Everything You Need to Know About Keratin Hair Treatments

There are so many tools and products that you can use for styling your hair, and I am a big advocate for them. But sometimes, the hair can have a very difficult natural texture or get less manageable dispensing on your surrounding environment.

This is where professional hair treatments can help a great deal, giving you fantastic results that last a few weeks up to a few months. One of these is called keratin hair treatment, and it can make your hair smoother and frizz-free for more than three months!

My experience with keratin treatment has been amazing, and I have all the know-how for you to better understand what it is and what to expect from it.

For more information about keratin hair treatment and my full experience at the salon with it, please watch the video below:

What Is a Keratin Hair Treatment?

Getting a keratin treatment means applying a chemical treatment to your hair to straighten or relax it to various degrees. Years ago, this was done only with a solution that released formaldehyde which is a strong-smelling gas that can irritate the skin and airways in certain concentrations. Now there are many safer options, like the ones that contain glyoxylic acid, a much safer alternative.

Keratin is a fibrous protein found within the human body. It has an important role in the structure of different tissues, and it’s what nails, skin, and hair are made of. When it comes to hair, keratin can be a good filler for strands prone to breakage.

Keratin-based treatments act by recreating bonds within the hair and filling in the gaps in the cuticle. They also penetrate the hair cuticle and seal it in order to reduce frizziness. Hair frizz is produced when the cuticle (think tiny scales that form the outer layer of your hair) lift and are filled with moisture. This makes the hair look more poofy, frizzy, and lose its shine.

How Is It Different From Relaxers?

A keratin hair treatment is very useful for those with coarse hair or for naturally curly hair that gets frizzy quickly. If you live in a humid climate, like me, you know frizziness is a big issue, no matter your hair type. Hair absorbs excess moisture, becomes thicker, and looks matte and lifeless.

Many semi-permanent treatments can make your hair look smoother, healthier, and straighter. Most of them are heat-activated, and they last for a few weeks to months, but some make your hair fall flat.

Keep reading to understand the differences between different types of treatments and how to choose the right one for you with your hairstylist.

Keratin treatment consists of a chemical solution containing either formaldehyde or a milder alternative. Depending on the intensity of the treatment and the substance used, your hair can become straighter or with a more relaxed curl pattern that doesn’t get frizzy.

The keratin fills the weakened bonds of the hair strands, while the formaldehyde or alternative substance, like glyoxylic acid, smooths the hair. The results last around three to a maximum of six months.

A hair relaxer is a much harsher treatment that permanently changes the structure of your hair but can also damage it in the process. Relaxers will break the hair bonds and create a new straight one. Your hair will be permanently straight, and you will see a dramatic difference between the roots where your natural textured hair is growing.

Hair relaxers use two active ingredients that are very effective, especially on very curly or coarse hair. But these are harsh chemicals that can be quite damaging, as opposed to a milder keratin treatment.

Before & After Results After My Keratin Treatment

My before and after picture is dramatic, and it speaks for itself.

keratin hair treatmen before and after

My natural hair is very curly and porous, and it sometimes gets drier from color processing, especially with blonde hair. In the humid climate of Houston, Texas, things get even more complicated in the summer months.

My hair becomes very frizzy and almost impossible to manage when there is a lot of humidity in the air. And this means spending a lot of time trying to tame it with hot tools and lots of smoothing products, but even these are limited in what they can do.

Getting a professional keratin treatment at the salon has changed the game for my hair. The texture is more manageable, the frizziness is gone, and the hair feels like silk.

The Benefits of Keratin Hair Treatments

Here is a list of the top benefits you will get from having a keratin hair treatment:

Glossy and Smooth Hair

The hair has an outer layer called hair cuticles that protects the interior from getting damaged. These hair cuticles are like tiny scales that overlap much like the scales on a fish. They are supposed to stay closed to properly protect the hair and isolate the interior from outside factors, creating a glossy effect.

But when hair cuticles stay open, this leaves a clear path for moisture to enter and makes the hair look puffy, frizzy, and dull. This type of hair absorbs hydrating products, but it can’t retain them because of that open cuticle, so they slip, leaving the hair even drier.

Keratin treatment is the perfect solution for this issue because it seals the hair cuticle. This allows the hair to keep its moisture, absorb products better, and look shiny and healthy. The hair will also feel much softer at the touch, just like silk.

Less Hair Breakage

Keratin is a protein naturally found in the hair that supports its structure. Fragile hair usually has weakened keratin bonds, and this makes it more prone to breakage or split ends. A keratin treatment can be just the right touch, as the keratin goes in those places and fills them, reforming the weakened hair bonds.

