I remember reading an article a few years ago about how researchers found that glycolic acid, the much-beloved alpha-hydroxy acid so many of us use for acne-clearing and anti-aging exfoliation, could actually be of great value to hair. Wait a minute... I wrote that article.
Allow myself to quote... myself:
When hair was conditioned with a glycolic formula, it experienced less breakage when being brushed, wet or dry, than when it was conditioned with one of two readily purchasable conditioners. Additionally, researchers found that hair treated with [a cosmetic-grade glycolic ingredient] can withstand higher temperatures than hair treated with water and stearyl alcohol, even when that hair had been bleached .... It appears these effects are due to glycolic acid's ability to penetrate the hair shaft and directly impact the stability of keratin, the protein that forms hair's structure and contributes to its strength.
Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, when that research came out in 2010, there were no readily available hair products or treatments containing AHA, and wringing out glycolic peel pads onto one's head was not recommended.
So when I heard that Elizabeth Arden's Red Door Spa now offers something called the Advanced Glycolic Smoothing Treatment--and that it's for hair, not skin--I knew my torturous wait to try this cosmetic-science breakthrough was finally over. And with summer humidity and sweat poised to make my naturally wavy hair an oily-on-top, crinkly-on-the-bottom triangle of frizz, the timing couldn't be better.
When I arrived at the gorgeous Union Square location, I was greeted by Woody and Amy Michleb, Red Door Spa's Creative Director and National Training Director, respectively, and also husband and wife, which I didn't realize until finding their Twitter account about five minutes ago. Mr. and Mrs. Michleb were wonderfully friendly and thorough as they explained that, in addition to the inclusion of glycolic acid making a keratin treatment more beneficial to the client's hair, the exclusion of aldehydes makes it more beneficial to the stylist's lungs. Win-win! Arguably more of a win for the stylists because breathing is more important than smooth hair, but still--everyone triumphs.
After a quick shampoo, Amy started painting the glycolic solution onto my wet hair. As she did, I told her that I'd gotten a traditional keratin treatment a few years ago but didn't revisit it because my hair looked and felt pretty gross for the first few days. Amy assured me that my hair wouldn't look greasy when we were done. Another great perk: it actually smelled really pleasant.
This first step stayed on for about a half hour, and during this time, Amy showed me Red Door's new digital lookbook. Just as she got to a service called Quikkies, brightly colored extensions that attach to hair with a non-damaging gauze tape, Woody came over and inserted a hot pink one into Amy's blonde and black hair in a matter of seconds. He quickly trimmed it to work with her cut, and voila: Amy's literally stuck with a pink streak for four to eight weeks. Ah, marriage.
The next step was the quickest rinse in the history of salon sinks. We didn't want the solution to be completely removed from my hair before the mask Amy would be applying next. She explained that while there was a little keratin in the initial mixture, most of the keratin would come from this mask.
After about 10 minutes, we rinsed again, and it was time for the blow-drying and flat-ironing. Amy was meticulous as she went about sealing in the effects of the glycolic acid and keratin. After the first section of hair was ironed, she invited me to touch it, and holy moly--it was the smoothest I had ever known my hair to feel.
By the time she was done, my hair was reflective. Its super-straight shininess actually emphasized the depth of my hair color. Amy even gave me a teensy trim to make it look as healthy as possible.
Then I looked out the window. Umbrellas had popped up at the Union Square Farmers Market. It had started to rain. OF COURSE IT HAD STARTED TO RAIN.
But Amy wasn't concerned. She knew the rain wouldn't do anything to my hair; she was confident that I'd make it home with my hair looking exactly like it did at that moment--as long as I didn't put it in a ponytail or wear sunglasses on the back of my head Guy Fieri-style. And if it did happen to get a little wonky, she said I could just run a flat iron over those pieces.
I didn't have to! That photo above and this creepy one below were taken post-rain.
I wouldn't have to wait to wash my hair, either. But, come on, I wasn't about to wash my hair. This was an epic blowout and flat-ironing.
When I eventually did wash it, I used the shampoo and conditioner recommended by Amy and Woody: Keratin Complex Keratin Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner.
It's important to use a sodium-chloride-free and sulfate-free formula when you get the Advanced Glycolic Smoothing Treatment in order to help maintain the results, which should last me pretty much through the summer. And you'll want to maintain the results if you're paying up to $400 for said results. (The price depends on the length of your hair.)
Here's how it looked after I let it air-dry.
Is it perfection? Of course not. But considering I didn't put any styling products in my hair or use any tools before snapping that photo, I'm pretty impressed. My hair this time of year is usually much puffier and much frizzier, and the waves are typically all different, unharmonious degrees of curl; and I wish you could touch it--so soft, y'all.
I feel confident with it just flat-ironing my bangs and putting some smoothing serum in my hair before heading out the door. It's definitely going to save me time and annoyance over the next few months.
Are you thinking of getting a keratin treatment for the summer? Does the glycolic formula appeal to you? How would you react if your husband stuck a hot-pink extension into your hair without warning?