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