I can't believe I'm wasting a question on this: HAIR, HOW DOES IT WORK?
March 4, 2014 12:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm an actress who, on my own time, let's my hair do it's wild and crazy thing. That is not acceptable for ninety-nine percent of auditions. I think I've figured out the make-up thing, more or less, but I don't know what to do with my hair when there is even a hint of humidity in the air. Help me!

I have long, thick, wavy and sometimes frizzy hair. It's long, it's kind of blonde, and if it's behaving, it's really pretty. If it's not behaving, it's a jewfro mess. LA is dry enough most of the time that it isn't all that frizzy, but a hint of humidity makes me not camera ready. I used to be a no-poo hippie and I feel terrible about even blow-drying my healthy, beautiful hair, but I would like to book some work ("I hope I get it!") and I would like to show up to auditions looking nice and not like a wet rat/hippie/whatever. Apparently heat-styling is the answer.

I recently had a gig that sent me to a more humid environment for a few days. My hair was total fucking mess, the hair and make-up crew just kind of put my hair up into a shellacked bun and the other actresses on the shoot gave me the advice to buy a curling iron and stop being afraid of hairspray. Okay. I buy a curling iron. I have used it maybe twice. The curled sections of my hair look nice, but the roots can still frizz out and I can't brush that out without ruining the curls. At an audition today, I noticed that everyone had lovely, sleek hair that had obviously seen a curling iron earlier that morning. Do these ladies have sleek straight hair that they then just have to curl? Why can't I get my hair to look like that?

I can't use gel or mouse without it weighing down my hair. My hair is too light in color and too fine in texture to use heavy products.

Should I just buy a straightener and call it a day?
posted by ablazingsaddle to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I have fine, light brown hair that frizzes. I use John Frieda's Frizz-ease or Biosilk to smooth it out.
posted by amapolaroja at 12:29 AM on March 4, 2014

Not to threadsit, but I've used both those products with mixed results. Fine for every day use, but I need to look very coiffed and put together a few times per week.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:35 AM on March 4, 2014

As ridiculous as you feel asking this question, I feel equally ridiculous giving this answer, but here it is: There are places that will do blowouts for as little as $10. I have gotten one once or twice and found that my hair looked *great* for a couple of days. First day was almost overly flat, second day was perfect, third day started looking the teensiest bit frizzy if I wasn't careful. My hair is naturally quite straight to slightly wavy, but my sister whose hair is more like yours in texture had similar results.
Since you need to look a certain way for business purposes, can you justify adding a couple of blowouts a week into your budget? I have done the straightening iron/blow dryer thing but I just don't have enough arms to do what stylists do -- not to mention the training and experience. Also, if you're not doing heat treatments every day, and if you're being careful/having someone experienced do it/using thermoprotective treatments, it shouldn't beat your hair up too badly.
Another option is to ask a stylist you trust to teach you how to DIY. There are a few salons near me that actually advertise that service, and one even offers parties where you and several of your friends go in the evening and learn how to do your own hair. (N.b. I'm not in LA so I have no local information or recommendations.)
posted by katemonster at 12:46 AM on March 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sounds like you've got some difficult hair texture to work with. I bet the excellent hair people of MeFi could help you more specifically if you could show a picture or two? But for me, I have thick frizzy ever so slightly wavy hair, and it has a million different textures. The only way I can ever get it to properly behave is to straighten it first. Then curling or other styling happens. This for me is utterly not worth the effort, but it sounds like for you it is. Basically these people with really lovely hair are starting with a smooth base (like in makeup, the way you have to prime your face for foundation or color) and it depends on your hair texture how you can get that. There are chemical straighteners and getting it blown out and so-on. Then you do the curling iron and the hair spray.
posted by Mizu at 12:48 AM on March 4, 2014

I hate the packaging, which caused me to doubt its effectiveness, but I just found out Macademia Natural Oil's Deep Repair Masque is great. I like Kerastase Masquintense too, but not as much as the other. There's also another macadamia oil something I think by Organix that's a bit cheaper, it's not bad at all, actually.

