The lovely Milan recently blogged about the brazilian keratin treatment (BKT) and asked yours truly, what is the deal with this treatment?
1. BKT product (usually contains keratin and formaldehyde) is applied to hair
2. Flat iron the hair (several passes - 5 to 8) at a temperature of 450F
3. The result, flat sleek hair and curls will reappear and be frizz free
1. There is no science paper that I could find which could attest to the treatment claims (meaning no paper on the formula, the method or the effect). In fact the best article I read was from Allure magazine
2. By now we all must know that protein treatments do not change hair texture. In fact proteins are known to simply stick to hair (adsorb) temporarily. Therefore in my opinion it is probably a severe case of hogwash to claim that the keratin is responsible for the straightening effect.
3. Some BKTs do contain formaldehyde in varying degrees. Now it is important to say that chemicals which release small amounts of formaldehyde are routinely used to preserve hair products such as hair conditioners and the like. However, the formaldehyde released from preservatives is usually much less than the 'safe level' of 0.2%. Some BKTs have as much as 2% to 22% formaldehyde (see the Allure article).
Q: What is the big deal about formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is known to disrupt DNA and therefore it could cause cells to mutate and possibly cause cancer. It is defined as a probable or known carcinogen (cancer causing agent)
Q: Can formaldehyde straighten hair?
Experimentally depending on pH and heat, formaldehyde can crosslink to wool (which is similar to hair, they are both keratin based). This reaction does break bonds in the hair but whether this effect actually 'straightens' hair has not been published. (Biochem Journal, 36(3-4): pp 294–302, 1942)
Q: What is my theory on the straightening effect?
The heat to me appears to be the culprit. I have previously discussed the effect of heat on hair. At a temperature of 450 F which is a requirement of the BKT, let me be clear, the hair begins to melt and this cannot be reversed. You can read more details on the effect of heat in this post here.
Would I recommend this treatment? Flat out No, Never, No!! I generally try to be unbiased but something about placing formaldehyde on your hair, burning it into the hair with hot ceramic and inhaling the fumes leads me to put on my super scientist costume and say, NO. Now I do know there are formaldehyde free formulae on the market which are essentially just protein treatments. I still wouldn't recommend the flat iron treatment but the formaldehyde free formulae are probably ok.
I think that if you are looking to straighten your hair, get a good heat protectant and flat iron it! If you want to eliminate frizz, experiment with different hair products!
Have you done or are you thinking about a Brazilian Keratin Treatment?