Honestly, I’m so fashion illiterate that I didn’t know these things exist until recently. I’ve got a co-worker with perfectly straight hair that showed us a picture from her teenage years and in the photo her hair was quite curly. Of course we all asked what happened and she told us that she has her hair straightened with a “Brazilian blowout” every 2-3 months when she does her color.

I instantly knew I wanted to do it! I’ve got just enough wave to my hair that it looks like I never comb it. I’ve got sprigs that stick out the side throughout the day so even when I am wearing my hair up in a clip or ponytail, I look like I didn’t comb my hair. I don’t use a lot (or any) products and I don’t like the feel of hairspray. This sounded like a great solution to making my hair look nicer while maintaining my complete indifference to spending time on my appearance.  So why tackle it myself?  To save money of course! There is no way I can spend $300-$600 on my hair several times a year.  

Assuming you spend $300 and it needs to be done every 2-3 months, that comes to $1200-$1800 per year.  If you’re in a ritzy place and it costs you $600, that comes to $2400-$3600!  Yeah, NO!  I’ve found that with do-it-yourself home treatments, you can spend anywhere from $14-$75 for a treatment.  That is $56-$84 if you’re getting it for $14 each or $300-$450 if you’re spending up to $75.  I am noting this because it seems like the big difference in the do-it-yourself home kits is the length of time they will last (14 days – 30 days).  Obviously it costs more for products that last longer, it makes sense.  So if you get the $14 treatment that lasts 2 weeks, you will have to do it more frequently and there’s also the added cost of your time (don’t forget to consider the opportunity cost of everything else you could be doing with your time).  

So I started talking about it to other friends and was very surprised about the feedback I got. First, there are a lot more people getting it done than I knew, and second, it will give you cancer….you read that right. The overwhelming advice that I received from my friends was not to do it because the chemicals will kill you, or make you wish you were dead, something like that…

So this lead me to research the subject, and much like hair bleach, the Internet overwhelmingly said, “Yeah, that used to be TOTALLY bad for you, but we’re much better now”.  Seriously, the first time I dyed my dark brunette hair platinum blonde back in 1997, it took an entire day with multiple bleaching to lighten it enough and I felt like my scalp was about to slough off at the slightest touch. That’s me there on the left.  It took 6 hours at least because of the multiple bleaching sessions, roots that had to be touched up every month, and ended up costing me a ton of money. Today, it takes about an hour and a half and can be done in one shot. I imagine anyone who gets perms can also attest that they used to be much harsher than they are today. Brazilian blowouts, keratin treatments, whatever they call them, used to have high concentrations of formaldehyde and that crap is SO SO bad for you. Today you can get formaldehyde-free treatments that don’t last as long and that is where I decided to begin.

Here’s a gallery of my good and bad hair days over the years. When I go to bed with wet hair, it’s simply a MESS the next day!


Step 1: Purchase products

You need a clarifying shampoo or something to strip all the residue from all the other products you use out of your hair and leave it porous and ready to accept the treatment. They say you need a “sulfate free” product. I tried to find some, I really did. I got so completely overwhelmed with the variety of products and complex labeling and ingredients that I gave up. I tried to find the answer using the internet and searched for “sulfate free” shampoos, and I got plenty of options, but when I found the actual bottle in the store and looked at the ingredients, “sulfate” or something with the word “sulfate” inside of it was on the bottles. I gave up and decided to use good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar.

Walmart Shelves

Now, aside from a clarifying shampoo to prepare your hair, and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to use afterwards, you have to actually purchase the keratin treatment product. You can really get bogged down in online research here. There are a ton of reviews and plenty of product choices. I tried to go to my local beauty supply place so that I could read the bottles and look at them in person and that turned out to be way more difficult than finding the clarifying shampoo. First off, keratin must be a popular thing because there were TONS AND TONS of products with the words “keratin”” in the name or description. After spending an hour with two people going up and down the aisles and two totally not helpful employees giving misinformation, I found one tiny bottle that seemed to be right for $47. I didn’t end up buying it because the size was so small and you can’t return anything at our shady discount beauty warehouse store. Amazon takes things back. So, I found two products I wanted to try and settled on doing the formaldehyde free one that doesn’t last nearly as long. No sense getting cancer over a hair experiment right?

While we’re in the discussion about the products to buy, once you do your hair, you have to use sulfate free shampoo and conditioner so you will need some of that too. I found mine at Target and Walmart also carries it. I ordered the actual keratin treatment from Amazon Prime and had my products in two days. Funny thing is that it was just as small as the one that I had rejected at the beauty supply store. Apparently I don’t understand volume well because the Internet lists how many ounces are in a bottle, but the pictures look so big and shiny online.