The 16 Best Keratin Treatments for Silky Smooth, Frizz-Free Hair

These at-home solutions will change your hair game.

woman with hair smoothed with keratin treatment
(Image credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty)

If your natural hair runs on the frizzy, can’t-be-tamed side of the spectrum and you can’t be bothered straightening and styling day in and day out, you might have done a little digging into the big wide world of keratin treatments. First, there are in-salon options. And while they’re highly effective, they can cost up to $300 or more and take up a big chunk of time (think: three to six hours). Then, there are at-home keratin treatments, which can give similar smoothing and straightening benefits at a fraction of the price and without a lot of the harsh chemicals (looking at you, formaldehyde.). 

While it’s pretty likely that you’re going to get more foolproof, longer-lasting results from a salon treatment, hair chemist and medical researcher Alexandra Arriaga explains that at-home treatments can be worthwhile, budget-friendly alternatives. But (and this is a big one) it’s important to do your research. “Not all at-home keratin treatments are created equal,” she says. It’s important to avoid certain chemicals and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each option. 

Here, we did the hard work for you and rounded up the best at-home keratin treatments out there. And thanks to Arriaga and a handful of other experts in the field, we’re breaking down all the info you need to know before giving yourself a keratin treatment. 

What Should I Look for in a Keratin Treatment?

Here’s the deal: Finding the best at-home keratin treatment is less about what you should see and more about what you shouldn’t see on the label. The big chemical to avoid is a carcinogen called formaldehyde, “a colorless, strong-smelling gas that presents a health hazard when breathed into the lungs, gets into the eyes, or touches the skin,” says Arriaga. According to the National Cancer Institute, when formaldehyde reaches a certain concentration in the air (0.1 ppm to be exact), you may experience watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation. 

Looking for labels like “No Formaldehyde” or “Formaldehyde Free” on your at-home keratin bottle is a good start, you’re going to want to do some extra digging. “Many keratin treatments, both professional and at-home options, contain the liquid form of formaldehyde, which is called methylene glycol,” explains Arriaga. “To identify products containing formaldehyde-related ingredients, look for the following words on the label: Formaldehyde, formalin, and methylene glycol.” Once you’ve done a scan, you’re in the clear. 

What’s the Difference Between an At-Home Keratin Treatment and an In-Salon Keratin Treatment?

At base level, keratin is a protein found in the hair. The more keratin you have, the smoother, glossier, and shinier your hair will be—it fills the frizz-causing holes in the hair cuticle. That said, not every keratin treatment is the same. In a salon, you can expect more dramatic, longer-lasting results. They can take curly, coily hair to a straighter state. At-home treatments, which can take the form of conditioners, shampoos, masks, or, occasionally, salon-mimicking systems, can work wonders for frizz, but won’t necessarily last through dozens of shampoos or change your natural texture. The results will also differ across hair types. 

How Do Keratin Treatments Work?

When you go to a salon or purchase a profession-grade at-home kit, the hair is typically straightened with a solution containing glyoxlylic acid, or the aforementioned formaldehyde, explains Arriaga. “When some of these solutions are applied on the hair, the bonds inside each strand are broken and resealed in a straighter position.” Trichologist Dr. Penny James adds that a minimum of 450 degrees is needed to seal the deal (pun very much intended) and “glue” the cuticle back together. 

Other keratin-infused solutions and products, which are more common in the at-home variety, “work by coating each individual strand to smooth down the hair cuticles and give a glossy, frizz-free finish. This coating wears off over time however.” 

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How to Prep for a Keratin Treatment

As tempting as it may be, don’t just go straight into treatment mode. The preparation is just as important. “The pre-treatment will be shampooing your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo,” says Dr. James. Arriaga also recommends getting your hair colored ahead of your treatment. “Keratin will help preserve the color,” she adds. Just give yourself a few days or weeks of buffer time. 

What to Do After a Keratin Treatment

After you finish your at-home treatment, there are a few key things to avoid, like getting your hair wet or direct sun exposure. “Even keratin treatments that claim you can wash your hair immediately benefit from waiting at least 24 hours," says Alexandra Efstratiou, a New York-based stylist. “It just gives the hair and product time to settle in together.” 

How to Maintain Results

If you used a simple treatment product that's not heat-activated, your results will probably last until your next shampoo. Sometimes, your hair will even become naturally silkier and smoother with continued use. 

If you used a more intense at-home treatment that's designed to last for months, such as the Gussi option, Efstratiou says that “the longevity of a keratin is primarily based on your frequency of washing, so the less often you can do the better.” 

Better yet, stylists also recommend using hair styling products that have keratin in them (so basically all of the above) to keep your treatment looking fresh. “I like to recommend using keratin-infused products on days you do wash and style your hair,” says Shalom. “Extra doses of keratin help to refresh the treatment results.”

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