When it comes to taking care of your looks, few things are more important than your hair. Store shelves are teeming with products that claim to leave your hair smoother and silkier than before, and some of them make the mark. However, a more important question to consider is why your hair needs all this TLC in the first place. How does your hair gradually lose its natural luster?
It’s simple: When you brush or style your hair, or even simply as you age, your hair starts shedding protein. Consequently, you get dull, thinning hair that’s prone to breakage. However, keratin treatments can help restore your hair to its natural sheen by fortifying it with keratin, a naturally-occurring protein in your hair that seals the hair cuticle to make it smooth and shiny.
Today we’re going to discuss all the whats and whys of keratin treatments, so that you can choose the one best suited to your needs.
- Factors to Consider for Keratin Hair Treatments
- Top 10 Best Keratin Treatments for Hair 2021
- 1. Best Overall Keratin Treatment L’ANZA Keratin Healing Hair Oil
- 2. Best Keratin-Infused Hair Mask Vitamins Keratin Deep Conditioner
- 3. Best Fast-Acting Keratin Treatment ApHogee Intensive 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor
- 4. Best Budget Keratin Treatment CHI Keratin Silk Infusion
- 5. Best Keratin-Infused Conditioner Nexxus Conditioner for Damaged Hair
- 6. Best Premium Treatment Moroccan Keratin Most Effective Brazilian Keratin Hair Treatment Set
- 7. Best Keratin Treatment for Thinning Hair Toppik Hair Building Fibers
- 8. Best Long-Lasting Keratin Treatment Lasio Keratin-Infused Treatment One Day Formula
- 9. Best Keratin Shampoo and Conditioner Set Puretanica Cool Bliss
- 10. Best Daily Keratin Treatment Keratin Express Daily Heat Protector
- Guide to Buying the Best Keratin Treatment for Your Hair
- What Ingredients Go Into Keratin Treatments?
- Are There Any Formaldehyde-Free Options?
- Are Keratin Treatments and Japanese Straightening Treatments the Same Thing?
- What are the Differences Between In-Salon and At-Home Treatments?
- What’s an In-Salon Keratin Treatment Like?
- Do At-Home Keratin Treatment Products Work?
- What Can I Do in Between Treatments to Maintain My Results?
- The Best Keratin Treatments Bring Your Hair to Life
Factors to Consider for Keratin Hair Treatments
Ease of Use
At-home keratin treatments vary widely in how time-consuming or tricky to apply they are to apply. Some require just a few moments of your time, while others may take hours out of your day. Make sure to pick one that fits with your lifestyle and schedule.
Your Hair Type
What head of hair will respond best to keratin treatments?
- Coarse, frizzy hair will receive them quite well, as the treatments will make the hair smoother, shinier, and much easier to manage.
- Fine, thin, straight, or overly-processed hair should steer clear of keratin treatments. The heat and chemicals used in the treatments may irreparably damage these already vulnerable tresses.
- Curly-haired people who love their natural curls are not advised to get keratin treatments, as they’ll soften the curls and make your hair a bit less wavy.
Keratin treatments can certainly damage your hair if you get them too often. However, the keratin itself isn’t what does the damage, but the heat that seals it into the hair. Unfortunately, almost all in-salon keratin treatments require flat-ironing your hair to get the best results. If you have any concerns about how your hair might react to the heat, consult your stylist to see which heat level would be the most appropriate for your mane.
Many keratin treatments release this carcinogenic gas during use. Interestingly, this is because formaldehyde has some excellent de-frizzing and straightening agents for your hair. However, it’s only a concern for people who regularly expose themselves to it, like salon workers.
FDA-approved keratin treatments all release safe levels of formaldehyde, but some salons tinker with their treatments’ chemicals to achieve better smoothing results. Consult with your stylist about the ingredients they use in their keratin treatments before you choose one; it never hurts to be vigilant.
You won’t maintain your silky smooth locks for long if you continue using that cheap dollar-store shampoo and conditioner. If you’re going to invest in a keratin treatment, you’re going to need to invest in shampoo and conditioner specifically designed to maintain keratin-treated hair. Just watch out for sulfates; these chemicals can frizz your hair like no other, so steer clear of any sprays, shampoos, or conditioners that have them.
