Many a curly girl has searched far and wide for ways to manage her mane. But, in the not-so-distant past, when she went into the salon to get her hair straightened, she only had two service options: a traditional relaxer or a Japanese straightening treatment.

But, then, almost overnight, “keratin” became the buzzword of the curly girl world. This new hair straightening treatment, known for giving us curlies straight locks that last for months, became the new trend in texture.

However, the jury was still out on the safety of the procedure, for both the client and the stylist. Nonetheless, the “life-changing,” frizz-fighting” benefits kept luring women of all textures and hair types in to see what the commotion was all about.

Keratin: A Star is Born

For companies, the timing was perfect to introduce a new revenue-generating service built upon the consumer’s (that’s us!”> strong demand for dramatic, lasting results. Thus, dozens of new brands popped up, all selling their own variation of the keratin straightening treatment.

This first generation of “Brazillian” keratin treatments were formulated to last three to four months and came in at a whopping $400 per treatment.

Brands Launching Smoothing Treatment FormulationsStraightener product

  • Enjoy Keratin Smoothing Treatment
  • GK Hair Light Tame and Light Wave
  • Gloss Moderne
  • Tela Beauty Organics
  • Zerran Reallisse
  • Cadiveu USA Acai Therapy
  • Joico retail smoothing treatment (72 hours”>

Manufacturers of these products and their scientists proclaimed that replacing keratin in the hair could restructure and recondition our textured hair fibers, refilling the holes and gaps in the hair shaft caused by chemical services and environmental factors, and that the process could even straighten hair when the formula was “sealed in” with a flat iron heated to 450 degrees.

Straight Evolves into “Smooth”

Alongside the big consumer buzz about hair straightening treatment options a wave of safety questions and concerns from consumers, salon professionals, associations and competitive brands alike. Most were focused on the levels of formaldehyde released when the solution was processed by the high-temp irons.
 In response, the category has evolved significantly and competitively in 2011, morphing into smoothing treatments.

Notable Changes:

  1. One brand may now offer a menu of different formulas for different hair types or “strength” of results.
  2. Education, both of salon professionals and curlies, has become key for serious players in the segment.
  3. Some brands have dropped “Brazilian” altogether from the name or description of the service.
  4. Semi-permanent formulations designed to last only four to six weeks are growing in popularity. They can be overlapped with each application, and reach optimal potential after 2-4 applications.
  5. Many brands now focus on marketing low to no-formaldyde (or any –aldehyde”> hair straightening treatment alternatives, with minimal irritating odors or fumes.

Even companies that elect not to get into the chemical service realm of smoothing are launching retail, take-home smoothing products for us curlies, some utilizing keratin and some positioned to create a similar, albeit short-term effect (up to 72 hours, for instance”>.

At Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas, many of the new generation of smoothing treatments were on display, with marketing and education teams showing off their latest innovations. From Long Beach to Orlando, brands showed off their safety certificates to stylists at hair shows.

Difference Makers

So, what’s the actual difference between a traditional hair straightening treatment (that leaves a line of demarcation”> and a smoothing treatment?

According to companies like American Culture, which produces Simply Smooth, smoothing treatments work with the cuticle, not the cortex of the hair. No hair bonds are broken or restructured and, with their molecular bond technology, Simply Smooth keratin treatments can provide a client with a smooth, conditioned, frizz-free finish for as long as 16 weeks and cut daily drying and styling time in half.

“Simply Smooth keratin treatments can be customized for individual clients, and varied on the same client whose needs vary throughout the hair,” says Doreen Guarneri, co-founder of American Culture hair care. “We offer all different strengths and they are all relative to lifestyle and financial priorities — some clients even just want a treatment done for a one-day special occasion.”

Other manufacturers like Tela Beauty Organics believe the same smoothing process can be done using botanical, natural and organic ingredients along with keratin. According to Tela Beauty Organics creator Philip Pelusi, there are two parts that make up his Phyto-Keratin Smoothing Treatment Blow Out: the Hydro-Charged Pelusi Ceramide Complex, which helps repair damaged sites in the hair with its lipid hydration system, and a blend of organic plants like Horsetail, Reishi Mushroom, Sprouted Soy, Red Sage, Burdock, Aloe and Lavender.

“Up until now all frizz management has been surface-wise and has been done with silicones,” says Pelusi, “Our mission at Tela was to create an ingredient that would work like a silicone, but be as natural as possible.”

“Think of our treatment as a very intense deep conditioner,” he adds. “We offer two different versions: one is for curly clients who want to be able to wear their hair both straight and curly; and the other is for clients on the smoother side who want to be able to blow out their hair, and not worry about fly-a-ways or frizz.”

Farouk Systems this year launched its CHI Enviro Smoothing Treatment that it markets as completely formaldehyde-free and safe to clients and stylists. It is composed of amino acids, pearl and silk.

In April, Pravana has launched Perfection SmoothOut — a patent-pending formula which suspends the internal and textural memory of the hair. Perfection’s gentle formula allows for cleansing and color services to be performed immediately after the SmoothOut treatment.

Also this year, Brazilian Blowout launched Brazilian Blowout ZERO, in answer to public concern over the ingredients in their original hair straightening treatment. The new formula promises to still smooth, de-frizz and condition hair, but without any trace of formaldehyde. Instead, it is said to include a different active ingredient, glycolic acid, along with a new scent.

Final thoughts

One thing is clear: now that curlies and stylists alike have tasted the benefits of new hair straightening treatment options, they are hooked. And brands are working hard to insure they develop technologies that provide the best and safest options available.