Keratin Treatment Side Effects: What You Need to Know

Author: Nidhi Sood on Apr 26,2024
Keratin Treatment Side Effects

Considering a keratin treatment for your hair? While it promises sleek, smooth locks, it's essential to be aware of potential side effects. From formaldehyde exposure to allergic reactions, understanding the risks is crucial for making informed decisions about your hair care regimen. In this blog, we'll delve into the intricacies of keratin treatment side effects, offering valuable insights to ensure your hair journey is safe and satisfying.


The Keratin Treatment: What Is It? 

Keratin treatment, also known as Brazilian blowout, is a popular hair treatment method designed to smooth and straighten hair. During the process, a keratin-rich solution, often containing formaldehyde,  is applied to the hair, followed by heat styling with a flat iron to seal the product into the hair shaft. Keratin treatment aims to reduce frizz, enhance shine, and create smoother, more manageable hair. Keratin, a natural protein found in hair, is replenished through this process, resulting in firmer, healthier-looking hair.


Benefits of Keratin Treatment

Keratin treatments offer smoother, shinier hair, reducing frizz and enhancing manageability. However, exploring alternatives is advisable due to traditional keratin treatments' potential harmful side effects, underscoring the importance of prioritizing hair health and safety. 


Also read: Experience Keratin Magic: Before And After Transformations


Understanding The Side Effects of Keratin Treatment

The American Cancer Society has cautioned that formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, possesses the potential to induce cancer or facilitate its growth. Additionally, formaldehyde is capable of triggering various adverse health effects.


According to the Food and Drug Administration, formaldehyde and its associated compounds in keratin treatments may lead to various health issues, including eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, sore throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, and rash. These side effects have been reported by both individuals undergoing keratin treatments and the stylists administering them.


These effects manifest during or shortly after a keratin treatment utilizing formaldehyde products. However, the long-term health implications of keratin treatments containing formaldehyde remain uncertain, necessitating further research to ascertain their potential risks.


Understanding the Severity of Formaldehyde Exposure

The severity of the formaldehyde risk associated with keratin treatments is significant and often underestimated. Studies have revealed that many products contain levels of formaldehyde far exceeding the advertised safe limits. For instance, research on keratin brands in South Africa found that the formaldehyde levels in 6 out of 7 products ranged from 0.96 percent to 1.4 percent, surpassing the recommended safe level of 0.2 percent by fivefold. Similarly, an earlier study in 2011 reported elevated formaldehyde levels across various keratin treatments.


The exposure risk amplifies because keratin treatments are commonly performed in salons, where multiple treatments occur throughout the day. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry outlines the potential health effects of formaldehyde exposure, indicating that even levels as low as 0.1 to 0.5 parts per million (ppm) can lead to nose and eye irritation, neurological impacts, and heightened asthma and allergy risks. At higher concentrations, ranging from 0.6 to 1.9 ppm, individuals may experience conditions such as eczema and lung function alterations.


Moreover, research from 2011 demonstrated that formaldehyde concentrations in salon air during keratin treatments exceeded safe levels, reaching up to 3.47 ppm during blow-drying and 1.05 ppm during flat-ironing. Such concentrations far exceed tolerable limits for most individuals. While a single treatment may not manifest immediate effects, frequent exposure can pose significant health risks over time, particularly for salon workers.


What Is The Solution?

Despite the emergence of formaldehyde-free keratin treatments in recent times, there remains a challenge with labeling accuracy. Surprisingly, some products labeled as formaldehyde-free have tested positive for formaldehyde content. This discrepancy in labeling raises concerns about the transparency of product ingredients. Manufacturers may mask its presence by using alternative names for formaldehyde, such as: 


  • Methanediol
  • Methyl aldehyde
  • Aldehyde or bonded aldehyde
  • Formalin
  • Methylene glycol
  • Formic aldehyde
  • Morbicid acid
  • Methanal
  • Methylene Oxide
  • Methylene glycol

Additionally, certain preservatives in these products, like Benzylhemiformal, Quaternion-15, Diazolidinyl urea, and Imidazolidinyl urea, can release formaldehyde during use.


Given the effectiveness of formaldehyde in keratin treatments, finding an utterly formaldehyde-free product that maintains efficacy is difficult. Therefore, individuals considering keratin treatments should research different brands thoroughly and carefully scrutinize the ingredient lists. Seeking advice from experienced stylists specializing in keratin treatments can also provide valuable insights into selecting the safest option.


Exploring Alternatives to Keratin Treatment

Individuals concerned about the potential risks of keratin treatments have various alternative methods to achieve comparable results. These alternatives prioritize hair health and safety while offering practical solutions for managing frizzy hair and enhancing shine. Consider the following options:


Heat Styling without Chemical Treatments


woman using hair iron in room


You can use blow dryers and flat irons to smooth your hair temporarily without chemical interventions. Heat styling provides flexibility while sidestepping the potential health risks linked with keratin treatments. To safeguard your hair from heat damage, consider using heat protectant products, which act as a barrier to minimize damage and preserve hair health.


Natural Moisturizers and Nourishing Treatments

Enhance your hair care routine by incorporating natural oils like argan, coconut, or olive oil. These deeply moisturizing oils penetrate the hair shaft, providing hydration and nourishment to minimize frizz and boost shine. Additionally, you can use an avocado hair mask or shea butter, an effective natural moisturizer that promotes overall hair health and manageability.


Embracing Healthy Hair Care Practices

For healthy, vibrant hair, prioritize sulfate-free products and gentle cleansing. Minimize heat exposure and avoid harsh chemicals like sulfates and parabens. Incorporate regular deep conditioning treatments and indulge in the occasional hair spa for nourishment. Additionally, treat yourself to regular scalp massages to promote circulation and overall hair health. These practices will help maintain long-term hair health, strength, and shine.

By embracing these alternative methods and adopting healthy hair care practices, individuals can achieve smooth, manageable hair without compromising well-being. These alternatives offer safer and more sustainable solutions for maintaining hair health and enhancing natural beauty.



While keratin treatment offers the allure of smoother, shinier hair, it's crucial to consider the potential risks and benefits before proceeding. Individuals can make informed decisions about their hair care regimen by understanding the risks associated with formaldehyde exposure and exploring alternative options. Consulting with a professional stylist and conducting thorough research can help mitigate potential health risks and optimize hair health and appearance.