The outer layer of your hair consists of keratin, a durable protein. A keratin smoothing treatment, then, applies a liquid version of this naturally occurring protein onto your strands, which can create a sleeker and smoother look. By cutting hair drying time by roughly half and improving the overall appearance of hair, keratin treatments are appealing for women tired of fighting the frizz and flyaways of unruly hair.

Understanding more about the keratain hair treatment allows you to determine if it's right for your tresses.

Whether you visit your favorite salon for sleeker locks or attempt this treatment at home, you have several options when choosing a keratin hair treatment.

  • Brazilian keratin treatment: This salon treatment bonds liquid keratin to your tresses, resulting in up to 80 percent curl reduction and 100 percent frizz elimination. 
  • Multi-product home treatments: Home treatments combine shampoos, conditioners and sprays, along with the liquid keratin treatment itself, to create similar results at home. 

Keratin hair treatments have come under fire in recent years following reports by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, highlighting their use of formaldehyde. This colorless, strong-smelling gas is a well-documented carcinogen that is linked to nasal cancer and leukemia.

During application of a formaldehyde-based keratin treatment, you risk breathing in this chemical or letting it run from your hair onto your skin, which can result in short-term skin reactions and breathing difficulty, as well as the potential long-term risks of exposure to a toxic carcinogen.

Formaldehyde-free treatments do exist, but you have to select your treatment carefully. Some manufacturers tout their products as formaldehyde free but are merely masking the chemical by using another name, such as methylene glycol, formalin or paraform. Avoiding keratin hair treatments with these formaldehyde derivatives is essential.


To be safe, avoid any hair treatments that include ingredients ending in "-hyde."

Both professional and DIY keratin hair treatments are possible without worrisome formaldehyde exposure. Some salon treatments rely on essential oils and cocoa butter to smooth your hair's cuticle. Home treatments blend liquid keratin with such ingredients as glycolic acid and silicone polymers to create impressive results without the health risk.