It takes no fewer than two hours for me to wash, condition, and straighten my hair. When my hair’s straight, the goal is to keep it that way for a week. In the winter this is a mountable goal, but in the summer, when the humidity’s peaked, when the sun sits in the sky unobstructed, and my biggest bully, the heat, won’t let up, it takes only minutes for my hair to swell. One foot outside and then boom! Presto! Instant Chia Pet.
This mostly happened whenever I was walking to, leaving from, or waiting for my train on the subway platform. I’d always begin the journey optimistically—with headphones on, my hair softly blowing in the wind. But by the time I arrived at work… do you remember that Bridget Jones’s Diary scene, when Renee Zellweger was riding in Hugh Grant’s convertible, and she let her hair blow romantically with the breeze as they traveled up the English countryside? When they finally arrived to their destination, Renee/Bridget had transformed into a sentient Bret Michaels wig. And that’s how my hair looked! Save for the blonde and frosted highlights.
But that was years ago, before I knew what I know now—I have to wear a commuter hairstyle. Nothing, except the advent of ceramic flat irons, has prolonged the lifespan of my straightened hair more.
What’s a commuter hairstyle, you ask? Happy to answer. For me, it’s a hairstyle that bunches my hair together—usually in a tight, twisty bun—so that it doesn’t expand at the whisper of humidity. It’s all about turning my hair into a denser, singular unit, so that it’s more repellent to hot weather frizz. It’s like how a balled up piece of paper is slightly more difficult to completely soak than a flat sheet. Don’t ask me about the actual science—I’m not even certain there’s a specific reason why this works. I just know that if I leave my apartment wearing a bun (the higher, the better), that I will arrive at my destination with hair that doesn’t embarrass me.
This must sound like an insane concept if you have thick hair. Thick hair is way less responsive to the throes of climate activity. But if you have thin hair, particularly thin, curly hair that’s trying to be straight, I know you know this deep, personal struggle.
For the perfect, soft waves to mark my arrival, I remove the elastic from my bun, bend over as I break up the waves with my fingers, and stand back up as I let my hair casually fall in a deep side, or middle part. The longer my hair stays in the bun, the fuller, more longer-lasting waves. Aside from braiding it, or tucking the entirety of my hair under a hat (which, even then, isn’t foolproof—a hat is essentially a head oven), nothing else works. It doesn’t matter what anti-humidity, weather-shield spray, serum, magical nectar I use before. It’s the bun that makes the difference. For hair that you can let out at the end of a commute that says “I have arrived.”
Photo via ITG.