Keratin Straightening Treatment Review

Below is a full review of my in-salon keratin straightening treatment from how the treatment works, the process, steps to maintain and my experience from start to finish when the treatment faded from my hair.

Keratin straightening is something I had considered over 15 years ago, in my early 20s, and the hairdresser I had gone to back then said it damages the hair and the fumes are harmful; so I did not get it done and did not really think about it again. About 7 months ago my regular hairdresser got in touch with me and asked if I would be willing to get a keratin straightening treatment at a discount so she could have some before and after photos to show clients using a new brand that she had just gotten. Keratin treatments are expensive, costing between $250 to $450, and time consuming, taking anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on formula, hair texture and hair length. If I recall correctly, my hairdresser was charging $125 per hour. The whole process took 3-1/2 hours; 30 minutes to do a clarifying wash and blow dry and 3 hours from the time the product was applied to my hair to the last blow dry (and my hair was rather short).

A bit on keratin treatments, from my own reading, mostly from here; as I understand, a keratin treatment is a semi-permanent straightening treatment that smooths, reduces frizz and adds shine to the hair by using formaldehyde, formaldehyde derivative or ingredients that release formaldehyde, along with a flat iron, to cross-link bonds in the hair, resulting in smoother, straighter hair. Treatments containing formaldehyde last longer and get the hair very shiny and sleek/straight (like the Brazilian Blowout).

Glyoxylic acid is a gentle formaldehyde-free ingredient and provides more of a smoothing treatment rather than straightening, however, according to Cosmetics Business, releases formaldehyde at high heat, allowing it to smooth the hair. Glyoxylic acid is the ingredient in the at-home smoothing treatment O’Wow.

A keratin treatment is different than the Japanese hair treatment and relaxer that permanently break the bonds in the hair using ammonium thioglycolate and sodium hydroxide (these are more effective on very curly/coiled hair, but more damaging with noticeable grow-out).

I have also read that keratin treatments work by “injecting” the porous parts of the hair with protein so it feels smoother and healthier and/or sealing the hair with a coating of protein. I suspect this is not referring to keratin straightening, but rather a product using protein and amino acids like HairWellness from Noir Wild to reduce frizz and help repair damaged hair, with results lasting 2 to 4 weeks. Keratin is also an ingredient in the in-salon treatments, so likely helps in this way as well.

I skimmed an article that said formaldehyde is released bit by bit from the hair over time, causing the treatment to fade; I wanted to read more about this, but cannot find the article now.

The following can help maintain the keratin treatment:

  • Before the treatment, start with clean, clarified, dry hair.
  • After the treatment, do not get hair damp or wet for 72 hours.
  • Do not dent the hair for 72 hours. This includes up-dos, ponytails, braids, hairbands, sunglasses on the head, hair accessories and tucking the hair behind the ears.
  • Wash less frequently using lukewarm/cool water.
  • Do not use shampoos with sulfates or salts.
  • At night, use a silk pillowcase or tuck the hair in a silk bonnet.
  • If coloring the hair, this should be done before the keratin treatment, as it seals in the color and provides a protective coating to help hair color from fading. If coloring after, wait at least 3 weeks, as the color will not penetrate the hair as well. To add some confusion, I also read that color should be done after a keratin treatment as the treatment can cause fading.
  • No swimming in chlorinated water for 2 weeks.
  • Use heat protectant and do not use high heat.
  • Use a boar bristle brush to smooth the hair.

A bit about my hair, from left to right (check out my hair story here):

  1. Grow-out from a previous cut and color; the hair felt and looked quite healthy. This is my natural wave.
  2. Decided to go blonde; it started to look progressively worse as time went on.
  3. Stopped bleaching and let it grow. The hair was breaking and dry, my nice waves were gone and nothing I did improved the hair.
  4. Cut out a lot of damage and went back to brunette. This photo was taken just after getting it cut and colored at the salon.

