Trend alert: Starlets seeking silky-straight strands a’la Alicia Keys are forgoing traditional no-lye relaxers in favor of Brazilian Keratin Treatments. Here, Myrna Palacios, top stylist at Manhattan’s celeb-studded Rita Hazan salon, gives us the scoop on this super-gentle, non-damaging strand-smoother… ESSENCE.COM: So, what exactly is the Brazilian Keratin Treatment? MYRNA PALACIOS: The main ingredients in the Brazilian Keratin Treatment are protein and keratin, which are really the building blocks of the hair follicle. You need them to have strong, healthy, shiny hair. Unfortunately, curly hair is naturally lacking in protein and keratin. The goal of the Brazilian Keratin is to infuse hair with these essential proteins to defrizz, smooth, add shine and make it easier to style–but without permanently altering the hair’s curl structure, like with a relaxer. Also, the treatment rinses out in about twelve weeks. Our clients are always shocked at how easy it is to style their hair afterwards! The treatment literally cuts blowdrying and flatironing time in half. Forget about struggling with a blowdryer…just let your hair air-dry for awhile, and then once you start blowdrying, it’ll take minutes to smooth out. ESSENCE.COM: We’ve heard that some of the Brazilian Keratin Treatments have formaldehyde in them. What’s that all about? PALACIOS: Well, the treatment was actually discovered by a Brazilian mortician in Brazil, who noticed that embalming fluid was straightening the hair of the corpses! When he manufactured it for hair, it was made with formaldehyde. The smell was so strong that stylists felt burning in their nose and throat for days afterward, and you couldn’t do it if you were pregnant or nursing. I absolutely would not recommend the formaldehyde formula; it’s terrible for your hair. ESSENCE.COM: Can you get a Brazilian Keratin Treatment if you already have a relaxer? PALACIOS: Sure! It’s chemical-free, so you can use it with color or a relaxer. If you already have a relaxer, the Brazilian Keratin would just add shine and smoothness, it wouldn’t make it straighter. Also, many clients get the treatment to help with the transition period while they grow out their relaxer. ESSENCE.COM: Who is the best candidate for this treatment? PALACIOS: I wouldn’t recommend it if you wear extensions. It’ll soften the bond and the braids, and the extensions will slip right out. Also, if you love wearing your hair super-curly, it wouldn’t be for you. The treatment doesn’t straighten the curl, but it certainly won’t be as tight. ESSENCE.COM: Any maintenance tips for extending the life of your Brazilian Keratin Treatment? PALACIOS: Yes! You have to use shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate and sodium chloride-free…they’ll strip the keratin out of our hair. Also, stay out of the ocean; salt water is full of sodium chloride. Read More: