This article was featured online in the Fashion & Style Section of The New York Times in July, 2007:
AFTER 14 years of relentless highlighting, bleaching and chemical straightening, Deborah Epstein, 32, a law student from Forest Hills, Queens, had ruined her unruly brown curls. Dull, brittle and difficult to style, her hair was so fragile a ponytail holder could snap it off.
Moreover, all it took was a molecule of moisture and her hair frizzed. And no amount of expensive products, deep-conditioning treatments and weekly salon blowouts could tame her mane.
But in April, Ms. Epstein tried the Brazilian Keratin Treatment at the nuBest Salon and Spa in Manhasset, N.Y. The results were so spectacular, she wept.
“I got very emotional,” she said. “It was mind-boggling how beautiful my hair looked: straight, shiny, sleek and more important, healthy. I have no products in my life now. I wash my hair, air-dry it and then the last 10 minutes, I blow it and it’s pin-straight.”
Such a gushing testimonial is not unusual, stylists say. “For a woman who had a thorn bush for hair and now it’s like silk, well, we’re talking revolution,” said Mark Garrison, who offers the treatment at his salon in New York.
Originating in Brazil, where it is usually called escova progressiva (progressive blow-dry), the treatment has been trickling here for a few years but has become widely available only in the last six months.
While it appears that no major American hair or beauty companies are now selling it, a cottage industry of hairdressers has emerged, importing products from Brazil or creating their own formulations.
So far, the brands include Brazilian Keratin Treatment, Brazilian Hair Straightening and Brazilian Blowout. “Right now, it’s blowing everything away,” said Meryle Nemeth, the nuBest stylist who administered Ms. Epstein’s treatment, one of about 500 she’s done since February, when it became available at the salon. “I’ve never seen anything take off like this as far as relaxing hair. Everyone wants it for summer, for affairs, for weddings. I’m talking all ages, 12-year-olds to 70-year-olds.”
Sarah Brown, the beauty editor of Vogue, said the treatment is perfect for those with tumbleweed hair who are trying to simplify their lives. “For people who can’t master a salon blowout at home or go get a weekly blowout, a treatment like this is seriously liberating,” she said.
Technically, it is neither a relaxer nor a straightener, both of which use caustic chemicals to change the texture of the hair. The Japanese straightening method, also known as thermal conditioning, has fallen out of favor because many users reported extensive damage, particularly when the process was repeated. The Brazilian is also different because it can be used on most hair types, even the previously color treated, without causing harm, proponents say.
The multistep treatment takes 1 ½ to 4 hours, and costs $150 to $600, depending on the length and thickness of the hair. A stylist applies a solution made with active keratin, a protein akin to a component of human hair.
Using a 450-degree iron, the hairdresser seals the formula onto the outer layer of the cuticle. The formula adheres to the cuticle’s inherently rough edges. Thus, it is said, it traps moisture, hydrating the hair, and adds a glossy veneer.
The results last six weeks to a few months, depending upon how frequently the hair is washed.
There are risks. There’s the hot iron. And the formula often contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can irritate the eyes and lungs if the fumes are inhaled. A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, however, said that the agency has no restrictions on the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics.
Uncurliness comes with a caveat. Emily Dougherty, the beauty editor at Elle, warned: “You need to do due diligence and challenge your stylist. Ask questions about where this chemical cocktail is coming from.”
And keep in mind, just because something is called Brazilian doesn’t mean it is always beautiful.
Credits: New York Times, Curls Split! Ringlets Be Gone!
By: ELIZABETH HAYT
Published: July 19, 2007
For more information on Brazilian Keratin Treatments, see our article: Brazilian Keratin Treatments 411.