My hair is thin, dry, frizzy and feels coarse. It has no shine or softness. I cannot just leave my hair air dried or blow dried, as it poofs into a frizzy, wavy dome around my head. I either need to tie it back or flat iron and/or curl; styling took me about 45 minutes in the morning. My hair gets frizzy and poofy in rain, snow and humid weather. It tangles easily with shampooing or on a windy day. Previous to the treatment I was washing my hair once a week, as it was so dry and took a while to feel oily. My hair was breaking off at the underside at the back hairline and I was loosing a lot of hair in the shower.

My hairdresser used Professional Keratin by Macpaul. Macpaul uses a formaldehyde-free formula (I could not find the ingredients) with three in-salon services in one bottle; straightening, smoothing and frizz reduction, with processing time and number of flat iron passes differing depending on the treatment chosen.

Straightening treatment:

  • Processing time – 60 minutes on thin hair and up to 90 minutes on curly hair.
  • 10 to 12 flat iron passes.
  • 4 levels of curl reduction.
  • Lasts 3 to 6 months.

Smoothing treatment:

  • Processing time – 50 minutes.
  • 7 to 9 flat iron passes.
  • 3 levels of curl reduction.
  • Lasts 1 to 3 months.

Frizz reduction treatment:

  • Processing time – 30 minutes.
  • 4 to 6 flat iron passes.
  • 2 levels of curl reduction.
  • Lasts 1 month.

Macpaul Professional Keratin steps:

  • Start with an in-salon clarifying wash and dry.
  • Section hair and apply treatment from roots to ends with a brush and comb through.
  • Allow treatment to process on the hair (I had 90 minutes).
  • Lightly rinse 50-70% of the product and towel dry.
  • Blow dry straight section by section with a round brush.
  • Flat iron thin sections of the hair section by section at 230.C (446.F), with a lower temperature for colored or damaged hair (I had the high temperature).
  • Rinse and blow dry.

I got the keratin straightening treatment one week after getting the cut and color from a different stylist; the cut was not great and did not look good straight, and the color was a shade darker than my natural hair (which I did not ask for and did not like).

When my hairdresser applied the keratin treatment, she parted my hair in a mid part (how I usually style it); this helps the hair fall where it is supposed to when air drying, blow drying or styling. This was particularly helpful for my bangs (fringe) falling into the right place rather than them being parted in the middle (where they wanted to lay previously).

When the treatment was on my hair it had a floral/fruit scent and had no stinky fumes when flat ironing. My scalp was itchy for a few minutes as it was processing. The treatment itself, as it was processing on the hair, lightened my hair a shade and the flat iron lightened it a further shade; strange since the keratin treatment is supposed to seal in color. I was not particularly upset by this, as my hair was too dark anyway; however, I do not really like the auburn tones in my hair.

For the photos below, I used the same products for each; Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Smoothie shampoo and conditioner, a leave-in conditioner on wet hair and Olaplex No. 7 oil on wet hair. When blow drying, I used the Briogeo Blossom and Bloom Volumizing Spray. After the hair was dry (blow dry or air dry), I applied the Olaplex oil (a necessary step to smooth the hair) .

I experimented with a couple different hair products; heavier products like the Kevin Murphy Hydrate Me shampoo and conditioner felt quite heavy on my keratin treated hair, likely because of the heavier hydrating ingredients and silicones.

My hair got oilier much faster because of the straight, frizz-reduced hair and I had to go from washing once a week to twice a week and even then, I probably could have washed my hair every second day. Before the keratin treatment my hair did not have much volume; with the treatment I had even less volume and a volumizing spray was a necessary step. Rain and humidity had no effect on my hair; it did not get frizzy or poofy.

I noticed that my hair was pretty much impossible to tangle; with wind, using drying or clarifying shampoos or blow drying the hair did not make my hair tangled or knotty and it was easy to get a wide-tooth comb through it, wet or dry.

In the before photo, my hair is air dried and is wavy and frizzy. It feels dry and coarse and has no shine. Directly after the keratin treatment, the hair feels heavy, a bit sticky, weighed down and there is not a lot of movement. I could not wait to wash my hair.

I got the treatment done the day after the above before photo, so the poof and frizz has calmed down.

