The needle-free treatment to restore tired, damaged hair knocked a decade off our editor's hair age. Here's how it works

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“Wow, your hair is so much thicker!” exclaimed my colourist, as she mixed up an unscheduled second bowl of tint. Charlie Double knows every strand of my fine and thinning hair from root to tip, and in the ten years I’ve been going to her at Four London, she has never said anything like this.

How could there suddenly be more hair? I’d only seen her three months ago! Holding back my hair thinning has been a quest for the last decade. I’ve been fighting the triple whammy of genetics, menopause and simply not being 25, deploying every supplement for hair growth there is, including seeing a ‘hair whisperer’ for scalp microneedling - and even had ‘vampire facelift’ PRP in my thinning temples (injections of my own platelet-rich plasma). But nothing has moved the dial to this extent.

So what changed? I’d had ‘Hair Botox'  a deep conditioning salon treatment that has nothing to do with needles. If you have hair that’s damaged, frizzy, thin, dull or dry, Hair Botox can make a dramatic change. Not only is my hair thicker, but it’s shinier and smoother, needs less heat styling and doesn’t puff up at the slightest whiff of humidity (it's a perfect summer treatment). I still have my natural waves too, but they are smooth rather than frizzy.

Don’t believe me? Here’s my Hair Botox before and after result in the video below – bye-bye bird’s nest!

What is hair Botox?

It’s so-called because it gives your hair that same long-lasting youthful smoothness - like a jab of wrinkle-relaxer to the forehead. It has nothing to do with actual Botox, the brand name for the most popular injectable toxin (in fact, I’m surprised salons can even call it Botox, but they do! It's a marketing term rather than a product name). It’s a mega-moisturising pre-wash salon treatment that takes about an hour. I’ve had three treatments ten weeks apart with Debbie and Gustav at Gustav Fouche salon in west London and it’s now become an essential part of my hair regime. Why? Because Hair Botox doesn’t just smooth your hair, it plumps out your strands with moisture, making them visibly thicker (more like ‘hair Profhilo’, the popular injectable moisturiser if we’re making tweakment comparisons).

It’s not that my hair had suddenly grown when I saw my colourist, but that the strands I did have were plumper and therefore bigger. My ponytail was thicker too, said Charlie.

Is Hair Botox good for your hair?

If it’s done under the supervision of a hair professional then, yes, Hair Botox doesn’t damage your hair – quite the opposite! The key ingredient is actually collagen, which as we know from skincare is a brilliant moisturiser.  But it doesn’t penetrate the skin deeply as it’s too large a molecule. The same is true for the hair; it sits on the surface creating a smooth protective barrier. “It softens the hair and helps the client not use as much heat as before because the hair needs less smoothing. This means that the condition of the hair will naturally improve,” says Gustav. “The collagen will plump each hair fibre and rebuild any structural damage.” Hair Botox also contains nourishing oils such as jojoba and macadamia, which penetrate the hair and moisturise from within.

Victoria mid-way through the blue Hair Botox treatment for blonde hair. Right with stylists Debbie and Gustav at Gustav Fouche

Hair Botox benefits in a nutshell:

  • More volume
  • More smoothness and shine
  • Better manageability
  • Less heat styling
  • Slows down split ends
  • Better condition
  • Improves hair thickness by plumping each hair
  • Humidity proofing

Who is hair Botox suitable for?

“It is suitable for everybody's hair,” says Gustav. “Anyone struggling with the condition of their hair or who has frizz or dryness.” It doesn't change the structure of the hair, though. “If your hair is curly, it will still be curly," he explains. "The collagen will remove frizz, by smoothing down the cuticle, but it doesn't alter the hair texture like a keratin treatment would.”

Is Hair Botox better than keratin?

The two are similar, in that they’re smoothing treatments which are sealed in with heat from straightening irons. After washing, you leave Hair Botox on for up to 30 minutes depending on how strong you want it to be. I had the ‘blue’ version that works like a blue shampoo to take out any brassiness (you can opt for a clear version too). It's then blow-dried and straightened so you will walk out with poker-straight hair, but you can wash it a couple of days later, when your hair will go back to its normal wave pattern.

Which smoothing treatment is better depends on what result you are looking for. Keratin will change the structure of the hair, making curly hair straight. I had a keratin treatment many years ago (when they released toxic formaldehyde fumes!) but my dry, fine curly hair simply looked ironed flat for weeks with absolutely no volume. In fact, it looked thinner.

Hair Botox has absolutely no fumes, and it keeps your curls without flattening your roots. It smooths and hydrates rather than straightens.

Watch out though: there are many brands of Hair Botox and some of them will contain keratin. Check with your stylist which one they are using. Mine was keratin-free.

Victoria before her first Hair Botox treatment and after 3 treatments

Can hair Botox damage your hair?

You can buy Hair Botox masks on the internet – the very same ones that salons use – so in theory you could do it yourself. But Gustav doesn’t advise this. It’s a heat treatment after all, and you want to improve the condition of your hair, not damage it with too much heat styling. “You need it to completely disappear from your hair before you have another treatment,” he says. Otherwise, it can cause build-up and leave the hair very stiff – another reason to leave it to the professionals.

How long does Hair Botox last?

“Your first treatment will last about eight weeks,” says Gustav. Subsequent treatments in his experience, are good for about ten weeks. He advises using sulfate-free shampoo so your treatment doesn’t wash out as quickly.

You can do Hair Botox in the same session as your colour. In fact, it can make the colour last longer, as it seals it in and makes hair less porous. You need to wait a week after hair Botox to have colour if you are doing them separately.

Can’t I just use a deep-conditioning hair mask?

You can, but it’s unlikely to contain the Hair Botox’s secret sauce: collagen. Deep conditioning masks major on ingredients that penetrate the hair, whereas collagen coats it. Two good strengthening and moisturising, at-home treatments are Gustav’s own GF Fabulosity Hair And Scalp Recovery Treatment, £53 which helps with growth too, and Phillip Kingsley Elasticizer, £38, but you need to repeat them at least once a week.

My verdict

After three treatments, my hair looks shinier and in much better condition than ever. I still have my natural curl, but smoothing it with my hot brush takes much less time. If I want to tong my hair, it holds the curl just as well as before. My hair feels soft and natural, it doesn't feel stiff or 'coated'. 

I haven't stopped my other hair boosters though; I still take supplements and do regular scalp microneedling. Hair Botox doesn't address hair growth and thinning hair demands a multi-pronged approach. But I can safely say that this smoothing treatment looks much more natural than keratin, feels like my own hair on its best day and has knocked a good decade off my 'hair age'. Now when look at my ‘before’ picture (above) I think "Who is that woman? Please get her some help!" That bird’s nest is firmly a thing of the past.

Hair Botox at Gustav Fouche costs from £220.