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What Price Beauty

A co-worker of mine has gorgeous hair. It’s the kind of hair that looks healthy, straight and effortless. When I asked her how she does it, with a smile and a swing of her hair she says,”keratin. You must try it. You’ll love it!”

Needless to say, I do nothing and with a hectic schedule, I don’t bother to get my hair cut. Months go by and my tresses are lengthening to a place that I haven’t worn for 20 years. But the extra time to blow dry my hair and flat iron it is increasing each morning just to get out my pesky waves. I begin to think that it’s time to consider the keratin treatment because after all, I “will love it”.

Where do I go? Who can do it? I ask our local hangout waitress who has just recently gotten her cosmetology license. After all, she had to have learned about it in school, right? I also feel compelled to help her out to grow her business as we’ve known her for several years. Sure enough, she’d be available to cut my hair and apply the treatment.

Friday, after Thanksgiving, dawns brightly as do my hopes of a new hairdo. I get over to the salon and excitedly get prepped. I love the experience of getting my hair washed with the hot water and scalp massage. The treatment begins with the hair washing. ( I didn’t know that it was an important first step). Then, my hair is painstakingly separated into small segments and the solution is applied. I can see and feel my hair getting straighter. Eventually, the solution is all over my hair. Not so bad. The next part is blow drying.

Okay,cool. I’ll be out in under two hours. Sweet.

O no. No.No.No.No.

The blowing drying alone takes two more hours. The flat ironing another hour and my hair doesn’t seem to be coming out correctly. It’s never good when the stylists all huddle for a conference. My hair is saturated with the oily keratin substance and all the heat in the world is not causing the proper chemical reaction. I reply, can I get my haircut now? Yes, they decide that a break would be good. My stylist starts cutting my hair. Say what you will about Great Clips but at least they have a process in which to systematically cut the quadrants of your hair, none of which are being observed by my newly graduated stylist. There is no rhyme or reason with the cutting approach. At this point, I don’t really care. The cut is done and before the blow dryer is fired back up, I announce that I’ve had enough. I’ve been over four hours in a chair. I haven’t eaten anything and I need a biological break. They all try to reassure me that everything is really alright with my hair and that the oily look is really normal and I must leave it in my hair this way for three days.

Three days?? Three days? 72 hours? I’m mentally doing the math of time in my head, calculating the number of nights times the amount of natural oil that accumulates each morning on my hair and the summation is more than I can tolerate. I already suffer from an unnatural aversion to dirty hair. In school, I would wash my hair twice a day. It just isn’t a look that I will suffer and now I am being told that I must for three whole days. It’s all I can do not to melt down. As kindly as I can, I say that it isn’t working for me and I’ll just wash it out. My poor stylist is beside herself and has tears in her eyes as I check out. I assure her that it’s okay and I leave $150 poorer with a head full of grease.

Fortunately, we have no firm weekend plans because its a given that I won’t be going anywhere. When I wake up Saturday morning, my hair calculations are confirmed and its worse. I can’t take it but I figure I have to try. I find a kerchief and tie it around my head making sure that my hair is straight. It’s not pretty. In fact, I look like some biker chick after a long ride. Another look that I don’t suffer well. But, at least, I don’t have to look at my hair in any mirror. I can’t stand it. The day wears on and the feeling on my scalp is grunging me out. I’m ready to wash it out but I’m concerned as to what would happen to my hair.

Will I damage it more if I jump the 72 hour gun? Will it matter? What have I done? Sleep is alluding me and I decide to research what would happen if I violated the three day rule. I was happy to reaffirm that keratin is a natural occurring chemical in our hair and that keratin treatments can actually make your hair healthier over time. There is just this little agent called formaldehyde that is produced when the formaldin chemical is heated from the flat iron. Formaldehyde! As in preserving DEAD PEOPLE! On my HAIR! And I’m leaving it in for 72 HOURS! I’m a tad concerned. I keep digging. More forum posts, stylists who are praising the god send of the treatment and end customers with both “it’s the best thing in the world” and “it’s the worst thing in the world”. Of course, I have to look at these not so good views. One lady refers to an article that the formaldin causes nose bleeds and sore throats. Wow, come to think of it, my throat is kind of dry, perhaps even a bit sore. Could it be the grease in my hair? My panic rises. Another lady writes that her hair fell out in chunks. I quickly run my hands through the grease and tug on my roots. Nothing comes out. Whew. Finally, I find a stylist from Toronto who explains the chemical process and keratin bonding that convinces me that a washing is not going to be a problem and I’m finally able to go to sleep.

Sunday morning, I waste no time heading for the shower. I use the keratin shampoo that I purchased from the salon and scrub the bejeebers out of my hair. O, the joy of a clean scalp. I towel dry my hair and apply the keratin mask as prescribed by the conferring stylists. I blow dry my hair. Lo, as the follicles dry, the grease appears to be heavily reduced. Relieved, I determined after the drama of the last couple of days that a little bit of oil is fine. My hair is straight. The washing has indeed not affected the treatment. What does come to light is the cut of my hair. My perfectly straight hair is showing the unevenness of my shorn locks. I bust out laughing. How utterly perfect. A bad haircut too.

I think I’ll let my hair grow out and leave the fancy treatment to others. I’m clearly not “cut” out for it.

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