Now that you know the main considerations, we can dive into the 10 best keratin treatments out today!
Top 10 Best Keratin Treatments for Hair 2021
1. Best Overall Keratin Treatment L’ANZA Keratin Healing Hair Oil
Review: Just as the name suggests, this keratin treatment is truly healing for your hair. Even long-haired folks will discover that the ends of their hair feel nourished and hydrated after just a single use. While it isn’t exactly cheap, the investment is most definitely worth it. Dry hair, especially, will easily absorb this oil, and therefore will look smoother, shinier, and healthier as a result.
Moreover, this fragrant oil treatment is pretty versatile. Whether you massage in a pea-sized drop or a quarter-sized dollop doesn’t matter; your hair will absorb it just as well, and all without leaving it looking stringy or greasy. Moreover, its Phyto IV Complex blend of natural botanical oils is good for all hair types with varying levels of damage. Acai fruit and coffee seed oil rejuvenate your strands with antioxidants, while babassu kernel oil softens and moisturizes your hair. You can also apply this treatment to wet, damp, or dry hair, and only need to wear it for around ten minutes or so before going about your day, making this treatment easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
While some find that this product produces less-than-desirable results for the price, most respond well to this keratin treatment, and it’s definitely worth a shot if you have the money to spare. Plus, it smells great, which is another major plus in its favor!
- Great scent
- Easy to apply
- Great for all types of hair
- Can apply on both dry and wet hair
- Lightweight formula
- A little pricey
2. Best Keratin-Infused Hair Mask Vitamins Keratin Deep Conditioner
Review: Few hair masks do more to restore your hair than this one. The keratin smoothes split ends and hair cuticles to control unwanted frizz and volume while the sunflower seed oil simultaneously adds shine and bounce. Hair will be soft to the touch after just a single use, and may even replenish it to the point where it feels thicker.
In addition to its all-natural ingredients, there are some other chemical compounds in this mask that have a surprisingly nourishing effect on your hair. Stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol, two compounds on the ingredient list that are a part of a larger subgroup known as long-chain fatty alcohols, are plant-based humectants, meaning they have a significant hydrating effect on hair.
This nourishing hair mask is a great maintenance product to use in tandem with intensive at-home keratin treatments like the Lasio One-Day Formula.
Thankfully, the long-chain fatty alcohols in this hair mask mean you’ll deeply hydrate your hair without weighing it down. Not only that, but you’ll also improve the texture of your hair and leave it feeling clean. However, the smell can be a bit harsh – though the fact that you only have to leave it in for ten minutes makes it easier to bear.
- Only need to wear it for ten minutes
- Long-chain fatty alcohols hydrate hair
- Works exceptionally well on dry, thin, or curly hair
- Advanced formula made from a blend of natural ingredients
- Paraben and sulfate-free
- Unpleasant smell
3. Best Fast-Acting Keratin Treatment ApHogee Intensive 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor
Review: Just as the name suggests, all you need is two minutes to get your hair looking healthier and fuller. While the ingredient list is fairly comparable to those in the Vitamins Keratin Hair Mask, this product also boasts green tea extract, which contains chemical compounds called polyphenols that are known to nourish the scalp and hair follicles, as well as slow hair loss. This protein-enriched deep conditioning treatment works wonders on curly, chemically-damaged hair, and you’ll be able to tell the difference almost right away.
Like other keratin treatments, applying heat to your head during the application process will maximize the benefits of this reconstructor. Furthermore, if you’ve ever damaged your curls to the point where they were no longer curls, this deep conditioning reconstructor will help them bounce back–literally.
Some people might be put off by the parabens in the formula, but this is justified by the superb blend of natural ingredients found in there, too. Coarse, frizzy, or chemically-damaged hair will respond best to this treatment. However, people with other hair types may find that this product does little to improve their tresses. Moreover, using this product too often will damage your hair, too.
