When I first agreed to try “candle cutting” — a Brazilian beauty treatment that involves setting the hair on fire to combat split ends and frizz — I didn’t so much as bat an eye.
Don’t get me wrong. I was incredibly nervous and anxious about the prospect of my hair meeting flame. I was just fairly certain that I would get out of it.
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You see, I was positive I’d figure out a way to Test Drive the experience without having to light too many strands on fire. I’d simply convince the salon to do the treatment only at the very bottom of my hair.
My ends were parched and brittle and I was due for a haircut anyway. So I’d lose a few inches on the end — what’s the big deal?
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Of course, my genius plan fell flat as soon as I entered Maria Bonita Salon, put on a robe and met Ricky, my stylist and candle-cutting expert. “We’re a little short on time,” I stuttered. “So, you know, maybe we only do the very end of my hair, OK-great-thanks-for-understanding.”
Alas, Ricky saw right through my little scheme.
“We don’t actually do the ends of the hair,” he said, explaining that only the middle and top half of the hair would get the flame. “So … it’s sort of an all-or-nothing deal.”
I gulped and took a seat as he explained the process. Apparently, I had a lot to learn.
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I was only slightly familiar with the candle-cutting method. I’d discovered it a few months earlier during a late-night YouTube binge and thought it might be a gimmick. So as Ricky spoke of deep conditioners and how the process repairs cuticles (by sealing open ends and encouraging hair growth), I cut him off to ask whether I should be worried about losing all of my hair.
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“You should be fine,” he said.
Real reassuring, Ricky.
He disappeared and reappeared a moment later with the dreaded white candle that looked like it was stolen off of someone’s dining room table. I braced for the flame.
The actual lighting-my-hair-on-fire thing (I still can’t believe I’m saying that!) didn’t last long. Then again, I’m pretty sure I was blacked out for most of it. Here’s what I do remember, though: Ricky sectioned out my hair, then twisted each section and ran the flame up and down it, submerging my locks in fire. As he moved the flame away from one area, tiny embers remained, singeing and burning out the tiny outlying pieces and split ends.
Seeing those little embers were definitely the scariest part of the whole thing.
And it didn’t smell quite as bad as I thought it would. Sure, the air got a bit acrid, but overall, it wasn’t as pungent as you might imagine.
When the fiery part came to an end (thank God), it was time for a wash and deep conditioning mask. After a 20-minute wait under otherworldly lights to help the mask set, I was at the home stretch: a blowout!
In the end, my hair looked … awesome. Listen, I was the most skeptical. The MOST. But the truth was staring back at me in the mirror and there was really no denying it. I looked great!
It’s been a week since my visit to the salon and my hair has yet to fall out. So … could it be? Is the key to a frizz-free head of hair simply to light it on fire?
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Uh, no. Not on a regular basis, at least. As great as it looked, I couldn’t help but feel that the treatment was a bit harsh. I’d disciplined my hair into submission instead of, you know, lovingly coaxing it toward that frizz-free hair Eden. It looked shiny and felt smooth and soft, if just the tiniest bit thinner. Depending on your hair type, that may or may not be a good thing.
Still, here I am, one week later, living the shiny-hair life and my formerly ragged ends look healthy. When it comes to candle-cutting, my final take is this: If you’ve got a professional to do the treatment and you treat your hair kindly on the regular, why not try out a fun trend (if only for the adrenaline rush)?
It’s only hair, after all.
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This story was originally published on Jul. 15, 2016 on TODAY.com.