I recently attended a Keratin Hair Treatment class which lasted for several hours. The class I attended was not called Brazilian Straightening but Keratin Smoothing. I also attended two other classes shortly after the Keratin Smoothing from two different manufacturers in the Keratin treatment space. One was a company who had previously hawked a traditional Yuko style straightener that had been recently reformulated to include the Keratin ingredients. The other was called a Brazilian straightener with "no formaldehyde".
Most experts will agree that the Brazilian Straightening system came before Keratin Smoothing. However the two types follow the same basic principles except one (Brazilian) contains a form of formaldehyde known as formalin and the other (Keratin Smoothing) has aldyhe which is very similar to formaldehyde when heated to 400-450 degrees which is a key requirement to the Smoothing Treatment. Since the introduction of the original Brazilian Straightening and the Keratin Smoothing there have been additional copycat systems called a wide range of names but they either contain the words Brazilian or Keratin in the description.
The class I attended had four volunteer hair models with various types of frizzy, overprocessed or naturally curly tresses. During the class every step of the Keratin process, which was repeatedly described as Keratin Smoothing rather than Chemical or Brazilian Straightening, was performed in great detail. We also watched a DVD about the process and were informed of the types of chemicals used in the Keratin formulation.
The instructors were very knowledgeable and had traveled to Dallas from the home office of the Keratin Smoothing System manufacturer.
According to the teachers, the Keratin Smoothing Treatments included Keratin but they also included aldehydes which was stressed is NOT formaldehyde. After more questioning, the teachers did agree that while aldehyde is not specifically formaldehyde, when it makes contact withe the 400-450 degree irons that are required to push the Keratin down into the cuticle, the vapors released as as toxic, if not more so than Keratin treatments with formalin, which is also a form of formaldehyde.
The teachers of the Keratin Smoothing treatment admitted that the sleek and smooth results achieved with the Keratin Smoothing Treatment are not effective with Keratin alone. They also suggested that all the treatments be done in a well ventilated room. Even been, they suggested that masks be worn by both the hairdresser and their clients.
OK. So while I was told the Keratin Smoothing treatment was "formaldyhe free", the formula did contain the aldyhe ingredient that was in effect the same as formaldyhe when heated and all Keratin Smoothing treatments require hot irons heated up to between 400 and 450 degrees (depending on the type of hair being treated).
Ongoing Controversy Over Fume Safety
Whether the Keratin Smoothing Treatment I was taught is dangerous when inhaled or not, is part of the ongoing controversy in the hair industry. Hair experts point out that using just Keratin, without formaldehyde or similar chemicals, will not have long lasting effects. I can vouch for this. The Keratin Smoothing Treatment I learned how to do has a temporary treatment which allows clients to experience the results between shampoo sessions. The Keratin Smoothing Temporary treatments are formaldehyde free but indeed they only last until the next shampoo.
Did the Keratin Smoothing Treatment work? Yes, the change in the texture of all of the model's hair was astounding. Although some industry experts report the Keratin Smoothing Treatment should only take 90 minutes, every experienced stylist in the class who already performed the treatments (and there were several) said that it is important to go slow and make sure you perform the treatment correctly. Most said it took them 3 or more hours to perform all the steps. Not 90 minutes.
As far as the fumes go, the Keratin Smoothing formula smelled just like suntan lotion. We are told to only wear gloves at all times when applying the Keratin formula with color brushes. When the hot irons were used we were required to wear hot gloves. Even during the hot ironing step the fumes for the Keratin Smoothing were barely noticeable and smelled like hot skin slathered in suntan lotion.
I can not say the same thing for the other system classes I attended. The hair straightening system that included a Keratin step had a horrendous odor and the majority of the people in the class were soon complaining of headaches. Not only did I get a headache but my eyes were watering. The system without chemicals did not have a strong aroma.
When asked about masks, the Keratin Smoothing teachers said it was always worthwhile to consider the advantages and ultimate safely of the hairdressers and their clients. They also advised that it was important to have a good ventilation system.
Should customers wear masks when having intense chemical hair treatments such as Brazilian or Keratin Smoothing treatments? Again, this is a raging controversy but ultimately the decision should be made in the best interest of the hair client. If you wish to have this treatment and have concerns, ask for a mask. Better safe than sorry. Right?
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