Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I have very curly hair and that I also had it cut quite short last weekend. It looks great when it’s blowdried straight, but when I wash it and leave it to dry naturally, it looks like this:


The first time I heard about the Brazilian keratin treatment was when I went to Jamaica in the summer of 2009. I was told how amazing it was and how straight my hair would be and my mum urged me to do it. I didn’t want to do it there – I’d never heard of it and wanted to research it properly. When I got back to London, I read about it on various websites – some reviews were good, some were bad, the chemicals used are carcinogenic, there’s formaldehyde in the formula… It went on and on. But I wanted to see what it was all about and made an appointment at Joshua Altback in St John’s Wood High Street. The whole treatment took almost 3 hours and afterwards, instead of the crazy curls, I had much looser waves – I quite liked it. I did it again twice at the same place – the last time was a year ago.

I’d been wanting to do it again, but I didn’t feel like spending £200 on the treatment! I subscribe to these online deal websites – Groupon and kgbdeals – and when an offer came up in May for a Brazilian straightening treatment for £49, I bought it. It was at a place called Brazil Hair and Beauty on Charing Cross Road – when I rang them, a very English-sounding man made my booking and when I told him my name, he said ‘Oh, Nectar’. It only occurred to me to ask him how he knew what my name meant after I’d hung up. I figured I’d just ask him when I saw him at my appointment.

So I headed to Charing Cross Road today. I got to the right number on the street and was surprised to find a place that looked like an arcade/mini mall, selling electronics and other random stuff. I walked in anyway and asked the man behind the counter if he knew where the salon was – it was on the first floor so I took the escalator. The salon was right there and I almost wanted to laugh. I’m being generous when I call it a salon. I think the whole place is slightly larger than my kitchen. It reminded me of a salon called Blue Heaven in Colaba in Bombay – where my mum used to take me in the late 70s.

Both hairdressers (one male and one female) were busy and asked me to take a seat while they finished what they were doing. One of the customers asked me if I could speak Portuguese. I said I couldn’t – and she said that everyone at the salon – employees and clientele – were all Brazilian. So where was the guy who’d made my appointment then? The customer apologised for the hairdresser running late as it was her fault and asked me if I’d ever tried a Brazilian soft drink called Guaraná Antarctica. I thought it was a random question – and said I hadn’t. She spoke perfect English, but the two hairdressers seemed to speak only a few words. Anyway, eventually she was finished, my appointment was about 20 minutes late and while I was having my hair washed, she came back in with a cold can of this Guaraná Antarctica and gave it to me. I thought that was so sweet of her! It tasted pretty good…

Anyway, the assistant (who spoke good English) washed my hair with a clarifying shampoo, towel-dried it and sat me in front of the mirror. The female hairdresser rough-dried my hair with a hairdryer and then mixed the solution. She put on one rubber glove and started applying the solution to my hair. I thought it was odd that she used just the one glove as she was using both her hands to apply the solution and rub it in to my hair! Nobody had asked me if I’d ever had it done before or any questions at all about my hair. The application of the solution was fine.

After that she asked me to put on a mask that covered my nose and mouth (in the past I’ve just used held a towel against my nose/mouth and closed my eyes). She started blowdrying my hair. It was awful. The formula she used was much stronger than the ones I’ve used before – my eyes were burning, my throat was burning, even my nostrils were burning. At this point, the male hairdresser started blowdrying the other side of my head, so not only was I extremely uncomfortable, but my hair was being pulled in two different directions and I was getting irritated. I’m also sure I’ve developed lines around my eyes from scrunching up my face for so long.

After this, the female hairdresser disappeared and the man used the straighteners all over my hair. When he was nearly done, he said ‘For three days, no… er… no…’. ‘Wash?’ I ventured. ‘Yes, wash,’ he said. What amused me was that he couldn’t string a sentence together in English but knew all the words to ‘I Want to be a Millionnaire’ and every other song on the radio. My whole appointment took about 90 minutes and here’s what it looks like now:


Quite a difference! The assistant tried to sell me some sodium-free shampoo but I told her I already had some. She then told me I shouldn’t wash my hair for three days. I told her I knew that. ‘Oh, this isn’t your first time?’ Shouldn’t she have asked me that before?

Just to be clear, I’m not expecting my hair to look like this after I wash it. I’m expecting a looser, more natural-looking wave.

Would I go back to the salon? I’m not sure right now. I might need a lesson or two in Portuguese first!

12 July 2011 update: Check out the results!

One thought on “Brazilian keratin treatment: Don’t you know straight hair ain’t got no curl?

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