Should You Wash Your Hair Before a Keratin Treatment?

By Camelia Smith
Published 22 Sep 2022

Should You Wash Your Hair Before a Keratin Treatment?

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Prepping your hair before a keratin treatment is key to getting better and long-lasting results without any surprises.

One fundamental step often overlooked is washing the hair before the treatment. Some stylists prefer to work with second-day hair, while some would wash your hair twice before applying keratin.

I personally prefer the latter. I would always ask my hairstylist to deep cleanse my hair before any treatment – be it color, keratin, or bleaching.

Even if I do a DIY keratin treatment at home, I’ll use a strong clarifying shampoo beforehand. It sets my hair up nicely.

Why It’s Essential to Wash Your Hair Before A Keratin Treatment

hair stylists recommend washing hair before keratin treatments

Washing your hair prior to a keratin treatment primes your locks for maximum and better product absorption.

It removes buildup, residues, and oxidizing elements that may otherwise interfere with the keratin treatment’s ability to penetrate and bond into the hair shaft.

Additionally, starting with clean hair allows your stylist to assess your hair’s current condition accurately. This is important because the treatment can be customized according to your needs.

For example, if your hair is particularly dry or damaged, your stylist may decide to use a different type of keratin treatment or add a few extra steps to the process.

On the other hand, if your hair is healthy, your stylist may be able to use a more intense treatment that promises faster and better results.

Generally speaking, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wash your hair before a keratin treatment. This simple step can make a big difference in the quality of your results.

Nylza Yepez, a hairstylist at Jenny Perry Hair Studio, says she washes her client’s hair twice with a clarifying shampoo before applying the product. And from her experience, it always yields excellent results.

The Benefits of Washing Hair Before a Keratin Treatment

Although it may sound trivial, a keratin treatment pre-wash has major benefits you wouldn’t want to ignore.

Let me explain …

Deep Cleansing Primes the Hair for Best Results

improves hair maintenance after keratin

You wouldn’t apply makeup on dirty skin, would you?

It would clog the pores, cause breakouts, and the result wouldn’t look good either.

The same logic applies to your hair. Start with a fresh, clean canvas.

When you detox your hair with a clarifying shampoo, it unclogs dirt, dust, oils, hard water minerals, and sticky products that attach between the cuticles.

A clarifying shampoo also neutralizes oxidizers in the hair (from color treatments) that can interfere with the keratin treatment application.

This is why it’s crucial to use a clarifying shampoo at least once a week in your regular routine to keep your hair healthy. I recommend using it twice if your hair is particularly dirty or oily.

It Removes Stubborn Buildup

Regular shampoos are not formulated to cleanse the hair as clarifying shampoos do. They contain more smoothing and glossing agents that make the hair look easy on the eyes but not necessarily clean.

Related: The difference between a regular shampoo and a clarifying shampoo.

If you live in a hard water area, oxidizing minerals attach to the hair gradually to create stubborn residues that are not washable by regular shampoos or dish soap. See the filthy limescale on your taps and bathroom; you’ll understand. It takes a lot of scrubbing to remove them.

Plus, if you’re heavy-handed with your conditioner, gel, heat protectants, oils, etc., it’s highly recommended to wash your hair twice or do a detox wash, even if you’re not on your way to your stylist to get a keratin treatment.

If your hair is not deeply cleansed before a keratin treatment, you’re essentially adding the keratin coating on top of clogged cuticles, which may result in an uneven and blotchy coating.

It Helps The Keratin Coating to Set Evenly

If the surface of your hair is rough and bumpy, even the finest Brazilian blowout won’t keep your hair smooth. You may experience frizz, forcing you to book an appointment at the salon again to get your tresses into shape and style!

Keratin hair treatments mostly involve locking the product with heat, meaning that your hair expert will go through each strand with a flat iron to get that sleek, salon-worthy straight hair.

Imagine applying keratin, protein, or any other heat-activated product on your hair with all that old buildup still locked into the cuticles. I, for one, don’t want to add keratin treatment to that mess!

The result is easy to expect: your hair will have patches of non-treated hair, and the processed hair will most likely experience rapid peeling of the keratin treatment. Seems like a heavy consequence for not using shampoo, right?

Clean Hair Reveals Its True Condition

hair salons rules insist on washing hair as pre-treatment to keratin

Washing hair twice allows your stylist to assess your hair’s condition.

It reveals the true state of your hair, how much stretch it has, and how much damage or porosity it has. This is important because it helps identify the correct treatment to meet your specific needs.

It Speeds Up The Processing Time

A clarifying shampoo isn’t just a staple in pre-appointment rules; it also helps to accelerate the processing time of the treatment as the hair strands can absorb the treatment faster.

You won’t have to sit in the salon for hours!

No Surprises

When your keratin treatment doesn’t turn out as planned, it’s often related to the application or preparation process. Here’s how not washing your hair before a keratin treatment can cause unwanted problems a few weeks after.

For example:

  • Frizzy hair after keratin treatment:
    Frizz can develop after keratin treatment due to uneven keratin coating. Some parts may be patchy due to hair cuticles not being even and smooth during the treatment.
    Read: Why is your hair still frizzy after keratin treatment?
  • Greasy hair after keratin treatment:
    Greasy hair after a keratin treatment is usually the result of excessive keratin coating or the coating not absorbing into the hair shafts. As a result, the keratin layer starts to melt on top of the hair creating a waxy residue.
    Read: How to fix greasy hair after keratin treatment.
  • Oily and sticky hair:
    Like the greasiness problem, waxy and sticky hair often results from an improper application that leaves too much keratin coating over the hair, flaking and becoming sticky in parts.
    Read: How to fix sticky hair after keratin treatment.

What Shampoo Is Best for Washing Hair Before A Keratin Treatment?

Most keratin treatments come with a clarifying shampoo.

However, if you’ve only bought the keratin treatment on its own and you’re looking for a suitable pre-keratin shampoo, here is a good recommendation:

pre-keratin-shampoo that can be used for days before treatment to prep hair - formaldehyde-free shampoo for keratin treatment

GK Hair Clarifying Shampoo

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Also, Check: The best-rated clarifying shampoos for any hair type.

You May Also Use An Alkaline Shampoo

Alkaline shampoos (high pH) work by lifting the hair’s cuticles to cleanse thoroughly. They are more intense than clarifying shampoos. Only use them if you feel your hair is heavily weighed down with buildup or if you need to undo any previous treatments like hair dye before doing your keratin treatment.

How Long Before A Keratin Treatment Should You Wash Your Hair?

Ideally, it’s best to wash your hair on the same day, right before the keratin treatment is applied.

Consider it as step 1 of the treatment.

Once the hair is washed, rinse with lukewarm water, pat dry with a microfiber towel, and use a blow dryer on low to medium heat to dry the hair.

Best Way to Wash Your Hair Before A Keratin Treatment

Whether you’re using a clarifying shampoo or an alkaline one, both require the same amount of time and effort while washing your hair. There’s no special method of washing. One good tip is to let the shampoo sit for a few minutes to absorb all the impurities before rinsing it out.

Final Thoughts

There should be no debate on whether to wash or not to wash hair before a keratin treatment.

The benefits are clear.

It’s an extra step, but it’s definitely worth the time for its multi-benefits and the difference in results you get.