When I was little, my hair was wavy. By the time I was 12, it was curly. My mother didn’t know what to do with her curly-haired girl. She blew dry my hair and brushed my mane, and achieved 80’s big hair on my head before it was en vogue, and without Aquanet mind you! My hair heights were amazing. I could have been the poster child for any styling product out there claiming to produce more volume in seconds.
Anyone who has naturally curly hair knows that a brush is not your friend. When it rains, your hair frizzes better than Bozo the clown. If you have loopy locks, you know that you’ll never need volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Your hair can fluff to limits unknown and defy gravity; although it can’t defy humidity.
The first time I had a salon haircut I was a pre-teen. Before that my mother just took a pair of kitchen shears and gave me a trim. It was good enough for me, who as a child was more concerned about riding my bicycle or rolling in the grass after school. Fashion wasn’t at the forefront until I was older.
When I had my hair cut for the first time it was a disaster. I remember the stylist running his fingers through my shoulder length hair remarking that I might need a (gasp!) perm! That should have been a red flag. A perm? What? I had natural waves and curls! I was not trying to go for the little orphan Annie look at all!
Although my parents didn’t pay for a perm, the hair stylist did chop away at years’ worth of healthy hair growth, and I walked out of his workplace looking like a Q-tip. It was an awful haircut and it wasn’t his fault. He was just used to working on clients who had straight hair. He didn’t realize that when you have curly hair and you cut off an inch, it’s like taking a mile. Curly hair shrinks up when there’s no length to weigh it down.
Needless to say, I was traumatized by that first haircut experience, and it took me 6 years to grow it out. I swore if I had a child and s/he had curly hair I would never, ever allow a chop shop to curb their curls and make them cry.
As fate would have it, my daughter was born with lovely curls. Her hair is fine, like mine, and the one frustrating factor for her is that it grows at a snail’s pace. When I tell you I’ve trimmed her hair maybe 5 times since she was born (and she’s 7 now), that’s the absolute truth. Her hair grows, but as it grows it curls up, so you don’t really see its luxurious length unless her hair is sopping wet and weighed down by water. The only reason why I’ve given her hair microscopic trims over the years is in attempt to keep the ends healthy, so they don’t split and break off.
Try as I might, this method wasn’t working this year and her hair was just looking uneven and some of the ends were split. I am not a professional hair stylist and I needed help.
Over a decade ago, I discovered a fabulous line of products for people with curly hair, who wanted to embrace their curls and keep them manageable, rather than try to straighten or conceal their natural waves. Ouidad, a visionary woman with curly hair herself, had come up with a technique called “carve and slice” for cutting curls, so you don’t look like you’re sporting a Christmas tree on your head, and to go with that, developed an amazing array of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products that cater to curly haired people like me. I’ve used her Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel (which prevents your hair from becoming a frizzy disaster in humid and/or rainy weather) and Styling Mist for years. Ouidad now has several salons located throughout the United States where technicians are trained in the special needs of us curl girls, and luckily the flagship salon is just miles away in New York.
With my knowledge of her methods and products, I knew this was the place to go for my daughter’s first haircut. Ouidad salons don’t just have adult clientele; they cater to curly kids as well – from a children’s line of tear-free products, right down the booster seats they place in the professional chairs at the styling stations.
While most parents are taking photos of their child’s first haircut when they are about two, I was just doing this for my first grader! I had called the New York salon about a month out from when I wanted an appointment. I made sure to ask for a booking with a stylist that was good with kids. This was going to be Manda’s first salon experience and I wanted it to be perfect. No fears and no tears. While most people might just take a drive in town to get a haircut, I figured for the first time in seven years, taking a train into New York was worth it, and I wanted every aspect of the experience to be a happy one for my little one.
Sondriel, the daughter of world-famous stylist and curly hair entrepreneur, Ouidad, happened to be working on our day of desire. She was trained by the best and the first of the women proud to embrace and change the way the world styles and is proud of its curls. Sondriel is used to working with celebrity clientele and had just finished a recent styling session with Jordin Sparks, the winner of the 6th season of American Idol.
(Sondriel said Jordin was one of the most down to earth people she's met. “She's so down to earth. We were playing angry birds on her phone," related Sondriel of her experience.)
Needless to say, we were extremely lucky to be able to attain an appointment with her.
We had the worst weather for curly hair as we disembarked the train at Penn Station. It was a foggy and misty day. Humidity was sky high – and so were the thunderstorm clouds overhead. We took a cab to the salon and upon crossing the glass door entrance we knew we had made the right decision. The receptionist was extremely attentive and welcomed us right away. Sondriel had just arrived. Manda was her first appointment of the day. Before Sondriel even settled in, she came over to talk to my daughter and made her giggle and smile. They hit it off right away. Putting someone at ease and making them feel comfortable is not something everyone can do well. It was not a problem at all for Sondriel, who by the end of our appointment had proven to us she is just as masterful with children as she is with technique.
Jessica walked us back towards the shampoo area and placed a puffy pillow under Manda so her head could comfortably tilt back into the adult-sized sink for her shampoo. When the prepping was completed, we headed over to Sondriel’s station and the consultation began.
There was some clipping and cutting, but nothing too extreme. Carving and slicing occurred but we were confident that Manda would leave with a healthy head of hair, which could be easily styled and manageably maintained. Sondriel shared some stories with Manda which were as interesting as they were informative.
"Did you know your hair is only alive when it's inside your scalp? Everything you see is already dead but you have to take care of it,” educated Sondriel.
Do you know what a hair splinter is? I didn’t. But I learned something from the expert stylist:
"Hair is one of the strongest things on your body. Hairdressers can cut themselves on hair and we get hair splinters all the time," said Sondriel.
Apparently, when you are quickly trimming hair, the smallest pieces can stick in your skin and act exactly as a wood splinter would. Sondriel shared that it’s even harder to try to tweeze them out!
Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel was graciously applied to sections of Manda’s tousled wet hair, and she got to sit under a drier and flip through a magazine while sipping a cool glass of water garnished with a lemon slice, which Sondriel brought over herself. When the beautiful curls had set, Sondriel finished it off with Climate Control Frizz & Flyaway Fighter, and there were smiles all around. Not a curl concern was to be had, despite the drizzle which had now turned to a down pour outside.
The friendly atmosphere, the love of curls, and the patience and understanding of our supreme stylist make us say we’d go back in a blink.
Thank you to the entire Ouidad staff, and Sondriel, for being so welcoming and gentle with my little girl and giving her a hairstyle she’s proud to show off.
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