3 Most Hazardous Side Effects of Keratin Treatment

Like me, you have bushy, curly hair and dream of sleek locks, but when looking at options wonder what the side effects of keratin treatment are.

The Brazilian Blowout no doubt gives fantastic semi-permanent results to wavy hair, but there are some serious risks you need to consider before using it as a treatment to get straight hair.

I decided to do some research and speak to my hair stylist to find out more before trying a Brazilian keratin treatment.

Here’s what I discovered and wanted to share.

The 3 Most Hazardous Side Effects

soft long hair

Keratin hair treatments do a great job of transforming frizzy hair into sleek, smooth hair.

However, the 3 main risks are the most serious, and it is a good idea to know these before taking the next step to making your hair smooth.

1. Keratin Treatment Can Increase Cancer Risk

Many of the keratin treatments used for hair smoothing purposes incorporate a chemical called Formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that helps eliminate annoying frizz from your hair while keeping them smooth and straight for months. However, it is a carcinogen, according to the American Cancer Society. [1]

It was declared as a “probable human carcinogen.” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [1]

This means that exposure to formaldehyde is thought to cause or help cancer grow.

Learn more about what formaldehyde is here:

Through chemical treatments such as keratin hair treatments, you get formaldehyde exposure when the treatment solution releases a gas into the air. This means that the process you and salon workers breathe it in. Eek!

Your skin can also absorb this harmful chemical.

These adverse effects are why some stylists will not use this option as a treatment for hair.

CHECK: DOES KERATIN MAKE YOUR HAIR FALL OUT?

2. It Can Cause Severe Allergic Reactions and Other Potential Health Risks

In addition to being a carcinogen, formaldehyde is also known to trigger other health side effects and severe allergic reactions that can be pretty uncomfortable.

A bad reaction can include itchy skin, coughing, sneezing, and mood swings, this chemical can really turn your world upside down.

Many users and salon stylists have faced difficulty breathing, eye irritation, and nosebleeds after using keratin hair treatments.

Some of the most noticeable allergic reactions from formaldehyde you should know about are:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, burning eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Itchy skin, skin rash
  • Scalp irritations and burns
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Mood Swings
  • Nose and throat irritation

Because of the health risks, in 2016, the Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth (EWG) sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not regulating formaldehyde use in beauty and hair products. [2]

EWG claimed that the FDA was well aware of the health hazards associated with products containing formaldehyde for at least 10 years, but they failed to regulate it.

3. It Can Increase Hair Breakage and Hair Damage

heat styling

Heat styling is one of the main steps taken during keratin treatment. This step helps the chemical process and straightens the hair shaft. It is also the cause of one of the biggest treatment side effects.

Even if it is done with the best keratin hair straightener or flat iron, heat damage can still occur.

You need to be careful how this step is carried out. If you apply too much heat or over-straighten, hoping to really lock the treatment in, you can end up with some serious hair breakage, which no one wants!

Additionally, when the heat is applied to the hair, it increases exposure to formaldehyde as more is released into the surrounding environment.

Additionally, since the formaldehyde causes scalp irritation, your scalp becomes sensitive, which weakens the hair root leading to extreme hair loss. Yikes!

For more details about the dangers of hair smoothing treatments, like keratin, check out this video. I found it really helpful.

Related: How Often Can You Redo a Keratin Treatment?

How to Avoid The Dangerous Side Effects and Damage of Keratin Treatment

If you still want to use this hair smoothing solution to get straight hair after learning about the side effects of keratin treatment, it is important to know what you can do to lessen the risks.

One thing I learned is that you can still get a Brazilian Blowout that doesn’t use formaldehyde. Phew! I thought, straighter hair here I come!

Look for a salon that offers formaldehyde-free products. Instead, ask your stylist to use glyoxylic acid on your hair, which is much safer but ensures the same smoothing and straightening results as formaldehyde.

Another salon treatment you can try instead of Brazilian Keratin is the Keratin Complex. I tried this myself, and it gave me manageable hair! I was so happy with my beautiful hair.

This procedure uses different formulas from a classic smoothing treatment to repair your damaged hair and make it silky, smooth, and frizz-free.

However, this treatment doesn’t straighten your hair, and therefore, you are not exposed to any dangerous effects caused by formaldehyde.

If you prefer to use a home salon keratin treatment, follow the same criteria. INVERTO REVOLUTION Complex Brazilian Keratin Formaldehyde Free Hair Blowout Treatment is amongst some of the most popular home hair straightening products. 

It contains no formaldehyde solution, which is much less risky to your health.

Watch Out For Hidden Formaldehyde

You also need to keep an eye out for chemicals that are considered formaldehyde donors and try to avoid them. These include sodium hydroxide and Diazolidinyl urea.

Finally, check that it is not only free of formaldehyde but that it is also free of guanidine, methylene glycol, and thio. Watch out for formaldehyde hiding in products, even those labeled as ‘formaldehyde free’ as it can be released by other chemicals.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology of the brands tested ” 6 had formaldehyde levels that ranged from 0.96% to 1.4%, ie, 5 times higher than the recommended level; these included 5 brands labeled formaldehyde-free.” [4]

For more toxic chemicals to watch out for in hair products, take a minute to watch this video.

READ MORE: Keratin Treatment Pros and Cons

FAQs

What is the healthiest keratin treatment?

The healthiest type of keratin treatment will help hair strength by infusing keratin into the hair cuticles. Products that use Cysteine or glyoxylic acid.

