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.”
The Best At-Home Keratin Treatments With Long-Lasting Results
- The Best Professional Grade At-Home Keratin Treatment: Gussi Hair At-Home Keratin Treatment Kit (opens in new tab)
- The Reparative At-Home Keratin Treatment: K18 Leave-In Repair Hair Mask Treatment (opens in new tab)
- The Most Nourishing At-Home Keratin Treatment: Davines Nourishing Keratin Sealer (opens in new tab)
- The Best Every Day At-Home Keratin Treatment: OGX Anti-Breakage + Keratin Oil Conditioner (opens in new tab)
- The Best Frizz- Fighting At-Home Keratin Treatment: Nutree Amazonliss Keratin Smoothing Treatment (opens in new tab)
The Best Softening At-Home Keratin Treatment
Clear your schedule, then get ready for one of the most effective at-home treatments available. Start with clean hair, then use the included application brush to (rather painstakingly) smooth the cream from root to tip on 1/2" sections of hair. Wait up to an hour, depending on your hair texture. Then blow dry and flat-iron. The proprietary juvexin, a keratin-based protein blend, will keep your hair smooth for three to five months.
Pros: Lasts three to five months; Mimics salon results; Cruelty free
Cons: Takes one hour to activate; Requires precise application
The Best Professional Grade At-Home Keratin Treatment
Alon Shalom, owner of Alon Shalom Salon in West Hollywood, California, is obsessed with Gussi's results. "One of my long-time clients recently came in for her balayage and I was blown away by the restored health of her hair – it was so much stronger and shinier than usual," he says. "I was totally shocked when she told me this was all from Gussi’s At-home Keratin (opens in new tab)Treatment! After checking out Gussi, I’m even more impressed that this is a clean, non-toxic formula delivering these impressive results." The kit promises results lasting a grand total of six weeks and works across all hair types. That said, it's not going to remove curls—it'll just elongate the curl pattern.
Pros: Long lasting; Mimics salon results; Fast acting
Cons: Only lasts six weeks; Won't permanently straighten
The Fastest Acting At-Home Keratin Treatment
Think of this duo as an express two-step keratin treatment. First you'll shampoo with the sulfate-free formula then you'll get to work painting your hair with the hydrolyzed keratin straightening formula. The set promises a straight and shiny texture for up to six months—minus the money and wait time. With the benefits are numerous (no more heat styling! less frizz! sleeker style!), we do want to call out that this is a chemical solution that might fume and make your eyes water when you activate the treatment with heat.
Pros: Lasts four to six months; Affordable; Can shower directly after
Cons: Only works on 1a to 3a hair types; Fumes when straightening
The Best At-Home Keratin System
This is a life-saver on so many levels. For one, this treatment comes packaged with a Moroccan keratin treatment, clarifying shampoo, and a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. There aren't any harsh chemicals either, just ultra-hydrating oils, like Moroccan oil to protect the hair from heat styling. Plus, the end result can last up to three to seven months.
Pros: Long lasting; Hydrating
Cons: Time consuming to apply; Strong Fumes
The Longest Lasting At Home Keratin Treatment
If you're determined to hold on to frizz-free hair for up to four months, try this three-step system. This treatment is comprised of strengthening ingredients like acai, cocoa extracts, and shea butter for added hydration and shine. Consumers have given this system a fair of Amazon reviews. The consensus? It reduces frizz, leaves hair shinier and more manageable, and provides pretty true-to-description results. On the downside, many people have found that it doesn't truly straighten hair, can have a subtle over once heat activated, and has a multi-step application process that requires careful attention to detail.
Pros: No fumes; Last four months; Combats Frizz
Cons: Time consuming to apply; Slight odor; Confusing instructions
The Best Keratin-Infused Haircare Products
The Best Reparative At-Home Keratin Treatment
The second I asked Instagram about leave-in keratin treatments, this one from K18 was one of the most popular responses—and it's not hard to see why. Creating hair "that feels like new" is one of its key claims. It boasts a vegan, color-safe formula that quite literally seals up damaged hair cuticles over a few treatments. While this will boost shine and does have frizz-fighting properties commonly associated with professional keratin treatments, it doesn't create naturally straight hair. Those with curly hair will still have curly hair after this treatment—it'll just feel smoother, softer, and healthier.
Pros: Repairs damage; Restores Shine; Leave-In Treatment
Cons: Might weigh down fine hair; Won't change hair texture
The Most Nourishing At-Home Keratin Treatment
This top-rated oil works to repair the hair cuticle from the inside out. When the cuticle is sealed up tight, water doesn't sneak in and frizz is avoided. Sounds pretty good, huh? Alas, it gets better. A few sprays on damp hair makes combing a breeze, reduces the appearance of split ends, and gives an unmatched shine once the hair is blow dried or styled. As is true with all Davines products, the smell can't be beat. This treatment features a natural, earthy scent.
