5 Much More Affordable (& Safer!) Alternatives To In-Salon Keratin Treatments

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You might know keratin best within the context of keratin treatments, which are in-salon chemical processes that help promote straighter, smoother, and generally easier-to-manage hair. But if you're not looking to shell out $300+ on a professional treatment, keratin hair masks can produce similar (albeit less intense, and less long-lasting) results. Unlike their in-salon counterparts, the best keratin hair masks work in minutes (not hours), won't contain any formaldehyde (which, according to the American Cancer Society, is a known carcinogen), and won't set you back hundreds of dollars.

The same rules that apply to keratin-free hair masks generally apply here, too. Giovanni Vaccaro, Artistic Director at Glamsquad, recommends using a keratin hair mask once a week if you have fine hair, or up to twice a week if you have medium to thick hair. “If your roots get oily or weighed down, apply the mask from ponytail or mid shaft down to your ends,” Vaccaro tells Elite Daily. “But if the hair closest to your scalp is dry, damaged, or has broken off, I recommend applying to your roots as well so that it can get stronger and recover.”

Any of the five best hair masks on this list will do the trick, so keep scrolling to find your perfect at-home keratin treatment match.

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The Overall Best Keratin Hair Mask

The proprietary keratin protein blend in this Virtue Restorative Treatment Hair Mask was created by a doctor working in regenerative medicine; It's nearly identical to the keratin proteins that naturally exist in human hair, so this treatment repairs your hair at a cellular level. Other plant-based proteins and oils, like artichoke leaf extract and brown algae, also chip in to heal, smooth, hydrate, and protect your hair. Even though it’s so potent, this mask isn't too heavy, so it will work on just about any hair type without weighing it down. It works in just three minutes, too, so you can comb it on, wash it off, and move on with your life.

The Best Budget Keratin Hair Mask

One thing you’ll notice about keratin hair masks: They can get really pricey, really fast. But thousands of Amazon reviewers swear that this $13 Artnaturals Argan Oil Hair Mask works just as beautifully as masks that cost triple the price. Along with keratin, the decadent, whipped formula is infused with argan oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter, some of the most moisturizing/softening/smoothing/everything-good-for-you ingredients out there. And according to the diversity of its reviewers, this mask is effective for targeting so many hair concerns, from restoring bounce to curls to repairing bleached hair to soothing scalp psoriasis. Well worth spending $13 for.

3. A Great Mid-Range Keratin Hair Mask

Go for this Keratin Intensive Treatment from Paul Mitchell’s Awapuhi Wild Ginger line whenever you feel like doing the home-spa thing. This luxe mask contains the brand’s own keratin protein blend, KeraTriplex complex, for strength, hydration, shine, and all the other great things keratin can do for your hair. The line’s signature white ginger extract is also included in the formula to (potentially!) help stimulate hair growth. This treatment works on all hair types — fine, thick, straight, relaxed, or otherwise chemically treated, and all curl patterns — but the brand recommends it particularly for people with color-treated hair. Pairs best with a face mask and Netflix.

The Best Keratin Hair Mask For Fine Hair

The lightweight but super-concentrated formula in this Rene Furterer Absolue Keratine Ultimate Repairing Mask is designed especially to repair damage without weighing down fine hair. In here, a plant-based keratin made of soy and wheat mimics your hair’s natural proteins, while fatty acid-rich camelina oil and biocymetine protect, restore, and nourish compromised fibers. Because this mask is so potent, you can just use it for two to three weeks at a time, a couple of times a year.

The Best Keratin Hair Masks For Travel

Next time you’re traveling, throw one of these TSA-friendly Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner packets in your carry-on. Each sachet contains a fruity-floral-scented mask infused with hydrolyzed keratin, which you can use as a deep conditioning treatment whenever you have 20 minutes to spare. Even if you’re not traveling, these single-serve packets are handy if you tend to over- (or under-) do it when you’re doling out your products. Pro tip: Reviewers say you can actually get two treatments out of each packet.


Giovanni Vaccaro, Artistic Director at Glamsquad.