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At-Home Keratin Treatment Gets You Silky, Shiny Hair for $100s Less Than at the Salon

If you have dry, frizzy hair, you'll want to test this out!

We’ve all dreamed of having the silky smooth strands we see on hair care commercials (we’re looking at you Pantene!). It’s almost as if the women’s hair is coated in a magic potion to make it so soft and luscious. Well, it may not be a magic potion, but there is one ingredient that works essentially like magic to create the hair of your dreams: keratin. Once reserved just for salons, keratin treatments can now get you smooth out strands at home. Here, hairstylists share how to do an at-home keratin treatment for guaranteed beautiful results.

What is keratin?

Keratin is a type of protective protein our bodies produce naturally that appears in our hair, skin and nails, explains Madison Roulan, hairstylist and co–owner of Rule On Salon in New York City. “It’s basically a structural building block — roughly 90% of your hair is made up of the stuff, she says. “When keratin protein is added to hair care products, like shampoo or conditioner, it creates long-lasting protection against damage.”

And this protein is extremely helpful when it comes to making strands tough and mighty. Just like how if you want to become stronger you should eat more protein, the same is true for your hair. So if you want stronger, more durable hair, it needs more protein in the form of keratin. But unfortunately, our bodies produce less keratin with age, which is why hair becomes weaker and drier.

back of mature woman with grey hair after doing keratin treatment

Thankfully, keratin-infused products and treatments can help strengthen and nourish strands so they look more youthful, too. This is especially good for those with gray strands that tend to be extra dry and coarse. Keratin treatments are “great for smoothing out that coarseness and leaving the hair super soft,” notes Brian Bassi-Smith a hairstylist at Damian West salon in New York City.

What is an at-home keratin treatment?

“A keratin treatment is a popular chemical-based treatment that aims to recover the elasticity, luster and health of hair,” says Roulan. These treatments can actually alter the chemistry of your strands, resulting in hair that looks straighter and smoother. Or if you have curly or wavy hair, the treatment will result in a much more relaxed texture and less frizz. The purpose of an at-home keratin treatment or professional keratin treatment is to “smooth out frizzy, damaged or dry, processed hair,” says Bassi-Smith. And essentially the keratin causes your hair cuticle to relax, resulting in the entire texture of your hair to relax.

woman combing through silky, sleek hair after keratin treatment

The process of an at-home keratin treatment involves a chemical formula that contains keratin and other ingredients such as methylene glycol, methanediol, methanal and formalin — all of which releases formaldehyde after heat is applied to hair. Formaldehyde itself is not an ingredient found in keratin treatments, but the release of formaldehyde (a gas) from these other ingredients can cause irritation. That’s why it’s best to consult with your stylist before trying a salon or at-home keratin treatment.

There are keratin treatments that are made without formaldehyde-emitting ingredients, but results vary from traditional keratin treatments. These ingredients include dimethicone and other types of proteins, such as wheat protein and soy protein. Regardless of the type of keratin treatment you go for, after the formula is applied and processed, it’s rinsed out and a flat iron is used to seal in and activate the treatment. The result? Silky, shiny tresses.

Related: Is Sulfate Bad for Your Hair? Pros Reveal What Hair Care Ingredients Are Best To Avoid

Which hair types work best for at-home keratin treatment

You can try an at-home keratin treatment if you have straight, curly or wavy hair. However, it is not typically recommended for those who have very fine hair, says Bassi-Smith, as the protein can be too heavy for fine hair, therefore doing more damage than good. Plus, too much keratin for anyone, regardless of hair thickness, can cause more harm than help to hair.

“Just like protein treatments, too much keratin can cause the hair to become brittle and hard, leading to breakage,” warns Bassi-Smith. But if you have dry or frizzy hair, keratin treatments can work wonders to improve your hair’s look and feel. That’s because as mentioned previously, keratin smooths hair’s cuticle and nourishes strands at the same time.

