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Is the Brazilian Keratin Treatment Safe?

Last we heard, most Brazilian Keratin treatments are made with carcinogenic formaldehyde.  Judge Joe Brown even did an episode about it. So we're puzzled when we still see salons offering the controversial treatment.


We recently received an email offer from a New York City beauty and spa deal site.  Here's how the site's snappy copy spins the straightening treatment:


"Brazilian Keratin Straightening is a revolutionary process that transforms curly, damaged, or frizzy hair into wash-and-go, silky-supermodel-locks. Unlike other processes, this treatment involves no harsh chemicals; only keratin, a plant-derived protein that actually protects your hair from further damage (while making it Selma-Hayek-perfect). Your friends will be jealous of your soft, shiny, glamorous hair for months and months."


Image credit: Essence.com
Sure, it will de-frizz your hair, but over time will the treatment damage your scalp and cause your hair to break off or fall out?


Yes indeed, according to Joanne Manaster, a laboratory teaching specialist at the University of Illinois-Urbana.


"Keratin in the hair is a protein. If you can add a fixative like formaldehyde, and before it sets, put the protein in the shape you desire through blowing or flat ironing, you can have your hair stay in the desired shape, which I assume is usually flat and smooth," says Manaster.

But Manaster warns: "Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and toxic, so new formulations have removed that. However, they still might add just as toxic glutaraldehyde or thioglycolate (you know these from perms). From many years of lab experience, fixed proteins definitely become more fragile with all the cross linking and they lose their flexibility and elasticity. Most assuredly, hair can easily break once fixed in this way."



Hair stylist Kevin Thurston agrees that "most Keratin treatments still contain formaldehyde or some form of it." So he offers one of the formaldehyde-free (but not chemical-free) options Manaster mentioned, which "no longer needs to be left in for 72 hours." 


"It can be washed after just an hour and is done in the salon," he says.  "It has shine and better damage repair for all sorts of hair [types]."


One formaldehyde-free Keratin treatment used in salons is the Global Keratin Hair Taming System with Juvexin.  It's being touted as "the next generation of traditional keratin treatments."  On Global Keratin's website, Juvexin is defined as "the only keratin compound scientifically proven to protect and restore hair back to its youthful state."  Global Keratin even has a line of at home after-care products (shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner and serum).  


Everything She Wants was sent the products to try out, which can be used with or without the Global Keratin Hair Taming salon treatment to boost hair strength and manageability.  Although the shampoo felt silky going on, our hairdresser  commented that our hair felt dehydrated not long after we'd used the moisturizing shampoo.


After speaking to the experts, we have a better understanding of the keratin treatment options available, but we're still skeptical about any hair straightening product that claims to be chemical free. 

What's your take on the Brazilian Keratin Treatment?  Would you still try it?

Comments

  1. This is SOOOO bad for your hair, but there are sooo many personal care products available that have a host of chemicals, toxins, mineral oil and animal by-products that are really bad. Check your labels.

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  2. I agree with Jennifer. I am very wary of using formaldehyde with heat to "fixate" the keratin into the hair shaft. So let's think this out- the keratin gets sealed into the hair shaft which means it as to disrupt the bonds of protein in your hair- further weakening them. Initially, the hair looks great because the keratin is incorporated into the hair molecules. But as you continue to wash, the keratin comes out and the previously bonded hair is now porous because those bonds were disrupted to accommodate the keratin. This renders the hair more porous and more susceptible to dryness and breakage because protein is naturally hydrophillic. Even if formaldehyde is substituted by another medium, you still need a chemical to incorporate the keratin into the hair shaft. And so we are back to square 1-damage and dehydration of the hair shaft. Now compound that with your usual heat styling and processing like hair coloring, and the result is inevitable damage to the hair.

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