Which hair straightening treatment is right for you, Japanese hair straightening, Brazilian keratin treatment, or an at home alternative?

There are many ways to go about straightening you hair, from ironing at home to spending hours in a salon. We want to help you find the best, most convenient, and cost effective method for you!

The best method for your hair will depend on a variety of factors. In this post we will focus on five different considerations:

We also focus on three different methods of hair straightening, Japanese hair straightening (also known as thermal reconditioning), Brazilian keratin treatment, and at home keratin treatments. Each of these carries its own set of benefits, challenges, and risks.

Click here to get the main points of this post in an easy to read infographic!

Before we dive into a discussion on the five factors to consider, here’s a brief description of each straightening method:

  • Japanese hair straightening (abbreviated JHS in our charts) is a chemical straightening process that involves applying a special solution that actually breaks down the protein bonds in the individual strands of hair. This leaves them pin straight, permanently removing all curl from the treated hair.
    Read more about this process.
  • Brazilian keratin treatment (abbreviated BKT) works to straighten hair by coating the strands in keratin. The coating is sealed with heat from irons. This leaves the hair straight but with body and shine. Over a period of several weeks, the treatment will wash out. The hair progressively returns to its original state.
    Read more about Brazilian keratin treatments here.
  • The are numerous at home hair straightening treatments (abbreviated AH), but our comparison focuses on two keratin based products, Keratin Perfect and Simply Smooth Touch Of Keratin Smoothing Treatment. These treatments work in basically the same way as the salon keratin treatments. But they are not as potent and must, of course, be applied at home.
    (Keep in mind that this is not a review of these products. Details related in this post are based on their own claims. For reviews on these particular products, we suggest you view them on Amazon at the following links: Keratin Perfect and Simply Smooth Touch of Keratin.)

Now, let’s compare!


hair straightening heading - commitment

hair straightening options - commitmentAsk yourself: To what degree, or for how long, am I willing to commit to a straight hairstyle?

On this factor, our three hair straightening treatment options differ greatly! They range from providing straight hair for about 30 days, if you’re lucky, to permanently straightened hair. Depending on how long you desire to commit to a straight hair style, choosing a treatment could become an easy decision.

Japanese Hair Straightening: High Commitment

Japanese hair straightening requires a total commitment to straight hair, at least for as long as it takes you to grow out the straightened hair. The hair that you have straightened by thermal reconditioning will be forever straight. You will also be unable to style it. Curl is a thing of the past.

This is great if you don’t want to have to worry about what to do with your hair each morning. Some people even find this to be a time saver when traveling since it can save you from having to carry several hair care appliances with you. But if you like to mix things up from time to time, this might not be the best option for you.

Brazilian Keratin Treatment: Medium Commitment

Brazilian keratin treatment is far less of a commitment. Over the course of two to three months the keratin coating will fade away as you wash your hair. You are able to style your hair as it does retain some body following the procedure.

If you’re looking for a seasonal solution for frizz or just want to the experience of silky smooth hair for several weeks, this may be the way to go.

At Home Treatments: Low Commitment

The best at home keratin treatments only last up to 30 days. Like the salon version, their effects also fade away as you wash your hair.

Budget heading

hair straightening options - costAsk yourself: How much am I willing to spend?

There is a direct correlation between the price of a treatment and its longevity. The more costly the procedure is up front, the longer you can expect it to last.

However, there is a distinction between the up front cost and long term cost. Japanese hair straightening does cost more up front, but it could be a money saver in the long run if you are looking to keep your straight hairstyle for some time.

Costs for all of these treatments depends on the length and thickness of your hair. The longer and thicker your hair is, the more time and product are necessary for the procedure.

Note: This section focuses on the up front costs, not the cost of special shampoos or protein treatments which you may choose to use to care for your hair afterwards.

Japanese Hair Straightening: $450 Average

Price Range: $300 to $1,000

This is the most expensive of the treatment options. The expense comes primarily from the time and expertise involved in the process. Japanese hair straightening procedures typically last from three to four hours and can be longer if your hair is long or has a history of coloring or other processing.

Touch ups are required every six to nine months depending on how fast your hair grows. The work done on your hair at the time of the procedure is permanent. However, new growth comes in with your natural curl. Still, this is best long term solution for straight hair.

Even though thermal reconditioning may cost the most up front, in the long run, it may be the most affordable. Spending $450 over a 7 to 8 month time frame is still less than having to get at least two, and maybe three, keratin treatments at $250 each over that same time frame.

Read more about the details of Japanese hair straightening.

