Of particular anguish to those of us with ravaged hair, are the teenage years. A challenging time for the best of us, even those with clear skin and poker-straight tresses.
One happy day, my mother took me to A Cut Above in Hemel Hempstead and I was given the trendy coupe sauvage, made popular by Vidal Sassoon, blown out into a glorious mane of flips and flicks. I lifted a tentative hand to touch it, and it was soft as cashmere. I gazed at my thirteen year old self in the mirror and fell into a blissful swoon. "Well, problem is love, yer never gonna be able to do this yourself at home" said the stylist in his skin-tight gray flared trousers and platform boots. I can't remember his name but he looked like the lead singer from Mud ("Tiger Feet."). I was, of course, entirely crestfallen.
At home the hair situation wasn't too dire because my mother was lovely and helped me blow dry my curly locks with her Ronson (which had a brush attached to the orange hot air pipe, and came with a plastic hat you could use -- with rubber air pipe attached of course -- if you preferred to use rollers. I love the big, round waves that large rollers create). But school was the nightmare. Mrs Abraham, our charismatically challenged matron, a truly horrendous woman without a morsel of empathy, allowed us to wash our hair only once every two weeks in the bathroom known as Watley's. We weren't allowed conditioner and we were forced to dry our hair on two industrial-sized heaters which sat on the table in sickbay. We sat in front of the heaters while Mrs Abraham whipped her hands through our hair as if kneading clay. My hair always looked like a Clown and of course I became known as the girl with the frizzy hair, which was desperately humiliating. And completely uncool. As we all know, boys don't go for self-conscious girls with ratty hair, and that, dear reader, is a big problem when you're fourteen years old and trying to look super-cool in your Fiorucci or FU's jeans and the cute boy a the party gets his hand stuck in your birds-nest while nonchalantly running his hand through it. O, the Horror. (This has happened to me: Just ask Sophie Huggins.)
Cathy Hamadanian had the best hair in the whole school. It was smooth and shiney and black with just a little wave at the bottom. She flicked back her forelock or ran her hands through it while walking down the hall on the way to choir. You could imagine her in slow motion, the Flake chocolate commercial music running in the background. I watched her in awe and envy and knew that I would never have her gorgeous locks or that delicious f*** off attitude that only divine hair can bring.
I struggled my whole life with hairdryers but never managed the two-handed blow out. The 80s were good for me because big hair was in and I had the biggest hair on the planet.
When I ran my own company, I managed to make appointments for blow-drys, and made them last for days. Somehow, the smoothed out hair made me feel more organized, more certain that I was doing my job well. But on holiday I resorted to a hat, or slicked it all back with Sebastian's Potion No. 9 into a tight ponytail or bun, and stuck a flower in it. (I would've piled a whole bowl of fruit in it a la Carmen Miranda if I could, just to disguise the hideousness).
But today, I believe, without overstating it, that my life may have been changed forever. A small lump has formed in my throat as I make this pronouncement. In the distance an orchestra swells.
Today, I spent three hours getting the new keratin de-frizzing treatment. This is the treatment that used to be referred to as Brazilian straightening but the process and the product has been refined by Peter Coppola using a keratin-based treatment, now formaldehyde free, that coats and fills in the hair follicle, thereby smoothing out the frizz and leaving it sleek and manageable. The process leaves you with your natural curls but takes out the frizzy volume.
Miss Whistle with the divine Miss Nancy Braun: this is REALLY what my hair looks like in its natural state -- not terribly fetching, right? Oh, see how smugly she takes this picture.
My excellent colorist, Nancy Braun, a portfolio artist for L'Oreal, who has honed the Balyage technique to an artform, has long felt my pain over my hair and yet veered me away from the Japanese straightening that was so popular in Los Angeles two years ago (women over 40 with board-straight hair is not pretty). But clever Nancy was seeing amazing results from the keratin treatment and has now brought in an amazingly meticulous technician from Atlanta, to administer the straightening at Christophe, in Beverly Hills.
Kristina combs the product, which smells like bananas, into your hair, piece by piece, and then leaves it for 20 minutes, wrapping your head in a plastic bag (a very attractive look). The hair is then dried, and flat-ironed, tiny piece by tiny piece. The finished hair, which sleek, shiney and healthy-looking has to be left for three days without interference -- no hair ties, rubber bands, hats, water, sunglasses, etc. After three days the hair can be washed and either left to dry naturally or blown out. The process lasts for about three months.