November 14, 2022/Skin Care & Beauty

What You Need To Know About Keratin Treatments

The popular salon service aims to give you smooth, shiny, frizz-free hair

Client in chair at hair salon with long smooth brown hair after a keratin hair treatment.

For those who lust after having smooth, frizz-free hair, you may have heard of keratin treatments — and maybe you’ve even tried the popular salon service.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A keratin treatment can reduce your blow-drying time, cut down on frizz, smooth your hair cuticle and amp up shine. But for some individuals, keratin treatments may damage your curl pattern and it can be an expensive and lengthy process.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, explains what’s involved with a keratin treatment and if it’s something you should try.

What is a keratin treatment?

Keratin is a type of protein that makes up the outer surface of your hair, skin and nails.

“As you age, you lose keratin. It gets broken down or becomes damaged,” explains Dr. Vij. “Overtime, factors like environmental triggers, UV chemicals and heat can break down keratin. Those factors basically cause the protein to change its natural shape.”

And as the shape and structure of keratin change, its function changes. “That means that your hair doesn’t have the same strength, elasticity or shine,” he continues.

That’s where a keratin hair treatment comes in. “Keratin treatments are a chemical process where the outer layer of the hair shaft is smoothed,” says Dr. Vij.

Keratin treatments can be used on any hair type. “People typically with longer hair or curly, frizzy hair may be more likely to use it,” he notes. “But even if you have short hair and you’re not happy with your hair’s volume, you can use the keratin treatment to make your hair look a little bit fuller and more lustrous.”

How is the treatment applied?

The process can vary at different salons, but typically, a hairstylist will start off by washing your hair twice with a clarifying shampoo.


After that, a keratin treatment or solution is applied to your wet hair and combed through. The solution will sit on your hair anywhere between two and four hours, depending on the amount of hair you have and its texture.

Finally, your hair stylist will dry your hair and then use a flat iron to seal the treatment into your hair. This step is key.

“The keratin treatment isn’t shampooed out. It coats your hair and it smooths everything out,” explains Dr. Vij. “And then the heat seals it, or cures it, to help restore that outer layer to a glossy, shiny, smooth texture.”

How long does a keratin treatment last?

A keratin treatment before and after may surprise you with how sleek and shiny your hair is. And those results can last about six months if you don’t wash your hair too frequently.

Some pro tips? You want to wait a few days before your first shampoo after your keratin treatment and then try to cut down on the number of times you shampoo. And use sodium chloride-free hair products, which are free of harsh chemicals that can harm your hair.

Are keratin treatments actually safe?

Some keratin treatment formulas may contain formaldehyde, a strong-smelling chemical that can cause watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, skin irritation and a burning sensation in your eyes, nose and throat.

“Unfortunately, formaldehyde is in almost everything around us. It’s in soaps, shampoos and the foods that we eat,” says Dr. Vij. “Obviously, you don’t want to be putting that into your body in high quantities. So, if you can avoid exposure to formaldehyde, it can be helpful to maintain skin health and overall health. There are still questions about whether there are links to cancers and other negative effects on our overall health.”

While there are formaldehyde-free keratin treatments on the market, those formulas don’t work as well. So, make sure you do your research and weigh the pros and cons of a keratin treatment.


Other precautions

Keratin treatments aren’t recommended for individuals who are pregnant. And if you have sensitive skin or allergic contact dermatitis, you want to proceed with caution.

“Those individuals should just be careful,” stresses Dr. Vij. “You want to look for formulas that may be fragrance-free and preservative-free.”

You may also want to consider the cost of a keratin treatment. You can spend upwards of $300 per treatment.

At-home keratin treatment kits are available in stores and online that might work better for your budget. But it’s vital that you read through all the instructions beforehand and follow them closely.

“Make sure you clean your hair well with a nice shampoo. Apply the keratin treatment, let it soak in and then activate it with a heat source,” says Dr. Vij. “Professional heat sources may be more effective over a shorter amount of time.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person using a dipiliary cream on their leg while draped in a towel in the bathroom.
May 7, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
A Deep Dive on Depilatory Creams

This old-school hair removal method is painless if done correctly — but it’s not for everybody

Person examining psoriasis on their arm and hands
April 17, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Does Psoriasis Spread on Your Body?

The common skin condition isn’t contagious, but it can pop up anywhere on your body during a flare

Closeup of a head with scalp psoriasis
April 16, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Experiencing Scalp Psoriasis? Learn How To Treat and Reduce Hair Loss

Calm an itchy scalp by using medicated shampoo, avoiding blow-drying and resisting the urge to scratch

One hand squirting lotion from a tube into other hand
April 13, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Does Psoriasis Itch and How To Stop It

Caused by inflammation, psoriasis itch can be managed with a variety of treatments, like moisturizing and taking cooler and shorter showers

Healthcare provider holding bottle of prescription medication
April 12, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
These Common Triggers Likely Cause Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stress, infections, skin injuries and environmental factors can trigger an onset of psoriasis symptoms

Adult male with acne on face and chest
April 11, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Adult Acne: What Causes It and What To Do About It

As you age, hormones can continue to play a big role in breakouts

Petroleum jelly being applied to a hand
April 10, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
14 Psoriasis Self-Care Strategies

Learn your triggers, stay moisturized, quit smoking, prioritize sleep — and avoid scratching

Person sitting in a yoga pose with calming vegetation behind them
April 8, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
10 Easy Steps To Prevent and Manage Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stick to your treatment plan, but keep your provider updated on any new symptoms or triggers

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey