Beauty & Style
I Found It! The Holy Grail of HEALTHY In-Salon Keratin Treatments
You can't peer into a hair salon window these days without seeing a giant sign touting their menu of hair smoothing treatments.
Whether it's being called a "Brazilian keratin," a "smoothing treatment" or whatever, the end goal is usually this: loosen stubborn curl, eradicate frizz and make unruly hair about a million times more manageable. For moms, this can be a godsend!
The hitch, of course, is that some of the formulas contain potentially—nay, most totally likely!—harmful chemicals. And some companies are pretty unscrupulous about what is in their products—misleading the salons and stylists who then pass on bad info to smooth-hair seeking women!
I consider myself a bit of an expert on all of this stuff. Over the last few years, I've tried nearly every one of these formulations—including, ack, the ones with the "bad" ingredients and one that's a kit you DIY at home (you can read my review of that here)—I've still been in search of an in-salon keratin treatment that had all the benefits, without the health issues. Even pregnant or nursing women can get this treatment!
Enter the Zerran "RealLisse" treatment, which I had a few weeks ago in New York City at the sole salon in the city that currently offers the procedure. (Or rather, there's only one stylist in NYC proper who has gone through the training; more on that later.) It's been available in the US since last January, and there are stylists around the country who offer it. It's not a household name yet, but I predict it will soon be one.
The company calls it a chemical-free, vegan hair smoothing treatment. As an unabashed meat-eater, I don't particularly care if my beauty products are animal-derived or not...(in this case, the keratin in it must not be coming from a just-shorn sheep)....but I DO care about my health and don't want fumes wafting my way as my hair's texture is tweaked.
The way the company explains how RealLisse works is this: Vegan proteins from wheat, corn and oats are sealed into to the hair shaft via a flat iron developed to Zerran specifications, meeting the 450°F heat standard. (Apparently, other irons are less reliable.) The product is pH balanced, no masks or scalp balms are required, no special venting system is needed, and there are no irritating fumes and no harsh chemicals. During the service, the high heat of the flatiron temporarily opens the hair’s cuticle and temporarily breaks the disulfide bonds that are more plentiful in some heads of hair--and cause curl and frizz. (For a fascinating explanation of exactly how those bonds make hair curly, see here.)
So, while the bonds are open, the vegan proteins go to work. The tiny protein particles insert themselves and make those disulfide curl bonds stay open, thereby lessening curl and frizz formation. The reason it doesn't turn your hair into broom-straight tresses: not all curl bonds are fixed open, and so the percentage of curl bonds held is client-dependent. It also doesn't contain formaldehyde or its derivatives--which understandably can cause more straightening. The deposited protein particles wash away over time, gradually reinstating curl and frizz. The more often you wash, or the more you use a harsh (outside of 4.5- 5.5pH) shampoo, the faster the protein particles wash away, causing faster reversion of the disulfide curl bonds. (Naturally, the company sells its own line of aftercare products with just the right pH levels.) The company went so far as to invite the California OSHA to the facility where it's made to test the product and the air. More on that here.
The way I explain how it works is this: It's magic! Listen, I have naturally very curly hair. The RealLisse process turned it into the swooshy hair I always wanted. Smooth but still with body; shiny and manageable. Less kinky, more Kardashian.
As for why more stylists aren't doing this particular brand of smoothing treatment, Bobby notes that it's a bit more of an art to doing RealLisse than the others out there and that special training is required for this particular product. There's simply more attention necessary! You can't just slap it on and hit it with any old flat iron, says Bobby. And it's true, the process seemed much more detail-oriented when Bobby did it, versus the others I've had in the past. He carefully gauged how damp each section of hair still was before he passed the flat iron over each area, using obvious care and a calculation of how much each area needed.
The one downside/unexpected side effect I have to note: there's a strange patch of hair near the nape of my neck that seems positively freaked out. It's like the hair literally gave up the ghost-- it's frizzled into tiny, kinky waves, like Brillo or something. I can smooth it with a blow-dryer, but it does scare me. Perhaps the hot ironing required to set the product into the hair shaft simply rubbed this area the wrong way? That's not a very scientific way to explain it, but I don't know what to think.
For his part, stylist Bobby Fintor suggested intensive conditioning to simply add in lost moisture that he thought was behind the issue. I've done that but the patch seems permanently petrified. I guess I'm just happy it's on the undermost layer of my hair, but I can't help but worry it could happen next time on another, much more visible area?
In the end, I am happy! This is a more powerful fix than the at-home kit I tried, which in the end saves both time and money.
I know eventually it will wash out and that my roots will obviously grow in curly. Yes, I'm cautious about the part that's all frazzled, and will make sure to give it the love and TLC that may nurse it back to health. But until then, I am cherishing the change!