My previous article, “Keratin Hair Treatments: Are They worth the Hype, Price, and Health Risk,” discussed the growing trend of Keratin Hair Treatments which have saturated the market today. Keratin based hair treatments contain formaldehyde. Recent studies have linked the use of formaldehyde, or formalin as harmful, and cause for concern for overall health. Are there alternative Keratin Treatments to smooth hair, without the use of dangerous chemicals?
The excitement around Keratin is the promise of no more weekly wrapping the hair with lotions, setting it on rollers, hot hair dryers, and hot ironing it out for that final smooth look. The effectiveness of this type of product has been astounding, but concerns of hair loss, allergic reactions, and breathing issues are equally astounding. It really isn’t a huge secret to those who have lived with curly or frizzy hair their whole lives to find harsh chemicals in hair care products. The conflict I am seeing with usage of this product is the possible side effects that are surfacing, from its use.
As stylists know, chemicals have become your friend. It is a fact, and we have worked around it. That doesn’t mean we like it. It is no fun to work with hazardous chemicals such as ammonia; sodium hydroxide, and peroxide, hazmat teams wear full body suits when they do. Doesn’t it seem so archaic that these products are still the norm? To me it does. So, honestly I wasn’t floored to find out that product companies used a chemical like formaldehyde in their hair care.
However, it is important for me to understand the reasoning behind its use; so I researched all I could about the main ingredients Keratin and Formaldehyde. Keratin, an amino acid and in its liquid state it is considered liquid gold to hair and skin care manufacturers. Amino acids helps recharges the salt and hydrogen bonds in the hair shaft which give it its strength.
Keratin fills and repairs damage to hair caused by high heat and over processing from chemicals. It needs a binder to keep it pliable, from over hardening, drying out and breaking off the hair shaft. Lipids bind keratin in our hair and skin naturally. But alas, it is fleeting. So, what is there to do about extreme damage? Introduce keratin in another way. This protein needs to adhere to the hair shaft, and remain put, it needs something more, like faux lipids, derived from natural and synthetic fats (think of eggs and butter mixed with flour and milk) but alas it needs a binder the glue to make it work.
That is where formaldehyde comes into play. The FDA only allows less than 0.02 % of formaldehyde to be used in hair, skin, or medicinal products in the USA. This amount is considered “safe” and acts as a bactericide. The dangers of formaldehyde lurk when it is heated to higher temperatures which cause it to fume. This is when the molecule is changed, rendering the product hazardous to our health. Inhaling formaldehyde fumes can cause respiratory distress such as breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, irritated and itchy watery eyes, and sneezing.
What products on the market claim to be a chemical free, organic, natural, and smooth curly, thick, and frizzy hair without causing unneeded damage to our lungs, skin, and health? There are several companies out today which make this claim, and I will mention them not as an endorsement- but because I am all for healthier, easier hair, and consumers need choices. Professional Hairstylists can purchase Organic Color Systems has newly released a product line called Kera Green which is natural, vegan, and makes a claim to be a formaldehyde free treatment that will smooth your frizz, without harsh chemicals. Paul Mitchell Systems has a new and exciting product called Awapuhi Wild Ginger Kera-triplex which is an in- salon Treatment.
t is a combination of proteins that are isolated, and replicate human protein in order to strengthen weak and damaged hair. This product is a compliment to your hair straightening process. You will need to consult with your hair care professional to see if you need any other treatment in addition with this one to tame your curls. Other products which are only sold to professional stylist which claim to be formaldehyde free Keratin Treatments are Juvexin, Brazilian Keratin, and Global Keratin Treatment. Look them up for yourself and you decide if they are products you would choose to use on your clients, or yourself.
Are any of these professional products using some form of aldehyde, that I do not know-they claim to be formaldehyde free. I am not writing an expose, I just want to bring to light concerns I have as a consumer, and hair care professional about keratin hair treatments. Any keratin product line that uses a lesser form of formaldehyde could still cause sensitivity when combined with high heat, and that is what seems to be the factor here, high heat is used to seal in the product, which keeps hair smoother longer.It is important to note that any keratin product which professes to straighten hair for up to 3 or 4 months has to have the aldehyde component in it to bind the keratin, period; as well as the use of high heat. Many of these aldehyde products are naturally and organically derived from familiar compounds like alcohol and sugar.
Straight keratin makes for a really good conditioning treatment that only lasts until the next washing longer if you are lucky, without aldehyde as its binder. Does that mean formaldehyde free is really just another way of saying “less” formaldehyde? Any product which boasts as its ingredient: Methanal, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, formalin, or aqueous extract of formalin contain formaldehyde and any derivative of aldehyde. I think as consumers it does pay to know your chemistry, and if it really is important to know what is contained in your products, than you need to do the research.
Are there alternative keratin treatments that are formaldehyde free, or are these claims just another product designed to smooth hair using a supposed safer compound made from the same chemical? Should you stay away from these treatments that make these claims? That is for you to decide.