- Revitalizes curls
- Repairs fragile, brittle, chemically-damaged hair
- Green tea extract nourishes scalp and roots
- Can damage your hair if used too often
- Contains parabens
4. Best Budget Keratin Treatment CHI Keratin Silk Infusion
Review: This restorative leave-in keratin treatment nourishes hair and brings it back to life, and achieves results similar to the Vitamins Keratin Hair Mask. Infused with jojoba and argan oils, you’ll see noticeable smoothing and defrizzing without weighing your hair down. However, using too might make your hair greasy – a little goes a long way. The general rule of thumb for this product is a quarter-sized dollop for longer hair.
You’re likely to see softer, smoother, and silkier hair even just after one use. This product will also restore your hair’s natural elasticity. The thermal protection provided by this product also means you can use your blow dryer or hair straightener without doing too much damage. In fact, the heat may even help your hair absorb the treatment better; flat ironing or blow drying your hair after application can help the keratin bond with your hair cuticles better.
Some find that the results are not worth the price. However, investing a little in a DIY keratin treatment can help you maintain salon treatment results in between the treatments themselves. People with ultra-frizzy hair will respond especially well to this product.
- Thermal protection
- Improves hair elasticity and prevents breakage
- Smoothes and defrizzes hair well
- Safe for color-treated hair
- More expensive at some retailers
- Too much makes hair greasy
5. Best Keratin-Infused Conditioner Nexxus Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Review: The secret ingredient in this conditioner is black rice. Rice water has been used to fortify hair for quite a long time, with accounts of its use for maintaining healthy hair stretching back for centuries in both Japan and China. Japanese researchers decided to test this theory out in the lab, and discovered that inositol, a chemical compound found in rice water, had a strengthening effect on hair during a visual simulation.
Still, not enough evidence exists yet to rule one way or the other. Even though the verdict is still out on the scientific findings of rice water’s effects on hair, a healthy tradition of anecdotal evidence suggests promising results.
This salon-grade conditioner’s gentle detangling effects will leave hair soft and easy to brush. You’ll also get smoother, shinier hair after just a wash or two, which might be enough to make you never want to go back to your old hair care regimen. Its effects are enhanced even more when used with its counterpart, Nexxus Shampoo for Damaged Hair.
However, this product makes normal hair a bit greasy, causing a filmy product buildup that is cumbersome to wash out. That being said, this conditioner works very well on dry, frizzy, or damaged hair. Those with normal hair should look for a conditioner with a more lightweight formula.
- Infused with black rice for stronger locks
- Smoothes, defrizzes, and adds shine to dry hair
- May notice results after one or two washes
- May make normal hair greasy
- Very little scientific evidence to support black rice’s benefits for hair
Review: The Moroccan 4-in-1 Keratin Treatment Set’s sophisticated four-step process produces stronger, shinier, and overall healthier hair. The clarifying shampoo strips it of any impurities before applying the treatment itself, which uses Moroccan oil, hydrolyzed keratin, and amino acids to tame and fortify the hair.
The sulfate-free, formaldehyde-free, and Argan oil-infused shampoo and conditioners will help maintain your new, healthy sheen anywhere from three to seven months. The conditioner, in particular, will help restore your hair’s flexibility and elasticity, thereby reducing the risk of damage and breakage.
For a 4-in-1 at-home keratin treatment, this product is both relatively inexpensive and easy to apply. If you don’t have the time or money for the Lasio One-Day Keratin Treatment, this 4-in-1 treatment is a great alternative.
Blow drying your hair after the treatment might release some strange fumes, so stick to flat-ironing if you want to boost the effectiveness of your keratin treatment sans the smell. Frizzy, virgin hair that has never been dyed or treated with chemicals will respond especially well to this treatment; it will only add to the already good health of the hair.
- Convenient 4-in-1 keratin treatment
- Includes sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
- Lasting results when applied and maintained properly
- Infused with sunflower seed oil for extra strengthening properties
- Not as effective as in-salon treatments
- Somewhat expensive
- May release strange-smell fumes
7. Best Keratin Treatment for Thinning Hair Toppik Hair Building Fibers
Review: This product is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it does a great job of covering up thinning patches of hair, but only if there’s hair there already. Nearly bald people won’t have much luck with these all-natural keratin fibers, as there won’t be much natural hair for them to hold onto. Fortunately, good candidates for Toppik’s hair-building keratin fibers can choose between a wide selection of natural hair colors, including brown, black, red, and blonde.
