The keratin smoothing treatment is a smoothing regimen that uses keratin (the protein that hair is made of) and other ingredients to make curly strands soft and sleek so you can style your hair the way you want without a salon blowout. It’s the perfect solution for everyone’s biggest hair problem—unmanageable, frizzy hair—and will also loosen the curl of very kinky hair.
With a brush, the formula—which also contains silicone and protein compounds—is “painted” onto your hair, coating the cuticles (the outermost layer of strands). Then, because heat activates the ingredients, a flatiron is used to seal the solution, changing the hair’s shape. The entire process might take an hour or two. The result? Shiny, smooth, straight hair with body and loads of volume. A keratin treatment will truly transform your hair; your hair will take less time to blow-dry, you will no longer need to use a flatiron, and humidity won’t make your hair frizzy. Your hair will look and feel healthier.
The keratin will wash out slowly over time and your hair will return to its natural texture; the effects usually remain for three to four months. For longer-lasting results, you should use a sulfate-free shampoo and avoid washing your hair every day.
There are many brands of keratin, but what’s most important is that your stylist tailors your treatment to your particular hair type and the result that you wish to achieve. Remember, it’s not what product is used, but how it is used.
Keratin. It’s one of the most popular treatments for women looking for smoother, silkier hair. The protein-based formula is known to eliminate frizz and gives your mane softness and shine. It’s also not an easy treatment, despite what products read. The glut of major brands offering straightening-for-all effects have confused consumers.
Enter Arsen Gurgov, one of the nation’s top stylists and its most pronounced “kera-toligist.”
“Keratin is a protein that hair misses when it turns frizzy,” says Arsen, who shot to fame during the Today show’s “ambush make-over” series. “Keratin puts that back. It’s the perfect solution for everyone’s biggest hair problem — unmanageable hair. It makes curly strands soft and sleek so you can style your hair the way you want without a salon blowout. And it has to be ironed in a certain way.” Especially with a hot iron simmering at 450 degrees.
Often two-to-three hours, keratin treatments, which average $500 in Arsen’s hands, are very common in salons, but often misunderstood.
“One size does not fit all — that’s why it’s a discretionary thing. It requires the stylist really studying your hair and assessing what you actually need,” says Arsen, who has learned over his 20 years climbing the top of the locks. Working out of his tony Upper East Side studio – the penthouse on East 60th between Madison and Park, thank you very much – he regularly counsels his customers on the do’s and don’ts of getting a new ‘do.
One technique mastered over thousands of treatments is combining a diversity of brands because not all follicles are created equal. Blind loyalty to one particular label can get Arsen simmering as hot as his iron.
“Distinct hair requires different products,” says the stylist, matter-of-factly. “There are hundreds of brands. And each approaches hair uniquely. If you have a great treatment and you told your friend which brand used, they might want that to. But what works on you might not work on someone else. You have to look at the virginity of the hair, the brittleness of the hair. Maybe they have had a keratin before that really burned their hair before. Every part of the hair is so unique. You have to use your discretion on how to customize it.”
He has actually identified certain brands for misleading claims. One particular product didn’t disclose how it could affect the pH balance. “I called the company. They said there was maybe a 1 percent chance it would happen.” He never used it again. For the record, has in his arsenal five top brands he has used for years, in pure form or combined.
The heat of the iron is also a major – and, in the wrong hands, dangerous – part of the process. Some irons burn as bright as 450 degrees.
“It’s very, very important to have a flatiron that changes temperature, so you have the ability to control it,” Arsen says, noting different part of hair often require varying degrees, whether it’s a scorching 450 or a still-simmering 350.
The make-up of keratin also adds complications. “Some are silicone based, some are water based. You have to access what works. If someone has a greasy scalp or hair, a silicone is something you would not use. Also, all these products have some form of formaldehyde.” Which makes ventilation an import part of the process.
The most important no-no? Washing your hair too often.
“The less you shampoo the hair the longer you’re able to prolong the keratin,” says Arsen, who suggests once a week because a treatment will usually only last 24 shampoos. “Shampoo is only meant for your scalp not so much for the hair. Since it’s a film, the more you shampoo the more you take the film out.”