When a revolutionary chemical-free smoothing sheet that promises a shiny, frizz-free mane (ahem, Anti-Frizz Sheets) comes out, your tresses don’t think twice about taking it for a whirl. An in-salon smoothing treatment that costs a few coins and contains some chemicals—the wildly popular keratin treatment—on the other hand, you’re not so fast to test drive. To help you get your facts straight about the smoothing treatment that's supposed to produce frizz-less, glossy, lush locks, we went to the pro: Nicolas Flores, celebrity hairstylist and keratin specialist from Sally Hershberger Salon in LA, who tends to the tresses of Jenna Dewan Tatum, Melissa Alatorre, and Justine Marjan. Ahead, Nicolas answers all our questions about the semi-permanent frizzy hair fix, including what hair types are compatible, how long it lasts, and how damaging the process can be for hair.
What’s a keratin treatment and what does the process look like?
A keratin is a smoothing treatment that seals the hair cuticle with a coating of protein that eliminates frizz, and adds softness and shine. The process can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours depending on hair type, length, and fullness. Before the treatment, the hair must be thoroughly shampooed to strip any oils and product residue. Once the hair is shampooed, I break the hair up into four sections, and taking 1/2-inch to 1-inch subsections, apply the Keratin product from root to ends while combing through to ensure even distribution. Then I start to rough dry the hair to about 75% dry, and once again, section the hair and start to blow dry the hair smooth with a boar bristle round brush. Once the hair is completely dry, I create sectioning yet again and flat iron the remaining sections with 3-8 passes of the flat iron, depending on how smooth and straight the client wants the hair.
What does a keratin treatment do for the shine, health, and color of hair?
It makes the hair smooth and more manageable. It’s even great after a color service, as it will seal in your color and add incredible shine. For clients, both men and women, it can also help with unruly hair, helping cut styling time in half.
Who’s the ideal candidate?
I have tons of clients coming in and asking what exactly is a keratin and if they would be a good candidate for it. It's not for everyone though. If you have coarse and frizzy hair, I highly recommend a keratin, as it’ll eliminate frizz and soften hair for easier styling. If you’re someone who doesn't like their curl, or blows their hair out smooth on the daily, I would definitely recommend a keratin.
Who’s not a good candidate?
I would not recommend a keratin on someone with fine, thin texture, straight hair, or overly processed hair. For the angel fine-haired clients, again, I don't a keratin, as the high heat of the flat iron can cause damage and make the hair break. The same applies to overly processed hair, such as a bleach and tone or platinum blonde. If you’re a curly-haired client and really love your natural curl, I would also not recommend a keratin, as a keratin will soften your curl and can pull out your wave a bit.
How much damage does a keratin treatment cause hair? Is it similar to getting your hair colored?
Keratin treatments aren't necessarily damaging, they can be nourishing to the hair. Over time, we start to lose our own keratin protein in the hair and a treatment can put the keratin back into the hair. When it comes time to flat ironing during the process, that's where damage can come into play. Flat ironing the hair to seal the product in is a must for a treatment and depending on hair type and condition, will have to be highly evaluated by your stylist. On someone with a lot of highlights, you would use a lower heat setting and do less passes as opposed to a virgin-haired client whose hair won’t be as prone to damage with the iron set to a higher heat setting.
How long should you wait to shower or get hair wet after the treatment?
Typically, keratin product lines recommend a waiting period of two days or 48 hours post treatment before shampooing or getting hair wet. This allows for better lasting results.
What shampoo and conditioner do you recommend clients use post treatment?
You want to be sure any shampoo you are using is sulfate-free. Check out the OUAI shampoos which are all sulfate-free or the Shu Uemura Color Lustre line.
How long does a keratin treatment last?
A Keratin Treatment should last you anywhere from 3-6 months depending on how often you’re shampooing, and making sure you’re only using sulfate-free shampoos.
How many times a year can you get the treatment without damaging hair?
I usually recommend 2-3 times a year. These treatments aren't cheap and one treatment can last you up to at least six months.
What's the difference between a keratin treatment and Japanese straightening?
There's a huge difference! A Japanese straightener is comparable to a relaxer—it changes your texture for good up until the hair is fully grown out. A Keratin will eventually fade away and texture will still remain somewhat soft, but you will still have a lot of your natural texture.