I could see myself striding down the streets of Dupont Circle, tossing my thick, silky, shiny, straight, voluminous hair in the wind. Actually, there has been little wind relief during our weeks of steaming hot, ozone alerts, so probably I’d have to carry my own battery-operated fan to blow my silky hair like a Sports Illustrated model while passersby gawked in awe. This is so unlike any vision I’ve ever had of myself, ever since I got realistic about my fine, frizzy, dry hair, which has suffered additionally from a bad cut and peculiar color this summer. [See photo below from iEARN conference in mid-July.]
Blame my newly found hope on my friend, Bobbi. When we met for a movie a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t recognize her. Bobbi has curlier hair than I do, which she deals with by just washing and going. Suddenly, there she was, with thick, silky, straight hair. Bobbi looked beautiful.
The secret — of course I asked at once–is that her sister had convinced her to get the Brazilian Keratin treatment. Also known as a Brazilian Blow-Out. Usually this costs from $300+, but Bobbi’s sister knew Fernanda, who comes down from New York and gives the treatment for $175.
I got Fernanda’s email address, made sure that she didn’t use products with formaldehyde or other hydes — I did due diligence on the Internet — and signed up. We couldn’t meet for a couple of weeks, which gave me plenty of time to raise my expectations.
“I’m going to Brazilianize my hair,” I told everyone. That confused most of them. They thought I was going to get my head waxed. “I just hope my hair doesn’t fall out,” I confessed. I became the Grand Experiment for two friends, who wanted to try it, but wanted to see first what happened to me.
This is the report.
Day One (Thursday)
I picked Fernanda up at a Starbucks near the bus stop. “You’ll recognize me because I have a pink purse and a bag [with her products.]”
First, I shampooed my hair twice with special soap mix that included Joy to open the cuticle of my hair. Fernanda dried my hair, then painted on “Da Moila Advanced Brazilian Keratin Complex.” We let it absorb for about 15-20 minutes, then she dried my hair with a round, fat brush. Finally, she baked-in the keratin with a curling iron, pulling out and down to further straighten my hair.
This took about 90 minutes.
My hair turned out to be about six-inches all over, long enough for the stiff hair to poke my shoulders and tickle my nostrils like dry spaghetti.
Then came the surprise. Despite my Internet reading, I missed the fact I couldn’t wash my hair for 72 hours. I couldn’t cut my hair until I could wash it on Sunday night, which meant I couldn’t get it cut until Tuesday because all salons are closed on Monday. I couldn’t pin my hair out of my eyes or up off my back because the keratin was still cooking into the hair cuticle. No pins or clips. They will dent my hair. Ditto caps. Also, I couldn’t sweat and get my hair wet.
Oh, and did I mention that my yellowing highlights turned a richer, brighter yellow?
Day Two (Friday)
This afternoon I put on a loose cap and big sunglasses and slip over to a remote Caribou for coffee with Karen, who is interested in getting Brazilianized, too. She thinks I look good.
I don’t believe her.
I have become a bore, but I can’t stop myself. All I am thinking and talking about is my hair. I hurry home in the 105-degree heat, sweating. Do I need to flat iron my damp hair? No. I don’t own one.
Day Three (Saturday)
In Spanish conversation class we learn many new words: crespo (curls), rulos (tight, African curls), buches (loose curls that you get with a curling iron), rizos muy apretados (frizzy). We also practice phrases: “No estoy conforme con…. “which is a polite way of saying “I hate this…..”
On my way home, I stop at Molècule, the only beauty salon in the neighborhood that sold me products which actually de-frizzed my hair a few weeks ago. I ask to talk to a stylist. A handsome Italian appears, and I quickly apologize about my appearance. “I use the Keratin treatment, too,” he reassures me, and asks if I can come back at 2:30 when he has time to talk.
I’m encouraged. His silver and black hair is shiny, full and beautiful. And it’s a natural color, and he looks energetic, not faded and old.
At 2:30, we talk. His name is Eugenio Agostino and he’s the owner.
I trust a stylist who kertainzes his super-curly hair and doesn’t dye it to understand what I want to talk about. I explain about how I’ve been trying to go “semi-natural” for three years, but I can’t find anyone who will do it (plenty of pretense, though). I talk about how my hair isn’t holding color anymore and how the dark blonde quickly washes out and it yellows. We come up with a plan for a cut on Tuesday that will move me towards natural. He’ll add little streaks of color for contrast.
Day Four (Sunday)
Are my friends and I the only ones who don’t know about Brazilian straightening?
A woman who lives down the hall tells me in the elevator that she had the treatment three times — and loved it until the third time when a change in the product and a newcomer at the beauty salon (in New York) wrecked her hair.
Finally (!!!) it’s nighttime. I wash my hair, using my new, as-required, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. I brush and dry, and my hair dries in a heartbeat. It feels luscious. It is thick and shiny and silky. It is straight as a string. It just hangs there. I need a mousse. I don’t have one. I rat my hair. The silky strands de-rat in a heartbeat.
Day Five (Monday)
I leave very early in the morning for a daylong workshop on social media at the USA Today headquarters. I pretend I don’t notice that I can’t keep my straight bangs out of my nose.
Back home I poll my friends: Should I go natural or should I return to a Hillary-color, meaning dark blond on the bottom and light highlights, especially around my face. Their answers are mixed.
Day Six (Tuesday)
I start the morning with a yoga class where only one woman dyes her hair, my friend Rita, who does serious work in the world. The rest all look nice and intelligent but like an older generation.
I decide to go back to Hillary-color. I can deal with my 50th high school reunion in a few weeks. I can deal with the reality of turning 68 in October. I sort-of can deal with the realization that my father died at 78, which seemed reasonably old at the time, but now seems alarmingly close. I can’t deal though with looking like an old woman.
I arrive at the beauty shop.
It turns out Eugenio listened to me.
“Do you like this cut?” he asked, picking up a razor. “No,” “Me, either. Let’s make it more modern,” he said, and sliced off more than four inches.
It’s really short. It’s cute, but really, really short. Think Jamie Lee Curtis.
“Is your color natural? I like it!” said the hygienist at the dentist’s office an hour later. “Almost natural,” I say.
“I like it,” said Karen at coffee.
“I like it a lot,” said Steve, the handsome hetero my age who sometimes works out at the Y at the same time I do.
But, oops…there went most of the Brazilian treatment.
And the biggest irony of all? In about a month, my hair will look like it did when my friend (and NG-Bill Gates photographer), David Evans, took my pic for this blog a year or so ago.