While it is sweat, rain, and wind resistant, be careful to not overdo it or rub your head on any light-colored surfaces; the Toppik fibers may smudge. Moreover, this product is more suited for occasional use, as frequent use tends to clog the pores on the scalp; make sure to keep some deep-cleansing shampoo on hand. It wouldn’t hurt to invest in some holding spray, either, just to make sure those fibers stay where they’re supposed to.
Also, those with sensitive skin may want to steer clear of this product altogether. Two of its ingredients, phenoxyethanol and chlorphenesin, are both linked to dermatitis and allergic reactions. Moreover, the former has also been linked to nervous system malfunction in infants. While you probably won’t lose a limb if you use this product a few times, beware of becoming too dependent on it.
Despite this product’s drawbacks, though, this product works wonders for smaller thinning hair patches that still have a good amount of hair for the keratin fibers to bond with.
- A quick coverup for thinning hair
- Precipitation and perspiration-proof
- All-natural formula
- Easily removed with shampoo
- Comes in different colors
- May stain scalp or rub off on other surfaces
- Not suitable for nearly-bald people
- Clogs pores
- Not good for those with sensitive skin
8. Best Long-Lasting Keratin Treatment Lasio Keratin-Infused Treatment One Day Formula
Review: You’ll wear this treatment in your hair for exactly 24 hours, an admittedly long process that yields pretty amazing results; you’ll be hard-pressed to find another at-home keratin treatment that matches a salon treatment’s results this closely. This treatment delivers smooth, manageable, frizz-free hair that has garnered an impressive number of faithful users over the years. Its amber extract acts as a gentle conditioner, so you actually hydrate your hair throughout the treatment.
However, this product does have a few significant drawbacks. For one, the price is pretty close to an in-salon treatment, so it’s not recommended for keratin treatment seekers who are on a budget. Furthermore, the tedious treatment process–from the cumbersome application to the rinsing after a long 24 hours–may deter those looking for a simple, quick fix.
Nevertheless, if you’re willing to invest both your time and money in this treatment, you’re guaranteed great results. Chemically-damaged and curly hair alike will respond well to this treatment, and it may even stimulate your hair follicles to grow more quickly.
Your hair will also benefit from its gentle formula, which includes amber extract and antioxidants, doing away with the harsh chemicals commonly found in most keratin treatments. However, it does contain formaldehyde-releasing compounds.
- Salon-grade keratin treatment
- Lasts up to four months
- Reduces up to 90% of curls
- Price is as high as an in-salon treatment
- Very long treatment process (24 hours)
- Contains formaldehyde-releasing compounds
9. Best Keratin Shampoo and Conditioner Set Puretanica Cool Bliss
Review: This shampoo and conditioner boasts a lot of natural ingredients, including peppermint oil, aloe vera, tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, almond oil, and argan oil. The bevy of natural essential oils calm and rejuvenate your scalp, all the while fortifying hair follicles to help you produce stronger, healthier strands. Moreover, these essential oils may have a calming effect on your nerves, turning shower time into a trip to the spa.
The “clean” ingredient list may be this set’s strong suit. Free of the standard chemicals you would find in other keratin treatments, you can rest easy knowing your shampoo and conditioner are made of non-toxic materials that will nourish not only your hair, but your skin as well.
However, all-natural ingredients don’t necessarily translate to a stellar product. Despite the spa-like experience you’ll get using this shampoo and conditioner, the shampoo is a bit runny and the conditioner is much thicker than the Nexxus Conditioner for Damaged Hair and therefore harder to get it out of the bottle. Moreover, these products may leave color-treated hair drier and frizzier than before, so dye fiends beware.
