Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
We never thought fancy hair treatments would be enough of an incentive to ride the subway at 6:30 a.m., but when Pierre Michel Salon, in midtown Manhattan, offered up a full keratin treatment for Racked's Hair Week, we were there with bells on.
The rumpled, disheveled before (left), and the sleek, shiny after.
The Test Case: Sarah Firshein, editor of design/decor/real estate site Curbed National, colleague/friend of Racked, and self-professed straight-hair junkie.
The Salon: Sort of like a living room of dreams, complete with Saarinen tulip tables, Eames chairs, and a full espresso bar that serves breakfast pastries, an assortment of David Burke sandwiches, and all the caffeinated libations one can imagine. We were told the salon does upwards of 300 covers on its busiest day, but you can't imagine this well laid-out, airy space ever feeling cramped. There are mirrors everywhere; a makeup area bearing FACE Stockholm products; sleek, modern fixtures at each station; and, best of all, fully reclinable chairs in the shampooing enclave—which means, of course, long gone are the days of that awful, awkward neck pain. There's even a little DIY blowdrying nook for customers who want to get coloring treatments but prefer to handle the finishing touches themselves. And the bathrooms are gorgeous. [Ed: Can you tell that the Curbed National editor is writing this? So much attention to interior decor detail! We love.]
The Coppola Complex Smoothing Therapy: The process, which took three hours start to finish, starts with a vigorous shampoo and blow dry, after which the keratin formula is applied and is left to soak for 20 minutes. The hair is then blow-dried completely—you've got to close your eyes because the chemicals still sting, temporarily—and each section is sealed with a special 450-degree flat iron. Now begins the fun part: we can't get it wet or use elastic bands for 72 hours. Really looking forward to that shower in three days.
The Stylist: Dror Kraft, a fascinating, charming, and all-around engaging guy who lives in the East Village and is full of quirks—he was born in Israel and lived for three years in Nigeria as a kid, and he worked in finance until he realized his passion and talent for hair could actually be turned into a career. He started at Pierre Michel as an assistant and ascended from there—he spoke with great pride about how the salon's a 40-year-old business and regaled with stories about their (outrageous-sounding) holiday parties. He's got great recs for ramen restaurants—oh, and he hates taking cabs. He was so detail-orientated and precise (not to mention pleasant) that we booked a cut with him three weeks from now.
The Pros: This is the third keratin treatment we've received—one in Aug '09, another in June '10—so we can spend more than a few words waxing nostalgic about its virtues: what usually takes eight hours to air dry curly will now air dry in an hour to a slightly wavy, beach-y (albeit controlled) effect; what usually takes an hour to blow dry can now be blow dried completely straight, with very little effort, in only 10 minutes. It's shockingly effective in, say, 90 percent of weather situations.
The Cons: During the 72 hours waiting period (without working out, washing it, or letting it get sweaty), the hair becomes abnormally flat and helmut-head greasy. And in the dead of Manhattan summers, with 90 percent humidity, it helps considerably but it's not magic. (Though it's damn close.)