This treatment will make the hair stronger, and it won’t break as easily when combing or styling it. Using keratin treatment has another surprising effect – it actually makes your hair look like it’s growing faster. But this is due to the fact that the ends don’t break off as easily, so the hair looks longer overall.

Reduces Hair Drying Time

After getting a keratin treatment, you will notice your hair dries faster. This is probably due to the fact that keratin seals your hair cuticle, making the strands less porous, so it absorbs less water during the washing process.

Your hair will be easier to dry and style, and this will contribute further to healthier hair in time. Less time spent heat styling means less damage inflicted to your hair.

Hair Is Easier to Style

A smooth and shiny hair will always be more manageable than a porous one. Frizzy hair is also more dehydrated, making it very hard to give it a certain style and shine.

After getting a keratin treatment, you will notice a softer and glossier hair. An already shiny and smooth hair will be easy to deal with; sometimes, you can even get away with just blow-drying or even air drying it. Or you can use a round hairbrush and medium heat to give it some volume. You will notice this will take much less time than before to smooth and style.

Salon VS At-Home Keratin Treatments

A professional keratin hair treatment can only be done at the salon, where a qualified hair stylist will apply the product according to specific instructions. This will ensure the best results possible and that you get to enjoy them for a long time (about 6-8 weeks or longer, depending on the solution used).

But can you also do a keratin treatment in the comfort of your own home for less money? The short answer is yes, but there’s a twist. These types of at-home treatments don’t penetrate the hair shaft, as professional ones do, but rather coat the outer layer of the hair strands. But still, the hair will feel softer and have a more glossy surface than before.

The salon keratin treatment will give you more dramatic results in shine and smoothing, and they are longer lasting. While a professional treatment will last for about eight weeks or longer, the at-home treatments will wash off after 1-2 weeks.


A keratin treatment cost depends on the specific solution your hairstylist is using and on your hair length. Longer hair will take more time and more product to get done, so the final cost will be higher. The price point for a professional keratin treatment goes around $500, but it can range between $300-800.

While at-home treatments are much more affordable, please keep in mind they are also not as powerful as professional ones, and they will only last for 1-2 weeks.

My Experience: What to Expect When Getting a Salon Treatment

I chose this keratin treatment for my hair because I have very curly hair that looks coarse in the humid climate of Austin, Texas. This messy look is not for me, so I went for a visit to the salon of my favorite stylist, Gonzalo Ceron. He highly recommends a formaldehyde-free keratin treatment, and I will walk you through the whole process.

Ceron started by washing the hair because you need to have very clean hair without the sebum or hairstyling products built up. This will make the hair more prone to accept the solutions that are about to be applied.

The following part is different depending on the specific solution and how your stylist likes to apply the keratin treatment. The solution can be put directly on wet hair, or the stylist can blow dry it and then apply the treatment. Regardless of this part, keep in mind that the treatment needs to be heat-activated in order to penetrate the cuticle and do its job.

Ceron chose to apply the keratin treatment directly on wet hair, and he did this by painting the solution on each small section of hair. This way, he is making sure it gets on every hair strand, so you get the maximum result. The solution is usually placed mostly in the root area, then dragged across your length using a wide-tooth comb.

Then, my stylist blow-dries my hair using a round brush to give the hair some body and set some volume into it. If you go directly with a flat iron and pull the hair down, you will get flat-looking hair that seems lifeless.

It’s a much better idea to start with a voluminous blowout and even some velcro rollers in the crown area for an extra lift. To better seal the keratin into the hair, Ceron then uses a flat iron. But he doesn’t pull the hair down but rather creates some soft bends to induce a softer curl pattern into my hair.

The keratin treatment substances are heat-activated, so they need some hot tools applied in order to work. For some, this can mean applying a higher-heat flat iron, and for others, just a blow dryer. The difference is mainly in the condition of your hair.

Surprisingly, color-treated hair is a better candidate for this sort of treatment because the hair cuticle is already opened from taking the hair color. Virgin hair (that isn’t colored processed at all) has a harder time accepting treatments; this means that your stylist will apply a higher temperature flat iron on the whole length for the keratin treatment to penetrate the cuticle better.

Having a keratin treatment at the salon doesn’t take a lot of time – for a medium hair length, it takes 45 minutes to an hour. If your hair is very long, the treatment can go on for several hours until all of your hair is well covered and the keratin is sealed into the cuticle.

The Best At Home Keratin Hair Treatments

Although not as potent as the professional procedures, at-home keratin treatments still offer shine and a more well-behaved hair. But some products work better than others, so I’ve got a list of the best at-home keratin treatments.

