Noreen and Ally don’t have the kind of hair that gets a lot of sympathy. It’s thick, slightly wavy and easy to maintain with only a modest arsenal of product. But don’t hate them—they insist they suffer too! “When it’s humid outside, our hair mushrooms, becomes frizzy and looses its shine,” laments Ally. To beat the hair blues, Noreen had a keratin treatment at her salon and Ally went DIY with the Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Blow Dry Perfection Smoothing Kit. Did these treatments deliver the straight goods? Read on.

What it is “A keratin treatment works like this: Think of it as the hair equivalent of sealing your granite countertop,” explains my stylist, Victor Allen (victorallen.ca). “It smooths the surface and prevents frizz-producing moisture from getting in. It also repairs existing damage by depositing keratin, which is a protein, into the hair shaft. Once it’s sealed, the follicle is smooth: Your hair feels soft and the light bounces off of it, giving you amazing shine.”

The Treatment Victor washes my hair and then applies the keratin solution. Ten minutes later, he blow-dries it. Next, he flat-irons one small section at a time. (A temp of at least 450˚F is required to seal in the treatment.) “Now for the magic,” he says. “I’ll rinse your hair in cold water to seal the keratin, give you a quick blowdry and we’re done.” I’m skeptical—but 10 minutes later, my hair is silky soft and poker straight. Never mind the granite countertop analogy— this is Botox for hair!

Added Tip If you colour your hair, have it done before the treatment because nothing, including dye, can penetrate the keratin shield.

Timeline Treatment: Two to five hours. Lasts: Three to four months. (The sealant slowly breaks down, so you don’t get a before/after line as your hair grows.)

Benefits It usually takes 20 to 25 minutes to blow-dry my hair. Post-treatment: Five to 10 minutes.

Drawbacks “If your hair is not dyed and not very porous, it won’t work as well— it’s best for coloured or damaged hair,” explains Victor. “If your hair is fine, you’ll have less volume.” Even with my thick hair, I found it a little flat at first. But once I cut back on conditioner, the volume returned.

Cost $350 to $600 (depending on hair type and length).

Verdict My stylist warned me that the keratin treatment is addictive. He’s right—I’m hooked! – Noreen Flanagan

Read about the DIY treatment on the next page…


What it is This formaldehyde-free hairsmoothing product from Garnier is similar to a professional keratin treatment in that a protein-rich cream containing cysteine (one of the main amino acids in keratin) is applied to the hair, but the product’s protein doesn’t enter the hair shaft as deeply as that of the professional treatment.

The Treatment After shampooing, I comb the gel formula through my hair. The cysteine (a.k.a. sulphur) smells like spoiled eggs. I wait 20 minutes, rinse and then apply the heatactivated perfecting cream. Next, I blow-dry and then flatiron my hair to activate the smoothing ingredients.

Timeline Treatment: 45 minutes. Lasts: One to two weeks.

Benefits It usually takes 25 to 30 minutes to blow-dry my hair. Post-treatment: Ten minutes. Strangers want to run their fingers through my hair. (Boyfriend not happy.)

Drawbacks Noreen still has straight hair, two months after her treatment, and mine was back to being frizzy by day 10.

Cost $13.

Verdict At this price, I’m adding it to my regular beauty routine. – Allison Dean

Learn about Formaldehyde on the next page…


If you have read or heard about salon based keratin treatments, you have likely noted, with some alarm, that they may contain formaldehyde. We asked Penny Kendall-Reed, a Toronto-based naturopath and curly-haired keratin convert, if she has any concerns about using the products. “Everybody gets overly concerned about that, but there is only between 0.002 and 0.003 ppm,” she explains. “Do you paint your nails? The polish—and even most household cleaning products—contains the same amount. In fact, by just walking down Yonge Street you are exposed to three times the amount of formaldehyde.” But why is it used? “It’s needed to break down the bond that maintains the structure of the hair,” she explains. “For instance, by breaking these structural components, you can pull curly hair straight and then seal it in place with the keratin to hold that new shape. It also creates an opening in the hair shaft so that the keratin can be deposited into the follicle.” Some products claim they don’t contain formaldehyde, but Kendall-Reed says that they may contain methyl aldehyde, which becomes formaldehyde once it’s heated by the flat iron. “It also goes by other names, such as formalin, methanal, methylene oxide, oxymethylene, morbicid acid and oxy-methane.”

“There are a number of brands of keratin treatments. I found that the Brazilian Blowout made my hair too straight—I have curly hair, so I’m used to it being big!” says Penny Kendall-Reed, a Torontobased naturopath. “So I tried the Onyx line, which has a high keratin content and .002 ppm of formaldehyde; I can blow my hair straight or keep the curls. A girlfriend with curls tried the Coppola product, which contains aldehyde, and she loves it.”


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