Week 1 (blow dried) – The hair is shiny, straight and feels soft. The fringe is laying where it is supposed to.

The hair air dries twice as fast after the keratin treatment and a rough blow dry takes about 2 minutes. I do not use a round brush while blow drying; just dry my hair upside down, directing the hair dryer from root to tip a couple times. The hair is straighter with less frizz on blow drying as opposed to air drying. There are fly-aways and a bit of poof and the hair is not slick-straight even after blow drying. To help with this and to touch up the bangs, I use Olaplex No. 7 oil after the hair is dry.

After air drying, since the hair has some wave and poof, I use a flat iron on a low temperature with large sections of hair and a straight look is achieved with one pass.

My hair stopped breaking off at the back and there was not as much hair in the shower.

Week 3 (air dried) – So impressed with how the bangs look after being air dried. Previously, they would curl, wave and frizz up all over the place. The hair has some wave.

3 months (blow dried) – Second day hair. I sleep with my hair tucked up into a silk bonnet to reduce friction.

5 months (blow dry) – The hair has a bit of wave and the bangs have begun to curl (I trim these about every 2 to 3 weeks). There is some fly-away hair.

5 months (air dry) – More wave; still has some shine and still feels soft.

The Macpaul Professional Keratin lasts up to 6 months. By 6 months my hair still felt soft, did not have much frizz, and I was not certain it had completely faded.

7 months (blow dry). No hair oil applied. My hair looks and feels quite different compared to 2 months ago. It feels more coarse, has more frizz and poof and is not as shiny. The treatment has now faded. I am surprised it dried pretty straight.

7 months (blow dry) – Before and after applying Briogeo hair oil.

7 months (air dry). No hair oil applied. A lot of wave and frizz now.

7 months (air dry). Before and after Briogeo hair oil.

Now that the treatment has faded from the hair (I forgot how annoying and frizzy my hair actually is), I am still left with softer, healthier-looking and healthier-feeling hair than previous to the treatment. I would get a keratin treatment again, but will likely try the two above-mentioned home treatments before getting one done in the salon.

Thank you for reading.

Laneige Cream Skin Review

Laneige Cream Skin Refiner (also known as Cream Skin Toner and Moisturizer at Sephora) is a light-weight two-in-one toner/moisturizer liquid that preps and hydrates the skin in one step. This is for all skin types (according to Sephora’s website, however, on the bottle (from Sephora) says for normal to dry skin) and claims to soften and deeply moisturize the skin.

Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Polyglyceryl- 10 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Propanediol, Disodium Edta, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol

Cream Skin contains glycerin and butylene glycol, humectants; meadowfoam seed oil, an emollient, softening and occlusive ingredient; glyceryl caprylate has moisturizing properties; propanediol enhances absorption and has hydrating properties that can leave a dewy finish on the skin.

Directions: After cleansing, morning and evening, shake into the palm of the hand and pat into skin until absorbed. Can apply with toner pads. For extra dry skin, layer product by reapplying or soak toner pad and leave on skin for a few minutes, then pat into skin.

I have an oily T-zone/combination/dehydrated skin prone to congestion and blackheads. Cream Skin is a liquid formula, a little thicker than water, and has no scent. I’ve been using Cream Skin for about a month, on the face and neck, around the eyes and on the lips, applying with Klairs Toner Mate 2-in-1 Cotton Pad (I find if I pat onto the skin with my hands, I use too much). For the first couple uses, I was applying too much and it left my skin quite shiny/tacky. My skin does not feel oilier when using nor did I get breakouts. It leaves a smooth, dewy finish on the skin (as seen in the above photo) and my skin feels so soft. It does not feel heavy on the skin, but I can feel it to the touch. If I apply other products to the skin, particularly light gel treatments like Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, Cream Skin needs to dry for a bit (about 5 minutes) before applying and even then my skin looks shinier and I’m not sure that other treatments are being fully absorbed. (Update May 26) – I just started using Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence. I used once 5 minutes after applying a very little bit of Cream Skin Refiner and the essence was a bit shiny on the skin and the skin felt plump and moisturized. The next day I applied the essence after a normal toner and it absorbed into the skin leaving a sort of dry stickiness, then a smooth layer after a few minutes; so I’m pretty sure the Cream Skin is blocking some absorption of other products.

