Beauty Booty: The Brazilian Keratin Treatment

by Rachel on June 13, 2011

If you know the history of my hair, it should come as no surprise that this is one area of grooming where I’m always looking for the next best thing. But I actually didn’t give the Brazilian Keratin treatment much thought for a long time because I didn’t think it was something black/half-black people could try. But then I discovered it was, in fact, a possibility for my hair, and when I blogged about finding a new stylist, a lot of people raved about it. Still, it was pricey, and just not a priority.

I kept an eye out for a Groupon for the treatment, but didn’t have any luck. But when I needed a relaxer in April, I started to seriously consider doing the Brazilian Keratin treatment instead. Like most women who have only known difficult hair their whole lives, it’s hard to resist the promise that something will finally make life easier. The price was the biggest thing holding me back, but my stylist wasn’t working out of a salon anymore, and said it would cost $200. Considering my relaxer costs $100 every 6 to 8 weeks and this treatment was supposed to last longer and be so much better for my hair, I decided to go for it.

My hair was super overdue for a relaxer so I was dying for the appointment all week. And while I was excited to get it done so I could feel my scalp again, I spent most of the three hours in the chair in a state of major stress.

I’ve been spending hours in the salon since I was eight years old, so I consider myself pretty patient, but it took forever. After washing my hair, applying the Keratin Complex Smoothing Treatment, and sticking me under the hot dryer for 20 minutes, my stylist flat-ironed each and every piece of hair on my head. It was so so so so tedious. But my hair looked really, really smooth and flat when all was said and done. It didn’t look any different than it does when I get a normal relaxer, though, so I figured the proof would come after the first washing. Everyone swore that a life of fear over getting thrown into a pool at a party due to the way my hair looks if I don’t use some sort of heat styling tool on it would come to an end with this treatment. They said their hair was pin-straight after it dried and didn’t need any heat from a flat iron. They said it was life-changing, cutting blow dry and styling time, and making up for years spent planning your life around your hair.

I was dying to wash it to see if it was as wonderful as everyone had said it was. I followed the instructions to not get my hair wet for three days. I wore a shower cap and avoided working out and sex so it wouldn’t get sweaty. My stylist recommended a Paul Mitchell shampoo but I couldn’t find it so I bought a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner for the first washing, per what I read online. And after that first washing it was…thick.

And dry.

The roots weren’t straight or flat. They weren’t curly, but they were still pretty thick and wavy.

My hair was better than it had been before the appointment, but not by much. Following a relaxer, my hair is silky smooth and straight for a few weeks, and then it gets progressively more rats’-nest-esque. At this point, my hair felt like it does a couple weeks before a relaxer, when I know a full-blown rats’ nest is imminent. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the result I expected from a supposedly life-changing treatment.

I texted my stylist and said it felt thick and dry and she said to try the Paul Mitchell shampoo she had originally recommended. It wasn’t sulfate-free but she said that a lot of people at the salon had complained that the sulfate-free shampoo was drying and to try this instead. So I tracked some down and…same. My hair just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even run my fingers through it.

I ended up stopping by to see my stylist about a week later and she agreed that it felt way thick and told me to come back in for a touch-up. Unfortunately, she lives on the other side of town, she was pretty booked, and I had a lot going on, so I couldn’t get in to see her for two more weeks. And those two weeks were incredibly frustrating. With each passing day, my roots were growing in thick and curly. Every morning when I woke up, it was standing nearly straight up because my roots were like mini Bump-Its. Every day I tried to tame my hair and every day I felt like I failed. I could barely coax it into a ponytail. It was dry and difficult and I was just so over it.

By the time I finally got back in for my touch-up, a month had passed since the original treatment and I didn’t have much hope. My hair was now doubly worse than it had been when I first went in and I just didn’t think a keratin touch-up was going to cut it at this point. So I told her I just wanted a relaxer.

Within a couple hours, my hair was smooth and flat. I could feel my scalp again! I didn’t get a sex bump at the crown after lying on the couch for two minutes! I felt ridiculous for being so happy, but how your hair looks can really affect how you feel about yourself, you know?

Everyone I’ve talked to has raved about this treatment, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this treatment is life-changing…for white girls who have never had a relaxer. For me, it didn’t even come close to getting my hair straight like a relaxer does. It made it a little more smooth, but not so much that it would cut styling time. (I’m guessing a good drugstore treatment would do about the same.) And the fact that it was so thick and dry after actually added styling time to my routine.

Like I said, I know a lot of people have had great experiences with it, but my hair is like a wayward teen. It’s not going to get in line without at least a trip to Maury, and for me, a relaxer is like boot camp for my hair. Despite the harsher chemicals in it, my hair is manageable and pretty healthy and I’ll be sticking with the old school treatment for now.

