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My Quest For More Manageable Hair

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit
For my 9-year-old self, having the swishy, flowing locks of L'Oréal models, the princesses in the Disney films I watched on repeat and my strawberry blonde classmates, was one of the most unattainable fantasies of my childhood; though marginally more accessible than marrying Harry Potter. Thankfully 17 years later, I've come to realise that straight hair isn't the key to being beautiful. Though I may not wear my hair naturally now, and bloody hell I ought to, after almost two decades of straightening, hot combs, chemical relaxers, blow dries, keratin treatments (you name it, I've tried it), this has nothing to do with denying my West African and West Indian roots. I am incredibly proud to be a black British woman and equally proud of my rich heritage, but my decision to wear my hair straight is more simply, and perhaps more vainly, that I think my moonface is better suited being framed by a bob and my frazzled excuse for a 'fro does nothing for drawing attention away from my fivehead.

I can vividly remember the first time I got my hair professionally blow dried before a school trip to France when I was 10 years old and my sheer delight examining my reflection and the long, glossy hair that reached down my back. After years of weekly tantrums as my mother spent Sunday evenings combing and plaiting my hair, I suddenly felt mature, sophisticated and fully in charge of my appearance. Likewise, on the first day of my second year at senior school, when I returned after the summer holidays with a shiny bob, I recall my happiness from the compliments and popularity my new look received.

From then on, I have tried and tested almost every procedure and treatment available to tame my unruly locks. Before I'm accused of succumbing to "Western ideals," I'm the first to say afros are beautiful and I'm truly thrilled by the number of black models at the SS16 shows such as Lineisy Montero, Karly Loyce, Imaan Hammam and Nicole Atieno who wore their hair naturally rather than being repeatedly yanked by GHDs backstage. But unfortunately my hair sits somewhere in between afro and straight, with lacklustre curls and a halo of frizz that neither grows up, nor down, instead out.
Try as I might to coax it with an afro comb, to give it some body, my efforts have been in vain; cue trips over the past 15 years to Caribbean hairdressers in Dalston with names such as 'Curl up and Dye', renowned black hairstylist Errol Douglas in Knightsbridge and salons across North London. To be honest, I've even spent the past two years making a 1 hr 45 minute trip to Croydon every few months for Brazilian blow dries recommended by a friend – all to try and flatten the frizz.

That recent discovery of keratin treatments was life-changing after a decade of sitting in a Hackney hairdressers three times a year for 6 hours, having my hair chemically straightened – oh God the burn, and oh God the damage to my bank balance, follicles and scalp. The Brazilian keratin treatment was miraculous in the way it transformed my hair from frizzy and unmanageable to sleek and easy-to-style each morning. However, when the salon I visited in Covent Garden updated the keratin treatment they used to one that didn't contain formaldehyde, I noticed my hair stopped being as sleek as desired. How could they do this to me?! And so the quest continued.

Earlier this year there was a beauty buzz when Olaplex, the conditioning treatment that had already taken America by storm, finally arrived on British shores. Created by Dr Craig Hawker, Dr Eric Pressly and founder Dean Christal, Olaplex transforms and revitalises brittle and broken hair – it's what Kim Kardashian used to protect her mane when she famously flitted between platinum and black hair. The formula works from the inside out to strengthen, condition and rebond the strand structure where broken. Particularly beneficial for coloured hair, it can restore all damaged hair types, repairing bonds that have been broken by thermal, mechanical and chemical abuse.
Last week I visited the swanky new Blue Tit salon in Stratford's East Village to eagerly try Olaplex; Blue Tit is one of the first UK salons to offer the treatment. Stylist Andy, worked the miracle product into my hair, leaving it to marinate for 20 minutes, before washing it out and blow drying. If I may say so myself, my hair has never looked better (my mum and friends are in agreement) and a week and a half later, it looks and feels softer and stronger. The Olaplex treatment is just £21 on top of a cut, colour or blowdry or £30 for a super-intensive ‘multi’ treatment and the speed, price and results have me sold.

Dear Andy, many thanks for the magic you worked on my once hopeless hair. Prepare to see a lot more of me. Dear hair, sincerest apologies for all I've put you through. Hopefully this is the end to all our fall outs (literally). Yours truly, an Olaplex convert.

Blue Tit East Village, Unit 9, 70 Celebration Avenue, East Village, E20 1DB, 0208 519 7974
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