The science of the keratin hair treatment, and is it really bad for you?


It may not come as a surprise to you that I am one of the many girls that is dissatisfied with their hair. My hair is in an in-betweener stage where it is neither straight nor completely curly either. To sum it up, most times it is a frizzy mess. When I was younger though, my hair was curly and I had always loved to get it blown out and straightened by a hair stylist. Because of this, when I got older, I decided to get the keratin treatment on my hair to make it straighter and not frizzy. Now you make be asking yourself, what is the keratin treatment, and how does it work to essentially “straighten” your hair? Well, a hair stylist puts a chemical mixture, similar to a paste, into your hair that is able to straighten it and rid of the frizz. The chemical is then washed out of your hair after a certain amount of time and later the treatment is sealed into your hair by the use of a flat iron. After getting the keratin treatment done, I was always curious to know if it was causing serious damage to my hair, or if the treatment was not detrimental to the health of my hair at all. I wanted to research this so that I can feel confident that I am safe and that my hair will remain healthy if I continue to get the treatment done.

To begin, I first researched what the word “keratin” actually means. It is a protein that is found in your hair, as well as other various parts of your body. The keratin treatment is meant to reinforce and accentuate the healthiness of your hair. I then researched what kinds of chemicals are put into your hair and to see if they can damage your hair. The main chemical that is put into your hair for the keratin treatment is formaldehyde. It seems that instead of damaging your hair, formaldehyde has detrimental effects to other parts of your body when you are surrounded by it and if you inhale it at extreme amounts. Formaldehyde often times can irritate a customer’s eyes, ears, nose and throat while the treatment is being done. It can also affect a hair stylist’s health, so often times they will have to wear a mask so that the chemical is not heavily inhaled. When I got my keratin treatment done, my eyes began to tear up uncontrollably and my hair stylist took a break so that I was able to regroup and stay away from the chemical for a few minutes. In that case, the chemical had been severely irritating my eyes, which is a common thing that formaldehyde will do.

Although one may think that this chemical is damaging your hair, it is important to note that the chemical itself has damaging affects on your body and not your hair. It is said that the only damage that can be done to your hair is by flat-ironing it on a consistent basis. In fact, there is no causal relationship between formaldehyde and your hair, but rather a causal relationship between formaldehyde and certain sensitive parts of your body such as your eyes, ears, nose and throat. Formaldehyde causes uncomfortable feelings and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest pains and worst case, bronchitis when there is high exposure to formaldehyde.

Ultimately, after reading my post and looking into some studies that have been done, would you risk your overall health just to have your hair look “picture-perfect” on a hot and humid day? Probably not. It is unfortunate but after researching the detriments of formaldehyde, I will no longer be getting the keratin treatment. There are many other ways in which I can style my hair when it is unruly instead of causing long-term damage to my health and to my body.



“Formaldehyde.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

Mann, Denise. “Keratin Hair Treatments.” WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web.

Platt, Isabel. “What’s the Deal with Keratin Treatments?” National Center For Health Research. N.p., 09 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

5 thoughts on “The science of the keratin hair treatment, and is it really bad for you?

  1. Annalise Marie Pilitowski

    When I was in middle school I straightened my hair EVERY MORNING for school. I used to think that my hair needed to be pin straight. Over the years I started to ease off of flat iron. By the time I reached 10th grade I got rid of my flat iron and started embracing my natural hair. By using a straightener I was damage my hair and it looked so unhealthy. Now, after not putting heat on my hair for 4 years, my hair is healthier than ever. I was just wasting time damaging my hair for all those years, I couldn’t imagine getting the keratin treatments and ruining my body and not just my hair.

  2. Celine Degachi

    I have crazy hair too and it’s really interesting to know the only damage you could really do to it is by straightening it. I have actually had this treatment done on my hair. I didn’t really experience any of the negative effects you listed but the treatment actually changed the curls in my hair. Before I had it done, my curls were more full and voluminous while after they were more wavy than curly. Although, after the treatment wore off and after a couple of hair cuts, my hair is back to its natural ways.

  3. Cassandra N Kearns

    I have always wanted to get this treatment done to my hair, and I was always curious if it was healthy or not for my hair, but I never questioned if it was healthy or not for my body. I like how you used the material we learned in class to conclude that the relationship between the chemical and our hair doesn’t show a lot of correlation, but that the relationship between how the chemical affects our bodies has a strong correlation. Do you think the formaldehyde directly causes harm to our bodies, or do you suspect there could be an outlying cause, such as the overwhelming smell of the chemical creating coughing/wheezing, instead of the chemical directly?

  4. Madelyn Erin Peikin

    This article was very interesting. I often find myself wanting longer, thicker, straighter hair as well, so I feel your pain! I actually looked into getting the same treatment at one point! I never went through with it, but it has always remained in the back of my head as being a possibility for the future. My hair gets on my nerves so much because it is neither straight nor curly, either. I am so glad I read this article because I probably would not have done all the research to know whether or not the treatment was actually safe or not. I definitely will not be getting this treatment! I had no idea how many harmful chemicals there were, and how those chemicals could affect your body. Although I would love for my hair to be perfectly straight as well, I do not think I want to risk damaging my body. I’m glad you decided to stop getting the treatment, because it is not worth it to harm your body in the process! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Shannon Hughes

    Several times in class, like with the article about light affecting sleep and depression, we came to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to change our lifestyle due to a study that did not seem to affect us. I appreciate how your research led you to conclude that you will not get keratin treatments due to the detrimental affects of formaldehyde.

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