CHI Keratin Silk Infusion

CHI is an expert brand in hair care, and it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to keratin treatments either. Keratin Silk Infusion is a leave-in bonding treatment that includes keratin and silk proteins that repair the damaged hair strands. The result is healthier-looking hair that feels soft as silk.

The ingredients in CHI Keratin Silk Infusion seal the hair cuticle and promote hydration, shine, and smoother hair. The product is paraben-free, gluten-free, and doesn’t fade your hair color.

Keratin Research 90 MINUTES Keratin Treatment

The 90 Minutes Keratin Treatment from Keratin Research is a heat-activated system, making it similar to the salon procedure. It contains hydrolyzed keratin, keratin proteins, amino acids, and plant oils for a luxurious feel.

This product is similar to the professional treatment you get at the salon. You have to apply it on your entire hair length, from roots to ends, then blow-dry your hair completely before using a flat iron to activate the keratin.

Please remember never to use a flat iron on wet or damp hair because the high heat makes the water particles” explode” inside the hair cuticles and bust them open. Your hair will become very porous and unable to hold onto hydration.

This product is free of parabens and formaldehyde, but the manufacturer specifies that it may not be suitable for bleached or color-processed hair (there is another special product for blondes).

It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin

Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin is a nourishing treatment from the brand It’s A 10. It contains keratin and silk amino acid, plus hydrolyzed keratin. These ingredients promote healthier hair and have protective and frizziness-free properties.

The leave-in treatment helps prolong salon keratin treatment effect or is a deep conditioning treatment in itself. It gives you shinier hair, and in time, it helps protect the hair against damage and strengthens it. 

Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother

Olaplex is a very popular brand for damaged or color-processed hair that is prone to breakage. The products are sometimes used in salons to protect the hair during the bleaching process or to restore some of the hair’s structure.

This treatment ensures silky-smooth hair that has no more frizziness for up to 72 hours. You will also notice your hair dries faster, and it’s much easier to style. All the products from Olaplex are free of formaldehyde, parabens, sulfates, nuts, and gluten.

Are Keratin Hair Treatments Safe?

The Keratin hair treatment is perfectly safe, as long as your stylist uses milder solutions, such as glyoxylic acid. This won’t have the same dramatic straightening result as a classic formaldehyde treatment, but it will still reduce frizz and give lots of shine to your hair.

However, the usual keratin treatments contain formaldehyde, or compounds that, combined with water, will release formaldehyde. The latter is a colorless gas that smells very strongly and has irritating properties.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), formaldehyde causes irritation of the eyes, respiratory system, and skin. Long-term exposure to this toxic substance can potentially lead to cancer, so it is considered dangerous.

Many hairstylists refuse to do keratin treatments because of this exposure to formaldehyde. Luckily, in the last few years, there have been plenty of alternatives to the classic formaldehyde keratin treatment, so ask the salon professional for a safer option.

How Long Does a Keratin Treatment Last?

The duration of a keratin hair treatment depends on the type of substances used and how you take care of your hair afterward. Formaldehyde treatments have more dramatic results that can last up to six months, while a milder solution will give you about three months’ worth of frizz-free hair.

My stylist Ceron recommends getting a keratin treatment every time you do your hair color at the salon, so at about 6-8 weeks. This way, you can make sure to maintain the result and keep your hair looking amazing all the time. But depending on your hair type and needs, this may be longer.

For longer-lasting results, you should follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Don’t wash your hair in the first few days after the treatment (more on this below);
  • Use shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate and sodium chloride-free, as these strip away the keratin from your hair and shorten the treatment’s life span;
  • Avoid swimming in the pool or ocean very often because the chlorine or salt in the water will strip the hair. Try to rinse your hair clean afterward whenever you do swim, instead of leaving your hair to dry in the sun with chlorine or salt on.

When Can You Wash Your Hair After a Keratin Treatment?

You should wait a few days before washing your hair after getting a keratin treatment. If you wash your hair too soon or get it wet (by swimming in a pool or even getting caught in the rain), the keratin applied to the hair strand might slide right off.

Depending on the particular substance used in your case, you might need to wait about two to four days before getting your hair wet. It’s best to ask your hairstylist because he can tell you what the specific instructions are for the keratin treatment he used.

How to Sleep After a Keratin Treatment

After getting a keratin treatment, it’s best to treat your hair as gently as you can. This also means being careful with it when you are sleeping. The hair needs to have time to process and absorb the keratin properly; otherwise, the treatment won’t last, and the hair will regain its natural texture.

