By Laura Hawbaker
“You spend HOW LONG on your hair?!?”
The 8:00 AM workday is inherently biased against us long-haired ladies. My male cohorts can roll out of bed at 7:00, shave, throw on a polo shirt and scoot out the door in fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, a solid hour and half of my morning is spent waging straight-up war with the rebel forces of my mutinous hair. Mind you, this is before I even pick out my work outfit. I surround myself with chosen weaponry: round brush, comb, blow dryer, high-intensity straightener, curling iron, and a cornucopia of dee-frizzing hair products.
To rush out the door with (horror of horrors!) my natural hair—a thick, untamed hybrid of Wookiee fur and Cousin Itt—is not a viable option. It’s a sponge: When I emerge from the shower, a simple blowout can take an hour. This wild mane rebuffs being thrown in a quick ponytail; it’s the sort of thick Irish curl that won’t fit in conventional-sized bands and clips—not unless first brushed through with the same effort (with the grit and sweat of an Olympic rower) then deflated with a curling iron or straightener.
How many times have I trimmed my bangs and thought, “Girl, just hack the whole kit-n-kaboodle off!” When a fashionable woman with a pixie cut passes by on the street, I seethe red with envy. She might have spent five minutes with a little styling product, and she looks just as cute (if not cuter) than me and my two-hour hair regiment. Plus she gets to sleep in longer than I.
Keratin treatment to the rescue…
On March 12th, Wonderland Beauty Parlor in New York held a promotional event for KeratinPerfect, a new do-it-yourself keratin treatment. Could the treatment help solve my morning hair quandary and shorten my pre-work hair routine?
Keratin is a naturally-occurring protein; it’s in your hair, nails and skin. Healthy hair is busting out with keratin, but any number of things—sun exposure, coloring dye, or (ahem) overuse of straighteners and curling irons—depletes the natural keratin in your hair, leaving the follicle dry, broken, frizzy and hard to manage. This equals more time at the bathroom mirror.
Keratin-replenishing treatments—also known as Brazilian smoothing or straightening—are the latest hair salon craze. They’re like “liquid hair,” and they don’t come cheap. An in-salon treatment can cost upward of two-hundred bucks! The results are magnificent—smooth, shiny, straight hair—but might only last two to three months, which means one year of smooth hair could cost four salon appointments and $800. For those of us who already pack our lunches for work, this price point doesn’t quite allow us to deter from our 90-minute hair routine.
At Wonderland Beauty Parlor, I was able to demo KeratinPerfect’s new, do-it-yourself version of a keratin treatment (not unlike doing an at-home dye job instead of going to the salon). After a thorough shampooing with the PerfectPrep Pre-Treatment Clarifying Shampoo, I pieced out my hair and combed through a few pumps of the treatment per section. Then I let the product set for ten minutes and blow dried like normal.
After a fast blow out, I didn’t have to tug and heave my brush through a tangled mass; the hair combed easily, and the blow out took about half as long as it normally does. I then did a single pass of 390° straightening, and vwalla! Straight, smooth, shiny hair! Minus the time it took to shampoo and comb in the treatment, the styling process took about forty minutes (a salon keratin treatment can last three hours). For the rest of the day, I bathed in the adoration of friends, who exclaimed, “Wow! Your hair looks GREAT!” KeratinPerfect also posted photos of my final look on their Facebook page. Check it out here!
The at-home treatment only needs to be applied once a month, and it costs infinitely less than the salon (so we may be able to splurge on lunch restaurant outings every once in a while!). Though the full package of products is on par with a salon treatment ($235), the 30-day KeratinPerfect hair smoothing duo pack that I used is currently retailing at Sephora for about $65.00. However, after the initial treatment you should avoid washing for two to three days; this gives the keratin time to settle into each follicle.
The not-so-bright side…
KeratinPerfect hasn’t been all roses though; it comes with the caveat of a fairly noxious odor. Most keratin treatments contain formaldehyde, and KeratinPerfect has gone to great lengths to advertise its absence of that malodorous chemical (“100% formaldehyde free!”). But whatever they put in its place smells just as janky. Though I didn’t notice anything overt when I was at the salon, as soon as I washed my hair for the first time the stench was undeniable. It lasted as long as my wet head; once everything was dried and properly styled, the odor dissipated. However, it returned for the next shower. I corrected things with a spritz of perfume as I combed through, and by the latest wash, my wet hair no longer smelled like a chemical lab. This is, indeed, a significant detractor.
Also, wavy-haired girls be warned: The keratin treatment is effective… it WILL straighten your hair! I may complain about my crazy Irish curls, but one of the benefits of my hair type is the flexibility to wear it straight, wavy or curly at my leisure. Immediately after the treatment, my hair refused to hold curls the way it used to. However, much like the unwanted odor, this became a non-issue after a little over a week of washing.
The low down: Does it work?
Yes! Though not as dramatic as the results of an in-salon keratin treatment, the at-home version is cheaper and has about a month’s worth of staying power. Imagine my relief when the straight, smooth hair held. I woke up the morning after Wonderland Beauty Parlor and was ready to fly out the door in fifteen minutes. Now over a week since the initial treatment (I’ve been utilizing a keratin-infused shampoo and conditioner combo for upkeep), my hair still looks healthy and strong, and it’s much easier to style. This morning, my styling regiment clocked in at a miraculously scant half hour.
This means that instead of waging war at the bathroom mirror, I was able to spend a little more time doing what I love most… hitting the snooze button.