Sweetness and Snark: Working With What You’ve Got

My hair in its natural, albeit helped by bumble&bumble, state.
My hair in its natural, albeit helped by bumble&bumble, state.

Last week, I had the brilliant idea that I’d write this post on my Keratin Express blowout. I was really happy with the way my bangs turned out and you know, I’m super happy with how my very expensive full-head Keratin Express treatment ended up. But then it occurred to me that there was simply no way for me to do a full-on review of my hair without really talking about the politics of black hair. Particularly, black women’s hair. It’s not something to be waded into lightly–it’s a subject freighted with meaning and controversy, debate over culture and self-loathing and aspirations towards unattainable standards of beauty. There are songs about it. During the 2012 Olympics in London, Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair made as many headlines as her feats of strength on the balance beam, something that still makes me sad.

So, before I dig into this review, let me say that the things I choose to do with my hair are not because I don’t love what my hair looks like in its natural state, because I do. If I still lived in California, or anywhere the sun shines for more than two weeks a year, I’d wear my hair curly on the daily. I spent a week in Hawaii last summer and didn’t even pack my flat iron. But that was because I knew it was going to be warm and my hair would dry quickly (even if it was raining, the climate in Hawaii interacts with my hair more like a diffuser would than the finger in a light socket effect I get at home)  without first being  misted on in 50 degree temperatures while I stood in the rain. I take the bus and walk almost everywhere, and the rain is not my friend. A few winters ago, I experimented with wearing my hair curly in winter and after applying enough product for it to stay put, I looked like a 3-year-old had given me a really poorly executed finger wave. I lean heavily on my flat iron, Oribe hairspray, and I wear my hair in a high bun until I’ve reached my final commute destination.

In November, I saw a photo of my girl crush Kerry Washington rocking a set of amazing bangs and decided that my fivehead could use a stylish cover and decided that it was time for a bit of a change. But because I have been relaxer-free for seven years and have curly hair (and you cannot have curly bangs because hello, that is a serious folicular crime), I needed to make some tough choices.

So with the encouragement of my wonderful hair stylist Geraldine, I decided to get a Keratin Express treatment. The Express treatment differs from the long form one in that

Before (left, with just my bangs having received the Keratin Express Treatment) and After (right, with a full Keratin Express Treatment)
Before (left, with just my bangs having received the Keratin Express Treatment) and After (right, with a full Keratin Express Treatment)

it’s less permanent and doesn’t last nearly as long (10-12 weeks versus several months to a year). The Express treatment doesn’t include the formaldehyde that makes everyone balk at the thought of it, and, perhaps most importantly, the Express treatment is about a third of the price (mine was $90 for the full head, vs. a $300 starting price tag for the full treatment). With the Keratin Express treatment, I get the hair flexibility that I’ve dreamed of since my mom stopped doing my hair way back when. My curly hair still exists, but when I want to rock my Kerry Washington bangs with (somewhat) wreckless abandon, that’s an option, too. And the product is by no means some kind of miracle–my hair is still somewhat at the mercy of the weather and I still experience a fair amount of dryness. The big difference, as you can see at the right, shine and frizz. On the left side of the picture, my only my bangs had received the Keratin Express Treatment. They’re super shiny (and this is about 10 weeks old!) The rest of my hair is sort of fuzzy and dull in comparison. The picture on the right shows less fuzzy and more shiny hair. It’s a win in my book.

As women, no matter the color, we’re always inclined to fight against what we already have in an effort to make something new, and what we believe is preferable. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered the trick is not to get rid of what you’ve got–but enhance what you already have. The Keratin Express wasn’t cheap, and it probably isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of those rare beauty finds that does the trick of convincing me that I do actually have a great head of hair. If only there was a product that did the same for freckles…

If you’re in the Seattle area, you can get the Keratin Express Treatment at Gene Juarez Salon and Spa.

Sweetness: The Best $40 You’ll Ever Spend on a Hair Product

When I was 10, I decided I really wanted a bob. At that point, my hair came down to my waist, and I thought that long hair made me look like a little kid. Short hair would surely make me a more official member of the double digit club.

Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray
The patron saint of curly haired girls with Winnie Cooper bangs

The only problem with this idea was that I had/have really curly hair. With a head full of thick yet inexplicably fine hair, the bob was basically the worst possible hair cut for me. My mom told me she’d let me do it, but I’d probably have to relax my hair (something she really didn’t want me to do). I insisted on a bob, and then spent months with hair like The Simpsons’ Selma Bouvier. So, I took my mom’s advice, and I got a relaxer and my hair took on a more manageable state.

In the years since, my hair has still fallen victim to humidity–it always reverts to its natural state whether I’ve relaxed it or not. And now that I’ve stopped relaxing my hair entirely (because my hair simply couldn’t take endless applications of lye–a subject for another blog post), my hair is even more susceptible to the sadness of whatever weather conditions I’m enduring. But my desire for hairstyles that seem verboten for curly haired ladies has not ceased.

In December, I decided to get bangs. My hairstylist advised me to get a Keratin express treatment on just the bang area, which keeps the hair from curling up and making me look like I had a particularly unfortunate run-in with a pair of scissors. She also urged me to purchase Oribe’s Anti-Humidity Spray. And with a $40 price tag, I was super hesitant. But you know what? This sh*t is for real. It doesn’t leave my hair chunky or dry, it smells nice, and it has successfully withstood the weird breed of Seattle rain that finds its way to your hair despite the presence of an umbrella.

It’s not cheap, but things this good rarely are.

Oribe Imperméable Anti-Humidity Spray available online ($39 for 5.5 fl. oz. or $19.50 for 2.2 fl. oz.), or, if you’re in the Seattle area, at Gene Juarez Salon and Spa.