Michelle Obama’s elegant, flattering hairstyles are widely admired by women worldwide. Can Brazilian keratin treatments help us create these styles at home? For that matter, were keratin treatments a factor in her White House styles? We think so, and here’s why.
While the details of Mrs. Obama’s hair care regime aren’t fully public, a photo analysis and an interview with her stylist provide meaningful information.
Early pictures place her hair somewhere in the Type 4 range, which by nature is difficult to straighten, highly susceptible to breakage, frizz, and shrinkage, and matte rather than shiny. Yet most of her White House-era photos show shiny, smooth hair with some bend, never frizzy, and gradually growing longer.
Did Michelle Obama transition from relaxers to keratin treatments?
Johnny Wright, Mrs. Obama’s stylist for over a decade, reveals that during the 2008 Democratic National Convention she was using relaxers but that by 2015 she “ha(d) been natural for years.” Did she transition from relaxers to keratin treatments?
If you ask us, yes. Her pictures show gorgeously-styled hair behaving exactly as a Type 4 natural does under the influence of Brazilian keratin. By this, we mean:
- It transitioned from relaxers without a Big Chop, often a result of BKTs, which were originally developed to restore relaxer-damaged hair. The smoothing and frizz-control properties were discovered later;
- It’s grown steadily longer without breakage, even the previously relaxed portions;
- It smooths out easily without excessive flat ironing (see her stylist’s remarks, below);
- It holds any style, even bangs, without frizz, “pouf,” shrinkage, or heavy, greasy products;
- It has a polished sheen instead of a matte quality; and
- The cuticle appears smooth rather than rough.
When considered together, these indicators are almost proof-positive that keratin treatments are in use.
Her stylist speaks keratin-friendly language
In addition to the above observations, the words of Michelle Obama’s stylist back up our belief that she transitioned from relaxers to keratin. Johnny Wright never directly addresses the use of keratin treatments on Mrs. Obama’s hair, but what he does say is consistent with using them.
For starters, Wright says he creates most of her styles with a flat iron. Any stylist who frequently flat irons a client’s Type 4 hair will absolutely be oriented toward minimizing heat any way possible. And if that same client is a chronically busy, every-minute-scheduled person, he’ll also be focused on working fast.
A skilled professional like Johnny Wright knows that keratin treatments are the best way to both minimize heat and maximize styling speed because they make hair highly responsive to heat. Keratin-treated hair takes 2-4 times less flat ironing or blow drying than hair without it.
Furthermore, if Wright’s long-term strategy was to grow out Mrs. Obama’s hair, as it appears to have been, he’d want to add the structural strength of a BKT to suppport longer growth by preventing 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,
“I think a lot of 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 don’t have to really conform to any particular look. They can do it all, and that’s one thing that is going to stick. That’s the revolution part of it” (italics added). Johnny Wright, Ibid.
This is keratin-friendly language. When a stylist refers to a revolution in versatility, with no more chemical damage, there’s no other product or process he could be talking about than a Brazilian keratin treatment.
Keratin treatments make styling natural hair easy
Wright is not saying that simply quitting relaxers is enough to create hair that “does it all,” hair that’s “versatile” and can be easily worn curly or straight. Why not? Because most natural curl patterns don’t hit the straight notes easily, which is why relaxers became involved in the first place. If relaxers are removed from the equation, some other assistance is needed when straighter styles are wanted.
By the same token, the “curly” part of the the revolution Wright describes also benefits from keratin treatments. Why? Because natural hair worn curly brings its own annoying styling challenges, often making it extremely high-maintenance . These include:
- Taking up to a day to dry, with special handling needed during that time
- Shrinking to a fraction of its full length to look much shorter than it really is
- Frizzing quickly from humidity or sweat
- Breaking easily due to its natural molecular structure making it hard to grow long
- Containing several different curl patterns that don’t blend harmoniously
- Lacking curl definition, depending upon the curl pattern; and
- Appearing dull rather than shiny because the strand shape diffuses light.
Keratin treatments help with all of these problems.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?