My hair has been a source of constant frustration in my life. In middle and high school, I flat-ironed it into submission daily. In college, I decided to rock the curls, but the precise and complex sequence of products and care instructions got exhausting. You ever tried to scrunch out your gel even two minutes too soon? Disaster! My first year out of school, I was Our Lady of Perpetual Bunnage. That is, until I tried keratin.
Usually, keratin treatments use heat (and sometimes formaldehyde, ick) to bond keratin proteins to the hair to make it smoother and straighter. Results last around three months and treatments can cost up to $300. I never wanted straight hair, not to mention that I have nowhere near the coin needed to maintain treatments. It was a pass for me. That is until I read about the Keratin Express Blowout.
This treatment doesn’t straighten hair (it does loosen my curl just a little bit); it just smoothes down frizz and decreases dry time. You can wash your hair after only eight hours as opposed to the full keratin treatment’s 72-hour washing ban, and the results lasts four to eight weeks. The best part? My stylist offers it for only $80—though I live in the Midwest, so it may well be pricier in your area.
I loved my first Keratin treatment. On the first day it looked super sleek and smooth, and when I washed it afterward, I had flowy, wavy curls without the halo of frizz. But the effect faded after six weeks, and soon enough, I was back in the salon chair.
Still, even at the more palatable price, I wanted my treatments to last. I’ve found that using keratin-containing hair products on a regular basis can help me stretch a treatment for nearly three months. Here’s what I love to use.
I first gave Shea Moisture’s line a shot. Using a sulfate-free shampoo and washing infrequently can help extend a keratin treatment, so this shampoo fits the bill. Since I can only make it two days without washing, I use this to wash my hair in reverse. I apply conditioner to my whole head before shampooing to help protect it against the surfactants in the shampoo. The two together keep my hair moisturized, smell great, and can frequently be found on sale at Target.
If I want a deeper treatment or I’m trying out a non-keratin shampoo and conditioner, I like to use a keratin hair mask.
One of my friends has used the AG Reconstruct Intense Anti-Breakage Mask before, and it was no less dope when I tried it. This super-rich mask smells like buttercream and goes on just as thick. It has tons of shea butter to balance out the moisture and protein and leaves my hair incredibly soft.
Another mask that’s a total steal is the Ion Keratin Smoothing Mask. You can get a one- to two-use packet for under three bucks at Sally Beauty Supply. It has a much lighter consistency than your average hair mask, which makes it ideal for fine hair. It gives you that hair like when you just got back from the salon and it’s suuuuper smooth and soft but also incredibly light and bouncy. And of course, you can’t beat the price.
Since I started using keratin hair products in between blowout treatments, I’m making it longer and longer between triangular hair debacles. Six weeks after my most recent keratin treatment, my hair is as smooth and soft as ever.
This article originally appeared on xoJane.