Twenty years minus two days from the last time I had my hair professionally done (trims not counted), I found myself sitting in a hair salon with two stylists wielding equipment fussing over me. Long time readers know that I have a live and let live relationship with my hair. I don't try to make it do stuff it doesn't want, and in turn my hair tries not to embarrass me. This is why at first I was inclined to refuse an offer I received to experience a free keratin treatment at the new Keratin Lounge in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The timing was right, though. A couple of weeks later I was going to visit my family in Israel, where the combination of high humidity and very hard water has never been kind for the mop on my head. Besides, the appointment offered to me was right at the start of my twentieth wedding anniversary weekend, so why not celebrate with new hair?
I knew very little about keratin treatments beforehand. I thought it was meant to keep one's hair stick straight for weeks or months, and that following the procedure you couldn't wash your hair for four days straight. I also remembered Jennifer Aniston blaming keratin for her hair becoming a burnt down split mess, explaining why she cut it into a bob a few years ago. I remember thinking back then that it seemed strange a treatment you get only a few times a year would cause that, when she was heat styling her hair on a daily basis and getting it colored and highlighted so frequently. Jen was never my hair idol, though, so it was just another celeb tidbit stored in my brain. The Keratin Lounge offer pushed me to ask question and do some research, which got me very curious.
The new generation of keratin treatments, at least in the Lasio Concept that's employed by Keratin Lounge, is not necessarily about making everyone sport the Rachel or Marsha Brady's hair. It does make curls relax to a degree that allows for a quick and easy straightening with an iron, but you can also let your hair air-dry into a truly natural-looking waves/open curls (depending on one's hair type), that are mostly frizz-free. Since keratin is the building blocks of hair, fusing an extra layer of it into your strands offers both protection and shine. In addition, the Lasio Concept requires only 24 hours of abstaining from water (also: no hair ties, clips, headbands, or scrunchies). I was getting excited.
The one issue that remained for me was formaldehyde, known to be part of straightening, relaxing, and keratin treatments (the classic Brazilian was infamous for that). According to the FDA, the safety level for formaldehyde in hair products is .2% . I don't know what's the status for other methods, including the 4 day keratin treatment, but I was told that the Lasio Concept uses .02% formaldehyde, tenth of the allowed concentration. Still, it's better to wear a breathing mask while having your hair sprayed and heated, which the salon offers. That was settled, then.
The Blond and I decided to make it a half day trip. While the original location of Keratin Lounge is in Manhattan, I was invited to the brand new salon in Stroudsburg, PA, which is about an hour and a half drive from my home. We tried to go antiquing, only to find the biggest location in the area, The Browsery (528 Seven Bridges Rd., East Stroudsburg), in the last stages of closing out. From what I've read about the place it's a real shame. We had a nice lunch at Café Duet (35 N 7th St, Stroudsburg), and a stroll in the very pretty town center before heading to the salon. Much more relaxing then our wedding day.
(Insert flashback music score)
September 4th 1996 was an extremely hot and humid day. Adding to that, the ceremony and receptions were at beachside hotel garden, adding to the soupy mixture that tried to pass as air. My glam team did their best. They planted me for four full hours under a hair dryer, trying to force my curly waves to stay put and look "natural". We were going for a Veronica Lake effect with the length, plus a section at the front that was straightened with the force of a cement truck and wrapped around the front, with just one loose ringlet that was "casually" framing my face. What can I say? It was the nineties. To achieve this, my hair was put in large rollers, dried into submission, and held with so much hair spray that days into my honeymoon was still trying to wash out the crunchy bits. All of that, however, was no match for the humidity and sea air. By the time I walked down the aisle my waves were already limp and heavy. The front part was still holding, though, but feeling stiff.
Fast Forward to September 2016.
Keratin Lounge offers nothing but keratin treatments. No cuts, no color, no highlights. The Stroudsburg location opened over the summer, and is owned by Nadine Ramos, the CEO and founder of Lasio, INC. and the original Keratin Lounge in NYC. I was extremely lucky to have her as my stylist, and she was assisted by the lovely Celines Fernandez in doing my hair. Realizing I had an exceptional pro taking care me helped me relax in my chair, while the Blond lounged around and took photos.
The process was simple and straightforward: first, my hair was washed, then blow dried quickly to its natural state with no additional products. Next, Nadine and Celines sectioned my hair, and bit by bit sprayed it with the treatment, using a flat iron to seal it in. The entire thing took exactly two and a half hours from start to finish, which was nothing compared to the four hour ordeal from my wedding day. And I had a lot more to show for it. My hair was smooth, shiny, and felt light as air, which I couldn't believe. The following 24 hours passed quickly, even if I had to sleep in a weird position and let my hair hang down from the edge of the bed. I kept my hair straight for several days, doing touch-ups when needed (the flat iron glides over the hair effortlessly), but have since resorted back to my usual air drying and forgetting all about it method.
My hair has kept the shine and silkiness throughout the month. I can actually comb and brush my hair to create a very clean and tight bun or ponytail, or just leave it as is. First day hair is more curly, while the next day tends toward an open wave that stays put nicely. I admit that I enjoy brushing and relishing the smooth and shiny look. I can probably also do intricate braids, but I have yet to gather the will for that. For those new around here, my hair is long. Very long. I had a couple of inches trimmed by a friend a week or two before, just for keeping it all even and bouncy. If I were to keep my hair straight day in and day out I'd probably cut a bit more, to add volume.
|Natural, just washed and unstyled hair, a month after treatment.|
The Lasio Concept doesn't require you to avoid SLS and any other shampoo ingredients, except for sodium chloride, which is basically salt. I'm pretty sure the hard water at my parents' didn't do my hair any favors, and indeed, a little bit of the frizz has returned to the top of my head, but that's also a result of the unbelievable speed in which my hair grows. The lounge does offer hairline touch-ups if you're so inclined, but I'm going to wait it out and get my all head redone around the new year. The treatment is supposed to last three to four months. I suspect that give the hard water abuse and my hair growth it will be closer to three, but we'll see.
You can watch my transformation (courtesy of Nadine) on The Non-Blonde Facebook group in before and after quick videos (it's public, so you don't need an account to visit).
The two locations of Keratin Lounge are 9 S 7th St, Stroudsburg, PA and 39 W 38th St, New York, NY. Full treatments start at $250. Mine was free, but I'm under no obligation to recommend or even write about it at all.