Sunday, May 19, 2013

the war on hair

I have been waging war against my hair since the very beginning.

It started when I was 3 and 4. I was very tender-headed. My mom would try to brush it and I would scream and cry the whole way through. Plus I insisted that my hair be in "Belle" style, which to me was all the hair clipped back in a barrette, consequently causing my hair to break and form a "halo" of super-fine frizz along my hairline.

That's the general idea.

My hair grew long and my first major cut was in 3rd grade. This cut made my hair form a lovely triangle shape similar to Rosannannadanna's, which my mom and I called "east-west" hair. It stayed like this until I discovered straightening in 6th grade. However, 12 year-olds cannot straighten (or "Chi" as my mom and I called it) their own hair, so once a week, my mom and I would pop in a movie and she would spend an hour straightening my hair for me. This went on for a couple of years until I hit puberty and my hair started getting oily after a few days, so it became a bi-weekly affair.

If this is from Portland to New York, mine was from Salt Lake City to Nashville. 

This is the best my hair has ever looked

Finally, when I was a junior (yes, a junior) in high school, she bought me a straightener of my own and said, "I'm done, you're on your own." So I learned to do it myself. But I wasn't satisfied. The straightening was great, but what about when it rained? Or it was humid outside? Or I went swimming? Water ruined all my hard work. Then my hairdresser suggested I get a Brazilian Blowout, which is a keratin straightening system that supposedly makes your hair smooth and straight. So for my 18th birthday, my mom shelled out $200 for this procedure. But instead of making it as straight as expected, it turned it into a weird mess. My roots were still curly, my ends were piecey. At least my hair was soft.

See? Not really straight, not really curly. Kinda wavy?

Enter freshman year of college. I get tired of my straight ends and curly roots, so I cut off all the straight, leaving me with a Little Orphan Annie-esque cut (which was also the worst cut in the entire world. After straightening my hair, you could easily see the jagged edges and it looked like a blind kid cut it with safety scissors). I wanted to start over and try to make peace with my curls once and for all. But I didn't. Instead, I gave up and started straightening it again.

Not my proudest moment.

This past semester, I came up with a routine that allowed me to wash and straighten my hair twice a week, leaving me with exactly 3 days of straight at a time so my hair would always appear straight. This was pretty brilliant, except my dry hair couldn't keep up with the pace, and the ends started splitting. It felt like I could never win.

Perfect, but a pain in the butt!

Earlier this week, I woke up and said, "I'm sick of this, I want straight hair all the time." So I went to Sally's, picked up a promising chemical straightening kit, and took it home to my mom. After begging and pleading and (and even some whining), she agreed to spend Thursday evening attempting to make my hair straight once and for all.

One 'n Only Thermal Ionic Straightening System - Normal

Here's why my mom didn't want to do it: before buying the kit, I read a bunch of reviews on it. And all of them said it would take AT LEAST 3 HOURS. Like, what?! And since I had never done something like this before, she had to be the one to help me, bless her heart.

For all your hair virgins (like myself before now), I'll break down how chemical straightening works:

Pre-step 1: Shampoo hair with provided shampoo. Dry hair with towel. Apply leave-in conditioner.

Step 1: Using a tinting brush, apply God-awful-smelling goop to your hair section by section until it looks like you poured mayonnaise on your head and combed it through. The smelly crap is called Processor. It breaks the bonds of your hair so it's free for you to tell it what to do. Leave it in for 5 minutes, and then start this weird knotting test where you keep knotting sections of your hair until the knot doesn't loosen and fall out. Once it's completely processed (anywhere from 7-30 minutes), rinse it out thoroughly.

Step 2. Blow-dry wet hair and then straighten it like you've never straightened it before. I'm talking tiny sections, multiple pass-overs. The heat tells the Processor, "Hey, this is how we want the hair to look, so make the bonds do this instead." This was by far the most painful part since the hair was still about 20% wet, so when hot iron meets wet hair, it creates steam, which will burn the effing crap out of your scalp. It still hurts hours later.

Step 3: One hair is completely straight, it's time to undo all your hard work by putting MORE goop in it. This other less-smelly product is called Neutralizer. It completely sets the new, processed bonds so your hair will stay as straight as you just made it. After coating your hair all over again, let it set for 5 minutes and then thoroughly rinse out again. Seriously, you just straightened your hair. Sucks to suck.

The rest is up to you after that. You can let it air dry, blow dry, or straighten it again, but when you emerge from that final rinse, your hair will be stick straight. I had never seen anything like it. It was fantastic. I blow-dried my hair lazily and it was still pretty straight. My roots and underneath hair are very stubborn and curled some, but that's expected, and they can be straightened into submission more easily now.

Now for the hardest part: the next 48-72 hours. You can't wash it. You can't put any products in it. You can't put it in a ponytail or use hair clips or bobby pins or headbands. Nothing. Leave it alone. The only thing you can do is touch it up with a flat iron. After 2-3 days, it's ready to go!

I was really nervous about washing my hair for the first time. The box said wait 48 hours before washing, but I was scared it was going to fall out (I had gotten a perm before, and that's what happened)! I decided to wait a few more hours (16 more, to be exact) and then tested a strained in the back with sulfate-free shampoo (just in case) and conditioner. Can you tell that I was super paranoid? But lo, the strand-test came out perfect, and after taking the plunge into the shower, I was delighted that my hair stayed perfectly straight!

The final result! 

Some tips I've read for maintaining it are to use a leave-in conditioner every day, to get it trimmed afterwards, and if you're wanting to color it (which I'm not), to wait 2-4 weeks.

Hopefully, the battle with my hair is finally over. But have I won the war is the question. My hair will grow out and I'll have to do this lengthy, smelly process all over again, so no, the war rages on. But no matter - I am happy for now!

Much love,

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