Brazilian Keratin Treatment Pros and Cons

Recently we posed the question, "Is the Brazilian Keratin treatment safe?" Well, the University of Illinois-Urbana laboratory teaching specialist I interviewed sure doesn't think so.  She asserts that by adding a fixative like formaldehyde to keratin protein, the hair can lose elasticity and flexibility and easily break.  

Dana'a Loft Hair owner Dana Gibbs.
New York hair stylist Dana Gibbs of Dana's Loft Hair, however, thinks the Brazilian Keratin treatment is an excellent option to "straighten" your hair.  Dana especially recommends the treatment for her African American clients with natural hair to give them less frizz and more manageability. We're still skeptical but asked the stylist to give Everything She Wants a more in depth look at the treatment process.

Do you still recommend the Brazilian Keratin treatment and use it on clients?  And if so, do you use a formaldehyde-free version? 

Dana Gibbs: Yes, I do recommend the Brazilian Keratin treatment and I have many clients that get this service.  The treatment that I use is not formaldehyde-free, but it has a very low amount (less than found in nail polish). 

What are the risks of getting the Brazilian Keratin treatment? With all the controversy, there must be some risk involved in using the treatment, just as there are risks associated with getting a relaxer/perm.

DG: The controversy is about the formaldehyde omitting harmful gas while being applied, which would harm me most of all and I wouldn't do this if I felt my health was at risk.  The level of formaldehyde has to be very high for this to happen. There is very little smoke [emitted] with the product I use, so I don't wear a mask.  But I do use a small fan to blow the smoke away from my face. 

The one product that created all this talk was the Brazilian Blow Out, which claimed it was formaldehyde-free. Most Brazilian Keratin treatments have very little formaldehyde.

As far as the effects on the hair, the treatment does not chemically alter the hair so it does not have the potential to damage the hair like a relaxer/perm. All it does is add a coating of keratin to the hair, which tames frizz.

Can you give me a step-by-step description of what happens when you get the treatment? 

DG: Keratin treatments are applied to the hair and then flat ironed in with 450 degrees of heat to seal the product into the hair.  In three days the product has bonded with the hair to seal and coat.  Because the hair is made up of keratin, this product fills in the areas that are lacking keratin due to chemicals and daily wear and tear, which reduces dryness and frizz.
  1. Don't wash hair for 3 days.  The reason you wait before shampooing is so the keratin has time to adhere to the hair.
  2. Don't exercise and perspire or get the hair wet during that 3-day period.
  3. Do wash and condition your hair once a week as usual, after the 3-day waiting period.
Dana’s tips for caring for your hair after the Brazilian Keratin Treatment:
  1. After washing your hair with a sodium lauryl sulfate free and deep conditioning shampoo, apply a leave in conditioner to maintain your frizz-free style.  She recommends one from Dana's Loft Hair "Me Collection."
  2. Once you have the treatment, you don't have to use as much heat to blow dry or flat iron your hair.
  3. Always have your hair trimmed at the time of your treatment.
  4. You should get the treatment touched up every 3-4 months.
Isn't using a flat iron or blow dryer alone to straighten your hair a better, completely chemical-free alternative to Brazilian keratin treatments? 

DG: Heat burns if used too much. This treatment allows the client to use less heat on their hair, which means they are not burning the hair. The formaldehyde in this product does not alter the hair, it is used as more as a preservative (like in toothpaste, lipstick and deodorant), so technically it is not chemically altering the hair. Straightening with heat gets hair straight without chemicals, but it can damage and dry out the hair over time, which leads to breakage.