I had a look through my Google Analytics report today, and the most new visitors to my site find me through questions about permanent or Brazilian blow dries. Regular readers will know that I am a veteran of this procedure, and it's absolutely revolutionised the way I approach my hair care routine. Over the past 12 months, my hair has grown stronger, longer and healthier, and the process has allowed me to cut down to 3 blow dries a week and eliminate the use of straigteners altogether. No mean feat for someone with naturally dry hair who's been heat and colour treating it for 13 years.
So, here are my top permanent/Brazilian blow dry tips - what to ask at the salon, what to expect, and how to care for it.
1. A permanent or Brazilian blow dry involves the application of a keratin solution to hair to relax waves and ease frizz. It won't give a poker straight finish to naturally wavy hair (that's Yuko territory), but it will make your hair much more manageable, and if you do heat straighten it, it allows you to create an incredibly sleek finish. Most importantly, it's not damaging and actually moisturises the hair, making it a win all round. The keratin treatment originated in Brazil, and goes under many names including the Brazilian, permanent and ever-lasting blow dry to name but a few. Despite the names of the latter two, it's neither permanent nor ever lasting (see point 5) and unlike other straightening treatments, causes no damage to the hair.
2. The process take between 1hr-2hr, depending on how much hair you have. Hair is shampooed, and left to sit with shampoo on for 5-10 mins. It's then rinsed, towel dried, and the keratin solution is painted onto the hair and combed through. Hair is then roughly blow dried and straightened with irons in small sections to ensure that every strand is covered. The heat of the straighteners activates and seals the solution into the hair, making it an essential part of the process.
3. If you have lots of split ends, the treatment won't be absorbed as well in those parts of the hair, so it's best to have the ends cut off before you have your treatment. You'll be spending a lot, so your hair should look great: don't hold on to damaged lengths! The trim doesn't need to happen at the same time, so if your usual salon doesn't offer the treatment, go for a trim and then book in for your blow dry.
4. The process isn't cheap. Most salons offer the treatment from £150, but for shoulder length hair, you're looking at closer to £200, with the cost rising for longer hair. Many salons cap the cost at around £250, but you should go in for a consultation to check. Websites like wahanda.com occasionally have a good deal, so keep your eyes open. My last blow dry was a Wahanda deal and came in at a lovely £89. If you're still wincing at the cost, I make an attempt to justify it at point 6!
5. With appropriate care, the blow dry lasts for around 3 months and unlike other hair treatments, it fades, rather than grows out, so you aren't left with annoying frizzy roots: hurrah! I'll come onto what constitutes 'appropriate care' in points 12 and 13.
6. Before you book, think about whether this treatment is right for you. If you step out of the shower and your hair dries into sleek, straight heavenliness, consider me deeply envious and go and spend your £200 on a nice new pair of shoes and a couple of cocktails instead. If you spend 30+ minutes blow drying your hair every other day, straighten your hair most days, are sporting heat-related damage, or if you try and find excuses to stay in during times of humidity or rain, then get yourself booked in. I consider this treatment to be an investment as it saves me several hours a week that used to be spent styling, it's left my hair in better condition, and it's stopped me from running madly to the salon to buy every product that promises miracles and never delivers! It's definitely not for everyone, but if you can afford it and spend a lot of effort on your hair, it's worth a try. Before I started having this treatment, I would spend about £60 a month on my Kerastase supplies, and still spend at least 30 minutes every other day styling. Over three months, that takes us to £180 spent and a whopping 56 hours (yes, over TWO DAYS) styling. Think about your time and financial investments, and it may get easier to see how this treatment is good value - that is, if you're as crazy as me to spend all that time and money!!
7. Always, ALWAYS go to the salon for a consultation before having the treatment. Not only will this allow them to assess whether you have the right hair for the treatment (Daniel Hersheson, for example, recommend their treatment for people with hair that's naturally quite difficult to manage, whereas other salons offer it for any hair type), but you can also get a sense as to whether this is a salon you're happy with. If you feel under pressure, or that it's not the right environment, this allows you to take your custom somewhere else.
8. Many salons recommend that you should wait a week after colouring your hair before having a permanent or Brazilian blow dry, so bear this in mind when booking your appointment.
9. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate: is it ok? There's some debate on this issue, so hear me out. My first three blow dries were with Daniel Hersheson, whose house range is Kerastase, and many of you will know it's not sulphate free. Hersheson make no recommendation about using SLS-free products, and when I told my hairdresser at Trevor Sorbie, she nearly choked. The consensus from other hairdressers is that an SLS-free shampoo is the only way to care for your blow dry, and I have used them religiously after my first faded prematurely (thanks Kerastase!) Trevor Sorbie recommend Pureology (I am a big fan of the Hydrate range) but a cheaper alternative is Liz Earle haircare which is also excellent. See the bottom of the page for links to SLS-free shampoo reviews.
10. Following on from this, when you go to the salon, check what their house range is, and if it's not SLS-free, don't be swayed by the heavy marketing. I will still go back to Daniel Hersheson, but I won't be buying anything by Kerastase. Remember, when they wash your hair pre-treatment, it doesn't matter so much as the SLS is not coming into contact with the keratin solution. It's just your home routine that counts.
11. The longer the shampoo is left on when your it's washed at the salon, the better the keratin solution is able to penetrate the hair shaft and therefore, the better the treatment works. Shampooing opens the cuticles on each strand of hair, so a good salon will leave the shampoo for 5-10 minutes. Ask them about this when you go in, and thank you to Charlotte at Fordham Soho for this tip!
12. In the words of Elle in Legally Blonde, "the rules of haircare are simple and finite" and this applies very much to your blow dry. You will get some instructions at the salon, and you should ignore them at your peril. In the first 3 days following the treatment, do not tie or pin your hair back, or wear anything that could leave a wave in your hair (headbands etc), try not to touch it, don't wash it or get it wet. If you leave the house without an umbrella, no matter how late it makes you for work, go back and get one. The thought of getting caught in a rain shower with nothing more than a newspaper for protection is a really crappy way to lose £200! I also avoid wearing lip gloss as unexpected gusts of wind have a habit of planting your gorgeous hair right on top of your goopy lips, which happened to me 10 minutes after my first blow dry, and caused me to scream loudly during lunch hour on Conduit Street. And yes, everyone turned around and clearly thought I was mental (but who cares? My hair looked hot!) Sweatiness is out too, so you'll be happy to hear you get a 3 day holiday from the gym: another reason to get a blow dry!
13. Invest in a shower cap for bathing, and have luke warm baths so there's no chance of the steam messing with your tresses. If, like me, you're used to hour long soaks reading a stack of fashion mags, bathing becomes depressingly functional at this time!
14. If in the first 3 days you get a kink in your hair, don't panic. Just run over it with a straightening iron until it's flat, leave it to cool and get on with your day. No biggy.
15. After 3 days, you can wash your hair and if you're like me, you'll be straight in the shower on the strike of 72 hours. Use your SLS-free shampoo, conditioner and your usual styling products (my hairdresser assures me the only rule is to have an SLS-free shampoo and that you can keep all your normal styling products) and then properly blow dry your hair. It will look like it does after a trip to the salon. Stand in front of the mirror swishing, run to family, friend and loved ones and ask if they can believe that you've upscaled from tumbleweed barnet to hair that Jennifer Aniston would be jealous of, and then go jump in a waterfall, leap around in a field, and pretend your in your own hair commercial.
Image courtesy of Harper's Bazaar.