Are Keratin Treatments Dangerous? These Are the Facts

A keratin treatment is an increasingly popular way of achieving smooth and shiny hair even when it is humid out. When summer comes, the hair tends to frizz up and get out of hand. This treatment has gained wide popularity among celebrities and mortals alike, but it turns out it might not be a great idea.

This treatment also goes by the name Brazilian blowout, Brazilian keratin treatment or a straightening treatment. But back in December of 2016, the Environmental Working Group together with Women’s Voices for the Earth filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration. It cited the agency’s “failure to protect the public from dangers associated with popular hair straightening treatment.”

What is This About?

Keratin is the protein that the hair is made up of, consisting of eight amino acids. It plays an important role in our hair growth and hair regeneration. So adding more keratin to the hair logically makes the hair stronger and improves the quality of damaged hair.

Traditional keratin treatment used to contain formaldehyde, the chemical that is commonly used in building materials and in the production of household products. The lawsuit alleges that the FDA has done too little to protect people from this chemical, as it has been aware for years that keratin treatments can cause severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, eye irritation and nosebleeds in the stylist that is frequently exposed to it.

So to try and make a keratin treatment a popular choice again, stylists started promoting theirs as a “formaldehyde-free” treatment. Instead they used methylene glycol. However, that one is not that much better. It is simply diluted with water. “The use of methylene glycol is a ploy to avoid the use of formaldehyde,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist from EWG in a recent interview.

keratin treatment
A keratin treatment will make your hair straight and shiny for months, but it contains formaldehyde.

And as the formaldehyde gets released in the air with heat, using the methylene glycol has the exact same effect as the traditional one. Once the stylist blow-dries the hair or uses any other heat tool, the chemicals are out in the open. Even clients, who are not as frequently in contact with the mixture as the stylists, have reported symptoms.

How a Keratin Treatment Works

But to some people, the risks are worth it. Even though formaldehyde has been linked to cancer, the results of a keratin treatment are pretty spectacular. With age and the use of many products, hair can become very porous. This is what makes the hair frizzy and can cause tangles and breakage. “Your hair is made up of keratin, so the treatment is putting the protein back into the hair, which is often lost due to age and chemical services,” said stylist Abraham Sprinkle.

 

However, you have to be careful. If you have very fine and straight hair, there is not much use. Curly or frizzy hair will see the most results. And if you are blonde, certain mixtures can affect you hair color, as not all formulas are made the exact same way.

  • You will have to go through a pre-treatment that removes buildup and prepares the hair cuticle. This involves a clarifying shampoo.
  • Keratin is applied to the hair with a brush and penetrates the cuticle. It will strengthen the keratin bonds in the hair and make it smooth. To avoid oversaturation, a fine-toothed comb can be used to distribute the mixture. This normally takes between 10 and 15 minutes.
  • After that, the hair is styled to turn it into the requested shape, usually with a blow-dryer and hair straightener. Just think about not using too high heat.
  • Afterwards, use a special type of shampoo to maintain the smooth silkiness for as long as possible. Also wait with washing it for at least 48 hours, and do not put it up in a ponytail for the same period of time.

The Healthy Options

If you do opt for a keratin treatment, pick one that is definitely free from formaldehyde. Some go the old-fashioned way and use silk from silkworms, and some you can even do yourself at home. You will not only spare your own health and the environment, but also the health of your stylist.