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How a keratin treatment can transform damaged hair

After 20 years of abusing her hair, ALICE CASELY-HAYFORD finally found the perfect treatment to bring her lackluster locks back to life

Beauty

I have been abusing my hair with harsh chemical relaxers, straighteners, hair dryers and curling tools since the late ’90s, so it’s a wonder I have a strand left. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and it’s certainly growing more lushly on other heads. So, about five years ago, I vowed to take better care of my hair – ending my biannual trips to the hair salon for a scalp-stripping, potent chemical straightener. In the not-so distant future, I plan to grow out my hair and proudly embrace my natural texture but, until then, I have endeavored to get my frazzled lengths in much better condition. Enter keratin.

For the uninitiated, keratin is the main protein in hair, skin and nails. The ‘Brazilian blow-dry’, as it is popularly known, adds protein back into the hair with controlled heat, to create a smoother, frizz-free result. Although I am prone to hyperbole, I’m reluctant to say that products or treatments have changed my life. But this one truly has. I now get a keratin treatment – formaldehyde free, of course – every three or four months. I highly recommend the Permanent Blowdry at Hershesons in London, but many salons offer similar services.

A relatively pain-free and quick process compared to the harsh chemical relaxers I used to rely on, the keratin treatment is applied to the lengths of dry, unwashed hair, left on for 30 minutes, rinsed off and then sealed in using heat. The treatment forms a coating over the follicle, reducing frizz and stubborn curls, making my hair far more manageable and quicker to style each day. Although I’ll never be a wash-and-go woman (my hair still requires a quick once-over with straighteners after washing), it isn’t the same laborious task I was once committed to.

When I wash my hair at home using a sulphate-free shampoo (Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Shampoo is my product of choice), I make sure to drench my head in a coconut-oil mask for a few hours before rinsing thoroughly. This weekly DIY mask has also been key in transforming my hair, making it softer and healthier – and, for the first time since I was 12 years old, it has grown beyond shoulder length.

The last step in my holy trinity of treatments is Olapex. Olaplex helps to restore hair structure, repairing the damage caused by bleaching, dyeing, chemical treatments (guilty) and heat (guiltier). As someone who still wields hot tools far more often than I should, my Olaplex treatments every three months have drastically improved the look and feel of my lackluster hair.

The final additions to my haircare armory are supplements, hair oil, silk pillow cases and scrunchies. It may sound excessive, but it’s been a long and winding road to get my hair in good shape, so I don’t cut corners. Each morning after breakfast, I take Ouai Dry Hair Supplements, which help with breakage and aid growth, containing nutrient-rich silica and vitamin E. The amino acids boost the production of keratin, while biotin and omegas-3 and 6 increase radiance.

When my hair needs a little extra shine and hydration, I also liberally apply Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Hair Oil. I visit Charlotte’s Hair Lounge as often as I can for her signature scalp salt scrub, but having her oil on my bathroom shelf is the next best thing. “Manketti oil has a nourishing blend of organic manketti nuts and ximenia oils,” Mensah explains. “It produces instant results from the first application as it cares for the scalp while taming frizzy hair, restoring strength and elasticity.”

Finally, I religiously sleep on a Slip silk pillowcase and use Slip scrunchies to minimize hair tearing and breakage. Crafted from the finest mulberry silk, the pillowcase is gentler on your skin as well as your hair and makes sleep that little bit more luxurious.

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The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown