK Hair) and Keratin Complex Original and Blonde formulas. In other words…whatever your keratin/smoothing needs are, I can meet them!
Santa Monica, CA
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