Are Keratin Treatments Safe?

Are Keratin Treatments Safe?

Many women love the way keratin treatments leave hair smooth, shiny and (seemingly) healthy for months. However, in their pursuit of straight and silky hair, many are not fully aware of the lasting damage keratin treatments can do to the hair and scalp.

My name is Almudena Rodriguez and I have been a pharmacist for 24 years. I decided to start writing this blog after reviewing a lot of other hair blogs, mainly because I feel that there needs to be more conversation and awareness regarding the pros and cons of keratin treatments.

Perhaps you have been getting Brazilian Blowouts and/or keratin treatments for a while and your hair looks spectacular, and so far you don’t seem to have encountered any of the negative effects. Yet just because you don’t currently see or feel them, it doesn’t mean that these treatments are leaving your hair undamaged. Allow me to explain why.

Natural Keratin vs. Commercial Keratin

Natural keratin is a protein produced in our bodies that provides new skin, nails and hair with consistency and strength. The ‘commercial’ or ‘salon’ keratin used in keratin treatments to produce that smoothing effect is a lab-produced artificial protein.

Keratin and our hair

Specifically there are two main components of keratin treatments that can do extensive damage to hair and ultimately lead to severe hair loss problems:

  • Formaldehyde and some of its derivatives like formalin. These are chemical preservatives that, along with keratin and the heat of the flat iron, transform and smooth the hair during the keratin treatment.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the commercial keratin used to achieve smooth, straight hair is an artificial protein created in a lab. While it may make hair follicles appear shinier and stronger, it actually prevents hair from truly being healthy.

And here’s where the process of getting silky, glamorous-looking hair becomes unquestionably un-glamorous: as soon as the stylist starts using the flat iron on the hair, all the protein in the artificial keratin literally dies.

In fact, here are just a few of the consequences that keratin suffers after it meets with a flat iron:

  • Beneficial amino acids are eradicated
  • It turns into a property-less gel-like substance
  • Proteins tend to denature when they meet temperatures between 50-60º Celsius or 120-140º Fahrenheit.

The risk of flat irons and extreme heat

Think about the temperatures at which the flat iron works to process all the keratin in our hair. Now think about all the steam that appears during the process. That steam is a combination of the moisture that was in your hair plus formaldehyde from the keratin treatment. Yes indeed, that’s a formaldehyde steam cloud emanating from your dehydrated hair and surrounding your eyes and nose. This combination of extreme heat and chemicals often results in hair that becomes thin and weak—ultimately leading to hair loss.

The toxic risk of formaldehyde and its derivatives

There are severe health problems and risks associated with formaldehyde in keratin hair treatments. During the treatment, the air you breathe is contaminated by the formaldehyde steam mentioned above, and it can affect your respiratory tract, eyes and skin. In higher doses it can even lead to hair loss and dermatitis.

The European Union has already warned about the use of keratin treatment.

Before you do the treatment, do your homework

  • Ask your stylist to see the label of the product, to make sure it does not carry formaldehyde or metanal/formalin. Formaldehyde-free alternatives like ammonium bisulfite are available.
  • If you have thin hair you are more likely to have problems after treatments like the Brazilian Blowout or Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy.
  • Limit the use and frequency of the flat iron to only a couple of times per week. Try to use low temperatures so you can still get the desired look without the negative effects.
  • Do not use a flat iron when your hair is wet! It will severely dehydrate your hair.
  • If you feel like your hair is not growing properly or that it breaks very easily, ask your dermatologist before booking an appointment for a Brazilian Blowout or Keratin treatment.

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