{ 29 comments }

1 Frederique June 13, 2011 at 11:07 am

That’s too bad. I was thinking of doing keratin instead of a relaxer myself! Thanks for sharing your experience. Looks like I will be sticking with the creamy crack for now.

2 Bess June 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

I’m so glad you wrote about this… as a white girl who has had relaxers for years, I’ve been skeptical about this treatment. Since I don’t crave a “sex bump at the crown after lying down on the couch for 2 minutes”, this just confirmed that I will be sticking with my Yuko straightening (a little pricey but usually lasts about 5 to 6 months for me).

3 Robyn June 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

What a bummer! My mom shelled out about $200 so I could have a perm in high school. I wanted curly hair in the MOST desperate way possible… Went to stylist, she permed my long, heavy, super-thick hair and cut it so that the curl wouldn’t get weighed down… or so we thought. In spite of following directions to a T, my hair was frizzy, fried and decidedly NOT curly. What was worse was the haircut… Three choppy layers and not much else. It. Was. Awful. My mom and I did everything that we could to coax out some curl, to no avail. I finally pleaded with her to give me $20 to go to SuperCuts on my way home and she obliged. When I walked in, I took down my hair from its ponytail and the girl who was helping me asked, “No offense… but did you try to cut your hair yourself?”

Yeah. THAT bad. I’m glad you were able to get your hair taken care of, though–you’re 150% correct about how hair plays a big role in how we feel about ourselves.

4 Eunice June 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

I think I fall into the category of white girls who have never had relaxer, but I do know what it’s like to flat iron every single strand of your hair into submission. I’m too scared to try keratin anyway.

Sorry it didn’t work out for you, but I’m glad your hair is back to its fabulous self!

5 Jennifer June 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

How disappointing! I just got a Keratin treatment on Saturday morning, so I’m anxiously waiting my hair wash tomorrow morning. Hopefully my results will be a little better (I have curly white girl hair). One thought– I think that you need to avoid Sodium Chloride in the shampoo, that’s supposedly what strips the Keratin, not sulfates. Is it possible that even if your shampoo was sulfate free, it still contained Sodium Chloride? Just a thought! Glad you are happy now, though!

6 MelissaNibbles June 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

I’m a white girl and I want it. Do you know how long your hair has to be? I’m sorry you had a bad experience.

7 Manon June 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I’ve been wanting to try this for months, but the price has had me scared that I’d be setting myself up for disappointment, not to mention the process sounds so time consuming and tedious I’m pretty sure I couldn’t sit in a chair that long.

8 Ella June 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I’m a corkscrew-curled white girl. I spent the first 20 years of my life fighting with my hair. We had a tempestuous relationship. But, in October 2009 (Yes, I remember!), I got my first Keratin Treatment. I did my research and decided to take the plunge. It has CHANGED MY LIFE. It lasts way longer than they say and even right before I need a new treatment, it’s worlds better than my natural hair. Even after seven months, my hair doesn’t resemble how it used to be. I can wash and go, if I want to! it would have been unthinkable before! I can swim, I can shower at a guy’s place – it’s amazing! It’s not perfect, of course, but my hair feels so much better. I only wish I had found it sooner. It’s a chemical thing so, of course it won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try for anyone who had a relationship like I had with mine. It’s a risk, yes – but I’ve only seen reward.

Also, mine costs WAY more than $200, but I’ve only had three in two years, so, I’m okay with it.

9 Rachel June 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm

This sounds like everything I’d been hearing from white girls who had had it done! I’m jealous you had such a great experience with yours — I had really hoped to be able to say the same thing after mine.

10 Phoebe June 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Ella, what brand of treatment do you use?

11 Dori June 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

You know how my real hair is a big, semi-nappy Jew fro. I did Japanese for years, which got my hair pin straight, but when my curls started growing in right at the root I couldn’t do it anymore because the regrowth was too bad. That is why I love the Cadiveau keratin treatment I now get (and wish so much I didn’t get Japanese last year b/c it doesn’t fade, it grows out… ugh) because it is NOT marketed as a straightener. I think that is that went wrong here… but I need to know what brand you got. But Brazilian Blowout and Cadiveau are both marketed to tame your curls, take out the frizz and make it easy to blow dry. So I still have to blow dry mine to get it straight, but if I wanted to leave it curly it is so manageable (the reason I can’t do that now is because of the stupid Japanese still in the bottom half of my head).

Can you find out the brand name you got? Curious to see what their site claims.

12 Jennifer June 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Hey Dori, as I mentioned above, I just got a Keratin treatment, and since you work out so often (I’m a reader of your blog too :) ), do you have any issues with sweat (because it contains sodium) affecting how long the treatment lasts? My stylist recommended weting my hair before exercising so the sweat didn’t soak in, but also said it wasn’t that big of a deal. I was just wondering if you did anything special or had any thoughts!