Brazilian Keratin Treatment: $250 Average

Price Range: $200 to $400

Like thermal reconditioning, pricing for Brazilian keratin treatments done in the salon depends on the length and volume of your hair. Longer and thicker hair requires more time from the stylist. This process takes less time than Japanese hair straightening, typically about an hour and a half to two and a half hours.

Touch ups are required every two or three months, depending on how often you wash your hair. One positive is that the effect of keratin treatments tends to be cumulative. This means that second or third treatments should last longer than your initial one if they are done successively.

Though the upfront cost is less than Japanese hair straightening, the cost of keeping your hair straight for the long term can add up quickly. But if you’re looking for a seasonal solution that fades out gradually and still allows you to style your hair, this may be your best option.

At Home Keratin Treatments: $75 Average

Price Range: $25 to $100

Keratin treatments that you can do at home are understandably not as strong as the salon versions. They don’t last as long, but they are significantly cheaper. Keratin Perfect sells for $65 on Folica.com. An “Essentials Kit” that includes the treatment plus shampoo, conditioner, and daily replenishing spray is available on Amazon for $100.

Simply Smooth Touch of Keratin Smoothing Treatment is a spray that you use after shampooing. You then seal in the keratin with a flat iron. A two ounce bottle costs $24.06 on Amazon.

Both of these products claim to last for 30 days. Applying them every month could be somewhat of a hassle, but if you just want to get a feel for what you might look like with straightened hair without committing to a salon procedure, either one is a great choice.




HairTypes heading

hair straightening options - hair typesAsk yourself: Which treatments will work well with my hair type?

If you aren’t sure what hair type you have, here are a couple of resources to help you learn more and determine your hair type:

Curl Centric has a great article explaining the different systems used to categorize hair types. Check it out to learn more about the factors used to determine your type as well as the various categorization systems.

If you’d like a process to determine your own type, WikiHow’s article, “How to Determine Hair Type,” gives in depth instructions on how to find the density, texture, porosity, oiliness, elasticity, and curl type of your hair.

Japanese Hair Straightening: Works with Almost All Hair Types

There are very few hair types that will not work with Japanese hair straightening. All but the most kinky hair types can expect pin straight results. For very curly and kinky types of hair, such as some types of African hair, the results may be unpredictable. And, of course, more curly hair types will need touch ups more frequently as the new growth comes in.

It is important to note that any hair that has gone through a great deal of processing (coloring, other type of chemical straightening or smoothing) may not be a good candidate for thermal reconditioning. This is covered more in depth in the next section.

Brazilian Keratin Treatment: Works with Many Hair Types

Since keratin treatments work differently than Japanese hair straightening, they are an option for any hair type. However, the procedure is significantly more effective on types with a weaker curl pattern.

Keratin coats the hair rather than breaking the bonds that actually make the hair curly. This means that stronger curls may be too difficult to straighten. However, you’re not likely to cause any damage by trying. Hair that has been through some processing actually works better with this process.

At Home Keratin Treatments: Works with Many Hair Types

What is true of the salon keratin treatments is also true of the at home varieties. It doesn’t work well with strong curls or kinky hair. It does tend to work better with hair that has been processed.
Processing heading

hair straightening options - processingAsk Yourself: How much processing has my hair already been through?

This is one of the most important distinctions between thermal reconditioning and keratin treatments. Processing refers to chemical procedures that you have had done to your hair previously. This includes highlights, coloring, bleaching, etc. and any prior straightening or smoothing treatments.

Japanese Hair Straightening: Less Processing = Better

For those who have frequently colored or otherwise chemically treated their hair, Japanese hair straightening may not be the best option. Many brands have developed versions of the solution that are milder for hair that has had some processing.

Thermal reconditioning is generally not recommended for hair that has had a great deal of chemical treatments already. On the other hand, it is a great option for wavy or curly virgin hair!

If your hair has been through a fair amount of processing and you are still interested in thermal reconditioning, we strongly encourage you to be very open with your stylist about your history of hair treatments. More information is always better!

Brazilian Keratin Treatment: Any Processing Is Fine

This is one of the comparisons where keratin treatments stand out. Because of the way that these treatments straighten, they actually work better with processed hair. It will help to restore the volume and shine.

As the keratin coats the individual strands, it covers the damage done by previous chemicals. Damaged hair is weaker, making it easier for the keratin coating to straighten by weighing it down. Japanese hair straightening, on the other hand, can tend to further hurt already damaged hair.

At Home Keratin Treatments: Any Processing Is Fine

Like their salon counterparts, at home keratin treatments also work well on processed hair. The same benefits are gained but to a lesser degree.
Risk heading

hair straightening options - riskAsk Yourself: Which risk(s) am I more comfortable with?

