Ever since government agencies like the F.D.A. revealed that Brazilian keratin hair straightening products may still contain formaldehyde in spite of labeling claims that state otherwise, the phrase “keratin hair treatment” has taken a reputation hit by way of guilt by association.
In the wake of the Brazilian Blowout scandal that has many seeking alternative routes to achieve smooth, glossy and manageable hair, there is a promising new crop of keratin options (sans formaldehyde) to choose from.
The challenge? You need to first distinguish between the truly formaldehyde free versions and those that merely just profess to be. Ingredient labeling in today’s industry is notoriously misleading to the consumer, with brands that contain the caustic chemical often claiming “Formaldehyde Free” on the label.
The Environmental Working Group (E.W.G.) has done much of the work for you already, by making the most extensive analysis of formaldehyde-containing hair treatments available for viewing online, via the consumer advocacy group’s “Brands That Hide Formaldehyde” report.
A list of 16 different brands are found to contain the toxic chemical, and all names are listed alongside the percentage of contained carcinogenic. Of those brands, a staggering 15 claim, label and brand themselves as having either little or no formaldehyde at all.
However, with new products jumping into the saturated space all the time, you shouldn’t treat the list as all-inclusive.
Another glaring red giveaway you can be on the lookout for is the claim that a product will “straighten” your hair. “If you want to straighten the hair, you have to change the chemical composition of it, and only formaldehyde can do that,” says New York stylist and salon owner, Mark Garrison.
That means that your expectations will have to shift if using a truly formaldehyde free keratin treatment, as even the most effective formulas won’t straighten strands. But they can decrease frizz, smooth the hair shaft and leave behind a brilliant shine of health.
Since keratin treatments don’t biologically alter the hair, they also don’t last as long as traditional formaldehyde-containing options; you can expect to enjoy about four to six weeks of results with a keratin treatment as opposed to the 12 to 14 weeks of effects from versions containing formaldehyde.
But believing that skipping out on formaldehyde means having to compromise a gorgeous hair day just isn’t true, says Dean Christal, founder of Liqwd, a brand that makes keratin treatments, haircare and styling products.
“You can have beautiful, healthy hair without exposure to dangerous chemicals,” says Christal. “Beware of chemical shortcuts. They will permanently damage your hair and possibly even your health with repeated use.”
The solution that Christal created—Liqwd Professional Q-Keratin Smoothing Treatment—uses keratin and a proprietary blend of protein-rich quinoa to enrich, soften and glisten strands. Your hair texture will be retained after treatment, which means you can style a full range of curly, wavy and straight finishes without impediment, but you’ll emerge with a glossy, satin finish that powers on through shampoos and styling. Expect to pay about $300 to $350 per service at salons nationwide.
Meanwhile, Tela Beauty Organics Phyto Keratin Smoothing Treatment Blow Out contains 85% USDA certified organic ingredients, and silkens hair with a ceramide complex that delivers lipid hydration to strands. A plethora of plate-worthy nutrients like mushroom, orange, lemon and sprouted soy all combine with a plant-derived keratin to seal the cuticle in with shine and resiliency. The suggested retail price at salons nationwide is $125.
Unnique Amino is another recent launch that strengthens strands with a nanoparticle blend of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. According to a brand spokesperson, results of the treatment can be reactivated by heat, like from say, a hair dryer, for up to eight weeks after the initial application. While it’s primarily available in East Coast salons for a cost ranging from $150 to $350, anyone can order a 16 ounce bottle for $160 online. It’s strongly recommended that a hair professional apply the product, even if you order it as a consumer.
Finally, a good hair day can truly mean a good hair day.
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