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 generally matte rather than shiny. Yet most of her White House-era photos show smooth hair with some bend, never frizzy, always shiny, 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? Yes, if you ask us. Her pictures show a gorgeously styled head of hair behaving exactly the way Type 4 natural hair does under the influence of a Brazilian keratin treatment. By this, we mean that:
- It transitioned from relaxers without a Big Chop — often a telltale sign 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, including 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.
Her stylist speaks keratin-friendly language
In addition to the above indicators, the words of her stylist back up our belief that she transitioned from relaxers to keratin. Johnny Wright never directly addresses the use of keratin treatments on Michelle 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. Now, a stylist who makes a practice of frequently flat ironing a Type 4 client’s hair will by default be oriented toward minimizing that heat in any way possible. Furthermore, if that client has the packed schedule of a First Lady, he’ll also be focused on working fast.
A highly-skilled professional like Johnny Wright would unquestionably know that keratin treatments are the best option for minimizing styling heat and maximizing styling speed. Brazilian keratin makes hair highly responsive to heat styling. Keratin-treated hair requires 2 to 4 times less flat ironing or blow drying than hair without it.
Furthermore, if Wright’s long-term strategy was to grow Mrs. Obama’s hair long, as it appears to have been, he’d want the structural strengthening provided by 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.
“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 talks about a revolution in versatility with no more chemical damage, there’s no other product or process he could be referring to than a Brazilian keratin treatment.
Wright is NOT saying that merely quitting relaxers is enough to produce hair that “do[es] it all,” that’s “versatile,” that can be easily worn curly or straight. Why not? For one thing, most natural curl patterns don’t hit the straighter notes easily, which is how relaxers first came into being. When relaxers are removed from the equation, something else needs to help out whenever straighter styles are wanted.
Keratin treatments make styling natural hair easy
By the same token, the “curly” part of the the revolution Wright is describing can also benefit from the assistance of a keratin treatment. Natural hair worn curly brings its own styling challenges, often making it extremely high-maintenance . These include:
- Requiring up to a day to dry, with special handling often needed;
- Shrinking to a fraction of its full length and thus looking much shorter than it really is;
- Frizzing rapidly in humidity or sweat;
- Breaking easily due to its inherent structure;
- Lacking curl definition, depending upon the curl pattern; and
- Appearing dull rather than shiny because of a strand shape that diffuses light.
Keratin treatments resolve all of these problems 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?