I'd carry some leave-in conditioner (or mix one of the above with water) with me in a small bottle, if unexpected humidity's a problem.

(I have a lot of wavy hair that's a frizz-bomb if I don't control it with products. Right now that Macademia Natural Oil thing is tops. I also like Kevin Murphy's Born.Again Masque.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:55 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Heat styling does work though. Blow drying can influence the lay of a wave or curl. When it's half dry, blow drying from a height, with the thing angled down, can help frizz lay flat. You can use a flat iron after that to finish things off, very effective. Mini flat irons are great for hard to reach places like roots.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:05 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want a simple way to get your hair looking neat and sleek for an audition, then the TL;DR is yes, buy a straightener.

No-poo no-heat no-anything is all nice and dandy, but sleek, nice styles take heat, effort and PRODUCT. Blowing out your own hair takes a ton of skill and upper body strength, and you can get a similar look with a good-quality flat iron.

Buy some heat protectant products - I've yet to find anything that matches the pricey Kerastase Ciment Thermique - and watch a bunch of YouTube videos to find a technique that works for you. Wash and air dry your hair the night before then give it a good old fashioned flat iron. I often like to clip my hair into a bun after I'm done to get some bend in the ends.

As for finishing products, I have super fine, super thin hair and I currently love The Body Shop's coconut shine pomade. I use a tiny, tiny amount and really work it into the palms of my hands. I find that my hair drinks it up more than a silicone serum, but YMMV.
posted by nerdfish at 1:51 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Judging from my frizzy/curly/"big" hair: you have to flatiron your hair and *then* use the curling iron in it. If you just use the curling iron, it won't hold the right curls and the roots will be weird.

In LA I got away from using a lot of product because the dry air did so much, but in the swamp that is DC, my usual regimen for "good" hair was/is:

-- Wash with sulfate free shampoo and conditioner.

-- Spray on a heat protectant.

-- Blow dry -- you don't want to iron wet hair, you'll literally fry it! (If you're just having a normal-ish day where you want to look nice, just use a diffuser on the blow dryer and skip to Moroccan oil and you'll be fine).

-- Flat iron everything.

-- Curl how you want it curled (the only tips I have are very basic: curl it with the curls facing toward you, so you don't get Farrah Hair, use the curling iron vertically instead of horizontally, and don't curl all the way up to the root because those curls won't stay properly anyway). You can look for pictures/videos for specific styles you like -- if you google something like "[Your Favorite Actress] Hair" you'll probably find what you want.

-- Gently, gently comb out the hair (with fingers or maybe an afro pick -- you don't want to break the curls, you just want to loosen them slightly).

-- Run your hair through with Moroccan oil (put about a dime- or nickle-sized amount in your palm, rub your hands together, and then run your hands through your hair). Be careful about your roots -- you might need to get a bit on your roots, but for me, putting any oil there just ends up making my hair look greasy/dirty. If you get that greasy/dirty look by putting more product on your roots, too, then to use the oil: flip your head upside down and slightly shake your hair out, then run your hair through with a slight layer of the Moroccan oil from underneath (you might want to scrunch the curls a little, too -- I don't know if it makes a difference, though), then flip back right-side up, wipe off your hands, and position/futz with your hair until it looks OK.

-- At that point, you might want hairspray, but I don't personally use it because I don't have very thick hair and it ends up doing the crinkled Aqua Net thing for me. (Which I didn't realize and/or was fine with until I got my senior photo back roughly a decade ago and suddenly realized what a mistake I'd been making).
posted by rue72 at 2:00 AM on March 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm a big fan of the Living proof. frizz line of products. I mostly use their "full" line for volume, but it looks like they now have other smoothing products in addition to the frizz stuff.

Blowouts for as little as $10

And at the Toni&Guy Academy (in SM at least) they're free on Tuesdays!
posted by Room 641-A at 4:19 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot to mention my personal favourite tool - HOT ROLLERS. Hot rollers are practically idiot proof; sometimes I think the more haphazardly I put them in the better it looks.

Buy yourself a set of big 'uns with plenty of the u-shaped pins. Roll right to the roots, pin and let cool completely. It'll look ridiculous when you first take them out, but shake your head upside down and run your fingers through and it'll quickly calm. The curls also drop significantly if you don't hairspray the bejeesus out of them, and you're left with those nice frizz free waves all hte way to the roots.
posted by nerdfish at 4:27 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have thick, curly, frizzy hair. When I could afford it, I paid to have it permanently, chemically straightened by my hairdresser. I wish I could still!

But, leaving that out of the equation, I agree that blowdrying and then using a flatiron are the way to go, when topped with a pomade or light oil.
posted by miss tea at 5:45 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some of the folks who are showing up flawless at auditions have had their hair chemically treated. Or it could be extensions. Do not under-estimate what other people are willing to do to have a perfect look.

That said, go to a hair stylist who can teach you how to manage your hair between cuts and styling. I like the Aveda Institute for cheap hair cuts, I'm less enthusiastic about their products (too heavy and stinky for me.)

Get a couple of different looks down, your happy hair day look and your shitty hair day look. Sort of the capsule wardrobe for hair.

I normally blow mine straight, but in the hot, humid summer, I let it curl up and I pull it back with a headband.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 AM on March 4, 2014

Curl your hair with a flat iron! It smooths and gives waves at the same time.

There's lots of tutorials on youtube, like this one.
posted by Georgina at 6:35 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

What kind of shampoo and conditioner are you using? If the answer is "whatever's cheapest at Walgreens," stop doing that.

Click here and find the best-reviewed stylist within a reasonable distance of you. Make an appointment and ask for help.

In the meantime, get some Bumble & Bumble samples and try them out (I use Gentle shampoo and Super Rich conditioner, but my hair is pretty thick). Start with maybe Seaweed or Let it Shine. Or try some other ridiculously expensive shampoo and conditioner if you're not already buying quality stuff. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

When I need to style my hair, I wash and condition it. Then, I grab a dollop of this and a dollop of this, mix them between my palms, and distribute the mix evenly from roots to tips. (My hair is thicker than yours. I'd start with a little -- you can always add more.) Then, I grab sections of it and twist them into ropes. Then I let my hair dry naturally. After fluffing the curls a little and fluffing the roots a lot, I heat-style it with a couple different sizes of curling irons. I finish with something to hold the style, like a light spray gel, and often pop some shine stuff over that, like this.

This is all a giant pain in the ass, yes, but my hair looks awesome and isn't broken. Your mileage may vary -- consult your local curl expert/stylist for best results.
posted by woodvine at 6:40 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're getting great ideas here:

blowout, hair straightener, Moroccan oil.

If this means the difference between job and no job, then pay for a blowout and consider it a business expense. If money is tight, find someone you like and negotiate a monthly fee.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:49 AM on March 4, 2014

My hair is very much like yours, and my 11 y.o. daughter (whose hair I dry all the time) has the exact same problem with her roots that you do. If you want sleek hair, no matter which techniques you follow (and there are lots of great suggestions above), YOU MUST BLOW DRY YOUR ROOTS FIRST and you must do it when your hair is WET, not half dry. Pin up half your hair, use a good, strong round brush, then use your concentrator on your roots. Then you can choose to:

- continue blow drying the rest of your hair in sections
- flatiron said hair
- use velcro rollers
- use a curling iron
- sleep in a high sock bun
- etc.

posted by yawper at 6:58 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and you know you don't have to fight the curls to have soft, non-frizzy hair, right? Have you seen this thread? Lots of great suggestions there.
posted by yawper at 7:03 AM on March 4, 2014

I would say go to a salon and have them show you how to do it. I'm sure that most of the women you see at auditions are flat-ironing unless they have board-straight hair, in which case they're using a curling iron or hot rollers. Any hairdresser worth their salt in LA should be able to teach you three options - a full blowout, something that retains some wave, and a half-updo or fancy pony for when it's just not working and you need to attractively pull it back.

