I have a confession: Last spring, I got a Brazilian blowout. You know, that keratin treatment that's been making headlines for years regarding its formaldehyde content. I have incredibly thick, coarse, curly hair, which I've been relaxing/straightening/damaging for years. The keratin treatment is the first that actually made my hair feel healthier. (Well, formaldehyde is a preservative....)
All joking aside, I'm not endorsing any of these treatments. Before you get it done you should do as much research as you can, talk to as many medical professionals as you can, and weigh the risks. Whether or not I'm going to have the treatment done again is still up in the air. But I did learn several important lessons from trying it:
1. Sodium is bad for your hair. When I was in my teens, and in the depths of my Medusa-dom, there was a spam email floating around about how sodium lauryl sulfate was a terrible carcinogen. It said that you should throw everything away in your bathroom cabinet that contained anything with at least one of those words on the ingredient list. Unfortunately, pretty much every shampoo and conditioner on the market, as well as many hair products, contain some sort of sulfate.
You can't use shampoos with sodium when you have the Brazilian blowout. And you know what? I never will again, regardless of whether that email spam was true. For people like me with naturally coarse, frizzy hair, sodium lauryl sulfate exacerbates the problem. The brazilian blowout only lasts for three months, but my hair is still more manageable than it was beforehand because I'm using gentler shampoos and conditioners. (However, I will still use dry shampoo, which I'm sure contains some sort of sulfate. That stuff is my crack.)
2. Traditional relaxers and Japanese straighteners are not worth it. My hair is very dry, but it was literally straw when I was using a traditional relaxer. Now that my hair is semi-touchable I'll never go back to traditional treatments, even if that means letting it go natural.
3. I am so happy that I don't dye my hair. My hair is very dark brown, with some light brown highlights that have emerged as a result of sun exposure. (My hair is also just getting lighter: I've noticed a couple of grays popping up.) I played with temporary dyes in middle school, but since then I've kept my hair dark brown. And I'm so happy about it. I can't even imagine putting my hair through a coloring process every three months. I feel lucky that I am content with my natural color.
4. Researching beauty treatments is essential. Years ago, it seemed insane that people would actually stop using sulfate products in their hair. Now I'm a full-on believer that they're harmful. It's important to research a product or treatment thoroughly so that you can make the decision that's right for you.
5. Flat irons suck. If I'm going to apply heat to my hair--which I probably do every four or five months, letting my hair air dry the rest of the time--it's going to be via traditional blow dry rather than a flat iron. Not only is it horrible for your hair, the result doesn't look as natural.