Summer is a time to let your hair down. But with the unreasonably warm temperatures we’ve had lately, perhaps you prefer to have it up. Either way, you want it to look good. Trends this season include feather extensions (thank “American Idol” judge and Aerosmith legend Steven Tyler for that), the wet look and surfer-inspired color, as seen on Drew Barrymore and Lauren Conrad. To maintain your mane, new products promise to protect tresses from styling stresses and the harshness of sun, salt and chlorine. This reporter — and a pal — had their tresses colored, slicked and smoothed to see what lives up to the hype.
KeratinPerfect PerfectHair 30-Day Brazilian Hair Smoothing System Deluxe Edition ($235)
» Where: Sephora stores (Sephora.com, $235)
» What to expect: At-home straightening is not something you undertake on a whim. This kit aims to smooth hair cuticles by permeating them with keratin (a structural component of hair) plus argan oil. The system comes with a slew of products (smoothing treatment, shampoo, conditioner, hair clips and flat iron). An initial four-step process (wash hair, apply smoother, blow-dry and flat-iron gave me straight, super-shiny hour in about an hour.
» Best part: Maintenance products left my hair feeling soft and healthy.
» Worst part: You have to redo the four steps every two weeks and leave hair down and dry for 48 hours.
Aveda 16-hour UV Defense and Recovery System ($21 for Sun Care Hair and Body Cleanser; $26 for Sun Care After-Sun Hair Masque; $26 for Sun Care Protective Hair Veil; $73 for set)
» Where: Aveda (Aveda.com)
» What to expect: Globs of sunscreen on your scalp is about as cute as a sunburned part. Enter this water- and UV-resistant veil. With a few spritzes, the mist’s UVA/UVB filters aim to protect the skin on your head and prevent color fading. The stuff takes seconds to apply, and I was burn-free even after chasing my daughter outside around high noon sans a sun hat. After a dip in the pool, I washed my hair with the chlorine-attacking cleanser and conditioned with the masque made of Amazonian nuts, green tea and sunflower seed oil. Afterward, my hair felt fresh, not fried.
» Best part: Essences of neroli and ylang ylang in the products smell citrusy.
» Worst part: The pump on the mist bottle sticks sometimes.
Feather in Your Cap
Featherlocks ($10 for one, $25 for three)
» Where: One80 Salon (1275 K St. NW, Suite 101; 202-842-9113, One80salon.com)
» What to expect: Unlike bulky clip-on feathers favored by ’80s rockers, these plumes are long, thin strips from roosters that offer a streak of color without the commitment of dye. Solid hues mimic highlights; stripes look like mini braids. Jewel tones are toughest to keep in stock, though. A stylist put them on me by taking a few strands of my hair and the tops of three feathers, then clamping a tiny metal bead around the bunch near my scalp with pliers.
» Best part: You can brush, wash, blow-dry, flat-iron and even color your hair normally — dye won’t stick to the feathers, and they last for at least two months.
» Worst part: Forgetting I’ve got plumes! I get a jolt of pain when I run my fingers or a comb through my hair and snag the bead.
Put a Damper on It
Redken Shine Brilliance Glass 01 smoothing serum ($15)
» Where: Salons in the area. See Redken.com.
» What to expect: The idea: to get that slightly windblown, I-just-tumbled-in-the-sea look. Worn down, hair should look like it’s not quite finished air-drying à la Beyoncé, shown. For an updo, it’s about sleek: Concentrate serum on the part that’s pulled back. To tame frizz or add shine, two to three drops work. But it took about five times as much goop to get my tresses to look semi-saturated. No matter how I styled it, my mane looked like it needed washing.
» Best part: The serum lent my hair fullness and polish.
» Worst part: Despite being oil-free, the silicone-based serum made my hands feel greasy.
Go Away, Gray
John Frieda Precision Foam Colour ($13)
» Where: Drugstores and groceries (Johnfrieda.com)
» What to expect: I have Mom’s genes (and my toddler’s antics) to thank for the grays streaking my hair. To cover them at home, I turned to Frieda’s first stab at permanent color. The foam comes in 20 shades; I went for Brilliant Brunette Medium Golden Brown with J.Lo in mind. The kit comes with an activator solution, dye, conditioner, pro-grade black plastic gloves and clear directions. The foam did its thing for 20 minutes before I rinsed and saw — hooray! — no more grays.
» Best part: The foam didn’t drip down my skin like the runny liquid dyes I’ve found at salons.
» Worst part: Instead of lighter and gilded, the color on me looks more like that of the love child of Amy Adams and Kim Kardashian — darker with a red tint.
Surf on Your Turf
Ombre color ($130)
» Where: Urban Style Lab (1341 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-223-2066, Lab-dc.com)
» What to expect: We might be miles from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look like you spend hours riding the waves. This little surfer girl effect means tresses are darker toward the scalp and gradually lighten near their tips. The technique works best on long hair, if you want it dramatic. To do it, Urban Style Lab’s Tricia Bennett painted color onto Express section editor Kristen Page-Kirby’s mane, going only halfway up the strands and giving the ends some extra saturation. Rather than looking like she was growing her roots out, the color change was subtle with no harsh line. Already blond? Take the ends to platinum like Cameron Diaz, shown, did.
» Best part: It’s a low-maintenance hair color because it’s supposed to look uneven, meaning you don’t have to have a touch-up every eight weeks like highlights require.
» Worst part: Because the most color is at the bottom (see Teyana Taylor), which is usually the most damaged, it’s important — if you want the color to stick around — to use a color-protecting shampoo.
Moroccanoil Mask treatment ($10) and blow dry ($40)
» Where: Bella Bethesda (4733 Elm St., Bethesda, 301-718-9111, Bellabethesda.com)
» What to expect: If a product can add moisture and shine to Scarlett Johansson’s locks, I’m trying it. This mask, made with argan oil from a Moroccan tree, works, says Bella Bethesda stylist Megan Atkinson, because it nourishes without residue. After a relaxing scalp massage to work in the stuff, I hardly cared what my hair looked like — until I saw how shiny it was after the blow-out.
» Best part: My hair had a glossy softness that I couldn’t keep my fingers out of.
» Worst part: My hair looked the same as ever as soon as I washed it.
Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz