Pretty Girl

A few weeks ago, it became evi­dent that I’m not the only nat­u­ral who’s ever felt the creamy crack call­ing out to them in the mid­st of failed attempts at learn­ing how to take care of their afro-tex­tured hair.

It was a few emails in, after going back and forth between ques­tions about hair man­age­ment and prod­ucts to try, that one of my sub­scribers asked me one of the best (and most trans­par­ent) ques­tions I’ve ever received;

texturizer question

The wom­an was strug­gling, and to be it’s a strug­gle I’ve had per­son­al expe­ri­ence with. I felt that it was impor­tant for me to give her more than a short answer.

The truth is any harsh chem­i­cal has the poten­tial to be no good and even ter­ri­ble for any hair type. I’ve gath­ered some infor­ma­tion on the use of the most pop­u­lar relax­ing treat­ments for wom­en who prefer a style that isn’t bone straight; tex­tur­iz­ers and ker­at­in hair treat­ments. Both treat­ments employ caus­tic chem­i­cals, so the ques­tion isn’t which is bet­ter for your hair, but which is worse.

Now, don’t read me wrong here; I am not judg­ing any­one who decides to go down either path, in fact I tread that road myself last year when I tried a ker­at­in treat­ment for the first (and last) time. It’s impor­tant to know the facts, and that’s what I’ll be shar­ing with you in this post!

Why use a tex­tur­iz­er or ker­at­in treat­ment?

Tex­tur­iz­ers and ker­at­in treat­ments have been cre­at­ed to loosen tight­ly curly and kinky hair. Some ladies find their hair to be ‘more man­age­able’ with a looser tex­ture for var­i­ous rea­sons includ­ing less oppor­tu­ni­ty for hair to tan­gle, less time spent styling hair, etc. The­se prod­ucts provide per­ma­nent (tex­tur­iz­er) to semi-per­ma­nent (ker­at­in treat­ment) results and should gen­er­al­ly not be applied to pre­vi­ous­ly processed hair.

How does each treat­ment work?

Tex­tur­iz­ers employ the use of a chem­i­cal with a high pH in a cream base. A few of the chem­i­cals used to cre­ate tex­tur­iz­ers are sodi­um hydrox­ide (also know as ‘lye’) and guani­dine hydrox­ide (no lye). Tex­tur­iz­ers are applied to the hair and then rinsed out thor­ough­ly with a neu­tral­iz­ing pro­duct.

Guani­dine hydrox­ide tex­tur­iz­ers usu­al­ly have two com­po­nents; a cream that con­tains cal­ci­um hydrox­ide and a liq­uid made of guani­dine car­bon­ate. They are mixed togeth­er to cre­ate guani­dine hydrox­ide. This is the tex­tur­iz­er of choice for sen­si­tive scalps. But while it is mild on the scalp, it is harsh­er on the hair because it is more dry­ing and swells the hair more than sodi­um hydrox­ide based tex­tur­iz­ers.

Ker­at­in treat­ments con­tain sil­i­cone poly­mers and formalde­hy­de. When com­bined with the heat from a hair dry­er and hot flat iron, the poly­mers coat the hair shaft to relax the hair. The formalde­hy­de helps hair’s ker­at­in to link with the product’s ker­at­in form­ing a bond that keeps hair straighter for a time.

What are the side effects of each pro­duct?

The chem­i­cals in tex­tur­iz­ers can burn exposed skin if left on too long. Many of the chem­i­cals are used in hair depila­to­ry (hair removal) creams and in solu­tions that help clear out clogged drains. Those with dam­aged and fine hair types may find that their hair imme­di­ate­ly begins to break. This is because the hair’s bonds have been com­pro­mised and the strands are thus less elas­tic and more prone to dry­ness.

You’ve prob­a­bly also heard that many of the chem­i­cals in tex­tur­iz­ers have been linked to fibroids. Accord­ing to stud­ies done at Boston University’s Slone Epidimi­ol­o­gy Cen­ter, black wom­en with an increased expo­sure to chem­i­cals though scalp lesions and burns (from chem­i­cal hair treat­ments) expe­ri­enced increased fibroid growth.

One thing to note is that no-lye relax­ers don’t con­tain less chem­i­cals than lye relax­ers. No-lye will straight­en hair bet­ter than lye relax­ers, but have the ten­den­cy to cause more dry­ness through repeat­ed appli­ca­tion.

With Ker­at­in treat­ments, there are two things to con­sid­er- (1) the very high heat need­ed to provide the most effec­tive loos­en­ing and (2) the formalde­hy­de and oth­er alde­hy­de derivates they con­tain. I did a ker­at­in treat­ment using 350°-400°F heat last year, and while my hair felt very nice after­wards, sim­i­lar to when I do a hen­na treat­ment, I didn’t expe­ri­ence any notice­able amount of curl loos­en­ing because I opt­ed not to use the rec­om­mend­ed amount of heat (450°F) for the best straight­en­ing effect. That being said, I imag­ine that many peo­ple can have neg­a­tive reac­tions such as hair break­age just from the high heat need­ed to acti­vate the chem­i­cal reac­tion.

