Sunday, September 9, 2012

Brazilian keratin treatment didn't work for me (first pix of other people, then my own)

Note: I start this post with a funny story and then include my own before & after pictures when I finally decided to get a professional Brazilian keratin treatment. But I first started with the drugstore kit (which did not work!).
Normally, I’m terribly skeptical about hair products but one day I was googling how to tame frizz and came across a bunch of magical before & after photos for something called the “Brazilian Keratin” hair treatment. It supposedly transforms curly hair into sleek, straight locks. I was hooked. For example, behold:

Before and After Photos of Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Steps for being me:
This is the stuff I used.

If it can do THAT, I thought, maybe it’ll work for me? Usually nothing does, but it only feels like I’ve tried everything. I hadn’t yet tried this.
I looked up more info. It appeared that the process involved binding keratin onto the hair using formaldehyde so it must be applied under high heat. The whole routine takes hours and can only be done under the careful precision of a skilled salon artist and costs hundreds of dollars. 
I usually try to avoid activities which involve immersing flammable body parts like hair in baths of toxic carcinogens, especially when large amounts of money are required but I was intrigued. I couldn’t give the idea up just yet. Maybe I wasn’t ready for a salon visit but I had to learn more. Time for a visit to the store.
Halfway through hair aisle, I realized with horror that I only paid for 6 minutes at the parking meter. This would not be enough time to sniff, read, and analyze every hair product in stock.
I returned to the car like a good citizen, determined to fix the error, and promptly paid for the spot next me by mistake.
I considered just driving away but a small burst of rage made me boldly defiant. I returned to the store in disgust and rebellion, taunting parking ticket fate. It was easier to just abhor the entire city than fix things at this point.
But success! I found a box treatment that sounded natural and immediately congratulated myself on my superior hair-product-shopping skills.
When I got home, I read directions 3 times. Wait. Why do you need gloves to apply avocado oil? 
"DO NOT GET ON SKIN" said the warning. "USE IN WELL-VENTILATED AREA." I hiked open the window and continued reading. "Apply product to dry hair. DO NOT OVERSATURATE."
I oversaturated. 
Now I had a half hour to kill before the next step: using a flat iron to “seal” the cuticle. 
I decided to use this time wisely and plan my packing strategy for moving in a few days. 
I laid on the bed with my head in a towel and considered buying heavy-duty trash bags to transport clothes instead of thin kitchen bags. 
That was easy! Moving preparations were now done for the day.
After the treatment soaked in, it was time to blow dry. 
No one was home so I thought it was safe to make this part more fun and blasted the radio, sing-screaming Bad Romance. I made SURE my roommate wasn’t home like last time. Right at the second refrain, I saw my neighbor staring in horror at the open bathroom window. 
I made the evening’s To Do list:
  • Learn to sing.
  • Google "lack of impulse control."
Then I started ironing my strands, alarmed at smoky steam of residue burning off. Is that what "sealing" keratin looks like? If not, that Halloween wig might actually get more use than expected.

Somehow I neglected to realize that the process involved saturating my hair with the product, blow drying it, then flat-ironing it, but not washing it out. It was supposed to stay on my head for TWO DAYS. I cancelled all plans except for moving — movers don't care if their customers look like greased alpacas. WHYYY did I give away my only hat?

Fast forward 2 days, after moving day when I could finally wash it out & see the results.
As you can see from this actual “after” photo, it didn’t work, and the product isn’t even sold anymore. The End! Thank you for coming to my beauty blog. 
[For more funny stories, you can subscribe to my newsletter, which I never sell anything nor spam, it's just my comedy outlet.]
But the rest of the story is below, since it doesn't really end here... I decided to try a professional salon treatment after all. 
TL;DR it looked awful on me because my hair is too thin & fine with baby hairs popping up on the top of my head, but go ahead and judge from the pix below. It also didn't last but at this point I'm already convinced: not for me!



I finally decided to get an actual Brazilian keratin treatment, like, from a salon.

A friend said "if you're thinking about getting that Brazilian keratin treatment but not sure, well, just flat-iron your hair. If you like the way it looks straightened, then you will like the way it looks with that treatment."

I wasn't sure, because my hair is both fine AND thin, and I just didn't know how the treatment would come out. I was worried for a reason -- I was right. I think it is too thin (and now flat) and doesn't look that great.

I'm posting pictures of my hair before the Brazilian treatment and after so if you have similar hair, you can see how it will affect you. I think if my hair was THICK, then hale yes, I woulda rocked it. But now it just looks flat and lifeless framing my face (although granted, before it was so frizzy and dry that it wasn't necessarily great either). The side and back look great though. (Can't have it all I guess!)

