How do Brazilian keratin treatments really work?

Amazing Claims

The claims made by the makers of these products are quite attractive. Keratin smoothing treatments are said to be especially beneficial to those with curly and/or frizzy hair. The treatment is reported to be able to relax curls substantially (in some cases straightening hair entirely), reduce frizz by up to 95%, impart shine, provide body, and render previously difficult hair into locks that are easily manageable. Imagine being able to run a comb or brush through your hair in the morning without wetting and conditioning it first! People with curly or wavy hair who like to blow it out straight usually have to spend 45 minutes to an hour achieving the look they desire. But once they have had this treatment, it is often possible with very little time and effort.

The results described by some of the people who have tried it sound amazing and extremely enticing (see Michelle's Brazilian Blowout Blog to follow the journey of a beloved fellow curly who has had remarkable success with this treatment).

Here are some examples of some benefits touted by a few of the manufacturers:

Coppola Keratin Smoothing Complex

  • Rebuilds, restores, rejuvenates
  • Keratin is bonded into the cuticle by the heat of the flat iron to relax the hair's sub-cuticle layer
  • A life-changing experience
  • Eliminates up to 95% of frizz and curl

Brazilian Blowout

  • Minimizes frizz, loosens curl
  • Conditions hair and seals cuticle
  • Makes hair appear straight and healthy
  • Utilizes a "super nutrient complex"
  • Contains a proprietary polymer system
  • Repairs existing damage
  • Rounds the follicle
  • Reduces curl and frizz by 90% or more

Sunliss Keratin Hair-Straightening Treatment

  • Straightens and revitalises your hair with its cocoa-based formula
  • Rich in theobromine, a substance recognized for its powerful hydrating qualities.
  • Delivers high concentrations of fatty acids to the core of the follicle, providing unprecedented smoothness.
  • Recommended for straightening and re-aligning dry, fragile and frizzy hair.
  • The active ingredients in our keratin-based straightening products are unique in their ability to perform a capillary re-alignment, thanks to the carefully formulated composition of keratin, oats and cocoa.

Marketers also claim that Brazilian keratin straightening treatments work better on hair that has been chemically processed by coloring, perming, or straightening. The reason for this is that these types of procedures leave permanent gaps and flaws in the cuticle layer. These flaws allow hydrolyzed keratin (amino acids and polypeptides) to penetrate more easily into the hair shaft and also act as attachment sites for keratin on the surface of the cuticle.

Due to the porous nature of processed hair, retention of the added keratin and its building blocks is also enhanced, so the effect from the treatment can last longer. An additional consideration is that hair that is already damaged will naturally benefit more from topical treatments that improve shine, suppleness, and softness than hair that is already healthy, shiny, and straight. However, it also seems intuitive that hair that is damaged already may be more susceptible to additional damage caused by the use of extreme heat to reshape it.