How Do Keratin Treatments Work: A Review Of Safe Salon Hair Straightening Options And Formaldehyde-Free At-Home Alternatives
Wishing you could tame those curls and get rid of that frizz? Well, keratin treatments have been all the rage over the past several years, and, more importantly, in recent news. Back in February, BeautyStat reported about the California law that went into effect, demanding warning labels to be put on all of the Brazilian Blowout hair products containing formaldehyde. We also covered the Brazilian Blowout controversy back in 2010, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found out that Brazilian Blowout products consisted of 8-10% formaldehyde.
Although we have covered some keratin alternatives, sometimes it’s hard to avoid going to the salon and getting a professional treatment. That is why we’ve broken down exactly what a keratin treatment does to your hair; found formaldehyde-free at home alternatives and composed a list of questions to ask your stylists when wanting to avoid treatments containing formaldehyde — having all of the bases covered and leaving no room for you to worry!
Hair Science of The Brazilian Blowout: What exactly does it do to our hair?
In most keratin hair treatments and products, formaldehyde is an active ingredient when used to straighten hair. The news has focused mostly around GIB’s brand, Brazilian Blowout, but many brands contain high levels of formaldehyde and formaldehyde- donor ingredients that emit toxic levels of the carcinogen gas, when exposed to heat, into the air.
Formaldehyde changes the chemistry of hair, allowing the hair that has been flat ironed to stay straight for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is also incredibly toxic; chemical hair straighteners rely on a combination of formaldehyde and keratin. The stylist coats hair with a keratin/formaldehyde solution. Formaldehyde molecules diffuse into the hair joining the hair proteins together. By blow drying and flat ironing, the stylist accelerates the reaction, transforming curly hair to flat. This causes the formaldehyde in the product to release into the air in a gaseous form. Also, hair continuously releases formaldehyde as it slowly reverts back to its natural, curly state.
Effects of Coming Into Contact With Formaldehyde
Long-term exposure to formaldehyde in the workplace has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Salon workers have reported difficulty breathing, nose bleeds and stinging of the eyes.
Formaldehyde must be listed if it is in the product at 0.1% or more (as a gas or in solution) or if the product releases formaldehyde above 0.1ppm in air.
Keratin hair treatments without formaldehyde is possible. While these products take more time and are more expensive, the risk factor versus the effort might be beneficial to you.
Safe, At-Home Alternatives
The Kerapure System is a unique 4-in-1 formula that combines gold peptides, safe keratin proteins, cross-linked amino acids and exotic oils. It penetrates through the hair cuticle to restructure and rebuild individual strands, leaving your hair manageable, flexible, glossy and smooth.
The Zerran RealLisse Natural Hair Smoothing System is 100% vegan, semi-permanent hair smoothing system. It employs a revolutionary catalyst that introduces vegan proteins from wheat, corn and oats to the hair shaft. The heat-activated formula eliminates frizz and reduces unwanted curl and unruly volume. Hair may be washed 24 hours following the treatment. Hair will have natural body, movement and be responsive to thermal curling. Treatment effects will last from 2 – 4 months, depending upon client variables. It costs about $350 per treatment.
Bumble and Bumble Concen-Straight Smoothing Treatment uses a technology that consists of a gemstone blend designed to vibrate and loosen the hair’s inner S-bonds, which give it a natural curve. It promises to last up to 30 treatments and can be customized to match clients’ preferred level of straightness. Bumble and Bumble Concen-Straight is an at-home treatment which includes a shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in styler.
CHI Enviro American Smoothing Treatment uses low-pH silk fibers to rearrange the amino acids in the hair and smooth curls.
Salon Favorite Do-It-Yourself Keratin Treatment is another home-use product which is formaldehyde-free.
Brazilian Blowout has announced a new hair straightening product, Brazilian Blowout Zero, that is formulated without methylene glycol.
What To Ask For When Straightening Hair At A Salon
Smoothing hair with a flat iron is a little more work and won’t last as long, but it can give you the same straightening results without the risk of dangerous chemical exposure. These are just some things you can ask your stylist when heading out for a treatment:
• The first step is to find a reputable salon with licensed and trained technicians.
• Look for a salon that carries a keratin product that has very little formaldehyde or is formaldehyde-free.
• Ask the stylist for a complimentary consultation prior to the service to ask them pointed questions such as the number of treatments they’ve performed, about the brand of keratin they use, and about the results they’ve seen. If the stylist seems to be unable to answer these questions, or is unsure, find another salon.
• Salon owners and stylists should look closely at the hair smoothing products they are using to see if they contain methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, timonacic acid or CAS Number 50-00-0.
I know it’s a long list, but these are names that are treated as formaldehyde under OSHA’s Formaldehyde Standards.
Ladies, we hope we cleared up any confusions — especially which products you should use, and what to ask your salon stylist. What hair straightening systems have you been using lately?
- Upasana Sahu, cosmetic chemist
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