The Science of Beauty: How Do Keratin Treatments Actually Work

Hallie Gould
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In our new series, The Science of Beauty, we're going to do a bit more research into the making of a great beauty product. While we've talked about the textures, scents, and efficacy of our favourite formulas in our Reviewed series, this one is meant to feed the other side of the brain—the side we perhaps haven't tapped into since chemistry class. We'll talk science, experiments, and the ingredients that make each product work with experts in each specific field. Then we'll check back in with our favourite hair and makeup artists to get a breakdown on how to best use the products once they're out of the lab and back in our bathrooms.

We dove deep into the technology behind volumising hair products, learned about the history and chemistry behind antiperspirant, and read up on Roccutane. Now, we're talking keratin treatments. The hours-long, in-salon remedy works to de-frizz and de-puff—I've even had it done myself in years past—but how does it work? We talked to the team at Keratin Complex for answers.

What is Keratin?

Keratin is a fibrous protein found naturally in the hair that acts as a protective shield against humidity, the primary cause of frizz. Over time, the hair loses keratin from exposure to the sun, environment, styling, and chemical services—causing porous spots to develop (much like potholes in a road).

"Keratin in [and of] itself works with the porosity of the hair. Most frizz, [damage] and tangled hair is due to overly porous hair," says Abraham Sprinkle, a Keratin Complex International creative team member. "Keratin treatments fill in [the gaps where keratin has been depleted], so humidity is combated and hair is left with a healthier appearance. Think of it in the same way spackle deals with nail holes in sheetrock: the surface is left smooth." 

Performed in-salon by a professional stylist, this powerful treatment replenishes the hair with high concentrations of keratin that penetrate throughout the hair structure and are sealed within the cortex to repair the damage. "This locks out humidity, repairs damage and breakage, and rebuilds strength to make smoother, shinier and healthier-looking hair, improving manageability and significantly reducing styling time," Sprinkle explains.

"Unlike straightening treatments (which can break protein bonds to reform hair structure into a permanently straight shape), Keratin Complex treatments won’t break the bonds of your hair—instead, reducing frizz and restoring health to provide the straightening, smoothing effect without permanently changing the structure. This allows versatility to style wavy or straight as desired."

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