Going to great lengths for hair treatments

Nicole Bronstein

Good things never come free, and for many teenage girls, good hair is especially pricey. Some spend hundreds of dollars on salon hair treatments—from highlights to hair weaves—to get the hair of their dreams.

But are the high prices worth it?

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Junior Reilly Payne, who highlights her hair every few months, said that her highlights are worth the $150 she pays each time.

“I felt like I needed to,” Payne said. “I didn’t like the way my hair looked before. I didn’t like the color—it was an awkward not-exactly-brown, but not-exactly-blonde.”

According to Mill Valley hairstylist Kimberly Brooks, highlighting is the most popular hair treatment among her teenage customers.

Although the treatment is expensive, Payne said that she’s willing to pay the price.

“I don’t think it’s the most necessary thing in the world, and I know it sounds stupid to spend that much money on hair, but I just do it,” Payne said.

Some hair processes are even more expensive and complex. Former Redwood student Mini-Imah Cook said that she gets a hair weave, which is a complicated yet popular hair treatment among black girls that takes three to four hours to install.

According to Cook, the process starts with French braiding or cornrowing the hair in a circular fashion around the head, which can sometimes be painful. After the hair is completely braided, a long row of hair attached to a strip of fabric, called a hair weft, is sewn into the cornrows using a sharp curved needle and thread.

“The hair is real human hair. A person donated it,” Cook said. “It’s sewn into my hair and layered in.”

Although Cook got her weave free of charge due to a family connection, weaves can cost up to $500 for the hair wefts alone, and installation usually starts at $200. Weaves are typically replaced every two to four months.

Cook said she understands the high price.

“The person who’s doing your hair is standing up for three hours,” Cook said.  “Their hands are at work for three hours, braiding and sewing. I can see why it’s high-priced.”

Cook said she can wash, swim with, and brush her weave without any restrictions.

“It also helps my real hair grow,” Cook said. “When your hair is in braids, it grows in the braids. I guess because you’re not messing with it, you’re not really touching it. It’s not breaking off, and it just grows.”

Cook said that her weave makes her feel more confident.

“It lets you have something to grab and shake, because [my] hair doesn’t have as much body,” Cook said. “And then underneath, my hair is growing, so it makes me happy. I’m looking cute and my real hair grows at the same time,” Cook said.

Another popular but expensive hair treatment, the Keratin treatment, promises straight, smooth, and easy-to-manage locks, according to Brooks.

Senior Megan Oechsel said that the Keratin treatment made her hair easier to handle.

“Before, my hair was super duper curly and frizzy and just hard to manage,” Oechsel said.  “It was all over the place. I just wanted to make it a little more manageable and less frizzy when I wear it down to make things a lot easier.”

The Keratin treatment is a liquid hair product that is painted onto the hair.  A flat iron is then used to bond the treatment to the hair.

Oechsel said the process was uncomfortable and took over two hours.

“When they put it in it smells really bad and it makes your eyes burn and water a lot,” Oechsel said. “For me, it was worth it to sit through two hours of that.”

According to Mill Valley hairstylist Melissa Herst, the treatment lasts about four months and generally costs $300, but varies depending on thickness and length of hair.

“It’s certainly really expensive,” Oechsel said, “but if you use the right products and take care of it and make it last, then I think it’s worth it.”

People who get the Keratin treatment also have to use a special sulfate-free shampoo that moisturizes the hair and makes the treatment last longer.

While many girls head to the salons despite the pain in their pocketbooks, junior Morgan Tardy saves money by doing  her own hair treatments at home.

Tardy highlights her own hair every few months, and said that the color lasts just as long as salon highlights.

Tardy said she spends a total of $15 on her highlights, which includes the hair bleach, a painting brush, tinfoil, and a reactant. She also does the highlights in the comfort of her own home, which she said is an added bonus.

Tardy said she thinks professional treatments are too expensive.

“I think that when you’re this age, spending that much is absolutely ridiculous, especially when you can do it at home for $15,” Tardy said. “It’s like throwing away your money.”

Tardy said she thinks that most girls are hesitant to do it at home because many procedures are difficult to perform, especially highlights.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s bleach, and there’s no way to take it out,” Tardy said. “When I highlight it, my mom helps. She does the painting for me, and sometimes it can take a really long time.”

Tardy said that one of the downsides of highlighting at home is that it requires the time and help of another person.

“You can’t do your own highlights,” Tardy said. “You have to have someone to help you, like a parent or a friend who’s willing to do it and knows how to do it. And not everyone has that.”