The 18 Best At-Home Keratin Treatments That Are Actually Effective

Salon treatments will offer safer, long-lasting results. But at-home variations can be worthwhile alternatives.

best at-home keratin treatments: hers hair mask, ogx keratin oil condition, k18 treatment, and more
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If your natural hair runs on the frizzy, can’t-be-tamed end of the spectrum and you'd prefer to skip styling it every day with even the best hair straightener, you might have explored keratin treatments to control your curls. First, there are in-salon options. While highly effective, they can cost up to $300 or more and take up a big chunk of time (around three hours, at least). Then, there are at-home keratin treatments. The best versions offer similar smoothing and straightening benefits at a fraction of the price and without many of the harsh chemicals. (Looking at you, formaldehyde). 

But—and this is a big one—it’s important to do your research before starting a new haircare regimen. Marie Claire turned to trichologist Dr. Penny James and hair chemist and medical researcher Alexandra Arriaga to find the best at-home keratin treatments for every hair type and concern. As Arriaga says: “Not all at-home keratin treatments are created equal." It’s important to avoid certain chemicals and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each treatment variety.

At-home keratin treatments can be worthwhile, budget-friendly alternatives to a day at the salon. Ahead, the experts provide the best at-home keratin treatment options for your straightest, silkiest hair yet.

An Overview of the Best At-Home Keratin Treatments

What to Look For in a Keratin Treatment

  • Avoid Formaldehyde: Finding the best at-home keratin treatment is less about what you should see on the label and more about what you shouldn’t see. 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, but 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.”

What’s the Difference Between an At-Home Keratin Treatment and a 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 created equal. In a salon, you can expect more dramatic, longer-lasting results. An in-salon keratin treatment can take curly, coily hair to a straighter state that lasts for weeks or more. 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 keratin treatment kit, the hair is typically straightened with a solution containing glyoxylic acid or 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. James adds that a minimum temperature of 450 degrees is needed to seal the deal (pun very much intended) and “glue” the cuticle back together. 

Meanwhile, keratin-infused solutions and products “work by coating each individual strand to smooth down the hair cuticles and give a glossy, frizz-free finish," says Dr. James. "This coating wears off over time, however."

How We Chose The Best At-Home Keratin Treatments

The products on this list have either been vetted by Marie Claire's Beauty Editor Samantha Holender and Marie Claire's Beauty Director Deena Campbell or have been hand-selected by a hair expert. Each and every one is also highly rated by reviewers. While the best keratin treatment for you will vary based on hair type and personal preference, you truly can't go wrong with one of the items on this list. For a more personalized recommendation, or if you have any concerns, check in with your hairstylist. 

The Best At-Home Keratin Treatments

The Best Keratin-Infused Hair Products

How to Do a Keratin Treatment At-Home

As tempting as it may be, don’t go straight into treatment mode. 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. 

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 Make at At-Home Keratin Treatment Last

Simple keratin treatment products that aren't heat-activated provide results that last until your next shampoo. Sometimes, your hair will even become naturally silkier and smoother with continued use. 

Using a more intense at-home treatment that's designed to last for months, such as the Gussi option? Consider reducing the wash days in your routine. “The longevity of a keratin is primarily based on your frequency of washing, so the less often you can do the better,” Efstratiou says.

Better yet, stylists also recommend using hair styling products infused with keratin (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.”

How Often Can I Do an At-Home Keratin Treatment?

If you're using keratin-infused styling products that don't require heat activation, you're free to use your product of choice every single wash or at least once per week. That said, more intense treatments requiring heat activation should be applied sparingly. They're designed to last at least a couple of months, but the exact duration will vary from treatment to treatment. Make sure to double check the instructions on your bottle.

Are At-Home Keratin Treatments Safe?

If you're using a keratin-infused product, you're good to go. If you're using a true at-home keratin system, it's worthwhile to exercise a little extra caution. Formaldehyde is the biggest ingredient to be wary of, which may be printed on the label as formalin or methylene glycol. “Many keratin treatments, both professional and at-home options, contain the liquid form of formaldehyde, which is called methylene glycol,” explains Arriaga. A formaldehyde-free product to protects your eyes and overall health. According to the CDC, "exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the skin, throat, lungs, and eyes," while "repeated exposure to formaldehyde can possibly lead to cancer." 

Meet the Experts

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Alexandra Arriaga

Alexandra Arriaga is a chemist, Public Health practitioner, medical researcher, and haircare influencer. Besides working as a scientist, she currently uses her knowledge and background to bust myths related to products and beauty practices on social media. She’s an advocate for using science to to optimize your beauty routine. 

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Penny James

A board-certified Trichologist, Penny James works with anyone who is suffering from hair loss and scalp problems. She has over 20 years of work experience in the industry and has collaborated with celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Megan Hilty, Sting, Trudy Styler, and Lorraine Bracco. She began her career in London working for Trevor Sorbie, then moved to New York and became a founding stylist for Frédéric Fekkai. 

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Alex Efstratiou

Alex Efstratiou is a hair stylist and colorist in New York City. Hailing from the Hudson Valley, after graduating from hair school she quickly found herself in SoHo, immersed in an intensive apprenticeship at Arrojo. After many years of traveling the country as a sought-out haircutting educator, she decided to shift her focus and incorporate hair coloring into her salon repertoire. With over 14 years in the industry, she is known for her dynamic haircutting skills and sun-kissed hair colors.

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Alon Shalom

After a very successful career in Tel Aviv, Israel, as the top hair stylist with an A-list clientele including celebrities, models, and singers, Alon decided to make his move to the City of Angels and take his artistry to the next level. Immediately, he drew a high end clientele and connected with the best agencies in town including Ford, LA Models, and Wilhelmina, as well as CAA and William Morris Endeavor. Throughout his eleven year span in Los Angeles, Alon has collaborated with the industry's leading celebrities and models to create memorable looks and set trends in both entertainment and fashion. These names include Heidi Klum, Courtney Love, Melissa George, Ellen Barkin, and Kyle McLaughlin.