Before Brazilian keratin treatment:

I took this in the salon just before the brazilian keratin treatment.
(Sorry about all the smiley faces! Given the private nature of most of the rest of this blog, I don't want my face on it.
But this is why I can totes be honest about embarrassing stuff.)
See how my hair is wavy, but not curly?
That makes the hair follicle nice & thirsty.
Up close it looks frizzy.

Side view - you can really see here how it is both fine
(meaning very thin strands) and thin (meaning not that much of it)*
I'm not trying to be derogatory, just honestly portray what my hair is like.

*Because my hair is thinning with age, my dermatologist encouraged me to use Rogaine -- men's 5%, not the women's 2.5% -- to prevent further loss. I buy the generic, minoxodil, because it's SOOO much cheaper. I am pleased to say that it seems to be helping although new hair took like 4 months before I noticed it and is even thinner and finer than my normally thin fine hair. And if I stop using it even for a few days, it falls out so you have to be consistent and apply it morning and night. If your hair is thinning and you're considering options, ask your dr - I'm not a doc and I don't want to give medical advice on this blog.
After Brazilian keratin treatment:
It's really flat, you guys. Which looks awesome in the side view,
as I'll demonstrate below, but not so great for the front view.
Also note, this photo is not a close-up so you can't see the flaws as easily.

So, this is the most important one I wanted you to see.
See how my hair is sticking straight up?
That's because my hair was all different lengths (broken, etc.)
It's really accentuated now.
This is the main reason I'm unhappy with it.
Also, if you can look in the above photo of my part line and compare it to below, notice how the color is lighter there? I had JUST colored it the day before and it was very dark. Everyone said it is ideal to color first but the keratin treatment lifted some of the color out. I liked the effect everywhere but the part line though. It's subtle, however. I might notice it more than everyone else.

(I'm not selling this treatment well, am I? haha. Most of my friends love it, but then again they do not have shitty hair like me.)

Actually I'm glad I got it done even if it doesn't look as awesome as I hoped; I'd been wavering about it for like, a YEAR, unsure if my hair was too thin to make this a good decision for me. Well, now I know.

Here's the composite before & after view I shared with my family and friends:

Before & *right* after keratin treatment:
The side and back view looks better, and from a distance you can't see all the
hairs popping up on the top of my head. And compared to the texture of my hair before,
it *is* an improvement, It's just not hair nirvana FRONT view,
where it matters around my face so I'm not sure it's worth being a regular expense.
I took this right after leaving the salon.

After washing it JUST like they said:

I let this wait longer the time period recommended for Chi Enviro (24 hours is the recommended, I waited an extra 16 hours beyond that), I washed it with special sulfate free shampoo that I bought at the salon and then styled it with special heat-protectants that I also bought at the salon, and look:

Yuck! It seems 3% better than it was before but still messy-looking. UGH. Never again.
At least not for me, although most of my friends have had a great experience with this.
I think if your hair is very badly damaged from coloring, and is fine & thin, you might have similar results.
If not, I bet it will turn out better for you than me.
I like that it has some body now, but it definitely isn't sleek and smooth and healthy-looking.

Left: right after the treatment. Right: the day I was allowed to wash it. It didn't take!
What I learned about the keratin treatment:

Okay, so I got the Chi Enviro treatment - my stylist recommended it because my hair was very damaged and colored and this is a gentler form. No formaldehyde. My eyes didn't sting or burn as she was blow-drying it and flat-ironing it to seal it in. Steam came off but it didn't smell unpleasant (although I still didn't want to breathe it in).

Another lady in the salon was having a regular keratin treatment and her stylist was wearing a face mask but neither my stylist nor I needed to. (I have healthy lungs but I am very sensitive to scents and chemicals so I am pleased it didn't bother me.) I have no idea about the health effects but I would guess they're more substantial for the stylist who is exposed much more often.

Two other hair stylists that I know personally recommended the "Coppola" keratin treatment but that's not what I got because it's harsher on hair and mine is too damaged. Both stylists emphasized that the results depend on the quality of the keratin treatment used and so brand really does matter. Chi Enviro and Coppola are supposed to both be very good brands.

How does keratin improve hair? Because it is the same protein hair is made of and when you coat hair with it, it "fills in" the rough spots (like potholes) and smooths the cuticle. The chemical they use is necessary to bind the keratin protein to the hair shaft -- the formaldehyde (or other aldehyde or whatever's in the "gentler" ones) plus heat do the binding.

Hair cuticle:

Strand of hair up close - microscopic view.
When those layers of the cuticle lie flat, the hair is shiny and flexible.
When the cuticle is rough, the edges stick up like this.
Keratin smooths it down and "fills in the potholes" in effect.
Kindof a terrifying photo of split ends.
I was told not to wash for 24 hours (with Coppola you have to wait 3 days) and cannot use a shampoo with sulfates. She said it should last about 3 months (possibly longer if I don't wash my hair every day).

