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Keratin hair treatment, also called Brazilian Hair Treatment, Keratin Cure or Brazilian Blowout is a semi-permanent method of straightening hair and ruling out frizz, resulting in noticeably smooth, straighter hair. It is widely popular as the results can last for more than two months and it is suitable for all hair types - exception being severely damaged hair.

Keratin Hair Treatment
Keratin treatment usually consists of applying a keratin solution to freshly blow-dried, shampooed hair. The solution is allowed to soak in for around 20 minutes, after which a straightening iron heated to up to 4500 is used for the product to penetrate in the hair shaft. The chemicals in the solution work to alter the structure of the hair, giving it a smoother, straighter, frizz-free appearance; while the keratin strengthens and conditions the hair.

Side Effects
There are several drawbacks of this treatment, mostly stemming not from the keratin itself, but from the other ingredients and tools used. Let's take a look at them.

Risk of Cancer
Alternate names of Formaldehyde -
  • Formol (10% solution of formaldehyde in water)
  • Formalin
  • Methanal
  • Methyl aldehyde
  • Methylene glycol
The active ingredient in hair straighteners is usually formaldehyde, which is a known irritant and carcinogen, but is required to dissolve the chemical bonds in hair and restructure them. It also gives the straighteners a lasting effect. The low levels used in most cosmetics are not generally considered harmful. However, the high temperature of the hot-iron used in the treatment combined with the keratin solution can produce formaldehyde fumes, which are much more damaging and increase the risk of developing cancer. Other effects of these fumes include redness or burning sensation in the eyes, sneezing, dermatitis and allergic reactions.

Several government and non-government organizations like The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), FDA and New York State Department of Health have conducted studies - both on the smoothing products themselves and the fumes released during the treatments, and found the presence of formaldehyde far exceeding than the recommended amount, even with products claiming to be formaldehyde-free. This is also the reason why some keratin smoothing products have been banned in Canada. Unfortunately, the ban and consumer awareness has resulted in some manufacturers using alternate names and variants of formaldehyde (such as those enlisted on the right). Even products claiming to be formaldehyde-free might emit formaldehyde vapors.

Hair Fall
A significant increase in hair fall, right after the keratin treatment, is a common complaint with many people. In some cases, the hair is visibly thinner and the most extreme ones involve appearance of bald spots. The reasons behind excessive hair loss are not clearly understood; but the most likely cause is thought to be the high temperature of the hot iron or improper handling of the equipment, leading to damaged follicles. One thing to keep in mind is that straight hair appears thinner and less voluminous than curly or wavy hair so one might perceive treated hair as thinner.

Hair Damage
The keratin hair treatment gives a fabulous, gleaming texture to your hair, but unfortunately, the hair might look dry and damaged within a few washes. The treatment may lead to deterioration of hair texture. It all depends on the kind of solution used, the temperature of the iron and the natural texture of your hair. While some people have reported gorgeous, frizz-free hair even after 6-8 months, many feel the hair is worse and prone to breakage just after a month of treatment. The culprit here is likely to be the high temperature of the hot-iron, which is known to damage hair and cause breakage.

Allergic Reactions
This treatment, although claiming to be natural, contains strong chemicals such as formaldehyde and other aldehydes; and may cause allergy-like symptoms like dry, itchy skin; dermatitis or eczema. If you are prone to allergies or have sensitive skin, it is best to consult a dermatologist before undergoing this treatment.

Other Side Effects
Besides the aforementioned effects, many people have also reported the following symptoms -
Sneezing and runny nose
Headache
Irritation of skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract
Itchy, red or watery eyes
Coughing and sore throat
Burning sensation in the eyes
Dry itchy skin with rashes
Dermatitis
Nosebleeds

Another thing to keep in mind is that some treatments require that you do not disturb the hair in any way for about 2-3 days. This means no washing or even getting the hair wet, no ponytails, hair clips or any kind of hair accessory; not even tucking the hair behind your ears for three straight days while the solution works its miracle. After the period recommended by your hairdresser, you can wash the hair with the specified shampoo to see the results; but you do have to spend a few days with greasy, plain hair, lest you 'dent' them. But, if waiting is not possible for you, look for salons that offer 'no-wait' keratin treatments - they are equally effective.

Known for giving miraculously smooth, straight hair; this treatment is not without its side-effects. For the best results go to a professionally qualified hairdresser with many years of experience. Also make sure that the salon is well-ventilated, so as to ingest the minimum amount of fumes and stay safe. It is recommended that you avoid this treatment completely if you are pregnant or suffer from asthma or allergies.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.