Everything You Wanted to Know about Chemical Hair Treatments Part 2: Which & How

By Melody Rose

You walk into a hair salon, and the first thing you see is a price list hanging over the receptionist’s desk. It starts simple: blowout, haircut, hair styling, highlights, color. But, as you go down the list, you start to see less familiar words like “keratin” and “relaxer.” What are they, exactly? And hair bleach… that can’t be good for the hair… can it?

In this two parter, I’d like to go over a list of the four major chemical treatments that you’ll see offered in most hair salons: Keratin Treatments, Chemical Perm, Chemical Relaxer, and Hair Bleaching. Why are they offered? How long do they last? What’s a fair price? And, most importantly, what do they do to your hair?

In part one, we went over what each treatment does, why it’s on the market, and the history behind them all. Now, let’s profile these treatments at length.

The Which: What are the Pro’s and Con’s of Each Treatment?

If you are thinking about getting a chemical treatment, it’s important to assess whether this treatment will be right for you. After all, these last a long time and do have effects on your hair that may last longer than the treatment itself. We’ll go through them one by one.

Keratin Treatment


  • Reduces frizz, even on those hot, humid summer days.
  • Conceals split ends (though it does not fix them).
  • Detangles hard-to-brush hair.
  • Help the hair grow faster, though only slightly.
  • Causes less permanent damage to the hair in comparison to other treatments.
  • Only takes half-hour to an hour to get the treatment.


  • Only lasts six months, or closer to three if you frequently wash your hair.
  • Effects wear off over the course of that year, making it less effective as time goes on.
  • Some formulas contain formaldehyde, which can damage the hair and is dangerous if inhaled.
  • Requires a trip to the hairdresser, as no at-home treatments exist on the market (as of the writing of this article.

Chemical Perm


  • Adds volume to thinner hair.
  • There are lots of different subtypes (an article for another day), so you have more control over the results in terms of style and the amount of maintenance required.
  • Usually holds well up until it’s time for your next appointment, so you won’t have the trouble of watching it slowly lose effect over time.
  • Lasts around a year, though this may vary based on your hair type.


  • Uses chemicals to break hair bonds, which can dry out the hair pretty easily. This means you’ll have to either invest in protein treatments or very frequently condition your hair.
  • Can be unruly in the morning if you sleep with a bare head, which is why most hairdressers recommend wrapping your hair in a scarf or wearing a nightcap when you sleep.
  • Some require frequent haircuts to keep the curls from being weighed down.
  • Requires a long trip at the salon, at least a few hours.

Chemical Relaxers


  • Reduces unwanted frizz and over-volume.
  • Can be applied at home (though this may be difficult for beginners).
  • Completely straightens the hair, making updo’s easier and eliminating hair straighteners.


  • Have a very short half-life, anywhere from six to twelve weeks.
  • Can make the hair limp, dry, and more prone to flaking and split ends.
  • If applied incorrectly (usually by adding too much) the damage to the hair can be permanent (until the hair grows out and the treated hair is cut off, of course).

Hair Bleaching


  • Lasts forever, until the hair grows out and is cut off.
  • For darker hair, makes coloring/dying/highlights much easier to apply and hold.
  • Doesn’t fade with frequent hair washing.
  • Can be done at home (albeit with extreme caution to avoid hurting yourself).


  • Almost universally makes the hair dry, limp, and easier to break off or make split ends.
  • Its effects make Chemical Perms and Relaxers impossible for as long as that hair is on your head.
  • Reduces bounce and volume.

The How: What’s the cost, and where do I go?

All four of these treatments can be done in a salon, though this will run you more expensive than an at-home treatment. On the plus side, you’re far less likely for it to be applied incorrectly, and you’ll get tips on how to care for it and make it last longer, so that insurance may be worth the extra cost to some.

Of the four, Chemical Relaxers and Hair Bleaching do have at-home options, but you’ve got to make sure you read the directions carefully and follow them as closely as possible. Wear gloves, go slow, and wear clothes you don’t mind getting stained.

Each treatment varies in cost. Keratin Treatments usually have two options: the short-term, which will last around a month and goes for around $100, and the long-term, which lasts up to three months and starts around $300, but can go up to $800. For Chemical Perms, this varies wildly based on which sub-type you get and where you live; some go for as little as $50, others go as high as $300. Hair Relaxers can be as low as $10 for an at-home kit, and, in the salon, the range is $50-$80. Finally, Hair Bleaching can go anywhere from $100-$200 depending on how much of the hair you want bleached, and how long your hair is. At-home-kits start around $40.

So, what now?

If you’re thinking about getting any of these treatments, I’d recommend you write out the reasons why you want to get it, then list any negative factors that you’d consider an issue. Time yourself in the morning to see how long it takes to do your hair, and estimate how much time you’d save if you got a treatment. Gather all the data, and then make a decision. And, if you end up not liking the results, don’t worry. After all, it’s just hair.

Come Through, Growth!

Source: Healthline.com