For many women, perfectly straight, healthy and luxurious hair is a dream. So, when they see a hair treatment option that offers to provide them with straight, manageable, non-frizzy hair, they usually avoid asking questions about the ingredients –most of the time because they think the ingredients are safe.
The thinking usually is that if it’s in the market, then it must have been cleared by the FDA and other regulatory bodies. Yet, this ignorance can literally cost women their lives courtesy of the ingredients in their hair straightening solutions and options.
Table of Contents
About The Brazilian Keratin Treatment
Recently, there’s been a wave of demand for Brazilian Keratin Treatment, also known as Brazilian Hair Straightening. This is popular because of its ability to help keep women’s hair straight and manageable for months on end.
In fact, there’s every possibility that two out of every five women with straight hair, use the treatment. While there’s no doubt that that the Brazilian keratin treatment works, the truth is that it often comes with its attendant risks and dangers.
The major issue with it is the formaldehyde that’s used in preserving the keratin, which is the major ingredient. Keratin is the protein that plays a critical role in the health of your skin, and the growth of nails and hair. It can also be readily found in the feathers, wool, hooves and horns of animals.
Formaldehyde on the other hand, is a well known carcinogenic agent that’s typically used in preserving dead organs and bodies. It has been largely linked to lung, nose and mouth cancer when people are exposed to them for prolonged periods.
This is why most Brazilian keratin hair treatment products are largely banned in Canada and the EU -almost all of the keratin-rich products used for the treatment contain considerable amounts of formaldehyde.
It’s still readily available in the US, but the government through the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has alerted the public to the dangers of these hair treatments containing higher levels of formaldehyde than the accepted limits, through multiple dedicated pages as seen their website.
This became necessary when multiple salon owners and stylists reported the consistent nasal and throat irritation caused by the products they were using during their Brazilian hair straightening procedures. Upon investigation by the OSHA, higher than normal levels of formaldehyde were recorded in the salons –most of them in levels far above the stipulated limits.
The truly unfortunate thing about this is that these hair treatments are quite expensive as far as hair treatments go. So, those who are/were paying for these kinds of products and services were essentially paying premium fees to expose themselves to cancer.
It doesn’t just stop at cancer. Studies have also shown that people can suffer severe central nervous system damage caused by prolonged exposure to formaldehyde, as well as milder symptoms like migraines, sleeplessness, anxiety, irritability, poor attention, impairment of all cognitive functions, lowered productivity caused by the discomfort, depression, physiological imbalance and lack of equilibrium, sudden mood swings caused by a drop in endorphins, as well as persistent and recurrent headaches.
Other studies have also shown that funeral directors who have worked for a long time with formaldehyde products –usually for the purposes of embalming bodies- have a 300 percent chance of developing a condition called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is defined as a “a rare progressive degenerative fatal disease affecting the motor neurons, usually beginning in middle age, and characterized especially by increasing and spreading muscular weakness and atrophy”.
Bottom line, they start becoming immobile and paralyzed, unable to eat, urinate, take a dump and even breathe by themselves.
Another possible risk of this hair treatment is the loss of hair attributed to the use of the extreme heat –the iron heats up at 450 degrees- often applied through the hair iron while the stylist is trying to straighten your hair.
However, it’s not without its perks and benefits. For instance, it works for all hair types –no matter how frizzy or unmanageable your hair is, it will be straightened, makes it easier to manage your hair, results last for 2-4 months, and the process can be gentle.
Yet, despite its obvious pros, I would strongly recommend that women avoid this hair straightening option. The risks far outweigh the rewards –regardless of whatever anyone else says- and will most likely cause you significant harm down the line because of its addictive nature.
For most women, seeing their hair that straight can be a very pleasing experience, hence the reason they most likely wouldn’t want it any other way again, which means they often have to go back every 2-4 months –depending on the stylist, the hair products applied, and the state of your hair- to have it done again. Repeat application can cause permanent damage to your hair.
The good news however, is that straightening your hair and making it less frizzy doesn’t have to involve exposure to formaldehyde or any other method capable of inflicting harm on you anymore.
There are some other healthier hair straightening options that are safe, will last just as long –if not longer- and without all the associated side effects of the Brazilian keratin hair straightening. These include:
Thermal Reconditioning Treatment aka Japanese Hair Strengthening
If you want permanent, straight hair that you can literally last months, this is the longest lasting option with little or no exposure to toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. The Japanese hair straightening system does wonders for frizzy hair and difficult to manage hair.
With this, all you have to do is get it done one time, and after the hair grows out, you’ll just touch up the roots of your hair, easy peasy. The process usually involves the application of copious amounts of certain chemicals that straighten the hair.
