Brazilian Keratin Treatment 411

A Brazilian Keratin hair treatment (BKT), also known as “escova progressiva”, is a considerably costly salon procedure that promises to transform frizzy, dull, dry hair into silky smooth, shiny strands that last for up to 4 months. Sound too good to be true? It is. Unless you like wearing a gas mask at the salon.

Wildly popular in all the blogs and a hot topic in those social networking forums I love to hangout in, everyone seems to be thinking about getting one. Wait! I type. Before you call your stylist to book your salon appointment, make sure you have all the info you need to make your choice. Silky hair is good, but with a Brazilian Keratin Treatment you might be getting more than you planned.

What you and your stylist may not know is that the active ingredient in these BKT “wonder” treatments is formaldehyde, which is a dangerous chemical, especially if you breathe it in. Hence the protective equipment – face masks, gloves, ventilation fans – as a safety precaution when giving or getting a treatment. Is straight hair worth wearing a gas mask? Now THAT’S something to consider.

According to Allure Magazine (we love them!) “some of the most popular BKT treatments contain at least ten times more formaldehyde than the .2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. The FDA doesn’t currently regulate cosmetics, but they are investigating the safety of escova progressiva treatments.” Now, I’m no expert, and I have considered a BKT when I originally heard about them, but ten times more formaldehyde really sounds like a bad idea. Very bad. There’s no way that’s good for you.

The best, or I should say worst part about the Allure Magazine expose? I’ll loosely paraphrase here, but the gist is: “Keratin has nothing to do with straightening. Nada. There is nothing in Keratin that will change the structure of the hair, it’s the formaldehyde that makes the treatment work. Keratin is window dressing and provides a good marketing story.” Sounds like a sham to me. And really, who wants that kind of toxic treatment?

I’ll opt for a formaldehyde free treatment! Keratin treatments like Coppola Keratin Complex, Rejuvenol, and Global Keratin Treatments make formaldehyde free treatments which are a safer alternative to the Brazilian Straightening!  Yes there is an alternative to the nasty fumes!

Another great tip: To help protect your hair against any dryness during the treatment our friendly hairstylist, Dave, gave us a great tip! About 1 week before your keratin treatment use the Maijan Pure Organic Argan Oil infused with Grapeseed Oil as a deep oil treatment. This will help reduce breakage and keep your hair shiny and silky!  And maybe a trip to Brazil!

Check out our picks for the best flat irons to use when doing and maintaining your keratin treatment.

Credits: Allure Magazine

For more info, check out this article: Brazilian Keratin Treatment FAQ’s.

  38 comments for “Brazilian Keratin Treatment 411

  1. Kellie
    May 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Keratin is the protein that makes up your hair and nails. When you get a perm, there are disulfide bridges that are chemically broken and then reformed while your hair is twisted into curls. Then the bonds are chemically reformed while the hair is in the curled position, changing the shape of the hair.

    I’m not sure what chemicals are used in perms – but they are major chemicals.

    This is like a straightening perm. I’m going to look around for more info, but it seems this works in about the same fashion – chemically breaking bonds within the hair shaft then using heat to reform the bonds and straightening the hair (with the repeated strokes of the flat iron).

    (I have a degree in chem.)

  2. SASA
    June 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm


  3. Renie
    September 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve had it done many times! And I love it! It does make your eyes burn but the result is curl/frizz free hair and no need to use the hairdryer for so long like before. I was having wrist problems of using the hairdryer for so long, trying to make my unmanageable hair looks tidy… now I only take 5 minutes blow drying and I don’t need to pull it! Saving my time and my wrist!

  4. Pixxie
    December 5, 2009 at 2:20 am

    So…as a beauty professional, here’s my 2 cents…formaldehyde? Well, for a starters, all your nail polish, it’s got it! With the exception of Zoya brand polish that advertises being a formaldehyde free product; yup that’s it. What about your lipstick? Mm-hmm there too! What about the other toxins women will put in their bodies? You can’t tell me that getting your hair straightened every 4-6 months is any better than injecting a neurotoxin containing botulism aka BOTOX at roughly the same frequency is any better? Coppola brand BKT and Global Formaldehyde-Free contain a few % points under what is considered “safe.” At least my clients aren’t burning their hair off with scorching irons anymore after they’ve had this treatment. Less splint ends too. I believe in it and that’s my 2 cents.

  5. amanda
    January 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm


  6. Donya
    March 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I was against the idea of getting formaldehyde ironed into my hair, but then my stylist said he had some BKT which is formaldehyde free, and it even says that on the box! now, im no chemistry pro or anything, but i read all the components and most of them sounded like natural extracts. i must say the idea of having straight hair for four to six months straight is too good to be “all natural” but i tried it and am very happy with the results. he then told me i had to use the brands shampoo and conditioner (which were ridiculously over priced ), cause i had to use sodium chloride free products, and that i had to be very careful with what products i put in my hair as they can ruin the treatment. Was a bit annoyed and felt that he was trying to sell me his products but i thought ill just do as he says, and now two months later and am still very happy with the results. my only concern is, i wanted to do more research about the brand online but couldnt find anything about it. the brand is called AMAZON keratin. anyone know anything about it?

  7. LVG
    March 10, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I have 4a-4b natural (black) hair. I am fighting not to put a perm back in my hair. I am hearing about this Keratin treatment & was excited to try until I heard what it has in it. What is worse the relaxer or the Keratin. I just want healthy, manageable hair. HELP!!

