Demystifying Keratin: What exactly Is this mystery hair smoother?
Keratin reigns supreme as the ultimate “smooth operator” but what exactly is this mystery hair fabulizer?
I never had a salon keratin treatment (or tried it at home) but I hear all my friends in the beauty-sphere rave about it. I am absolutely obsessed with a keratin-infused hair product—KeraBalm ($28, keratincomplex.com), which is a wonderful BB cream for your hair that really works wonders. I have long, color-treated hair and without a few pumps of KeraBalm before I blow-dry, my hair is frizzy fright-fest. So I got to wondering … what exactly is keratin and why does it make our hair so fabulous? Below, I tapped some top-notch experts for the answers.
What is keratin?
Keratin is a fibrous structural protein found in hair and nails (found in animals as well), explains cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, from BeautyStat.com. “It’s usually the key ingredient in salon and at-home hair straighteners and smoothers. On its own, it does not straighten hair, but together with other ingredients and heat from a flat iron, it can superficially bond with hair proteins to smooth the hair and reduce frizz.”
If our hair already contains it, why do we more?
The hair is comprised of up to 95 percent keratin, says Sonya Raubeson, director of education for Keratin Complex. “Keratin is the first thing depleted when hair is damaged physically, chemically, or from environmental factors.” The causes of damage can range from overuse of thermal styling tools—including flat irons and curling irons—to the body’s internal reaction to stress, explains Raubeso. “Keratin acts both as an external protective protein in the cuticle and as an internal structural protein in the cortex. Additional keratin, such as that achieved with Keratin Complex’s Smoothing Therapy treatments, gives the hair strength and elasticity and a more youthful, healthy look.”
How exactly does keratin treatments work?
According to Julia Tzu, MD, a Manhattan based dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at New York University, keratin treatment products are a combination of hydrolyzed keratins and any number of chemicals that break up the strong bonds between keratin molecules within the hair shaft. “Applying high heat to hair shafts which are coated with the keratin treatment essentially helps fuse the product’s hydrolyzed keratin with our natural hair keratin,” explains Tzu, who is Chief Medical Expert at EssentialDermCare.com . “This is the “sealing” process that happens when the hairdresser begins flat-ironing the hair.”
What hair types benefit the most from keratin product and treatments?
People with curly or frizzy hair don’t have as much keratin as those with straight hair—same goes for processed hair, says Carrie Chapman, Chief Educator at LASIO Professional Hair Care, a leader in keratin reparative hair products and treatments. “The more you open up the cuticle to break bonds with high heat and chemicals, the less keratin you have. The loss of keratin causes a dull, brittle and frizzy appearance,” she says. Replacing the lost keratin will restore the hair to give it a shinier, smoother, stronger appearance and bring back manageability that was once lost or nonexistent.”
How much do they cost and how long can they last? Is it all worth really it?
“Keratin rebuilds the hair, strand by strand. Our hair is porous and keratin fills in those pours, seals the cuticle of the hair and locks in shine, hydration and luster, says mater stylist and educator Andre Richard Baldini of the André Richard Salon in Philadelphia. “It makes your hair more manageable, easy to style and literally changes your hair.” This product revolutionized hair care says Baldini and it holds color longer, makes your hair easier to dry. Prices vary depending on the salon and type of treatment but for a ballpark number, Baldini offers a full keratin treatment for $300 to $350 which lasts for three to six months. He also offers an express treatment for $100 to $150 which lasts for one to two months. Duration depends on the condition of hair prior to treatment and how well it is maintained at home.
So what can you do at home to make it last?
“It’s important that you use not only sulfate-free shampoo, but also chloride-free shampoo to avoid washing out the keratin,” says Leah Rogers Hair colorist, Suede Salon Spa and Body in Marlton, NJ. “And remember—the less you wash your hair, the longer it will last.”