If you do want to curl-commit, I'm told that Capella is the place to go. They are going to be pretty stridently anti-straightening, though, and it may be that you don't have a choice because of casting prejudices.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:50 AM on March 4, 2014

N'thing all of the above. I used to be the low-maintenance hippie-hair person and think that all my lovely coiffed professional coworkers were somehow all born that way. Nuh-uh. Sadly, heat and silicones are the way to go. So: wash, use a light silicone heat product (my favorite is Chi Royal Treatment which seems to be discontinued BOOOOOOO), blow dry, STRAIGHTEN (this seems to be the major step you're missing), curl, hairspray.

This is how pretty much every woman I know who does not have naturally perfect hair is getting it.
posted by celtalitha at 8:34 AM on March 4, 2014

I'd say coconut oil and heatless curls could make a big difference. Maybe headband curls could work for you. There are various methods that I keep coming across for achieving very put-together gently-curly looks with very little effort. I don't know if they would suit your hair type. But I will say that coconut oil has been a lifesaver for me. It smooths everything out, and isn't silicone based so it wont cause other problems which silicone-based smoothers sometimes can. People also get revolutionary results from no-poo, or even just washing hair less often so it doesn't get as dried out. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:41 AM on March 4, 2014

Have you considered an expensive wig, a well-fitted wig cap and some instructions in how to properly secure a wig? Initial cost outlay is high, but the time spent putting on a good wig is a lot less than blowing dry, flat-ironing, then hot curling. The damage to your own hair is a lot less, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2014

The curly haired people I know swear by blowouts.

A former boss who frequently had to make media appearances would get a blowout the day before, as a rule.

A good friend of mine from college, who is working with a lot less money than my former boss, swears by wash-and-set treatments at ethnic salons. She lives in New York and goes to Dominican places full of little old ladies. Not sure what the LA equivalent would be. But definitely don't assume that you have to go to drybar or some crazy expensive thing. There's got to be a janky old salon in like Glendale that can do the same thing, but cheaper.

Unfortunately none of the actresses I know out here have curly hair.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on March 4, 2014

Brazilian Blowout?

They're hellishly expensive, but if it's a "job or not" situation, it might be worth it. I have several friends who get them and loooooove them, but I personally can't hack the $300 for 12 weeks of good hair.

their hair does look great though.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:29 AM on March 4, 2014

nthing blowouts, and also that you can get them at the cheapest salon near you, and style your hair to your own taste the next day. If you don't run a marathon or something equivalent (I once went to a balkan wedding party), a blowout will last 3-4 days and look best the day after you got it.
posted by mumimor at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2014

I have your hair, and an also from CA. I was living in Japan for a while, and the haircut I got there changed my life: lots of layers, thinned, weight off the ends. For the first time EVER I had not frizz, but ringlets. Investing in a really good haircut from someone who specializes in curly hair will go a long way. I make do with Japanese/Korean hairdressers (trained IN said county to do those styles on thick heavy hair).

I also highly recommend LUSH's Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo. It's one of the few products that made a noticeable difference.

I too, have a shelf of serums, balms, frizz-ease etc. I like my super stiff styling surf wax the best right now.

This is more day-to-day survival. If it were job or not, I might opt for some sort of blow out. I simply cannot do that to my hair at home!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2014

I also came to suggest a Brazilian Blowout. They're pricey, but maybe find a Groupon or something. They'll at least help your hair to look good the majority of the time for a few months while you learn and practice more techniques for getting your hair to look the way you want on a consistent basis. I think it would be a good investment as your career is quite dependent on your appearance.
posted by quince at 2:25 PM on March 4, 2014

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