Brazilian keratin treatment—or BKT as it is known—is a relative newcomer to American shores. It entered the hairstyling scene around 2007 and took the kinky, frizzy-haired world by storm. (Well, sort of.)
If your hairstylist claims that BKT makes tightly-curled hair look straight and lustrous, s/he might be right. Before jumping on the BKT train though, here are some things you probably don’t know about it:
1. A Brazilian embalmer discovered the benefits of the keratin treatment. Yes, you read that right: a mortician. Sounds downright morbid but he saw that formaldehyde turned the hair of, the dead sleek and straight. Today, the treatment uses both formaldehyde (about 2%) and non-formaldehyde formulas although there’s no regulation yet on the use of methylene glycol—the chemical that makes formaldehyde extremely pungent—since the FDA doesn’t control cosmetics.
2. The keratin treatment is a wasted expense on healthy hair. Yes, you read that right again: BKT is better on damaged hair—something that’s almost an epidemic on afro textured hair—due to hair porosity. The keratin has to saturate the hair shaft, crystallize, and then coat it to create a straight, lustrous look. The hair cuticles smoothen; removing any frizziness and making the hair look healthy once again. The more damaged your hair, the more dramatic the results, and the longer BKT will hold. Straight, silky, smooth hair will last three months—if hair washing is done daily or up to six months—if hair is washed once weekly.
3. BKT also works on chemically processed hair. Hair relaxing, highlighting and coloring can be performed with the keratin treatment without doing much damage to the hair. With a hair relaxing, BKT straightens out new hair growth while relaxation improves silkiness and shine. On the other hand, BKT won’t hold if curly or afro textured hair will be braided or weaved after the treatment.
4. A clarifying shampoo before a Brazilian keratin treatment will optimize results in African-American hair. Hair has to be washed and cleansed thoroughly to open hair cuticles and make it a good anchor for the keratin. After the keratin treatment, avoid shampoos with sodium chloride and sulfates as they’ll strip moisture and keratin from the hair. With the newer formulas, you can wash your hair immediately after treating.
5. A do-it-yourself BKT isn’t advisable. Treating the hair with keratin is a pretty intensive process—it involves shampooing, applying keratin, blow-drying, and flat ironing. Plus, there is the formaldehyde content. Mistakes could lead to hair loss (not only hair breakage).
Brazilian keratin treatment sounds too good to be true for damage-prone African-American hair though it does have creepy beginnings and formaldehyde content. Hairstyling experts say it’s an ideal bridge to turning natural; if your afro textured hair had been subject to massive processing and styling.