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F is for Formaldehyde-Free Frizz Fighter: X-tenso Moisturist Smoothing Treatment an Alternative to Keratin

Review: L'Oreal Professional X-tenso Moisturist formaldehyde-free in-salon smoothing and conditioning treatment.
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After X-tenso

Looking for a long-lasting, truly formaldehyde-free frizz-fighting treatment? One that releases no stealth formaldehyde fumes? I've mentioned L'Oréal Professionnel X-tenso before as an alternative to keratin smoothing treatments/brazilian blowouts. Now a new, improved, conditioning formula is about to hit salons, and given the controversy surrounding keratin treatments, it couldn't be more welcome.

I became an X-tenso fan nine years ago when it first hit salons -- I look like a baby in the photo for this story #agingsucks. I'm already a bigger fan of the new generation, X-tenso Moisturist. (See goofy grin in above photo.)

what X-tenso Moisturist does

An in-salon smoothing treatment, X-tenso Moisturist significantly reduces frizz and unruly volume, as well as softens hair and adds tons of shine.

It serves as a styling aid, speeding up the blowdry and making it much easier to style naturally curly or wavy hair straight. (Without X-tenso, it takes me an hour and 10 minutes to go from wet to sleek using a blowdryer, round brush and flat iron. With X-tenso, I can go from wet hair to sleek in 15 minutes -- without the flat iron.)

It locks style in until your next wash. If you blowdry your hair straight, the results will last perfectly for days, even in the worst humidity or dampness.

how X-tenso Moisturist does what it does

X-tenso is a thioglycolic-acid based chemistry. That's the same chemistry used for perms and relaxers. Zero formaldehyde in the mix, nor will it mysteriously appear as fumes during the treatment process. (And unlike the Keratin Complex Express treatment I had, X-tenso didn't make my eyes sting.) There is a perm odour, but it's very faint during the appointment. You might smell it in your hair afterward, but that will go away with your next shampoo/conditioner session (wait 48 hours, advises L'Oréal Professionnel education consultant Georgia Reynolds).

According to Reynolds, the Moisturist formula also conditions the hair with a cocktail of emollients, softening wax and cationic polymers (positively-charged polymer ions attracted to the negatively-charged ions in damaged hair). My hair certainly feels more supple post-treatment, and it's wicked glossy.

The treatment itself, which costs about $200, takes about an hour to do. The two-step process begins with the even distribution of the cream formula throughout the hair. The cream stays on for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on hair thickness, texture and smoothing required. After a thorough rinse comes an application of neutralizing cream, which then stays on hair for about five minutes before a final rinse.

If you want to enhance your curly-curl structure, your technician can twist your hair into curls during the first cream-application step.

If you want extra-sleek results, your technician can run a flat iron through your hair after the first thorough rinse, before the neutralizer application.

who should NOT consider X-tenso Moisturist

Really, X-tenso Moisturist is for anyone with frizzy, unmanageable healthy hair. If yours is extremely fragile, super highlighted, or fried from over-processing, X-tenso isn't for you. A pre-treatment consultation is a must.

X-tenso is also for those who regularly blowdry their hair straight. A blowout brings out the best in X-tenso'd hair -- it looks shiny, healthy and smooth, and holds the look for days even in extreme humidity.

how long X-tenso lasts

The original X-tenso lasted about 12 to 16 weeks -- that's four or five months in case the math confounds you (it does me). But X-tenso Moisturist is permanent. Depending on how quickly your hair grows, after several months you'll notice your natural texture growing in at the roots. But the treated hair will continue to respond well to blowouts and hold the style. Results are enhanced with the use of frizz-minimizing, smoothing hair care products, which you're probably already using, right?

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