Everything You Need to Know Before You Try a Keratin Treatment at Home

Lately, I've been slicking my hair back into a bun and forgetting about it more often than not. When humidity levels get up to over 70% in New York, when I wear my hair down, it usually turns into a mushroom cloud around my head in 10 minutes flat. Frizz isn't a bad thing by any means, but I've begun dreaming of doing something to my hair to make it a bit more equipped for the heat—namely, a keratin treatment

Keratin treatments are known for adding mirror-like shine to hair and rendering it virtually impervious to frizz. If you want your hair to be straighter and smoother, they're a perfect option to consider. They're an option on many salon service menus, but what if you could do a DIY keratin treatment at home? I caught up with Gregory Patterson, celebrity hairstylist and DIY color and styling expert for Sally Beauty, to get the lowdown on everything you need to know about at-home keratin treatments.


(Image credit: @gerganavivanova)

What exactly is a keratin treatment, and how does it work?

"A keratin treatment is a chemical procedure done in a salon, or at home, that can make hair look straighter and smoother," says Patterson. "It can last four to six months, adds intense shine, and reduces frizz." In order to get these results, a protein formula is applied to the hair and left to process, then sealed with a blow dryer or flat iron in thin sections. 

"I like to explain a keratin treatment similarly to a gel manicure that is cured and hardened under a curing light," says Patterson. "The product becomes set and cured, and remains that way until it gradually fades off in about four to six months."

How should you prep for an at-home keratin treatment?

First of all, always read the label and follow the instructions to a T for the best results. Patterson says that because keratin treatments are proteins that harden onto hair, you should prepare your hair for treatment by adding more moisture to your hair. Mix in a moisturizing hair mask about two weeks before treatment. Look for hair masks with nourishing ingredients like argan oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, or castor oil to quench strands.

How long do DIY keratin treatments last?

If you get a keratin treatment done in a salon, expect it to last four to six months, depending on how often you wash your hair. A DIY keratin treatment will last two to three months. "One big difference is that many salon formulas contain formaldehyde, which can be pretty intense and dangerous to inhale, of course," says Patterson. "Many at-home treatments are safer and formaldehyde-free."

How do you maintain an at-home keratin treatment? 

Patterson says that the best maintenance routine for keratin treatments starts with what you do to your hair in the shower and which products you're regularly using. "Look for shampoos and conditioners that are free from sodium chloride, sulfates, and parabens," he says. "Sulfates and sodium chloride specifically will strip the keratin treatment from your strands and you'll be left with your pre-treated tresses all too soon."

Another major key to prolonging your at-home keratin treatment is shampooing your hair less. Patterson recommends opting for dry shampoos and dry conditioners in lieu of traditional shampoos—especially during the first 72 hours post-application as the keratin treatment sets in. "These products will help absorb any oils or residue, and the dry conditioner will keep your hair soft and shiny between washes," he says. 

When done correctly, DIY keratin treatments can be a great option for curbing frizz and adding shine to hair. Below, shop some of our favorite at-home options.

The 15 best at-home keratin treatments:

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.