To do this, you would have to leave the chemicals in for a while, rinse, dry the hair, and then dry using a blow dryer. The straightening process comes from the careful application of a flatiron, and the application of a neutralizer. This is what gives your hair the straight look, making it more manageable in the process.
Thermal reconditioning is a usually long process that can take anywhere from 8 hours the first time, depending on your hair, the chemicals used and your stylist’s perception of how much treatment your hair needs. Naturally, this attracts a hefty fee that’s usually in the $500 – $1500 price range.
Touch ups on the other hand takes less time –about 3-4 hours. Please note that you will need to avoid washing your hair or allowing water touch any part of your hair or style as you please for three days.
Anything that also induces sweating –particularly in your hair roots– should be avoided. Headbands, scarves or anything that traps moisture in your hair is best avoided. This is in the bid to lock in the treatment and further reinforce your hair’s new shape. Also, you may be unable to style your hair in any other way.
After the 3-day window, make sure to wash the hair once before styling it as you please –this would probably be restricted to just ponytails, seeing as you wouldn’t be able to style it any other way.
If you’ll be doing this and have no idea what method to choose, talk to your stylist about it, or just choose the iStraight treatment method. This method makes use of natural oils and involves a lot more conditioning. The last thing you want is getting your scalp and hair burnt/friend. This will not do that.
Since there are three strengths to the system, explain the situation of your hair to your stylist –the more information you can provide, the better- so that they can choose the one best suited to your hair.
Choose Keratin Based Natural Hair Products
Some people just prefer the keratin hair treatment. If this is you, then you should know that there are various alternatives that are different from the regular Brazilian keratin hair treatment. These don’t involve the harsh carcinogenic treatments.
While these may not straighten your hair permanently, they can help add the necessary boost of keratin that you need. Look for natural products with significant amounts of keratin in them.
These could be your hair conditioners, shampoos, hair oils and relaxers. Use these as frequently as possible, and you could still enjoy straight, beautiful hair, whilst still providing your hair with the rich source of protein that it deserves.
If you are more a DIY person, you can choose to get make your own keratin-rich shampoo and hair straightening system at home. The latter will help remove the frizz and untangle your hair, while the former, provides you with an avenue to cleanse your hair and scalp, whilst providing nutrition.
At Home Hair Straightening Procedures
For many women, paying between $500 and $1500 seems like a waste of money. So, what do you do when the money isn’t there and you have frizzy, unmanageable hair? Simply go get some hair straightening products that you can use by yourself at home. You start with Keratin Complex treatments.
There are many brands out there that you can choose from and many cost between just $100 and $150 for an 8oz bottle –less for smaller sized bottles. Just make sure that those brands have no formaldehyde or its derivatives like oxymethylene, oxomethane, paraform, methanol, methylene oxide, formic aldehyde, formalin, and methylene glycol among others.
Look for those with natural or organic constituents as they are healthier and eliminates the risk of you being exposed to formaldehyde. Some good examples of this include Keratin Perfect and Simply Smooth Touch of Keratin Smoothing Treatment
All you have to do is follow the instructions that often come with the hair treatment system, and you’ll eliminate that frizzy, stubborn hair that most people dislike. As always, avoid any form of moisture or styling on your hair for 3 days after the treatment. The application of these at home hair straightening kits typically last 30 days. So, if you
Try Alternative Hair Masks At Home
Another alternative is to make your own hair nourishing hair masks that will help make your hair manageable. The thing with these treatments however, is that they typically don’t last as long as the Japanese or Brazilian keratin treatments. But they last long enough and will keep your hair looking luxurious as well as feeling smooth.
If you’re short on ideas, try Natural Hair Keratin Mask, and DIY Gelatin Protein Treatment for Damaged Hair. The former contains avocado, liquid biotin, coconut oil, and argan oil. The latter usually contains gelatin which is a very important protein for your skin and hair.
You might want to also add alternative sources of protein like whole milk yoghurt, gelatin or eggs. This largely depends on your willingness to experiment and get the results you desire. Ultimately, hair masks are a great way to keep your hair manageable and silky.
Overnight Deep Hair Conditioning
People with brittle hair know how difficult it is to have straightened or even tamed hair. This is why you need to have a routine protocol that helps with keeping your hair, soft, firm, and pliable.
Overnight deep hair conditioning can help you do just that. For starters, all you have to do is pour about 4-10 drops of argan, coconut or jojoba oil in your hands, warm up by running your palms together and massage the oil very deeply in your hair and into your scalp.
As much as possible, make sure you get to the root of your hair and the tips. Do this for as long as you need to –some people can do it in a minute, others need five minutes- then cover your hair with your shower cap.
This will help trap any moisture and heat from your scalp, thus allowing the oil work its magic overnight. Go to bed wearing that and wash it off thoroughly in the morning using cold water.
Avoid washing with hot water as that completely removes all hair oil, bringing you right back to square one where your hair becomes even drier. Not only will this treatment help make straightening your hair very easy –all you have to do is apply some hair iron- it will help combat dandruff if you have any.
Apply Coconut And Essential Oils
While these two oils will not directly help straighten your hair, they will contribute to improving your hair health. An unhealthy hair with less nutrients and nourishment will be difficult to straighten using any of the aforementioned methods.
If anything, you’ll end up losing your hair –lots of them- to the use of these hair straightening chemicals. This is your hair needs to be in great shape and health. Apply these oils to rejuvenate your hair and restore them, particularly after the hair might have been damaged courtesy of excessive heating and styling.
Get essential oils of Sage, Cedarwood and Rosemary, mix all three and apply them once to twice a week for 2-3 months. You can also purchase some of the essential oil based shampoos in the market.
Apply coconut oil to your 2-3 times weekly to retain your hair’s bounce and minimize the presence of frizzy hair. Not many people know this, but the consistently application of coconut oil can help reduce, if not completely eliminate frizzy, curly hair.
For the best results, apply 2-5 drops on your palms, warm them on your hands by rubbing your hands together, and then work them deeply into your hair. Work and apply it until it gets to the hair roots.
Use Hair Straightening Creams
Okay, one thing you need to know is that most hair straightening creams –brand or homemade- are only temporary fixes. So, if you just want to have a straight hair for a day or two, this is what you should use. Whatever you do, avoid hair straightening creams with hazardous chemicals.
And if you prefer to make your own, there are ways to do that. To make your own 100 percent organic, natural hair straightening cream at home, you’ll need corn flour, pure coconut oil, coconut milk, gelatin powder, and lemon juice.
Once you have that, click here for instructions on how to prepare it. If you prefer brand hair straightening creams, there are so many of those to choose from. Just head over to Amazon, your local hair salon or a nearby department store.
Try Brazilian Blowout Zero
This is an improvement on the regular Brazilian blowout which often had formaldehyde components or its related products. The “zero” here stands for no formaldehyde. The active ingredient in this hair straightening system is glycolic acid, which is extracted and produced from sugar cane. This means there’s no risk of exposure to formaldehyde or its related products.
Now, the results from this are very similar to those from formaldehyde-based Brazilian treatment, but with none of the side effects that come with prolonged exposure to the hazardous chemical. The only downside is that the hair straightening results aren’t as flawless as that of the regular Brazilian keratin treatment.
This is similar in process to other industry leading hair straightening technology –such as the one L’Oreal filed a patent for in the mid-2000’s- which uses one of more of keto acid, alpha hydroxyl acid or glycolic acid, and combines them with the use of hair straightening irons.
The good news about choosing this hair straightening option is that it’s safer, cleaner and healthier. With this, you never have to worry about formaldehyde exposure for you and your loved ones.
Whatever the case, please understand that most of these non-formaldehyde claims are made by the company’s reps. So far, neither the CDC, FDA or OSHA has looked into their claims. However, if their claims are true, you should really take advantage of this, as it’s the closest you’ll get to perfect hair straightening, just without the attendant risks of formaldehyde.
Things To Know About Permanent Hair Straighteners
- It Requires Consistent Touch-Ups
Here’s the one thing they don’t tell you in the adverts: you’ll need to go have your hair straightened again every few months. So I’m here now, telling you that you will need to consistently carryout routine maintenance on the hair if you want to keep it straight.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a decent price to pay for that straight, gorgeous hair, and never have to worry about carrying shower caps in your bag to hide your frizzy, unmanageable hair after the ironing wears off.
2. The Tools Are Important
If you’re lucky to have just one stylist, good for you. You never have to worry about this. But if you’re not, you should seriously pay attention to their equipment and tools. Old, damaged irons can end up burning your hair instead of straightening it.
And one more thing, never apply any hot objects to your hair for at least one week after having them permanently straightened.
3. You Have the Option of Choosing Hair Straightening Formulas
Most women think that hair straightening protocols are a one size fits all approach; that all you have to do is show up and you’ll instantly come out with hair like Jennifer Aniston’s or Mila Kinus’. That’s not true. Every woman’s needs are unique and different. Their hair textures, treatments and reactions are different.
Talk to your stylist about the history of your hair –the more information you volunteer about it, the better- and ask for their advice. Most stylists will take the porosity, texture, history, elasticity, curl pattern, density and many other factors into consideration before recommending a system for you. So, whatever you do, just be open to suggestions.
Now that you know all these, you can now make an informed decision on the best hair straightening system or method for you. The most important thing is that you won’t get to expose yourself unduly to hazardous chemicals in the bid to look prettier and have beautiful hair.