The formalde­hy­de in the ker­at­in for­mu­la is released via heat and as the coat­ing on the hair breaks down over time. The prob­lem with unnat­u­ral lev­els of formalde­hy­de is that the effect on the body hasn’t been suf­fi­cient­ly test­ed. There have been lots of sto­ries of ladies los­ing their hair from the roots months after treat­ment and it’s just not clear whether this could be a cause of the extreme heat or the release of formalde­hy­de as the rate of chem­i­cal reac­tion dou­bles with every 18°F/ 10°C increase in heat.

There are ker­at­in treat­ments that are said to be formalde­hy­de free, though many do con­tain alde­hy­des which are in the same fam­i­ly as formalde­hy­de and act like a less potent formalde­hy­de.

So, are tex­tur­iz­ers  good for nat­u­ral hair?

Here’s the thing, most of the­se curl loos­en­ing treat­ments aren’t the best for us health wise and will degrade the hair in one way or anoth­er. The alter­na­tive might be to heat train your locks to elim­i­nate any chem­i­cal expo­sure, but you risk com­pro­mis­ing your hair’s struc­ture per­ma­nent­ly through heat dam­age and increas­ing dry­ness in already dry­ness-prone hair. There are lots of things we do that aren’t 100% healthy, but we do them because we believe the ben­e­fits out­weigh the risks. It’s all about weigh­ing the pros and the cons and being very well informed before you make a choice and then keep your­self informed even after you’ve already made your choice. At the end of the day, you have to make the best deci­sion for you and your hair.

Where I got my info from:

Halal, John, Hair Struc­ture and Chem­istry Sim­pli­fied Fifth Edi­tion; 2009 Mila­dy, Ceb­grage Learn­ing.

Ladies, would you con­sid­er a ker­at­in treat­ment or tex­tur­iz­er?

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6 Comments on "Texturizer vs Keratin Treatment: Which Is Harsher on Hair?"

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Hair Design

You have explain some awe­some points among Tex­tur­iz­er and Ker­at­in.… Amaz­ing post it is

As a user of both prod­ucts in var­i­ous stages of my hair life I am dis­turbed that this arti­cle has been pub­lished. This infor­ma­tion is glar­ing­ly incor­rect. Relax­ers and ker­at­in treat­ments are two very dif­fer­ent prod­ucts and process­es. Ker­at­in treat­ments are pro­tein based and not intend­ed to loosen the curl pat­tern. Any loos­en­ing is a pos­si­ble but not guar­an­teed bypro­duct of the process. Ker­at­in treat­ments are intend­ed to use ker­at­in to bond to the hair for pur­pos­es of block­ing humid­i­ty, strength­en­ing the strands, and coat­ing the hair to add slip for bet­ter man­age­abil­i­ty. Ker­at­in does not per­ma­nent­ly alter the hair… Read more »
Tabitha Barr

Erika your post sounds pret­ty rea­son­able, I don’t think it could have been explained any bet­ter than what you did, thanks for mak­ing more sense of the­se treat­ments

Hi Cas­san­dre~ There is a bit of wrong infor­ma­tion here which I would like the chance to amend.  1) You say that with the ker­at­in treat­ment you “didn’t expe­ri­ence any notice­able amount of curl loos­en­ing because [you] opt­ed not to use the rec­om­mend­ed amount of heat (450°F) for the best straight­en­ing effect,” but as I recall from speak­ing with you after­ward, the prob­lem was entire­ly that you did not use any­where close to enough pro­duct. At the time, you had extra­or­di­nary length (to your der­ri­ere) and vol­ume, vast­ly more hair sur­face to treat than most wom­en, but you used only 1/3 of… Read more »

I did a tex­tur­iz­er and I absolute­ly regret it. My hair is straight and a lot broke off. I’m wish­ing I’ve nev­er even touched my hair. Been say­ing to myself may­be my nat­u­ral hair wasn’t that bad to han­dle. I have no clue how to get my curl back. But if you wash out ker­at­in treat­ment, can you wash out a tex­tur­iz­er? It was my very 1st time using, and my hair is col­ored. I was told there is no going back unless I big chop again or grow it out. Help me please!!! I’m so not hap­py :-/

Lala Blossoms

I do an home ker­at­in treat­ment made by Lus­ter and will nev­er go back. I have been per­med, tex­tur­ized, and com­plete­ly nat­u­ral and this has been the best deci­sion I have ever made for my hair. I have been doing it a year and have expe­ri­enced noth­ing but healthy hair and easy styling. I know some view it as sell­ing out, but I don’t care. There is risk involved and a learn­ing curve, but it has been more than worth it for me.