Michelle Obama’s Hair: Are Keratin Treatments Her Secret Weapon?

Michelle Obama’s elegant, flattering hairstyles are widely admired by  women worldwide.  Can Brazilian keratin treatments help create these styles at home? Were they critical to her White House styles? We say yes. Here’s why.

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

The details of Mrs. Obama’s hair care regime aren’t fully public, but a photo analysis and an interview with her stylist provide interesting information.

Early pictures reveal her hair to be somewhere in the Type 4s, which by nature is difficult to straighten, highly susceptible to breakage, frizz, and shrinkage, and matte rather than shiny. Yet her White House-era photos show shiny, smooth hair that never frizzed and gradually grew longer.

Did Michelle Obama transition from relaxers to keratin treatments?

During the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama was still using relaxers according to Johnny Wright, her stylist for over a decade, but by 2015 she “had been natural for years.” Did she transition from relaxers  to keratin treatments?

On the basis of the photographic evidence, we believe yes. Her pictures show gorgeously-styled hair behaving exactly as Type 4 natural under the influence of keratin. The following observations strongly indicate the use of BKTs on Mrs. Obama’s hair.:

  1. She transitioned without a big chop. Keratin treatments were originally developed to restore relaxer-damaged hair. The smoothing and frizz-control were discovered later;
  2. Her hair has grown longer without breakage, including previously relaxed parts;
  3. It smooths out easily without excessive flat ironing (see stylist’s remarks, below);
  4. It holds any style, even bangs, without frizz, “pouf,” shrinkage, or heavy, greasy products;
  5. It has a polished sheen instead of a matte flatness; and
  6. The cuticle appears smooth rather than rough.

Her stylist speaks keratin-friendly language

The words of Michelle Obama’s stylist support the idea that she transitioned from relaxers to keratin treatments. While Johnny Wright doesn’t specifically mention keratin treatments for Mrs. Obama, what he does say is consistent with them.

First, he mentions doing most of her styling with a flat iron. Any stylist who relies on frequent flat ironing for a Type 4 head will undoubtedly seek minimize heat any way possible. And, if that client is one of the busiest women in America, he’ll need to work fast.

As a skilled professional, Johnny Wright would be aware that keratin treatments are the best way to both minimize heat exposure and maximize styling speed because they make hair extremely responsive to heat. Keratin-treated hair takes 2-4 times less flat ironing or blow drying than hair without.

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

Other indicators that Wright is pro-keratin are found in his remarks about the current revolution against relaxers 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. To speak of a revolution involving style versatility and zero tolerance for chemical damage is to talk of keratin treatments. There simply isn’t any other product or process that delivers them both.

Keratin treatments make styling natural hair easy

Wright is not saying that just quitting relaxers is enough to create hair that “does it all” and can easily alternate between curly or straight. Why not? Because most natural curl patterns don’t straighten easily — the reason relaxers were used in the first place. If relaxers are removed from the equation, other assistance is needed for straight styles.

Furthermore, as for the embrace-curls revolution Wright references, keratin treatments can make the difference between success and failure . Why? Because natural hair worn curly brings its own styling difficulties and is often extremely high-maintenance . These include:

  1. Taking up to a day to dry, with special handling needed during that time;
  2. Shrinking to a fraction of its full length so as to look much shorter than it really is;
  3. Frizzing relentlessly in humidity or sweat;
  4. Breaking easily due to its natural molecular structure, making it hard to grow long;
  5. Containing a mix of curl patterns that don’t blend harmoniously;
  6. Lacking curl definition in the case of some curl patterns; and
  7. Looking flat rather than shiny because the strand shape diffuses light.

Keratin treatments help with all of these problems.

  1. By infusing keratin between gaps in the cuticle, they reduce water retention. This causes hair to dry much faster than normally, and prevents frizz and shrinkage by repelling humidity and perspiration.
  2. The attachment of keratin to the hair acts as a protective, strengthening glove to dramatically reduce hair breakage. Keratin clients always talk about how much faster their hair is growing but in reality, it’s that the breakage has stopped.
  3. Keratin treatments generally loosen the natural curl pattern so that it air dries a looser, longer version of itself and with minimal heat it can be loosened even more. This can cause tighter curl patterns to appear more defined and can reduce the differences between assorted curl patterns on a single head.
  4. although  while also restoring to like-new condition hair that’s been severely damaged by relaxers, heat, and bleach, often eliminating the need for a big chop. Stylists frequently use Brazilian keratin on transitioning as well as totally natural hair for precisely these reasons. Keratin treatments would fully enable the revolution Wright is talking about: versatility, easy straight styles, easy curly styles, no chemical damage. No other product or treatment can offer the same at this time.

In the final analysis, both the hairstyles themselves as well as the words of stylist Johnny Wright persuade us that Brazilian keratin treatments were an integral part of Michelle Obama’s White House hair care regime, and likewise, they would be helpful for anyone with Type 3 or Type 4 natural hair seeking to recreate similar styles on herself. What’s your take?

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