Breaking down Keratin hair treatments: What it is, the risks, how long it lasts, and more

Breaking down Keratin hair treatments: What it is, the risks, how long it lasts, and more


Text: Cheryl Lai-Lim

Picture this: you step out of the shower, feeling immensely pleased with your clean, slicked-back wet locks, only to look in the mirror an hour later and be met with a headful of frizzy hair. Sounds like a familiar problem? Thanks to the muggy climate in Singapore, many of us here have the pleasure of experiencing first-hand how humidity can wreak havoc on our hair. To help tame your frizzy bird's nest and transform it into silky waterfall locks, you might have heard of the notorious Keratin hair smoothing treatment. It's been touted as the go-to treatment for sleek tresses akin to a well-groomed Afghan Hound, and yet, the vague name doesn't exactly disclose what the treatment entails. As always, we've got your back here at Buro. Singapore. Ahead, we break down the good, the bad, and the must-know when journeying down this magical path to smooth hair.

What are Keratin hair treatments?

Keratin is a fibrous protein found in our hair, nails and skin. During a Keratin hair treatment, artificial Keratin usually containing formaldehyde or a derivative is brushed and saturated through the hair. After letting it sit in your hair for a certain amount of time, your hair will typically then be blow-dried and flat-ironed to seal in the solution. This chemical process, combined with heat from the flat iron, will relax your hair and reseal them in a straighter position.

How long do the treatments last?

Alas, all good things have to come to an end. Keratin hair treatments aren't permanent procedures, and as such, they typically last for up to six months. Aftercare is essential for longer-lasting results. Avoid getting your hair wet or putting it up in a ponytail for three days, or you might risk bending it. Picking up a bottle of sulfate-free shampoo will be of advantage too, as it'll add some TLC to help draw out the treatment's life.

Are Keratin hair treatments safe?

Unfortunately, the quest for silky smooth hair doesn't come without its price. The issue surrounding most Keratin hair treatments is the ingredient formaldehyde. The National Center for Health Research defines formaldehyde as a 'colourless, strong-smelling gas that causes health problems when inhaled, sprayed the eyes, or absorbed through the skin". Typically, salons choose to use chemical ingredients that releases formaldehyde into the hair when exposed to heat. Though the gas compound is a known carcinogen, many salons still use formaldehyde in other to straighten your tresses effectively. That being said, the treatments typically contain a low dosage of formaldehyde which will only pose an issue for those who do the treatments incessantly.

If you're not willing to take the risk, some salons do offer completely formaldehyde-free treatments. These treatments are rapidly expanding due to the growing demand, so you shouldn't have much trouble finding a salon with one. Such treatments are typically not as effective or long-lasting, but they are less damaging and much safer.

Does it work on all hair types?

It's important to note that hair is just like skin  what works for one might not work for another. Whilst the treatment typically works on most hair types, the results might differ accordingly. Typically, most hair will become smoother and more manageable with a noticeable shine. For those with tight curls, the treatment should cause the curls to relax into waves. Those with frizzy, wavy hair should see sleek, pin-straight tresses after. Unlike other hair treatments, Keratin doesn't discriminate against coloured locks, which should grant you a shiny, colourful mane of hair after.