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Luscious Waves of Summer

Monday, July 18, 2011
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Summer is here, and so is the frizzy hair that goes along with it. For those with curly or wavy locks, there is certainly no shortage of straightening or “relaxing” treatments – from the Japanese techniques that took off in the 90s to the less extreme Brazilian treatments that are so popular today.  But what about those with straight hair who want a little lift?  There are plenty of people out there with naturally straight hair – it’s not like, say, being a natual blonde – and yet this not-so-small minority has had precious few options since the crunchy, mall-chic perms of the 80s.  Perhaps hair stylists have been too scared to venture into that territory since then.

Until now. Yann Varin, the French stylist of his eponymous Madison Avenue salon, has created a new, delicate perm called La Vague that will add volume and natural looking waves to flat, limp hair.  AVENUEinsider stopped by the salon to get the inside scoop on the process (which Varin just started 3 months ago) and to get a sneak peek at some of the fabulous results.

For the Normandy-born son of a hair stylist, the inspiration to bring the much-maligned perm up-to-date came from his own clients. “Lots of people came for blowouts and asked for body,” he told us, “but when they would get home there was nothing left.”  Since the old-school perms never looked natural (“my mom once permed my hair, and it was a nightmare”), Varin searched far and wide for the right technique that would create the desired effect.  Since there were no rollers in existence that could create this look, Varin created a new cloth rod called the Papillotte.  Not as tight as rollers, the Papillotte is also bendable, and easier and faster to use.

The process goes something like this: first, you have to permeate the bonds of the hair with ammonia or some kind of acidic solution.  This is the harshest chemical that goes into the hair, and Varin jokes that this is the “least trendy part of the process.” After that, you use the Papillottes to roll the hair, rinse, and then apply the second product (a fragrant, non-aggressive, product neutralizer) to reconnect the bridges.  The whole process takes approximately 2 hours – significantly less time than the perms of yore – and lasts for 8 to 12 weeks.

And for those bottled-blondes who may be worried about overprocessing, Varin has more good news: the process is actually easiest to do on colored hair!  Why? “Because the hair is more porous and the follicles are already open, so the strands take to the product more willingly.”

As for maintaining these sultry locks, the hair maven who became famous for styling icons like Jane Birkin, Azzedine Alaia and Monica Bellucci told us to avoid any “heavy” shampoos with silicone, “because a soft wave cannot take a rich shampoo. Otherwise, your waves will be down in 3 weeks.  Use anything for volume and nothing else…no serums, no oils.”  The summer may be half over, but with Varin’s latest wave perm, it’s not too late to rock the best hair on the beach.
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