Michelle Obama’s Hair: Are Keratin Treatments The Secret Sauce?

Michelle Obama, fantastic hair. Are keratin treatments part of the mix?  More importantly, can they help create the same looks at home? Yes.

Michelle Obama's natural hair is somewhere in the Type 4s. Keratin treatments appear to have been a factor in her White House styles. Uncurly.com


Early pictures show Michelle Obama’s hair as somewhere in the Type 4s. By nature, it would be difficult to smooth, susceptible to breakage, frizz, and shrinkage, and would be more matte than shiny. Yet her White House-era photos show shiny, smooth, frizz-free hair which also grew noticeably longer during that period.

Did Michelle Obama transition from relaxers to keratin treatments?

According to Johnny Wright, Michelle Obama’s stylist for more than a decade, Mrs. Obama had used relaxers up through the 2008 Democratic National Convention. But by 2015, “she had been natural for years.”

Did she transition from relaxers  to keratin treatments? To us, it appears she did for several reasons. First, photos from the era show her hair behaving the way Type 4 natural hair does when it’s under the influence of keratin. Second, her stylist makes a number of statements that appear to support the use of keratin.

Photo indications of keratin treatments on Michelle Obama’s hair:

  1. She transitioned without a big chop. Sometime between 2008 and 2015, she abandoned relaxers but never needed to cut off years of relaxer-damaged hair. This alone is a very strong indicator of keratin treatments, which were originally developed specifically to restore relaxer-damaged hair. (Their smoothing, strengthening, and frizz-control properties were discovered later.);
  2. Her hair has grown long without breakage, including the previously relaxed portions. Keratin treatments are the most powerful means available to structurally strengthen (and thereby lengthen) Type 4 hair. They dramatically override Type 4 hair’s natural tendency (due to its shape) to break more powerfully than any product or protective style;
  3. Her hair can be styled quickly and easily, with minimal heat (see stylist’s remarks, below);
  4. Her styling (even bangs, the ultimate test) holds well without frizz, pouf, shrinkage and without the need for heavy, greasy product;
  5. Her hair has a polished sheen rather than a matte appearance; and
  6. The cuticle looks smooth rather than rough, as it was in early photos.

Another sign: Her stylist speaks keratin-friendly language

Johnny Wright, her stylist from Chicago through the White House years, never specifically discloses the products he uses on Michelle Obama’s hair (which would be inappropriate), but what he does say is consistent with using keratin treatments.

He needs to minimize heat and work fast

Wright states frankly that he creates most of Mrs. Obama’s styles with a flat iron. And when a stylist regularly flat irons a Type 4 head, he’s going to minimize heat any way possible. If that client happens to be the First Lady, he’ll have added pressure to work fast.

An educated professional like Johnny Wright knows that keratin treatments are the best way to minimize heat exposure and maximize styling speed. Keratin-treated hair needs 2-4 times less blow drying or flat ironing than hair without.

He needs structural strengthening for long growth

To grow out Mrs. Obama’s hair, he’d want to add the structural strengthening of keratin which supports longer growth by eliminating breakage.

He talks ‘revolution’ using keratin treatment buzzwords

The most compelling evidence that Wright favors keratin treatments is found in his remarks about the current revolution against relaxers and in favor of styling versatility and healthy hair. He says,

“Women are starting to see what type of damage chemicals have caused their hair over the years, and they’re really starting to embrace the fact that they can be versatile…They can wear it curly. They can wear it straight…They can do it all…That’s the revolution…” Johnny Wright, Ibid.

This is keratin-friendly language, loud and clear. The kind of revolution he talks about — style versatility with zero chemical damage — can only be had with a keratin treatment. There simply isn’t any other product or process that delivers them both.

Keratin treatments make natural hair easy

To be clear, Johnny Wright isn’t saying that merely quitting relaxers is enough to get hair that “does it all” without chemical damage. Yes, it will end chemical damage but it won’t facilitate the styling versatility he’s talking about.

Smoother looks need help For one thing, most natural curl patterns don’t smooth out easily, which is why many people use relaxers in the first place. When relaxers are taken out of the mix, something else is needed to help with straighter styles, and keratin treatments are ideal for this purpose.

They form a temporary keratin coating on the hair causing it to air-dry looser and to respond to heat by quickly smoothing out. This coating also blocks humidity and perspiration from causing frizz, pouf, and shrinkage, making the smoothing last.

Beyond simply avoiding relaxer damage, keratin treatments strengthen, restore, and deep-condition hair to like-new, allowing it to grow longer.

Natural hair worn curly can be very high-maintenance The “curly” part of the revolution Wright talks about can bring its own set of styling difficulties:

  1. Taking a day or more to dry;
  2. Shrinking to a fraction of its full length;
  3. Frizzing in humidity or sweat;
  4. Breaking easily;
  5. Not blending well due to mixed curl patterns.

Keratin treatments minimize these issues:

  1. Keratin reduces water retention so hair dries in one-third the time;
  2. It ends shrinkage — curls air-dry looser, longer;
  3. It repels humidity to prevent frizz, pouf;
  4. It stops breakage with a protective coating;
  5. It blends textures by minimizing pattern differences.

Keratin treatments fully enable the revolution Johnny Wright is talking about: versatility, easy straight styles, easy curly styles, no chemical damage. No other product or treatment offers the same benefits. And their conditioning is so powerful that even hair with severe heat, bleach, or relaxer damage can participate, often without a big chop.

In the final analysis, Michelle Obama’s various hairstyles, her chop-free transition from relaxers, and the words of her stylist, Johnny Wright persuade us that keratin treatments are an integral part of her hair regime. Likewise, they would be helpful for anyone with Type 3 and Type 4 natural hair who’s trying to create similar styles at home.

What’s your take?