Cream Skin moisturizes very well and protects from water loss. After a few hours the dewiness disappears, but there is a soft protective layer on the skin until I cleanse at the end of the day. I also use this product on the back of the hands in the evening.

When my skin is very dry, for instance, after a hot shower, Cream Skin makes my skin immediately hydrated, whereas before I would have to use a toner, hyaluronic acid and a cream, and even then, the skin would still feel/look a bit dry. With tretinoin use, my skin will get dry and flaky, I will get dry patches around my mouth and nose and sunscreen and makeup will stick on these dry areas and make the skin look worse, but with Cream Skin makeup and sunscreen apply very nicely.

Laneige Cream Skin Refiner is moisturizing for oily and dry skin, with one layer in warmer months, and I would use multiple layers in winter. I will not need to purchase a separate moisturizer. This has become a favorite and I will definitely repurchase; I just hope that other products layered over Cream Skin are being absorbed.

As a side note, Cream Skin Refiner is available on and for a bit cheaper than at Sephora, with fast shipping. There is also a mist version available that I might try on dry areas of the body (I would love a body version of Cream Skin).

Thank you for reading.

Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion Review

Sili by Drunk Elephant is a body lotion that claims to restore moisture, lock in hydration and improve dry and dull skin.

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Squalane, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Coconut Alkanes, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Pentylene Glycol, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Schinziophyton Rautanenii Kernel Oil, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Sodium PCA, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Allantoin, Sodium Lactate, PCA, Alanine, Arginine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Valine, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Extract, Behenic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Adansonia Digitata Seed Extract, Beta-Carotene, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Pulp Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Linoleic Acid, Ceramide NS, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Ceramide NP, Ceramide EOS, Cholesterol, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Pulp Extract, Caprooyl Phytosphingosine, Caprooyl Sphingosine, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Sorbitan Isostearate, Ceteareth-25, Tocopherol, Citric Acid, Cetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

Sili is made up of plant oils and butters, amino acids, antioxidants and five ceramides to moisturize, provide a protective barrier and nourish and rejuvenate the skin. For a moisturizer to be complete and effective, it should contain an emollient, an occlusive and a humectant, all of which Sili is formulated with. Ceramides are lipids found in the upper layers of the skin forming a protective barrier, protecting against moisture loss and damage from the environment.

Directions: Massage over body until absorbed. Can be used on wet skin and can be used on the face as well.

This is a light-weight lotion. Like Drunk Elephant’s other body and hair products, Sili has a sweet almond scent (think almond extract); the natural scent of the product as there are no added fragrances. The scent lasts for only seconds.

I have dry shins and normal skin elsewhere on the body, other than very dry hands. I’ve used Sili daily after showering for over a month now. On application, the skin has a smooth, soft and silky feeling, with a light protective layer left behind. It is not heavy or greasy and absorbs quickly. On application to the hands, the skin has a silky feeling with relief of the dryness for about 10 minutes. After this, the skin feels dry again, but still has the silky layer that lasts on the skin over a couple light hand washes. After a month of twice-daily use as a hand lotion, there is some improvement of surface hydration, but nowhere near the improvement I would expect (the skin still feels dry, though does not really look dry). My shins are dry (not visibly excessively so, but feel dry to the touch compared to the rest of the leg) and I have to use quite a bit of product for the skin to feel moisturized and protected and even after a month, while softer, the skin still feels dry. Elsewhere on the body, while there is not much difference in terms of hydration, the skin is softer. The skin has the smooth silky feeling for a few hours after application. I used the lotion a few times on my face. I have oily skin and this provided moisture and a protective layer over the skin.

Over the last week, I have been adding a couple drops of moisturizing oils (trying squalane, rose hip and the Briogeo hair oil) to the Sili, then applying to the hands and body and this seems to increase hydration and protection of the skin immediately and throughout the day, so Sili just is not moisturizing enough for dry skin. It maintains normal skin, however.

Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion absorbs quickly, is not greasy, improves softness of the skin and leaves a silky protective layer, preventing water loss, however, is not very moisturizing. This would better suited to the face and neck (I use on my underarms as well) and normal skin with very minimal dryness and would provide light hydration in warmer weather. I do prefer Sili over the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream in terms of softness and silkiness of the skin. I likely would not repurchase.

Thank you for reading.

Tretinoin Review

Tretinoin (retinoic acid) also known as Retin-A (prescription only) is a form of vitamin A in cream or gel form used for the treatment of acne, surface wrinkles, scarring and can help hyperpigmentation by increasing cell turnover on the skin and stimulating collagen production. Retinoic acid is more aggressive than retinol. It comes in a couple different strengths; I’ve been using the 0.05% cream. I do not like the gel formula; it does not seem to work as well.

Directions: This is a product the skin needs to get used to. It can be used once a week for a few weeks, then twice a week and so on, working up to once a day. It can be applied mixed with a moisturizer as the skin gets acclimated. Use at night. Cleanse the skin and let thoroughly dry (about 20 minutes). Apply a pea-sized amount and layer over the skin. Avoid eyes and lips. This makes skin photosensitive and sunscreen should be used during the day.

Side effects can include redness, irritation, dryness and peeling. To prepare the skin for using Retin-A, one can consider using a retinol first; I’ve used this from The Ordinary.

I was first introduced to Retin-A a few years ago when I used the Obagi Nu-Derm system and have used it on and off since then. I have oily skin that is prone to breakouts. I have hyperpigmentation and old acne scarring. For this review, I used in the evening every second day for a couple weeks, went up to once a day for the next 10 months and about every third day for the last month, for a total of 11 months. Depending on how often I use it, the tube lasts about 6 months; I usually use for 6 months, take a 3- to 6-month break and purchase again. I do not use it with a moisturizer, but after cleansing the skin I use a hydrating toner mixed with The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics, then let the skin dry completely before applying the Retin-A. I do not follow with anything else. If I want to use an AHA, BHA or vitamin C, I use these in the morning. I try to avoid applying Retin-A in the crease beside the nostril; the skin peels and stings.

Retin-A has a medicinal scent, and is absorbed immediately and immediately makes the skin feel dry to the touch, like all the oil has left the skin. This evens out after a while. In the morning, my forehead seems much more oily than usual.

After two applications the skin started flaking, and continued (while diminishing) for 2 to 3 weeks. Once in a while, I’d get a bit of peeling around areas of movement on the face; the mouth and eyebrows. I use the gentle Daily Exfolipowder from Amarte followed by Laneige’s Cream Skin to help with the flaking.

In the before photo, there are large pores in the middle of my forehead that had diminished by 3 months. The complexion looks more even. Fine lines are less noticeable by 11 months.

In the before photo, my skin looks rough and congested with large pores and hyperpigmentation from sun damage. There is noticeable improvement in the texture and brightness of the skin. Pores look smaller. There is some fading of the dark spots. My skin feels very smooth.

I got a cluster of breakouts by the jaw around 3 months. Had I not been using Retin-A at the time, those breakouts would have caused postinflammatory hyperpigmentation that takes a very long time to fade on its own. In general, while using Retin-A, I got a minimal breakout here and there and those healed quite fast. The patch of pigmentation and congestion on/under my cheekbone has faded.

In the before photo here, I had some fine lines around the orbital bone (very minimal crow’s feet) which are gone.

I was hoping for more fade of the freckles caused by sun damage after the 11 months, but some spots have faded and lighter spots have disappeared. For quick reduction in spots, I like getting photofacials.

The level of irritation and skin reactivity will be different for everyone when using Retin-A. When I first used it a few years ago, any product I would put on my face (including water) would sting and cause redness for a few seconds. Using it now, as my skin is used to retinols and acids, I get peeling, but no redness and no stinging. My sister tried Retin-A (she has a very different skin type to me) and got redness, pain and a burning sensation lasting hours after application.

Retin-A is one my must-have products. Thank you for reading.