- Natural essential oils soothe the hair, head, and body
- 100% non-toxic formula
- Cooling sensation during wash
- Shampoo is a bit runny
- Not great for color-treated hair
10. Best Daily Keratin Treatment Keratin Express Daily Heat Protector
Review: Frizzy hair will find favor with this daily keratin treatment. It softens and smooths frazzled strands without weighing them down. A little goes a long way, too; just use a pea-sized droplet to tame your entire head of hair. Daily Keratin recommends that you use this treatment every time after you shampoo to gain maximum control over your frizz.
This product may also help you cut down on primping time in the morning. You’ll spend less time blow drying, flat ironing, or styling your hair thanks to its renewed health and increased manageability. Your color job will also be safe with this daily treatment, as its argan oil not only acts as an antioxidant, but a sunblock as well, too.
The only caveats are the slightly smelly formula and general cost-ineffectiveness; you should be getting more product for what you’re paying. Furthermore, ultra-frizzy hair may still puff up in humid weather no matter whether you use this on it or not. Because of this, it’s better to use the CHI Keratin Silk Infusion for ultra-frizzy hair instead.
Despite these disadvantages, though, you can’t take away the fact that this lightweight, daily keratin treatment will help maintain the manageable, silky shine that keratin treatments give your hair.
- Great for maintenance in between salon treatments
- Lightweight formula
- Thermal protection
- Doesn’t produce noticeable results on some hair types
- Not a lot of product for what you’re paying
- Somewhat unpleasant smell
Guide to Buying the Best Keratin Treatment for Your Hair
Anyone who is serious about getting a keratin treatment needs to consider both the cost-value and long-term effects they can have on your hair. Since keratin treatments can leave your hair in worse condition than before if not done right, you’ll need to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before taking the dive.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about keratin hair treatments.
What Ingredients Go Into Keratin Treatments?
Like most intensive hair treatments, keratin treatments are loaded with complex chemical compounds that will make your hair do what genetics could not. That means that people who routinely get these treatments done are exposing themselves to harmful chemicals that could have adverse long-term effects.
Formaldehyde is perhaps the most common chemical that is released during keratin treatments. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) stipulates that the formaldehyde levels in a salon’s air must not exceed 0.75 parts of formaldehyde per million parts over the course of an eight-hour shift, and no more than 2 ppm within a 15-minute period.
While OSHA doesn’t regulate formaldehyde levels in keratin treatment products, it does strive to ensure that salon-goers’ exposure to this harmful chemical doesn’t endanger their health.
No keratin treatment contains formaldehyde itself, the chemical compounds that release the gas when used together do. When these compounds come into contact with water or heat, they release formaldehyde.
If you have any concerns about excess formaldehyde exposure, ask your stylist if there are any keratin treatments that don’t release formaldehyde. You’ll want to do your homework, especially because the FDA does not regulate the levels of formaldehyde-releasing agents in salon-grade keratin treatments.
Are There Any Formaldehyde-Free Options?
Indeed there are. Many of these newer options use glyoxylic acid (or a variant) to re-shape the hair’s structure. The bad news is that these less harmful versions are also generally less effective. You’ll be lucky if your results last up to three months, which is the standard length of effectiveness for a traditional keratin treatment.
Moreover, these formaldehyde-free versions aren’t straighteners, per se, but more like softeners and defrizzers for the hair. But one thing they share in common with traditional in-salon keratin treatments are their price tags. Formaldehyde-free in-salon keratin treatments run anywhere from $250 to $500.
However, there are definitely some great at-home keratin treatments that don’t contain any formaldehyde. A crowd favorite like the Moroccan Keratin Hair Treatment Set can get you salon-comparable results without putting you at risk of breathing in any formaldehyde.
Are Keratin Treatments and Japanese Straightening Treatments the Same Thing?
Many people talk about keratin treatments and Japanese straightening treatments interchangeably. However, the two have a couple of key differences. For one, keratin treatments “fade” from your hair over time, meaning that with each wash, the effects of the treatment on your hair become less and less apparent.
Japanese straighteners, on the other hand, are more like hair relaxers; they permanently change the shape of your hair, and you’ll only see the natural shape of your hair once it starts growing out again.
What are the Differences Between In-Salon and At-Home Treatments?
There are some pretty amazing options in each category. If you do decide to get a keratin treatment in a salon, it’s recommended that you don’t exceed three a year, as too frequent treatments will weaken your strands considerably.