It cost me $250 and then I left a 20% tip because I know the stylist for quite a long time, but also I used to work for tips in college and tend towards the generous side. (Standard fare is like a restaurant, 10-20% depending on your satisfaction.) Either way, this isn't cheap, you guys. I'm glad I don't really like it! (Although I might like it better once I can wash it and style it - just got it done yesterday and so there is this tacky film in my hair and it feels awful. Don't make ANY plans where your looks matter until after you can wash it!)

I have heard of people finding hair stylists on Craigslist or through referrals that will do it for as low as $170 so ask around.

If you get a Groupon or coupon, look at the Yelp reviews for that salon -- I did a fair amount of research first since I *did* see coupons for hair keratin treatments and a lot of people reported that they experienced heavy upselling; the hair stylists ended up charging more for "better quality" keratin and pressured customers to buy special shampoos, conditioners and other treatments just so they could recoup the costs lost in the discount.

Maybe it's still worth it -- just do your research.

After you sleep on your hair before you're allowed to wash and style it, it will look messy when you wake up. No worries, just flat-iron it smooth again. Score: now you're sealing the keratin into your hair again. Be careful not to tuck it behind your ears or pin it up or throw it in a ponytail in that time before you can wash it out; anything you do will fix that shape into it.

Next time I may try a "glaze" -- a friend told me her stylist will not do the Brazilian keratin treatment because she is convinced it's too harsh for hair, but will do a glaze after coloring and it makes her hair look great. It doesn't straighten it, but it does smooth the hair shaft and make it look shiny. Since keratin didn't work for me, I will see if that is any better. If so, I will post photos here so you can compare the results.

Thank you for stopping by. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below -- my blog notifies me and I will pop back over and answer them as soon as I can. Best of luck!


  1. What about the product called 'Wen'? Wife was given 1/2 a bottle by a friend so as to share the experience. Infomercials, seemed harmless enough I thought. 'Turns out, that it works pretty well. But being the frugal type, one can use MUCH less than they recommend and treat it like a bi-weekly shampoo (no lather though) I even tried the stuff and was pleasantly surprised. No heating elements involved... Oh, and way cheaper than that Brazilian thingie in a discount salon...
    I'll get You some if you like? Hmm?

  2. Oh this is interesting. I just looked it up on Amazon -- I think I'mma give it a try -- the reviews look really good. Thank you!

  3. You're hilarious! This sounds really familiar. I'm starting to suspect we're related somehow.

    I looked at that Brazilian thingy maybe a year ago when one of those frou-frou girls posted about it on FB. I did the same as you, researched the hell out of it looking for proof that it was horrible. It had to be horrible, right? I wanted to know or see the after AFTER pictures. What did it *really* do to your hair? I never found any and figured it was because people weren't bitching about it yet, weren't yet aware of how bad it would ruin your hair. Or that they didn't care because they felt temporary beauty was so worth frying and ruining your hair for. I never did it.

    Let us know the end result of your drug store alternative?

  4. Hello there, I am so excited I found your site, I really found you by error, while I was researching on google for Keratin Treatment Sydney, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a fantastic post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds.

  5. The epilogue to this story, which I should have posted earlier, is that the over-the-counter Brazilian Keratin treatment didn't really do much. Those photos are all from salons so maybe that's just what people have to do to get those results. The drugstore keratin stuff weighed down my hair and made it look a wee bit thicker and sleeker for a few days and that was about it. It wasn't very noticeable. You're better off just doing a deep conditioning treatment for your hair.

    However, I have been trying something new which has been making my hair look less frizzy -- I'm not washing it with soap. I'm washing it with (and I know this sounds weird) conditioner. I read it somewhere and decided to give it a try -- the rubbing motion of your fingertips on your head is what cleans off your scalp so I scrub heartily, rinse well and then -- I know, also weird -- condition. The natural oils from my scalp are now allowed to do their thing (coat the hair shaft) and end up making it look pretty good! I do wash it maybe once a week or so -- whenever it looks like it needs it -- with a gentle shampoo that contains no sulfates.

    My hair is fine, thin, wavy (frizzy) and very dry from processing. And this seems to be just what it needs.

    I have also found that if I twist it around my finger before fully dry and let it air-dry naturally, that curl looks much healthier than any I try to create with a hairdryer or curlers. I get a lot of compliments when I do it this way but I have to leave it curled up like that until it's dry. To minimize the amount of time, I blow dry it until it's just slightly damp and then apply my favorite hair stuff (which varies). I think it's less the product that's important and more the process so you might be able to use whatever you already really like.