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Published January 17 2011

Braving the Brazilian Blowout

Let me get this straight.

I like my curly hair.

I am usually OK with my waves and ringlets, even as the fashion mags and TMZ.com and everyone else tells me I shouldn’t be. Yes, I sometimes envy the latest starlets for their Marc Jacobs frocks, but I don’t covet their sleek, straight locks. It just adds to the generic, silicone-enhanced, veneer-flashing sameness among most of our celebrities.

Just add Prada and stir.

Yet, it took me years of struggle to reach this tiny bit of self-acceptance regarding my contrary follicles. (Who could forget The Saddest Shag in the World, The Year I Discovered Blow-Drying or The Fourth-Grade School Photo So Unfortunate We Didn’t Order Reprints?)

But about a decade ago, I had enough. I got tired of fighting my hair’s natural curl pattern. I bought a book called “Curly Girl” and learned to take care of my twisty, tumbly tresses. Since then, I’ve probably saved a month of my life by not blow-drying and flat-ironing it daily.

That’s what makes my decision to receive a Brazilian Blowout – the biggest beauty procedure to hit Hollywood A-listers since Botox – so bizarre. Unlike traditional chemical straightening, which strips and rebuilds the hair, the product works by wrapping individual strands of hair in a protein layer to eliminate frizz and smooth the cuticle.

The treatment makes even the most damaged and processed hair smooth, shiny, manageable and incredibly touchable. Brazilian Blowout hair, called “BBO” for short, seems to retain more body and volume than hair smoothed by other chemical straighteners. Depending on how often you shampoo, it lasts anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. And the process is cumulative: The more often you receive it, the better results you get.

All of this sounded pretty appealing last week. I had neglected my hair for months, and it showed. My locks desperately needed a color and, after a frenzied attempt at home-barbering, a good trim by a trained professional who wasn’t trying to lop off split ends while eating a Pop-Tart.

Still, I struggled with the decision. A hairdresser had talked me into chemically straightening my hair back in the 1990s. With every trace of body and curl expunged from my tresses, my hair plastered against my head as if I’d been caught in a torrential downpour. With my rather large head, I looked like Linus of “Peanuts” fame. All cake, no frosting.

I also felt like a sellout. I had spent years railing against the WASP-y conformity of artificially straightened hair. It seemed like another way to teach young girls to turn their backs on diversity, individuality and self-acceptance. And now here I was, lining up for a blond, Betty Draper bob.

Wasn’t it a small self-betrayal to erase one part of me, however small or insignificant that might be?

But curiosity and bad hair won out over outrage. I found myself at SJ Hair Studio, one of a handful of salons who offer BBO in Fargo-Moorhead. Crystal Christianson, a Fargo native and regional director for BBO, gave me the treatment.

It took about 90 minutes. First, Christianson shampooed my hair twice with a special anti-residue shampoo until it was literally squeaky-clean. (Yes, she actually squeaked a strand.)

Then she clipped my damp hair into sections and used a color comb to lightly “dust” each section of hair with the professional smoothing solution. She used a blow-dryer and round brush to painstakingly straighten my hair. Then she ran a flat iron repeatedly over each section to help “seal in” the smoothing solution. The hair was then rinsed and a hair mask was applied. After that, it was blow-dried and styled.

I was worried perfectly straight hair might be too much of a shock after a decade of being Curly McWaverson. And so Christianson artfully scrunched and coaxed my hair into gentle Botticelli waves.

By now, I couldn’t stop touching my tresses. It was like a whole new head of hair – as if my locks had never been punished by a blow-dryer or a drugstore color kit. But now, instead of frizz and fledgling dreadlocks, I had soft, shiny, Hollywood-starlet curls.

I could see why busy working women with high-maintenance hair became so addicted to this treatment that they don’t mind paying the $150 to $700 cost. (In Fargo, the BBO is more in the $300 range and includes the line of expensive maintenance styling products.)

Over the next few days, I took a leap and wore my hair straight. This created such a stir at work that I felt like I’d suddenly showed up with a forehead tattoo.

People raved about my sleek new ’do so much that I started to fear that I’d looked like a complete freak before.

But my girlfriends said all the right things. They assured me that my curls were cute, but my straight, silky hair was chic. I didn’t look better, they said, just different.

For my part, I’m really glad I tried the Brazilian Blowout, although it will probably just be a one-time thing. I simply don’t have the budget to try it every few months, and my old, wash-and-go hair was actually a little easier to maintain.

But for someone who has struggled with frizzy, multi-textured hair – and would much rather have Jennifer Aniston’s locks than Jennifer Grey’s – it might be time for some straight talk.





Forum columnist Tammy Swift tried the much-discussed Brazilian Blowout hair treatment to tame her natural curls. After the 90-minute procedure, Swift says her locks were rejuvenated and it felt like she had a “whole new head of hair.”

For more information

The following Fargo salons are listed on the Brazilian Blowout website for offering this hair-relaxing treatment:

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525