13 Rachel June 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Yup, I mentioned it in the post — it’s the Keratin Complex treatment. http://www.keratincomplex.com/

Also, it was proposed as an alternative to a relaxer by my stylist and everyone who left comments that I should try it, so that, to me, leads to the expectations that it would straighten like a relaxer does.

14 Dori June 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Oops, must have not read that part. Just read their site. They don’t claim to straighten, just to reduce frizz and smooth out the curl. The stylist should have been clear with you about this.

Jennifer — I never thought about that with sodium, but my hair at the root grows in very curly and that is where I sweat, so I wouldn’t know if it was just regrowth I see or the treatment being affected….

15 Rachel June 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Well, I know you suggested the Brazilian Keratin treatment as an alternative after reading my first post about my hair…as did many other people. I’m surprised so many people recommended it as an alternative to relaxing if all it does is remove frizz and doesn’t straighten.

16 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. June 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Sorry to hear it wasn’t a good match for you & your hair. I honestly don’t know much about it anyway.

17 Alessandra June 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Hi, Rachel

I totally understand your disappointment! I am brazilian and have done a similar treatment back home. The stuff that works and gives you the look you are looking for contains formaldehyde and it changes the structure of the hair giving it a sleek look. Because it is toxic, the amount of formaldehyde in these formulas have either been reduced a lot or removed, so they do not give the results they promise…
So for any girls out ther, don’t do it if it has no formaldehyde because you are not going to get the results…
Ale.

18 Summer June 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I’m a white girl who swears by her flat iron. I’ll let my hair do it’s own thing on days I’m too lazy to fight with straightening it, but it’s not flattering in the least and I still have to straighten my bangs, so no matter what I have to do *something* with it. It’s not curly so I can’t even embrace that, it’s just an awkward wavy mess.

I’ve never given a lot of thought to a chemical treatment to straighten it because I can’t really wrap my head around the concept of being able to shower and let it dry naturally and have it be pin-straight. Is this possible…? Sounds too good to be true as far as I’m concerned.

19 Katy June 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Not gonna lie, for the first two paragraphs I thought “Brazilian” was referring to your nether regions of hair. I was thinking “Keratin on your hoo-ha? Dude, suck it up and go for the wax.”

And then I kept reading and realized I’m a dumbass.

Or a genius depending on how you look at it. Maybe Keratin is the secret to ending bikini bumps altogether and convincing society that hair down is awesome. Heh.

20 Alexa June 14, 2011 at 12:40 am

When you say Brazilian keratin treatment, do you mean the Brazilian Blowout? Because I get the weirdest feeling that that’s not what you had.

I’ve had two Brazilian Blowouts – the first on permed, wavy, white-girl hair, for the record – and it only took an hour and a half, there was no sitting under the heat lamps, and I could wash my hair immediately afterwards. Both had fantastic results and made my hair absolutely impossible to mess up under any circumstances – including putting on and taking off a snowmachine helmet.

21 sarah (the SHU box) June 14, 2011 at 5:09 am

have you ever tried japanese straightening (similar process but different chemicals)? i love it and will never go back, and my stylist says it will work on 1/2 black hair (but not 100% black). i am white but this process is just magical to me – i go every 6 months and the only thing needing any touch up is the roots. it is pricey ($300/touch up) and takes ~3-4 hours (longer for 1st session) but i am truly addicted :)

22 marie June 14, 2011 at 8:08 am

I had a keratin treatment too and it has done nothing special for my curly white girl hair. He told me it would drastically reduce my blowdry time and it hasn’t. When I blow dry it’s still the same thing, I’m still flat ironing too….I feel ya on this one dear.

BOOOOOOO :(

23 Tenecia June 14, 2011 at 10:42 am

Bring your happy ass to AZ!

I’ll stop by the Sally’s Beauty Supply by my house, buy a Precise relaxer (you get 2 for the price of 1), and I’ll smother your hair in creamy crack! All you have to do is bring the booze and some of the yummy food you’ve featured on your blog ;)

T.

24 Ely June 16, 2011 at 12:49 am

I’m a white girl with the kind of curly hair that even having relaxer put in at the salon won’t fix. No joke. I struggled with triangle head through elementary school, then had an at home relaxer done – it was like heaven. No more tears over my hair for a while… And then I went to the hairdresser to have another one done, and it was an epic fail… My hair rejected the chemicals or something and I actually cried in the hairdresser’s chair while she brushed my hair out while blow-drying. Which, when you have my hair, is something you NEVER do. Brushing it is death. Now I flat iron it after every wash and have been wanted to try a Brazillian but hesitant about the price and whether it would even work… Thanks for the info!!

