Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Cautionary Tale: Brazilian Blowouts

Hey guys, today I'm going to share with you a story my good friend and avid reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) recently sent me regarding her hellish experience at an upscale salon in Atlanta. It is quite eye-opening, and I hope her story will help you if you are thinking about getting this procedure done! 

Dear Patricia,

I've got a hair horror story to share with you. Three years ago, I went to a very posh salon in Atlanta to enjoy a top-notch haircut. All I really went in for was a cut and fashionable style. I mostly wanted to treat myself to the experience of getting a luxury haircut. I’d been looking forward to my appointment for weeks and I went in feeling like a princess about to get pampered. Four hours later, I left the salon feeling like a victim.

What do you picture when you think of a luxury salon? Lots of mirrors, pumping music, stylists clad in black with super edgy ‘dos, some exotic accents, stacks of giant fashion magazines, big fat price tags, etc. Yep, that’s definitely what I got. What I didn't anticipate: the razor sharp teeth of hyper aggressive salespeople hiding just beneath the stylists’ super coiffed exteriors. I felt like a target, like I had walked into a used car sales lot with a blank check glued to my forehead.

As soon as I sat down in the chair, I told the stylist exactly what I wanted: something fresh with a lot of layers and a few inches taken off. I even came with a couple of pictures. She looked at my pictures, set them aside, and began to tell me how damaged my hair was. Mind you, I had totally virgin hair. I’d never highlighted, colored, permed, or chemically treated it in any way. Every time I've ever gone into a hair salon, the stylists’ first comments are always about how healthy my hair is. To hear this lady reading off a laundry list of problems with my hair was really unexpected and concerning. It never crossed my mind that this ultra chic person at this cutting edge salon might not know what she was talking about. It certainly never crossed my mind that she might simply be lying to make a good sale.

The stylist fed me a long pitch about what a perfect candidate I was for their newest procedure: a Brazilian Blowout. To make a long and painful story short, I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I first tried to tell her that I didn't need anything that fancy. But then she told me it would make my life so much easier because I’d be able to just roll out of bed each morning with ready-to-roll wavy locks. My hair is naturally wavy, but in an awkward in between way that I don’t like. I've always got to do something with it. It’s super thick and yet really fine, so it takes quite a bit of time with a flat iron to get ready. I’m not a girly-girl and I’m admittedly more than a little lazy when it comes to primping. The haircut I was already there for would have cost $90. The stylist told me the Brazilian Blowout cost $180. Needless to say, the thought of shelling out for a one-time procedure that would give me modelesque hair for a whole year seemed irresistible. I went for it.

The second I gave in, I felt a little nervous. But I was just so excited by the idea of effortlessly perfect hair that I couldn't contain myself. We moved over to the procedure chair and a team of stylists swarmed around me. They were all wearing masks, like the kind you wear in a hospital or on a construction site when you don’t want to breathe something in. They started putting what looked like chocolate sauce on my hair and combing it through. My head started tingling a bit, then burning. Then my eyes began itching, burning, and watering. Before long, tears were streaming down my face. I wasn't crying, it’s just that whatever chemicals they were using in my hair were so terribly strong that my whole head and face were on fire. How come they got masks and I didn't? One stylist was blow-drying and two were using flat-irons on my hair. The whole section of the salon reeked of burning hair and crazy chemicals. It felt like I sat in that chair for 1,000 years. They kept telling me, “We’re almost done, hang in there”. I remember wondering what the hell I’d signed myself up for. What kind of torture was this?

Answer: it was the kind of torture that ended up costing $450. My stomach absolutely hit the salon floor when the cashier rang up that total. Let’s remember: I came in for a $90 haircut. That is an insanely indulgent and unnecessary treat in and of itself. Then the stylist talked me into a $180 procedure. Ok, so double, but the sales pitch won me over. See, what they didn't tell me up front was that in order for the Brazilian Blowout to last more than 3 months I needed to buy the special shampoo, conditioner, and in-between treatment serum. And let’s not forget about gratuity. Yikes.

I called my husband on the way home and explained to him that I’d been swindled into spending a gajillion dollars on a stupid hairstyle. He wasn't thrilled, but he understood that I never treat myself to anything like that and how much time it really would save me in the end. So everything was fine. I got a celebrity hair treatment and I was going to look fabulous. Wrong.

I woke up the next morning and ran straight to the mirror to admire my beautiful flowing locks. Oh my god. What’s going on? Wait, maybe if I flip my hair upside down and then flip it back over. No? Maybe if I just run my fingers through it. No? What if I brush it? Oh my god, still nothing. I had the same messy, half-wavy, unacceptably bed-headed look that I had $450 ago. This could not possibly be happening to me. It was a sham!

I busted into tears. I’d been conned. I felt so na├»ve and taken advantage of. I went back to the salon and met with the manager in his office with the door shut. I took my hair out of its ponytail holder to show him exactly what his $450 procedure resulted in: nothing. He treated me like I was crazy. He asked what I didn’t like about it and why I didn’t feel I could just wear my hair like that. Then, to add insult to injury, he accused me of having buyer’s remorse. I assured him that yes, I of course had buyer’s remorse! Who wouldn’t have buyer’s remorse when they shelled out a week’s pay for a bogus procedure? I wanted my money back, but not just because I regretted spending the money itself. I was wronged and their product did not work. He then told me that sometimes the treatment has to be done two, three, even four times for it to work. WHAT?! Do you think the stylist told me any of this up front when she was trying to talk me into getting the blowout? No. This was my trump card. After a long and tearful argument in this salon that had turned into my personal hell, I walked out with a refund sans gratuity and promised to return the products I’d bought. The manager also made me agree not to smear their oh so well-respected name. Fine.

So yeah, I got my money back mostly. So why am I still complaining about this three years later? I paid the consequences of my foolishness for the next TWO YEARS. Those awful burning chemicals they put on my head that made my eyeballs want to catch fire? Methylene glycol. Formaldehyde gas. Those are known carcinogens. Not ok. Over the next few months, I noticed a weird plastic-y shell at my roots. It was almost like dried hairspray that wouldn’t wash out. My hair was oddly bendy, not its usual silky self. It looked greasy and nasty and would not go away no matter what I tried. I basically had to wear my hair up every day. Once that problem finally subsided, I suffered from an intensely itchy scalp for several months. Then I started finding these weird, thick, wiry hairs here and there. They were so coarse and different from the rest of my hair. Finally, my hairline began to thin badly. The Brazilian Blowout absolutely ruined my formerly beautiful hair. My hair was once my absolute favorite asset. Now it had become the bane of my existence and a constant reminder of my foolish gullibility. I missed my old hair.

Six months ago, I switched to sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner after reading your blog. It has made a HUGE difference in my hair. Its former texture, sheen, and health have all been restored. Through this awful experience, I have learned to appreciate my hair for what it is. Maybe I have to spend 20 minutes with a flat-iron before leaving the house, but that’s so much better than having chemical burned locks and scalp. I don’t think my hair will ever fully recover from the damage caused by the Brazilian Blowout, but I now know how important it is to take care of my hair. I wanted to share this story with you so that your readers can see just how dangerous these chemical treatments can be. It’s not healthy for you, your wallet, or your hair. Be kind to your hair! It’s naturally beautiful.


Blownout Burnette

1 comment:

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