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What Is A Keratin Treatment? (And Why You Should Be Doing It If You Have Thin Hair)

Use this protective protein to prevent long-lasting damage.


If you have thin hair, you’ve probably spent a good bit of time researching tips and tricks for thickening your mane. Perhaps you’ve tried a few of the serums, lotions, and potions swirling around the internet. (I know I have.) Maybe you’ve even found some styling success. Regardless, the search — as anyone with thin hair knows — never ends.  

Whether due to stress, genetics, hormones, or aging, thinning hair happens … and sometimes, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. That said, incremental change is possible. With a little TLC, a whole lot of patience, and a keratin treatment or two, boosting hair health to achieve strong voluminous tresses is possible. Read on for more information on keratin treatments — a gal with thinning hair’s best friend — including what they are and why they’re necessary. 

What is keratin?

Keratin is a type of fibrous, protective protein found naturally in hair, skin, and nails. It’s basically a structural building block; roughly 90 percent of your hair is made up of the stuff. When keratin protein is added to hair care products (like shampoo or conditioner), it creates long-lasting protection against damage.

So, what’s a keratin treatment? 

Simply put, a keratin treatment (also known as the Brazilian blowout or Brazilian keratin treatment) is a popular chemical-based treatment that aims to recover the elasticity, luster, and health of hair. These treatments can also alter your hair texture, straighten natural hair, or just help you spend a little less time with your flat irons and blow-dryers. They are typically done in a hair salon with a professional, but you can also purchase DIY treatments to try at home. 

How do keratin treatments work?

During a keratin hair treatment, your stylist will use a mixture of powerful chemicals to apply a coat of keratin to your locks. This process seals your hair’s cuticle (a.k.a. the protective outer layer) to lock moisture into each strand. Then, after being heated and blow-dried, your hair will be straightened with a flat iron by your stylist to seal and activate the protein coating. You’ll then go home and keep your tresses dry for about a week before returning to the salon to have the chemicals washed out, and a setting treatment applied. When done correctly, you should reap the benefits of this process for up to three months

What are the benefits of getting a keratin treatment?

Keratin treatments have a wide range of benefits for hair. Here are just a few. 

They prevent frizz

If frizzy hair is the bane of your existence, a keratin treatment may be your saving grace. This is because a keratin treatment fills in the porous gaps in strands that cause the frizz. Better still, keratin smoothing treatments are better for you than other straightening treatments (like chemical relaxers).

They boost shine. 

In addition to making hair frizz-free, a keratin chemical treatment can also improve luster and leave locks shinier. This is especially beneficial for women with naturally curly hair who don’t typically see the shine in their mane — with a keratin treatment, shiny hair happens!

They help repair damage. 

Keratin doesn’t just give you the shiny, straight hair of your dreams. A keratin treatment adds an extra layer of protection to hair that’s been damaged by chemicals or hair product build-up. Keratin also works to replenish hair during specific seasons and weather conditions (when strands are prone to dryness). Maintaining good hair health via keratin treatments can help prevent split ends and breakage by giving tresses an extra boost of moisture, as the treatment locks hydration inside the hair shaft. 

Can a keratin treatment help thinning hair?

Keratin can absolutely help thinning hair. In a 2018 study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers found that keratin smoothed hair and increased its strength by an 40 percent. In another 2018 study published in Biotechnology Reports, scientists found that a type of keratin protein enlarged the diameter of damaged hair by almost 50 percent. So, if you’re on a mission to achieve a thick, gorgeous mane, a keratin treatment might be able to help. 

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that these treatments have proven to be more beneficial for those with especially curly, coarse, or color-treated hair. Thin hair that’s super straight or ultra-fine may not reap as many keratin treatment benefits.   

Do keratin treatments pose any risks for thin hair?

Unfortunately, there are a few risks associated with keratin treatments. For those hoping to boost hair growth, the most important one is the ingredient list. That’s because keratin isn’t actually the star of the show — the chemical formaldehyde is what straightens your tresses (and keeps them straight for several months). To some, it’s a necessary evil that ensures the keratin treatment binds to hair strands. Still, formaldehyde is toxic. While there’s no scientific research that shows a direct link between formaldehyde and hair loss, there’s a growing chorus of women who report shedding and thinning hair after the application of these strong chemical treatments. 

Any formaldehyde-free tips for thin hair? 

If your hair is thin, harsh chemicals like formaldehyde via keratin treatments may not be your best bet. Of course, consult with your hairstylist as they know your tresses best. With this in mind, here are some chemical-free alternatives for supporting hair health and thickening. 

  • Concentrate conditioner on the tips. Many conditioning products weigh fine hair down. For more voluminous hair, use conditioner only on the ends — not your entire scalp.

Hair’s the Truth

If you’re on a mission to grow long, voluminous locks, consult with a professional first to make sure a keratin treatment is right for you. Why? Because a traditional keratin treatment contains harsh chemicals that can damage your hair. Women who use these hair straightening treatments swear by them — for smoothing frizz and increasing shine, and experts say that they may boost hair growth

That said, don’t worry if a keratin treatment isn’t ideal for your hair type. There are many options available that can help you to get the gorgeous mane of your dreams.Talk to your hairdresser to see what will work for you.

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