25 janelle January 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Hey Rachel-

I just happened to come across this while looking up info on Keratin treatments, and I would have to say that you are almost spot on with everything you wrote. I am half black/ half white, and like you, I have struggled for the past 29 years now with my unruly hair. I recently had a Keratin treatment done approximately 4 days ago and just washed it out for the first time today. A week prior to having the Keratin treatment done, I went to a my normal stylist to have my relaxer updated because I thought it might make the effects more pronounced (not to mention that it would make it easier on the stylist who would be applying the Keratin treatment).

I would have to say that the Keratin treatment process WAS incredibly tedious- made moreso by the fact that I have long, super thick hair. When I walked out of the salon after having the treatment done, I wasn’t “wowed” by it- it looked very similar to how my hair would look if I had had it relaxed, blown out and then flat ironed. The only minor difference was that my hair looked a little shinier and less weighed down in product.

Since washing my hair earlier today, I simply let water run through it, brought a brush with me into the shower and brushed through it while it was wet. I had to use A LOT of conditioner in order to be able to brush through my hair because once the water hit it, it became like a clump of tangled chaos (weird). I use a sulfate-free, hydrating, detangling conditioner by KeraCare, and I also used a light leave-in conditioner by Mixed Chicks. Once I got out of the shower, I diffused my hair until it was only slightly damp and then I rubbed in a little Mixed Chicks Hair Silk smoothing serum. What I was left with was touchably soft, frizz-free, wavy hair.

Now, with regards to whether or not I think it’s worth it to get a Keratin treatment done (mine cost $250, not including tip), I would have to err on the side of skepticism. I like the results, but I don’t feel as though the price of the treatment (or the process of sitting at the salon for 4 hours) is worth it. If the price was significantly cheaper, then I would consider having a Keratin treatment done after getting my relaxer done each time. This is because whenever you have a relaxer done, it strips your hair and makes it more susceptible to dryness and frizz. The keratin treatment (supposedly) restores and repairs any damage to your hair.

Again, I just had this done, so I’m going to keep an eye on things to see how my hair looks a few months from now. For the time being, I love the way my hair looks as well as the fact that it is now THAT much more manageable after the Keratin treatment, but I still can’t justify getting it done. I have to agree with you that the Keratin treatment seems to be something that would really be effective for Caucasian women who have never relaxed their hair before. However, for certain mixed breeds, like myself, who have ‘been there and done that’, it’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be.

-janelle

26 Dreama Landry September 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I was looking for infomation on the Keratin Complex treatment and relaxing after receiving one. This was excellent information. My hair is long and I would normally get a mild relaxer a couple of times a year. Instead, I spent $431 on the Keratin Treatment at a salon in Houston and $119 for products to maintain my hair at home between salon visits.
My experience was exactly like yours. My hair is dry and starting to break where the non-relaxed hair meets the relaxed hair.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is an excellent site.

27 Youanna October 30, 2012 at 11:41 am

I am black with nappy hair. Super thick, super coarse. I got a keratin treatment and found out a few things.
1. My hair does dry faster as promised
2. It detangles a bit easier
However…
1. My hair is protein sensitive so using the recommended products dried my hair out, because they keep adding protein on top of the treatment.
So what I did was I was with a sulfate shampoo, and deep conditioned with a moisturizing conditioner.( I used optimum mask). I use a sulfate shampoo every third wash. I wash weekly. I avoid protein in all o my products. If my hair feels it might need it I use Joico k-pak, and then deep condition. And yes your hair is supposed to feel thicker, because it has an extra layer of keratin on it.
I do have a friend who gets a relaxer and keratin treatment at the same time. She swears by it. (but her mom is a beautician, so I wouldnt go this experimental route with someone who didn’t known hair very well).

28 Tawanna November 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

Hello, I am a black girl who loves this product I live in the south so the humidity is pretty bad I’m on my third treatment an have no regrets I have not relaxed my hair in 2yrs I don’t put many products in my hair just a drop of Moroccan oil an I’m good for 2days I don’t feel it getting dryer but I’m told I have a softer thinner grade of hair whateva tht means an I spend 150 every 4mos which I found not bad.

29 Lauren B March 5, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I recently had my first keratin treatment done and was informed that I would need to purchase a shampoo and conditioner that is both sulphate free and if possible sodium chloride free. My hairstylist watered the explanation down by telling me these ingredients found in every shampoo and conditioner unless otherwise specified would strip all the precious treatment I just paid for out of my hair. I went to online and did alot of research and spoke to my hairstylist (5th ave salon). I went with the Shielo Hydrate Shampoo and the Shielo Hydrate Conditioner and am pleasantly surprised. Not only is it keeping as much of the treatment in as possible, but it leaves my long, thick, newly straight hair SO SOFT! Especially in combination with the conditioner. It has a subtle, clean smell and feels slightly thick when applying. The $20 price tag is a little harsh in comparison to say a drugstore shampoo, but it definitely shows a difference than those products.

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