  8. Beth
    March 15, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I’ve been thinking of doing BKT and have been researching it. There appears to be NO formaldehyde-free brand. They may not call it formaldehyde, but if you look at the ingredients, there is an “…aldehyde” ingredient, which is a formaldehyde derivative. From what I can tell, it’s the formaldehyde that does the trick, not so much the keratin. But they can’t call it a Formaldehyde treatment. Supposedly, the safe level of formaldehyde product is .02% – NOT 2%. There are toxic fumes that are delivered during the process. So, I think I have researched myself out of doing it. Mainly because I would want to do it regularly because it looks so good. But the word “cancer risk” kept popping up and I think it’s not worth it.

  9. Tarryn
    March 18, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Hi :0 I Have a Bad Hair Day every day!! My HAir is terrible to manage!! I Use My GhD Every day of my life for atleast 40 min :( this is damaging my hair like you cant believe!! i have an appointment to get this global kreatnin treatment done to my hair!! Guys i am SOOOOOOooooOOO SUPER nervis!!! HELP :) :) i am so tired of fighting day in and day out with my hair!!!!

  10. Dee
    May 4, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    i am from brazil n i ve been doing the formaldehyde keratin treatment for 5 years. Never had any problem. If it is damaging ur hair it is because the professional exceeded the amount of product and let it touch ur roots and scalp. Now, just keep washing ur hair everyday and trim the edges. About cancer, even when the very first products to dye hair were invented people came up wiv the same story. There are loads of products we use that there is formaldehyde. It also depends on the percentage of leave in in the formula. If it was a cheap oily one then the effect is pretty much the opposite. I usually buy a good brand and apply myself. The hair has to be very well dried and straightened. BTW, amazon keratin is pretty much as X tenso and other straightener stuff as acid, etc.. that makes ur hair dull, weak and u can NOT dye it!
    Just find a brazilian hairdresser then u will av the real deal!

  11. Jennifer
    May 4, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I read you post here and actually am educator for one of the BKT lines as well as was an educator for one of the other lines which is mentioned in this article. The facts need to be the facts and instead of bashing all lines find out for sure what is being written here. First of all Formaldehyde is a gas and is not contained in the product but is the released when the heat hits the hair. So yes it exists however some lines are FDA approved and OSHA safe with MSDS sheets to prove that. Also the Formalin contained in this product below .50% which is what OSHA deems safe for a stylist to work with in an 8 hr. period. It is also not the same formaldehyde used to embalm bodies. Formaldehyde traces are found in nail polish in certain vegetables etc. The formalin will not truely cause someone to get cancer with 2 visits a year. Come on now. Well final comment is that find out the facts and I will guarantee you will not be disappointed with the treatment because it is the most amazing treatment ever. Plus I am sure inhaling sodium hydroxide and thio and bleach and nail odors are healthy too……

  12. Jennifer
    May 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    To answer one question would be to say formaldehyde is not what smoothes the hair but acts as a perservative. Keratin can cause bacterial growth and the product will not last long in the bottle without the formaldehyde or derivitive. Ask for an MSDS sheet and take to doctor to find out if they deem safe for you to use.

  13. joanna
    July 10, 2010 at 3:46 am

    I had the global keratin hair treatment about a month ago and my hair is still straight and manageable. I had frizzy, curly and unmanageable hair. It would frizz if I went out in cold weather or sweated and it would take an hour to do my hair. NOW, when i wake up, it takes me about 10 minutes to straighten my hair because its already relaxed and calm. When I sweat or go out in cold weather, my hair does not react and stays the same way as I styled it. It holds the curl when I want it to, or stays straight when I straighten it. I love this treatment. I tried chemical straightners when I was a child and had horrible experiences. But with this keratin treatment, i have had NO side effects and the results are great. My hair gets absolutely NO friz.

  14. C.V
    September 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I hav done the bkt treatment by Coppola 5 times..loved it …but has anyone experienced hair shedding..?I recently shed a lot and I mean a whole lot…help….???

  15. Karen
    October 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

    The Keratin treatment is the best treatment I’ve ever had… it’s just starting to become popular here in the Philippines and I’m loving it… My hair got naturally wavy hair .. with the Keratin treatment I can now have the hairstyle that I want without having a sleek straight hair… a million thanks to Studio One salon …. loving my hair too much….

  16. Mary B
    June 10, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Lisa — Thanks for the reccomendation. I went to see Henri and I am one happy woman. I love what he did to my hair.
    Only problem was tracking him down as he no longer works at the salon you mentioned. They were nice enough though to let me know he relocated to

    Mizu Salon
    505 Park Ave.
    NY, NY 10022
    Tel. 212-688-6498

  17. Dee
    June 22, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Lisa, thanks so much your commets really helped!
    I have been reading so much on the Kertain treatment and the worry that it is linked to with Cancer which is putting me off it. But it does sound like a dream come true, I have curly hair which is long and takes me forever to style I do colour my roots (cover grey hair) do you think it would still work? And when you wash it and leave it to dry natually do you really feel the difference? So the treatment by Coppola for sure doesn’t have any “formaldehyde’?

  18. Awilda
    September 3, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Well, I am sure of what your saying, Formaldehyde is awful!!! As a hair stylist myself I think it’s terrible to put clients through it but basically…. it WORKS and you go thru it while the process is done. THATS IT, how much worse is it than smoking, second hand smoke, or even pollution? Everything is bad in excessive amounts, greasy food, cheese, alcoholic drinks, yes too much is bad! But going thru a treatment that can actually make you LOVE the hair you’ve been blesses/cursed with can be a freeing experience for many people, Now as far as us stylist breathing in the toxins, not just from these treatments but all chemical processing perms, relaxers, amonia charged colors… LORD HELP US

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