News & Politics

Great Hair: Thrilled to Go Straight

Why thermal straightening was worth every penny.

Washingtonian Great Hair > Thrilled to Go Straight

"It'll change your life," my thirtysomething niece said, tossing her shiny, pin-straight mane. Who could resist a come-on like that?

My hair was desperate for a change. Locks that were easy to manage in my twenties and thirties had become frizzy and willful in my forties. There were too many humid August days when I left the house looking like Howard Stern. And there were those time-consuming visits to my stylist every week in the quest for movie-star hair.

Even armed with antifrizz products, a drawer full of round brushes, and the Solano, then the Bentley of blow dryers, I couldn't replicate that salon look at home. At best–and only with barometric karma–I could achieve a passable coif, but not those glossy strands that fall into place with a shake of the head.

It took six hours and $700 at the Gil Ferrer Salon in Manhattan, where my niece had been, to go glam–via thermal hair straightening. Every moment (and penny) was worth it.

I kept touching my silken hair that first day in disbelief. It looked and felt fabulous, so much so that I privately thought I could go head to head with Jennifer Aniston. Of course, professionally blown hair looks smashing for a few days too. Then you wash it, and reality, also known as the frizzies, sets in.

The moment of truth was a nonmoment: When I stepped out of the shower for the first time after The Change, my hair was still gloriously straight. A careful brushing, a few passes with the dryer, and, voila, perfect hair in seven minutes. Best of all, it aced the swing test, falling back into place with every toss of the head. I did a lot of unnecessary hair tossing those first exhilarating days.

A few weeks later, feeling bolder, I played around with products I'd never dared consider. Like extra-body shampoo and root volumizer, both of which gave me a desired little lift at the crown.

The real test came in South Beach that spring. There are few places on the planet with more bad-hair days than Miami. But my hair dryer never left the suitcase. A few strokes of the brush, and the sultry breezes did the rest. Plunges in the pool and ocean were similarly carefree, though I was religious about slathering on conditioner before the assault of chlorine and salt. Stylists had pushed this in the past, but until now I didn't have $700 hair, so I had ignored the advice.

Back at home, I went to a fancy salon and chanced a trendy razor cut, another no-no in my frizz-challenged days. When friends oohed and aahed over my new look–a few asked if I'd had plastic surgery–I'd smile modestly and extol the virtues of hair straightening: "It will change your life."

It has changed mine. I might leave the house with liner on only one eyelid and mismatched flip-flops, but my hair always looks pretty great–and with minimal effort. It's one less thing to worry about in a world full of things to worry about.

I was feeling good enough about my hair to consider ditching my collection of round brushes, but my five-year-old daughter wouldn't hear of it. "No, Mommy," she said. "I want straight hair just like yours."