In the first 72 hours after getting the treatment, do not put a hair tie on because this can create an unflattering bend. It’s also best to sleep on your back with the hair elevated over the pillow. Sleeping on the side with your hair rubbing against the pillow might create frizziness, and this is what you tried to counteract with the keratin treatment.

Shampoos and Conditioners to Use After a Keratin Treatment

After-care is very important when getting a salon keratin treatment. How you treat your hair will determine how long your results will last because there are a number of mistakes that can strip the keratin of your hair.

Washing your hair should be a very gentle process, with warm water rather than hot, and done only two or three times a week. The shampoo you use is also very important – only choose those that are sulfate-free (a stripping ingredient) and sodium chloride-free (it can dissolve keratin). A gentler shampoo will prolong the lifespan of a keratin treatment, and it is a healthier option for your hair in general.

Conditioners should be deeply nourishing and dense, and you should apply them every time you wash your hair. Look for words like hydrolyzed keratin, silk, and amino acids on the ingredient list, as these restorative agents can help seal your hair even better.

Oribe Gold Lust Repair and Restore Shampoo

Oribe is one of my favorite hair care brands and a top recommendation from my stylist Ceron. The Gold Lust line, in particular, brings amazing nourishing products like this hydrating shampoo.

The Repair and Restore Shampoo is a very gentle hair wash that doesn’t strip your hair of its natural oils and leaves it silky-smooth. It’s also sulfate-free, so completely safe to use after your keratin treatment.

The shampoo includes quality ingredients like watermelon extract (a powerful antioxidant), soothing panthenol, glycerin, aloe vera extract, and others. All of these combined create a beautifully rich and repairing formula, perfect for protecting your hair.

Oribe Gold Lust Repair and Restore Conditioner

Oribe brings us another stellar product from the Repair and Restore line – a deeply nourishing conditioner. This conditioner protects your hair from damage and restores its natural beauty with ingredients like Mediterranean cypress, argan oil, and proteins.

The ingredient list includes a special bio-restorative complex with niacinamide, biotin, collagen, and caffeine. All of these work together to repair and condition your hair, and this helps maintain your keratin treatment results for longer.

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

This highly nourishing shampoo is the perfect choice after a keratin treatment or if you have fragile and damaged hair. The Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Conditioner is free of sulfates (so non-stripping of keratin), parabens, phthalates, phosphates, vegan, and cruelty-free.

The shampoo is very gentle on fragile, damaged hair, and it protects the color. It helps eliminate frizziness and further damage, and it’s fragrance-free for those sensitive to powerful smells.

Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner

Another excellent product from Olaplex comes in the form of a deep conditioner. No 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner helps to keep the bonds within the hair intact, nourish the hair, and protect it from damage.

Your hair will feel incredibly soft, silk-like, and restored after using this conditioner. Like all the Olaplex products, this too is free of parabens, sulfates, phosphates, vegan, and cruelty-free.

L’oreal Ever Pure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo

When it comes to quality hair care products, L’oreal never disappoints, and their sulfate-free range is no exception. The L’oreal Ever Pure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo is a great find for those searching for an affordable and very gentle hair wash. The fact that it’s sulfate-free makes it a perfect choice for keratin-treated hair.

The soothing rosemary botanical extract gives an added quality, and the very mild formula leaves your hair supple and glossy. The shampoo protects your hair color, and it doesn’t strip the hair of natural oils or treatments.

L’oreal Ever Pure Sulfate-Free Moisture Conditioner

Choose a very affordable yet top-quality conditioner to complete your hair wash routine. The Ever Pure Sulfate-Free Moisture Conditioner comes in a deeply nourishing formula with rosemary extracts and glycerin (a potent humectant that increases hydration). The hair is replenished and feels soft as silk.

The formula is vegan, sulfate-free, and paraben-free, and it helps protect your hair color or the keratin-infused treatment you’ve had at the salon. It helps maintain that frizz-free and smooth look of your hair while at the same time protecting it from damage.

Is Getting This Hair Treatment Worth It?

A keratin hair treatment is amazing if you struggle with porous, curly, or dry hair that is impossible to style. This experience has been a game-changer for me and the way I style my hair, and it gave me so much shine without compromising on the volume.

I highly recommend trying keratin treatment if you have a hard time managing your hair. Talk to an experienced hairstylist about the kind of solution he uses and prices, and try this treatment for yourself.

The Perfect Treatment to Stop Frizziness

If you’ve always dreamt of frizz-free, luscious hair, then look no further than keratin hair treatment! This procedure does wonders for curly, dry, damaged hair, and the results last for months.

Far from the old days when formaldehyde-filled keratin treatments released toxic fumes, today’s available treatments are safe and give great value for money.

Please check out my experience with brazilian hair treatment here: