I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I’m a sproingy girl, so my wild curls kind of mesh with my personality. In middle school, my straight-haired friends would marvel at my effortlessly formed curly-Q’s; some would even stick their fingers inside the corkscrews and squeal with delight. (Seriously, they did.) And all the while, I coveted their straight, blunt cuts. I watched them brush and comb their hair, stared as they absently dragged their fingers through their locks. Après shower, I slathered my hands with V-05, a thick petroleum-like product, rubbed it all over my hair, and never touched my hair again for the entire day. If I dared to twirl or twist a dry tendril, it was over: frizz city.
About a year ago, I went to a fancy-schmancy event where I was the only woman in attendance with seriously curly hair. Everyone else had perfectly smooth, pin-straight, flat hair. It was confirmed. Clearly, G-d hated me. As we posed for a photograph, I sighed and commented how unfair it was that everyone else had such perfect hair while mine was so unruly.
“Honey,” said one of the women, “You need to meet Shawna.”
It took a while, but eventually, I found myself in Salon LuSandra, not my regular salon, thinking about my husband’s words that morning before I left.
“I will miss your curls,” he said.
“It’s an experiment!” I said.
“I love your curls,” Hubby said again with emphasis adding, “Your curls are one of the things that most attracted me to you…”
“You’ll learn to love other things…” I told Hubby, smooching him on the cheek. “And it’s only semi-permanent. In four months, the wild woman shall return.”
I sat on the wooden chair in the salon for about 35 seconds before an extremely adorable blonde materialized and introduced herself as Shawna: the woman who was going to make my curls go away.
There was no time for nerves. Shawna wrapped my neck in a black towel and had my head tipped back in the sink before I could ask but-what-if-my-husband-doesn’t-love-me-after-we-do-this. She washed my hair three times. She scrubbed and scoured my hair as if I were a nasty little street urchin who hadn’t washed in weeks, maybe months.
Once in her chair, Shawna applied a chemical mixture to every strand of my hair from root to tip. She explained that once she was finished, I would have to wait for 15-20 minutes to let the product saturate each follicle. She told me that if I did everything properly, the process would reduce 50% of the curl and 100% of the frizz.
Truth be told, I could not imagine what that even meant. I’ve always had frizz. I have always been the girl with crazy hair. In the decades before there were long aisles devoted to hair care products, if I attempted to use a blow dryer, I emerged a wild lioness – and I don’t mean in a sultry, beautiful way. I mean I had a mane that was enormous, fluffy and uncontrollable.
As she stood behind me in her black and white polka-dotted smock with skinny red trim, Shawna applied the chemicals. Wearing short black gloves that stopped just above her wrists, she painted and combed, making sure to coat every single strand, fussing over my tresses the way no-one has ever fussed before. She was serious about this procedure.
That’s when Shawna reviewed The Rules associated with Smooth Keratin Treatment. She told me that for the next four days I could not get my hair wet. No shampoo. No conditioner. I promised:
On my honor, I do swear, not wear my hair in a ponytail. Or use barrettes. Or clips or hats or headbands or any other fashion accessory that might leave a crease in my hair. I promise not to tuck my hair behind my ears. I promise to sleep carefully and, upon waking, I promise to touch up any bumps or lumps with a blow dryer and/or flatiron. I promise to wear a shower-cap while washing. I promise not to venture outside if there is any sign of precipitation.
But I was worried. I knew I had to teach over the next four days. What if I had to get to school while my hair was “curing” – and it just so happened to be raining? How would I get inside the building without getting my hair wet? I started making elaborate plans, involving umbrellas and shower caps and running shoes. I considered which colleague would not think less of me if I needed to leave a flat-iron in her office. In case of a hair emergency. In the end, I decided it would just be easier to cancel classes in the unfortunate case of poor weather.
Three hours into the procedure, I was amazingly relaxed. Maybe it was the cyclopentasiloxane (one of the ingredients in the Simply Smooth product). Maybe it was the prospect of no frizzies or the idea of not having to devote so many hours to hair care. Maybe it was just that Shawna knew what she was doing. Because she knew what she was doing.
Meanwhile, people wandered in and out and bubbled over with testimonials. They used words like “life-altering”: clearly, everyone loves this keratin treatment.
Eventually, Shawna removed my plastic hat, which was good because my eyes had started to tear up a little bit under there. She grabbed a dryer and started blowing-out my newly chemically treated hair. I was confused. My hair was still huge.
“Now we flat-iron every teeny-tiny section about five times,” Shawna explained.
For over an hour, Shawna tugged at my head.
And then it happened.
Someone walked by and said, “Oooh. Gorgeous hair.”
And I realized (or I thought that maybe, possibly) they could have been talking about my mop, except it wasn’t not a mop anymore. It was a head of flat, shiny hair that looked healthy and vibrant and felt really soft.
“Try not to touch it too much,” Shawna said.
The following four days were all about the hair. About not touching it and avoiding water.
Here are the results:
On this morning, I showered (with a shower cap) and used a flat-iron to dry any wet areas. See that one little “dip”? I got rid of that!
This is where things got tough. I had to conference with students, and I felt like my scalp may have smelled more than a little funky. I asked a good friend to give a sniff (good friends do things like this), and she said, “Not so bad.” I pressed on, impressed that my hair on day 3 looked even better than day 1!
I can’t lie. Day 4 was rough. Our family went to a football game, and I was terrified that I would see people I knew because – even though I had been showering my body, my head was stinky. Or, at least, I felt like it was. It was. I’m just putting it out there. I mean, I was coming up on 96 hours without shampoo.
So, this curly-haired girl now has straight hair. What used to take hours to try to accomplish can now be easily achieved in under 25 minutes. Do I miss my curls? Kinda, but this is a fun little hair vacation because I know they’ll be back. They always come back.
Has anyone else had a “hair experience”? Do tell!
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