NY Times Article: Brazilian Keratin Treatments

This article was featured online in the Fashion & Style Section of The New York Times in  July, 2007:

AFTER 14 years of relentless highlighting, bleaching and chemical straightening, Deborah Epstein, 32, a law student from Forest Hills, Queens, had ruined her unruly brown curls. Dull, brittle and difficult to style, her hair was so fragile a ponytail holder could snap it off. 

Moreover, all it took was a molecule of moisture and her hair frizzed. And no amount of expensive products, deep-conditioning treatments and weekly salon blowouts could tame her mane.

But in April, Ms. Epstein tried the Brazilian Keratin Treatment at the nuBest Salon and Spa in Manhasset, N.Y. The results were so spectacular, she wept.

“I got very emotional,” she said. “It was mind-boggling how beautiful my hair looked: straight, shiny, sleek and more important, healthy. I have no products in my life now. I wash my hair, air-dry it and then the last 10 minutes, I blow it and it’s pin-straight.”

Such a gushing testimonial is not unusual, stylists say. “For a woman who had a thorn bush for hair and now it’s like silk, well, we’re talking revolution,” said Mark Garrison, who offers the treatment at his salon in New York.

Originating in Brazil, where it is usually called escova progressiva (progressive blow-dry), the treatment has been trickling here for a few years but has become widely available only in the last six months.

While it appears that no major American hair or beauty companies are now selling it, a cottage industry of hairdressers has emerged, importing products from Brazil or creating their own formulations.

So far, the brands include Brazilian Keratin Treatment, Brazilian Hair Straightening and Brazilian Blowout. “Right now, it’s blowing everything away,” said Meryle Nemeth, the nuBest stylist who administered Ms. Epstein’s treatment, one of about 500 she’s done since February, when it became available at the salon. “I’ve never seen anything take off like this as far as relaxing hair. Everyone wants it for summer, for affairs, for weddings. I’m talking all ages, 12-year-olds to 70-year-olds.”

Sarah Brown, the beauty editor of Vogue, said the treatment is perfect for those with tumbleweed hair who are trying to simplify their lives. “For people who can’t master a salon blowout at home or go get a weekly blowout, a treatment like this is seriously liberating,” she said.

Technically, it is neither a relaxer nor a straightener, both of which use caustic chemicals to change the texture of the hair. The Japanese straightening method, also known as thermal conditioning, has fallen out of favor because many users reported extensive damage, particularly when the process was repeated. The Brazilian is also different because it can be used on most hair types, even the previously color treated, without causing harm, proponents say.

The multistep treatment takes 1 ½ to 4 hours, and costs $150 to $600, depending on the length and thickness of the hair. A stylist applies a solution made with active keratin, a protein akin to a component of human hair.

Using a 450-degree iron, the hairdresser seals the formula onto the outer layer of the cuticle. The formula adheres to the cuticle’s inherently rough edges. Thus, it is said, it traps moisture, hydrating the hair, and adds a glossy veneer.

The results last six weeks to a few months, depending upon how frequently the hair is washed.

There are risks. There’s the hot iron. And the formula often contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can irritate the eyes and lungs if the fumes are inhaled. A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, however, said that the agency has no restrictions on the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics.

Uncurliness comes with a caveat. Emily Dougherty, the beauty editor at Elle, warned: “You need to do due diligence and challenge your stylist. Ask questions about where this chemical cocktail is coming from.”

And keep in mind, just because something is called Brazilian doesn’t mean it is always beautiful.

Credits: New York Times, Curls Split! Ringlets Be Gone!
Published: July 19, 2007

For more information on Brazilian Keratin Treatments, see our article: Brazilian Keratin Treatments 411.

  5 comments for “NY Times Article: Brazilian Keratin Treatments

  1. Alison
    September 21, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I recently received a keratin treatment at an Aveda spa in Maryland. The stylist is a friend of mine and has before this, always done an amazingly good job with my hair. My hair is medium length, medium wavy, and a little bit fine. After decades of professional platinum blonde highlights, and the last few years of heavy flat iron use, I thought I needed a serious conditioning treatment. The stlyist assured me this product had no formaldahyde. I think the treatment stayed on my hair for 15-30 minutes, in addition, the stylist used a flat iron throughout, to seal in the product.

    In total, I was there almost two hours, and I was asked not to wash my hair for 48 hours. Those two days, my hair was extremely flat, but that was not the worst of it. When I finally washed my hair, I noticed it had been completely destroyed. The structure of each hair strand looks as bent and wiry as corn-husk hair. The strands do not lie flat, but frizz beyond recognition. It is so awful. My scalp is also pink and tender.

    This is the worst hair experience I have ever had. My stylist assures me that others have had great result with this treatment. Perhaps, the product stayed on too long for my particular hair. Perhaps the flat iron within the process was too much. But it is really bad. I do not recommend this proceedure for anyone.

  2. Trish
    July 30, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I got a Keratin Hair treatment. I immediately noticed that I had a patch of 1″ hair at the crown, where it looked singed. I waited the required time before washing it, used the products suggested, and kept out of humidity and dampness. The results: My hair was silky for one week only. AND!!! My hair is falling out by the handsfull!!! It has been ten days of hair loss, alot of hair loss, and i can see the hair follicle at the end of the hair. DO NOT GET THIS DONE! I went to a reputable salon, with extensive training in this, and they used a product from a company headquareter in Florida. DO NOT GET THIS DONE!

  3. Pablo
    October 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

    My wife had this done too – losing hairs by the handful a month later. She did it at Chateau 1508 – a so-called reputable salon in San Francisco. DONT DO THIS TREATMENT!

  4. Darlene
    October 6, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    So what has happened to your hair within the last year?

  5. Darlene
    October 6, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    So what has happened to your hair within the few months

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