I like my naturally wavy hair …
… right up to the moment I hate it. (Anyone who says, “But I love it!” is hereby ordered to follow me around with styling tools on a humid day.) The moment of loathing usually comes after I look at a photo and think, “How long have I been walking around like this?!” That’s when I make an appointment with superstar hair stylist (and dear friend) Julie Matos for a keratin treatment that makes my hair perfectly straight.
I’ve gone to Julie since 2010 (at least!), which means she’s had this conversation with me about 20 times:
- “Your hair’s very curly,” Julie warns. “You’re going to want a keratin soon.”
- I reply, “I’m liking the natural texture! I think I’ll keep going with it.”
- Within 10 days, I call and say, “When is your first appointment?”
- “I warned you,” she says, noting that her first opening is another two weeks away.
- After two weeks of desperation, I admire my newly low-maintenance and shiny hair and say to Julie, “Please don’t let me do this again!
And then, despite Julie’s best efforts, I do it again. The most recent occurrence was this February. We went through steps 1 and 2 above, then Julie reminded me, “You told me not to let you do this again.” And I said, “I know, but I think it’s good for a few more weeks.” Well, we all know what happened next.
After a month of COVID-19 quarantine, my hair was taunting me worse than a Frenchman in a Monty Python movie.
Not to mention the fact that Julie herself could taunt me during our Zoom activism meetings (we’re not all about hair here)!
I read the instructions both on the box, the insert in the box, and online. I pondered the instructions for a couple of days because there were slight differences here and there.
This Sunday, I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials for reassurance and decided I’d just muddle through it. I locked the pets out of a room so I could open a window: This is a chemical process, so a well-ventilated room is a must. I washed my hair with my regular shampoo and then roughly blew it dry without any effort to style it. Clean and dry hair, as per the instructions!
Then I prayed to the patron saint of hair changes, Linda Evangelista.
While handling the keratin solution, I used the rubber gloves that were included with the kit. I also used a mask. Julie and I were ahead of our time — long before the pandemic hit, we were using masks to avoid breathing in hair-treatment chemicals. I still had one that I wasn’t going to use out on the streets; it’s broken as well as previously exposed to fumes. I do recommend a mask if you have one to spare. If you don’t, make sure you have that ventilation. Those of you who remember the days of home perms know what the smell is like.
The rubber gloves made it hard to tell if I had the right amount of product in my hair. I figure I’d have a better sense of that if I do this again.
The most difficult part was applying the formula evenly myself. Having watched Julie’s technique for so long, I envisioned being as precise as she always is — she paints every hair! — but I didn’t have the same view or the same angles at which to operate. I kept combing the solution through during the 30 to 40 minutes it has to sit on the hair. Then there was the challenge of rinsing 50% of the solution off. How can you tell how much is rinsed out? I kept rinsing a little bit in the sink, debating whether I had removed 50%, and then rinsing a little more. After that I blew my hair dry, struggled to divide it into four sections, and then flat ironed more carefully than I ever had in my life: from eight to 10 times from root to the middle, and from four to six times from the middle to the ends, with a flat iron set at 450 degrees. It didn’t look as perfect as Julie’s work but I wasn’t too embarrassed to send her a photo.
Then I waited. If you’ve seen Legally Blonde, you know you don’t jump into a shower right after a perm (or anti-perm). You’ll wash out all your work! With a salon treatment, I wash my hair on the third day, so I washed the at-home version today with the shampoo and conditioner provided in the kit, and blew it dry. And I think it came out … pretty good! I was even inspired to put some red lipstick on.
I did quickly run a flat iron over my hair, because Julie believes in using a touch more heat to seal the deal after that first shampoo. (After Julie appointments, I usually go without any further styling effort for weeks.) But the ironing I did today was cursory compared to what I did during the treatment or what I do when my hair is wavy. Now I’ll have to see how long the keratin lasts. My previous salon keratin was done last June. The effect is supposed to last for about four months, but I always wait longer … until the point when Julie gives me the warning, and then I wait even longer than that! Anyway, I’m not expecting four months of straight hair from my inexpert home effort, even while using keratin-preserving shampoo, but right now I’m happier than I expected. You can keep an eye on my Instagram to see how things develop.