If a salon treatment – which can be very pricey – isn’t in your budget right now, then you can achieve pretty similar results with an at-home treatment. The only drawback is most at-home treatments barely last a week, so you’ll have a lot more upkeep to worry about if you go this route.
What’s an In-Salon Keratin Treatment Like?
The decision between a salon keratin treatment and a DIY one almost always comes down to your budget. If you’re looking for more immediate, longer-lasting results, it may be worth it to invest in a salon treatment. However, if you’re looking more for a boost to your daily hair routine, an at-home treatment will work just fine.
But let’s talk a little bit about what happens at an in-salon keratin treatment.
- First, the stylist washes and clarifies your hair to rid it of any oil or product buildup.
- Then, the stylist will smooth the cuticle of your hair with a liquid keratin mixture infused with other structure-breaking chemical compounds.
- After that, the magic starts: your stylist will flat-iron or blow-dry your hair, thereby “fusing” the keratin to your hair and getting that smooth, healthy finish you want.
Keratin treatments are like semi-permanents in that they typically last up to three months before they start losing their effect on your hair.
As for the drawbacks of in-salon treatments, we’ve already discussed the formaldehyde issue. Beyond that, the price tag for most in-salon keratin treatments are what makes people hesitant to get one; the average price is around $300. Unless you have the cash to invest, you’ll save more money and energy by going the DIY route.
Do At-Home Keratin Treatment Products Work?
While at-home products will neither be nearly as effective or long-lasting as their salon counterparts, you’ll still get pretty decent results for a fraction of the price. Not only are keratin-infused products easy to incorporate into your daily beauty routine, their effects compound slowly through regular use.
Let’s talk about some names you should look for in a keratin-infused product’s list of ingredients. Anything with keratin oil, hydrolyzed keratin, or keratin amino acids are a good sign. Products infused with natural oils, like the Nexxus Conditioner for Damaged Hair and Vitamins Keratin Hair Mask boast natural strengthening and smoothing properties that are good not only for your hair, but for the environment as well.
If you’ve got dry, coarse, or color-treated hair, avoid any keratin products that have sulfates on their ingredients list. Sulfates strip your hair of its natural oils, leaving it drier and more prone to breakage–the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve! Instead, look for nourishers and strengtheners like panthenol and sunflower seed extract. The former strengthens your hair and the latter acts as a natural sunblock, so you can preserve your dye job for a little bit longer.
What Can I Do in Between Treatments to Maintain My Results?
Many keratin treatments are complemented by shampoos and conditioners that are specially designed to preserve your results. That being said, there are still a few common-sense hair care measures you can take daily to keep your locks smoother and healthier for longer.
- Avoid using heat on your hair if you can help it. Some keratin treatments provide thermal protection, but the general rule is your hair will be healthier the less you subject it to high temperatures.
- Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner after treatments, and avoid any hair products that contain sodium chloride. Sulfates dry hair out and makes it brittle, while sodium chloride breaks down the chemical compounds of your keratin treatment, thus rendering it ineffective. Many hair care brands that manufacture keratin treatments also manufacture complementary shampoos and conditioners to help you maintain your treatment results.
- If you’re thinking of getting a haircut sometime soon, wait to do it after your keratin treatment. Your hair will be much easier to cut since it will be smoother and more manageable. However, it’s recommended you wait at least two weeks after a keratin treatment to color your hair.
- Do not wet your hair for at least 48 hours after your keratin treatment; this ensures the optimal and longest-lasting results. Avoid H2O in all its forms–including liquid, and gas–during this time window.
The Best Keratin Treatments Bring Your Hair to Life
Just because your hair is technically dead doesn’t mean it has to look that way. In fact, the better care you take of your tresses, the more alive they’ll both look and feel. Following this, one of the best ways you can nourish your hair is by giving it a keratin treatment.
Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable, salon-comparable DIY keratin treatments that will have your hair bouncing and behaving. Whether you have frizzed-out, curly hair or straight, chemically-damaged hair, there’s a keratin treatment for you that will bring your locks back to life.