Does keratin improve hair growth?

Keratins are structural proteins that occur naturally in your hair and can improve the structure of hair when it is sealed into the outer layer, which can improve growth. However, you need to balance this out with potential hair damage that can occur during a salon treatment.

Are keratin treatments safe?

Modern keratin treatments are safe so long as they do not contain formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals. This includes avoiding methylene glycol “which releases formaldehyde when it is heated during the treatment process” [3] Choose carefully, as it is not always easy to know if the chemicals are safe.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you better understand the side effects of keratin treatment. Doing research certainly opened my eyes! Thankfully, there are safer alternatives you can use to make your hair smoother with keratin.

Do you have a favorite type of keratin treatment? I’d love to hear all about it!

Resources

1. Formaldehyde [Internet]. www.cancer.org. [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/chemicals/formaldehyde.html#:~:text=The%20EPA%20has%20classified%20formaldehyde

2. Environmental Groups Sue FDA to Take Formaldehyde Out of Salons | Environmental Working Group [Internet]. www.ewg.org. [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/environmental-groups-sue-fda-take-formaldehyde-out-salons

3. What’s the Deal with Keratin Treatments? [Internet]. National Center for Health Research. 2015. Available from: https://www.center4research.org/whats-deal-keratin-treatments/

4. Elevated formaldehyde concentration in “Brazilian keratin type” hair-straightening products: A cross-sectional study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2021 Aug 12];70:276–80. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962213011353

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you better understand the side effects of keratin treatment. Doing research certainly opened my eyes! Thankfully, there are safer alternatives you can use to make your hair smoother with keratin.

Do you have a favorite type of keratin treatment? I’d love to hear all about it!

Resources

  • 1. Formaldehyde [Internet]. www.cancer.org. [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/chemicals/formaldehyde.html#:~:text=The%20EPA%20has%20classified%20formaldehyde
  • 2. Environmental Groups Sue FDA to Take Formaldehyde Out of Salons | Environmental Working Group [Internet]. www.ewg.org. [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/environmental-groups-sue-fda-take-formaldehyde-out-salons
  • 3. What’s the Deal with Keratin Treatments? [Internet]. National Center for Health Research. 2015. Available from: https://www.center4research.org/whats-deal-keratin-treatments/
  • 4. Elevated formaldehyde concentration in “Brazilian keratin type” hair-straightening products: A cross-sectional study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2021 Aug 12];70:276–80. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962213011353

Comments

  1. Hello!

    I am a regular reader of your blogs. Some of your writings are just wow. They are really praising worthy.

    But why did you write this article? Don’t you think this piece of writing would discourage others to go for keratin treatments?

    Looking forward to your response!

    Reply
    • Dear Lee Naa

      Thank you for reading our blog regularly. We are pleased to know that you liked them.

      This article was written to inform our readers that even though keratin treatment gives your hair a lustrous look, there are some severe side effects that you must know about and be prepared for that.

      It was not meant to encourage or discourage anyone.

      Stay with us!

      Reply
    • I’m grateful for this article. I’ve started using the Keratin hair growth formula and developed a rash on my neck and scalp. I stopped taking it for a week and the rashes and itching subsided but as soon as I took another dose the rashes returned so now I’m sure it’s the KERATIN .. there was no warning of this possible side effect.

      Reply
  2. Cancer!?

    Are you sure that keratin hair treatment causes deadly cancer?

    I haven’t heard anyone getting this disease after a keratin treatment?

    Please check your facts first.

    Reply
    • Dear Teri,

      If you are a regular follower of our blog, you would know that we never put something up when we are not 100 % sure.

      We have checked our facts and then stated this in our article.

      We hope we could provide you the answer.

      Reply
  3. You people never fail to amaze me.

    This is one of the best informative articles I have read in a long time. You guys managed to keep it clean, minimal yet full of useful information. That’s the true beauty of writing.

    Hats off to the writer as well as the researchers!

    Keep on writing like this.

    Reply
    • Dear Angelina,

      Thank you very much for your praise words. Our readers’ feedback is what keeps us motivated.

      Stay with us!

      Reply
  4. I agree with your article. It’s to the point and brought up everything thing a person might suffer from after getting a keratin hair treatment.

    I did get this procedure done once in my hair. And you won’t believe what I had gone through right after. From runny nose to sneezing and red eyes, I suffered from everything.

    At that time I thought it was cold. But now I understand what it was.

    Thank you for such an amazing article.

    Lots of good wishes!

    Reply
    • Dear Edward,

      We are extremely sorry to hear about your experience. That was really awful.

      And thank you for sharing it with us. Our readers might find it helpful.

      Reply
  5. Excellent idea and amazingly penned article!

    I really enjoyed reading it from top to bottom.

    Readers will get a very clear and informative idea about the deadly effects of keratin treatment from this article.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Dear Dian,

      Thank you so much for your sweet words. We are inspired and motivated by such empowering words.

      Stay with us for more of such articles.

      Reply
  6. I have been following your blog for the longest time.

    Can you tell me after exactly how many treatments I will get cancer?

    I am really worried because I have done keratin treatment quite a few times to date.

    Please respond ASAP.

    Reply
    • Dear Missa,

      Thank you for following our blog regularly.

      Unfortunately, there is no exact number of treatments that would determine what you have asked for. It depends on your immune and health conditions.

      Reply

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