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Anitra Brown

The Return of the Roller Set

By May 28, 2010

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gorgeous hair

Wow, who's got that gorgeous hair?  Me!  And how did I get it? By getting an old fashioned set and dry -- shampoo, rollers, and sitting under a dryer for for 45 minutes at Elia, a Dominican salon in New York City.   When I came out I felt Oscar-ready! And it just cost $45! Amazing!

Before there were day spas, women used to relax at their weekly hair appointment -- and they looked great all week. But then came the blow dryer, celebrity stylists, and mandatory highlights.

Women started going to the salon every four to six weeks because it was so expensive. (I realized I couldn't afford my former mid-town salon anymore when a cut and highlights hit $400+ and I let my roots grow out an inch and a half.)

Elia isn't fancy, but it's fabulous. Owner Josephine DeLeon is passionate about healthy hair, and she consults with clients about what they want -- and what's best for their hair that day -- before passing them off to her stylists.

She looked at my color-and heat-damaged hair and advised a protein treatment (another $25) and a six-month break from the direct heat of a blow dryer or flattening iron. The circulating heat of the old-fashioned bonnet dryers is indirect, so much less damaging to the hair.

Elia specializes in kinky, oily, super-curly, "hard to manage" hair, and she had a lot of gorgeous African-American customers sitting under the dryers, along with a Japanese woman who wanted a curly party look for her super-straight hair that she just couldn't get with a traditional blow-dry.

They were at peace, but I found it hard to sit under the dryer -- sort of an the anti-spa treatment. I fidgeted. The rollers kept hitting the bonnet. I had flashbacks to Josie's Beauty School, where my mom took me for a bad student perms. But everyone around me was reading a book or magazine, and I could see that I could relax into it. I just needed to bring the right book.

"Most of our customers spend two to 2 1/2 hours with us," says Josephine. She advised me on how to take care of my hair at home by brushing it to stimulate the scalp and distribute the oils away from the roots. (Somewhere I got the idea that brushing your hair broke it off!)

Being there, talking to her, I realized that the spa lifestyle -- taking care of yourself as a total person -- really does extend to taking care of your hair. Seeing all those women transformed into knock-outs, learning how to take care of my hair at home, walking out feeling gorgeous, and not spending a fortune, I experienced the healing power of the corner beauty salon. It's not a coincidence that so many salons added spas next door.

Photo: Anitra Brown

June 2, 2010 at 11:21 pm
(1) Jan says:

This was such a nice refreshing post. Nice to know that the old school hair salon with the bonnets and the large dryers can still make you feel and look gorgeous. Next time bring a good read…….for some reason I think their People magazine might be from 2007! lol

June 23, 2010 at 9:31 am
(2) Lance says:

Iam a male with longish hair that has very little body, i recall as a young child seeing women in salons with there hair wound on rollers and then the rollers covered in a setting net and earguards in those early 70s salon with the banks of 5 to 6 dryers. Secretly i was wishing it was me sitting under that dryer. Later in life at age 16 i got my first lot of blonde tips just purely so i could enjoy the dryer, then for many years i had many conditioning treatments for that reason.Finaly one day after a conditioning treatment i finally sercumbed to my childhood desire of a rollerset, that was age 26 iam now 41 and still getting my hair set at least once weekly

December 13, 2010 at 1:18 am
(3) Jim says:

Lance, that is great. I have the same desire and also had it since I was young boy in the 1960s. I lack the nerve and now I lack the hair also, otherwise I would love to be under the dryer next to you. Enjoy your weekly roller sets. I hope that you can continue for many more years. I and I am sure many other males envy you.

January 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm
(4) Tony says:

Lance, I too started out like you. I started putting baby oil in my hair then going to the corner beauty shop for a shampoo treatment for oily hair. Then changed for hot oil treatments, and experimenting with color rinses. Then I got bold and had a wet set on perm rods. But I still wanted the good old fashioned shampoo set. I finally asked an older hair stylist named Pearl in Fort Worth, TX. about adding body and lift without getting a perm. She said she could give me a roller set and if I didn’t like it, she would shampoo it out. I was stunned, I didn’t have to fantasize anymore. It was the most wonderful feeling I have ever had watching her set my hair, then later comb it out and put a half of a can of hair spray to hold it. Needless to say, I have gone back to Pearl’s 100′s of times for twice weekly shampoo sets many styles from bee hives to up dos.

July 30, 2011 at 7:58 am
(5) tony says:

I too have my hair permed which i always have a set afterwards.I picked the busy day this week.I had it permed and had to sit with rollers hair net ear protectors under the dryer with the other ladies for half an hour while my hair dryed
before being combed out and back combed then loads of hair spray.I also have a weekly shampoo and set.I am male and live in the uk

December 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm
(6) Traci says:

I think it’s fabulous that not only women but also men are re-discovering the simple pleasure and versatile styles that old-fashioned roller sets can provide. I used to hate it when my Mom made me sit under her bonnet dryer and then sleep in curlers on Saturday nights, for church on Sunday. After college I started using hot rollers and then my stylist suggested I try a salon roller set. I love it! In fact I’ve convinced my BF, who’s got gorgeous shoulder-length hair, to start using rollers too! We go in for his-n-hers roller sets about once every couple of weeks and the stylists get such a kick out of it. I highly recommend “curling up” under the dryer for both guys and gals!

October 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm
(7) Doris Carpenter says:

My husband and I share his love of a wet set. He said the words he loves to hear are “it ‘s time to comb you out”.

December 28, 2013 at 9:59 am
(8) Gene says:

I go to a local salon once a week to get my weekly shampoo set and about every 3 months or so I get foils and I just love sitting under the dryer and relaxing and talking to the other customers.

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