How to do an at-home keratin treatment

While the pros we spoke to advise getting your first keratin treatment done professionally at a salon to ask questions and watch the proper technique, you can DIY it at home. And doing so can save you big as the cost ranges from $82 to $400. Keep reading for how to easily do this technique at home.

Step 1: Wash hair

woman washing hair in shower

Before you apply any treatment to hair, give it a quick wash. Use your favorite shampoo and conditioner, or if you want extra keratin and smoothing benefits, use a shampoo and conditioner made with keratin, such as It’s A 10 Miracle Plus Keratin Shampoo and Deep Conditioner or Novex Brazilian Keratin Shampoo and Conditioner Set. Another great option is to wash hair with a clarifying shampoo. This works well if you use a lot of styling products daily as it will rid your hair of any buildup beforehand. One we like: Redken Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo.

As far as what to avoid during this step? “Anytime you’re doing a keratin treatment — whether it’s in the salon or at home — you want to avoid massaging the scalp when shampooing,” advises Bassi-Smith. This causes “the pores [on the scalp] to open which can lead to an itchy or burning sensation during the keratin application process.”

Related: Shampoo or Conditioner First? Pros Settle the Hair Washing Debate

Step 2: Apply the keratin treatment

Next up is the star of the show, the keratin treatment. Instructions for this step will vary from brand to brand and product to product. So it’s important to thoroughly read through the instructions of product your using. But typically, you apply the treatment to damp hair and leave on for 20-30 minutes (or sometimes even up to 40 minutes).

It can also depend on the thickness of your hair how long the product stays on. For example, if your hair is more coarse and dense, it may require extra leave-on time compared to finer hair. Also, some products suggest to blow dry vs. towel dry your locks before you go in with the treatment, which is another reason reading instructions is important. And when applying the keratin treatment to hair, divide it into equal sections and evenly coat strands. It’s best to start and the root and work to ends to ensure the treatment evenly coats hair.

Step 3: Rinse hair

After your 20-40 minute timer goes off (depending on your hair type and instructions), it’s time to rinse out the treatment. Once completely rinsed out, you can move on to the next step, or for extra moisture, apply a deep conditioning mask during this step and let sit another 10-20 minutes before rinsing.

Step 4: Seal in the treatment with heat

mature woman straightening hair

Once your hair is free of any treatment or deep conditioner, blow-dry strands until completely dry. Then, run a flat iron over strands carefully and concisely to seal in the keratin and its hair-smoothing benefits. The heat will also activate the keratin and other ingredients in the treatment, so this step is essential. Once hair is all straight, comb through with a brush to eliminate any tangles.

Related: Cleaning Your Flat Iron Is More Important Than You Think: Hair Experts Explain Why

The best at-home keratin treatments

If you’re ready to take your hair from dry and frizzy to smooth and sleek, here are the top at home keratin treatments to try.

Novex Brazilian Keratin Max Concentrated Liquid Keratin

Novex Brazilian Keratin Max Concentrated Liquid Keratin

This at-home keratin treatment is Bassi-Smith’s pick because of its concentrated formula and low cost. He says to use it once a week for the first three weeks, and then you can switch to just once a month application to prolong the results.

Gussi At-Home Keratin Treatment Kit

Gussi At-Home Keratin Treatment Kit

The rave reviews for this at-home keratin treatment speaks for itself. Not only does it give your hair all the benefits of keratin like frizz-free, shiny, smooth locks, but the brand also claims it cuts down blow-drying time by up to 30%.

Kerazon Brazilian Keratin Treatment Complex Blowout Kit

Kerazon Brazilian Keratin Treatment Complex Blowout Kit

This at-home keratin treatment is the #1 best-seller on Amazon and for good reason. On top of the protein ingredients, it contains shea butter, amino acids and buriti oil, all of which deeply hydrate and nourish strands.

For more hair care and styling tips, click through these stories:

Here’s How Hair Plopping Adds Definition, Bounce + Shine: No Heat Needed

Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Hair? Experts Weigh In + How to Pick the Best One for You

Hair Experts’ Top 5 Tips for a Healthy Scalp to Help Reverse Hair Loss, Dandruff and More

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