Pros: Boosts shine; Repairs hair over time
Cons: Doesn't make hair straighter; Doesn't include heat protection
The Best At-Home Keratin Treatment for Frizz Repair
Hydrolyzed keratin is the second ingredient in this effective leave-in cream that also contains strengthening proteins (soy, wheat) and really will minimize the amount of time you spend wielding a hair dryer—and extend the number of days before you need to do it again. Unlike more intense, heat-activated treatments, this simple blow dry cream can be used on repeat and will take all of two seconds out of your day. It's not going to break down your hair's bonds for jaw-on-the-floor straightening results, but it will give you smoother, shinier hair every damn time.
Pros: Boosts hydration; Fights Frizz; Lightweight
Cons: Short-term results; Minimal difference on curly and coily hair
The Best Classic At-Home Keratin Treatment
Hair that's super shiny and smooth? Sign me up, please! This treatment literally has "deep-penetrating" in the name, so you know it's good. It's designed for chemically and color-treated hair, which is huge consider keratin products can have an impact on hair dye and overall tone. This is a five-minute leave-in treatment that you should once a week for the best results. That said, people with thicker hair might be able to get away using it a couple times a week.
Pros: Color-safe; Shine-boosting; Affordable
Cons: Doesn't do much for split ends
The Best At-Home Keratin Treatment That's A Leave-In Spray
If the mere thought of detangling gives you anxiety, relieve yourself by reaching for this miracle worker of a styling spray, which is infused by hydrolyzed keratin. The brand is best known for its strengthening products to make your hair feel more manageable. Afterwards, you'll be able to easily glide your wide tooth comb through your hair without the stress of that strenuous arm workout. The best part? It's the only product you'll need in your routine. In addition to its strengthening and smoothing powers, it also offers heat protection from your hot tools.
Pros: Detangles; Protects from heat damage
The Best Silk-Based At-Home Keratin Treatment
The name says it all: Keratin and silk work together in this product to strengthen damaged hair cuticles from the inside out, resulting in long-lasting glossy strands. The main allure of this product is that not only are you going to see a noticeable difference after just one use, but the technology works to prevent any additional breakage. Once hair is straightened, it's impossible to deny that didn't add some silky shine.
Pros: Unscented; Adds strength and silkiness
Cons: Can weigh down fine hair
The Best At-Home Keratin Treatment for Quick Repair
This intensive treatment is formulated with KeraTriplex and awapuhi extract to restore damage, leaving you with your most moisturized, soft and shiny hair yet. Plus, you'll be addicted to the invigorating scent of ginger tea and florals. While it can work wonders on the shine front, you'll probably want to find an everyday treatment to help control frizz. This mask is only designed to be used once per week.
Pros: Hydrating; Restores shine; Color safe
Cons: Not the best option for frizzy hair
The Best Hydrating At-Home Keratin Treatment
Sometimes, our hair is in need of just a solid reboot due to climate change and heavy-duty styling, which is where this healing hair mask comes in. The keratin works as a building block for the hair bond and the antioxidant, resveratrol, has restorative powers that brings dry and brittle strands back to life. Even though it's deeply hydrating and has an oil base, this products isn't too heavy. In fact, it even adds a little bounce and body to hair.
Pros: Volumizing; Strengthening
Cons: Very fragrant; Can be drying
The Best Conditioning At-Home Keratin Treatment
Give your hair a boost with this deep conditioning hair mask. The keratin will go to work smoothing your strands while ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba seed oil will condition, so you’ll be left with a frizz-free, shiny mane. That said, it should be used in tandem with other hydrating haircare products, as this is a once-weekly treatment. To apply, just shampoo, rinse, and let the mask do its job for up to 10 minutes.
Pros: Vegan; Easy to apply
Cons: Not hydrating enough for some
The Best At-Home Keratin Conditioner
Welcome this conditioner into your regime, and you can wave goodbye to frizz, split ends, and fragile strands. Keratin and argan oil come together to repair and strengthen your hair. The best part about this product is that it adds absolutely nothing extra into your routine. You can use every day, without weighing down your hair, and will see more impactful results over time. Plus, the smell is amazing.
Pros: Good for daily use, Repairs split ends
Cons: Not great for color-treated hair
The Best Volumizing At-Home Keratin Treatment
This spray's keratin amino complex nourishes, strengthens, and protects your strands while adding volume. I’ll give your hair a lift and make it thicker and fuller—even if you're dealing with a thin, fine texture. Reviewers are obsessed with this product's ability to fight frizz and applaud it for its lightweight texture, however some note it has a sticky texture and can dry out the hair.
Pros: Frizz-fighting; Volumizing
Cons: Sticky; Drying
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.”