Any time you apply chemicals to your hair for any reason, there is some potential hazard. Each of these treatments carry their own types of risk. It is up to you to decide which are acceptable to you.

Japanese Hair Straightening: Hair Damage

The risk involved is primarily damage to your hair itself. If left on too long, the activator solution (the part of the process that actually makes your hair straight) can burn your hair leaving it feeling dry and thin. At worst, it can even cause significant breakage and hair loss.

This is why it is important to find a great stylist to perform the procedure. We have provided two resources to help you do just that! Our Salon Directory can help you to find a salon in your area that offers quality services. We also provide a suggested list of questions to ask a stylist to help you discern their experience and expertise with thermal reconditioning.

Brazilian Keratin Treatment: Formaldehyde

Brazilian keratin treatments carry far less risk for the type of damage that can result from Japanese hair straightening. Dry or broken hair is not really a concern.

The greatest risk with keratin treatments is the formaldehyde that is produced during the procedure and released into the air. Formaldehyde is one of the chemicals used to embalm bodies and is a known carcinogen.

Many if not most brands of keratin treatment will claim to be “formaldehyde free” and will not list it as an ingredient. However, their formula may still include chemicals that create formaldehyde during the process of ironing the solution on the hair.

Of course, we have not done the scientific research on this topic ourselves. We don’t want to pass judgement on any particular brand and their claims. Here are a few links you can use to research further:

At Home Keratin Treatments: Formaldehyde/Operator Error

At home keratin treatments can carry the same risk as the salon variety but to a lesser degree since they are not as potent.

Of the two products we chose as representative of at home keratin treatments, Keratin Perfect does contain some amount of formaldehyde. On their website, Keratin Perfect has posted testing results done in 2011. You can read the (extremely scientific) results here.

As best we could tell from the test results the expected lifetime exposure to formaldehyde if you used Keratin Perfect six times per year for 30 years would be at least 120 times lower than the “no significant risk level” as defined by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of California.

Simply Smooth Touch of Keratin claims to be “formaldehyde free” and does not contain formaldehyde per se. But it does contain vanillin, which is a formaldehyde donor/releaser, in levels much lower than the FDA recommended amount. You can read their self-published fact sheet here.

The other potential risk of at home treatments is operator error. As with any do it yourself project, there is inherent risk in your own lack of experience. This is, of course, a risk that you will have to factor in for yourself.
Summary heading
None of these methods could be considered the “best” in a concrete sense. Though there is likely to be one of them that is that best for you. Given the five factors of commitment, budget, hair type, prior processing, and risk, here are our summaries of who is a best fit for each type of hair straightening treatment. If you don’t fit nicely in any of these categories, contact your stylist for her suggestion.

Japanese Hair Straightening Treatment

Best for those with healthy hair committed wearing it straight long term

Japanese hair straightening is without a doubt the best solution for anyone with healthy, voluminous hair who is ready to commit to a long term, pin straight hair style. You may have to pay a bit more up front. But it will pay off in the long term.

You’ll save time fixing your hair each morning. There will be no worrying about frizz in the humid summers. You’ll have a professional look in far less time than before.

Find a Salon

Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Best for those who want silky smooth hair but have a history of coloring and/or processing

Keratin hair treatments are the most popular solution in this comparison, and for good reason. They work great for almost any hair type regardless of your history of coloring or other chemical treatments.

If you’ve never straightened your hair before and don’t feel comfortable testing the waters at home, a Brazilian treatment is perfect. You can still curl your hair. And if for some reason you don’t love it, the effects will wash out the more you shampoo.

At Home Keratin Treatments

Best for do-it-yourselfers on a low budget who don’t want to sacrifice style

At home treatments have come a long way. Though they don’t last as long as salon treatments, they cost much less and provide similar benefit. If you would prefer to spend your time and effort rather than your money, an at home keratin treatment is for you!

Buy Keratin Perfect on Amazon

Buy Simply Smooth Touch of Keratin on Amazon

You can also view a summary of this information in the form of an easily sharable infographic.

If you have other questions not answered here, or if you would like to share your thoughts or opinion, leave us a comment or contact us!


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2 comments on “5 Considerations for Choosing the Right Hair Straightening Treatment Option for You

  • You have missed the best JUVEXIN treatment. The best one for smoothing hair strands. I have done it multiple times and it works best for my curly hair. An little bit an expensive one but the price worth it because my curly hair deserve this treatment. I do it every 6 months because its one application keeps my hair straight, strong, smooth and soft for upto 5 months.

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