Two women who both despair of their hair agreed to be Viva's guinea pigs and try two new hair "smoothing" salon services. One has short, coarse "dragged through a bush backward" hair, the other plenty of fine, flyaway bleach-weakened mid-length hair.
The hair companies behind each semi-permanent service were at pains to say theirs was not a straightening, although the process of the longer-lasting option will certainly sound familiar to women who have tried keratin and other similar straightening services. They both claim formaldehyde-free status, which cannot be said of a number of straightening processes. (To find out more check out this report at ewg.org/hair-straighteners.)
With their focus on improving hair condition and shine as well as curbing curl - rather than ironing it right out - these services would best suit women looking to tame rather than transform their hair. Talk to your hairdresser about what might best suit your needs; differing hair companies offer a range of options. Some are pricey standalone services and others can be add-on costs to regular care.
Of our two testers one said she was definitely going to pay to repeat her smoothing process, but the other said despite the "remarkable results" cost would likely be a deterrent to keeping up regular treatments. Both noted that prescribed at-home products, though complementing their treatments, would add to the bill.
Here are their stories.
THE WIRE WIZARD
Taming what is quite possibly the coarsest, driest, frizziest hair in the country was always going to be a tough test. Redken Smooth Lock semi-permanent smoothing service passed it with flying colours.
The treatment was applied at Soho salon's new location in Addington, one of several Christchurch suburbs that have been reinvented since the earthquakes into a trendy cafe/boutique shopping centre. The salon was previously in the cordoned-off CBD, but owner Alana Fieberg has made the best of a trying 18 months by creating a chic new home for her team of 10.
When I turned up, apologetic as ever about my hair, Alana was unfazed and expressed confidence in Smooth Lock's ability to transform its brittle texture into soft, smooth shiny locks.
The treatment is simple and quick. After the hair is washed it is applied in two phases: the first to make the cuticle receptive to the smoothing product, the second being the application of the product itself. It is then given time to process before being rinsed off, your hair is then blow-dried and straightened. The total process takes slightly longer than the time for a normal wash and blow-dry; on my short hair this was under an hour.
The before and after difference was overwhelming. For the first time in years my hair was sleek, straight, soft and manageable. I couldn't stop touching it, just because it felt so nice.
The smoothing treatment lasts 10 shampoos - a month down the track my hair is still in great shape and given its type I can get away with washing once a week or a little more often. Alana said I could expect to extend the treatment's life by a few more shampoos by using Redken's Smooth Lock Stay Sleek Leave-in Cream ($35). This, along with the other Smooth Lock care and styling products, smells good, is nourishing and has proved tailor-made for my extremely dry, brittle hair.
The Smooth Lock treatment has taken the hassle out of my daily hair care, reducing styling time. I run the straighteners over it roughly and it just falls into place. When your hair looks good you have so much more confidence in your appearance.
- Diane Keenan
* Redken's Smooth Lock service costs from $60 depending on hair length. It is safe for colour-treated or highlighted hair. The service can be undertaken as often as every three weeks, but will last for 10 shampoos. Viva's tester went to Soho, Christchurch. (To find a Redken salon in your area ph 0800 657 666 or go to the website.)
THE FRAZZLE FAIRY
My hair needed help, it's forever in need of help. Much to my surprise help came in multiple forms with my Amazon treatment. Not only did my hair get a bit of compassion - so did my soul.
Gateano Zammit spotted it straight away: "So tell me about what's going on in your life," the Amazon specialist visiting from Australia asked. I wasn't quite sure how to answer, but he knew already because my damaged, stressed hair had betrayed me.
I was surprisingly entertained during the 3-hour multi-step process at Me salon, Ponsonby, thanks to being fussed over and counselled along the way. That the product was applied without gloves and had only a slight smell impressed me. Immediately my hair felt better, thicker.
It was blow-dried and straightened with irons to set the product, with steps timed along the way. I even got a quick dry trim before a final shampoo. At the basin my hair felt like it was made of air, there was none of the usual drag as water ran through it. Even more unusual was the longer time it took to dry afterwards.
"It's full of moisture" remarked Gateano, when I asked. That was a first. I couldn't stop touching my hair, it felt so smooth, so much thicker! I remarked it made me feel "sassy" - Gateano loved that.
Armed with a bucket load of sulphur-free hair products to care for my new do - and with strict instructions to take these into the salon whenever I have my hair colour done in the coming months - I walked out into the rain bouncing and flicking.
For the first few days my hair was poker straight, pending its first at-home wash and style. Much to my relief it then relaxed allowing for a bit of a wave when I blow-dry it. I still do this with a large brush, so my drying routine isn't any faster, and I find I'm washing every couple of days, otherwise it gets a bit flat.
A month down the track and it is a lot better than what I have ever been able to achieve before. My hair looks straight, like I've done it with irons, but it has moisture and presence. It is a lot smoother and stays that way throughout the day and the condition seems much improved.
- Babiche Martens
* An Amazon smoothing treatment costs $250 for short hair, $350 for medium length and from $450 for long hair, including a take-home shampoo and conditioner. (Costs may vary between salons and with extra hair thickness or length). Results last up to four months, will not yellow blondes, and can be undertaken on the same day as a colour. Amazon is a new-to-New Zealand company which uses anti-oxidant rich Brazilian rainforest botanicals in what it says is a natural, formaldehyde-free treatment.
It uses a complex of cysteine (an amino acid) to work with hair's existing proteins to relax curls by 60 to 70 per cent and is particularly effective on thick, coarse hair. Viva's tester tried it at Me salon, Ponsonby. (For other salons, toll-free ph 0508 525331.)