Category Archives: Hair & Fashion

Anxious About #BlissDom? You’re Not Alone!

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In a few days, I’ll be attending BlissDom, a blogging conference in Grapevine, Texas.

I’m excited to network and meet some cyber-buddies, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being nervous, too.

For weeks, I’ve read posts about what people are doing to prepare for this thing. Some bloggers wrote about how they plan to get to the conference early so they can have their nails done & have their hair cut and colored before the keynote on Thursday night.

{gulp.}

Some women posted pictures of what they plan to wear to the conference. Others mentioned they received sponsorships from clothing companies that not only paid for their tickets to the conference, but also gave them cute outfits to wear the entire weekend.

{gasp.}

I’ve read how about how important it is to pack properly for this conference. Apparently, I need earplugs and Band-Aids and duck tape and snacks and comfortable {yet stylish} shoes. And an iPad. And gifts for my roommates.

Holy moley, Spicolli.

I know y’all mean well, but y’all are making me want to hide at the pool, and I haven’t gotten on the plane yet!

For those of you who haven’t met me yet (and that would be everyone since this is my first blogging conference), I figured I’d come clean right now.

I will not be the girl with the make-up or the nails or the pretty outfits.

Coming from Rochester, New York, I live in a puffy, black sleeping bag coat between November and April. We all do. It’s a thing.

So I probably shouldn't wear this, huh?

So I probably shouldn’t wear this, huh?

Also, I operate under a probably misguided belief that I look adorable in jeans worn under a sundress.

With cowboy boots.

So I will probably be wearing something like this:

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This works, right?

Everyday.

I might also be wearing a hat.

On account of my crazy hair.

Here are some things I would appreciate if you would do when you see me at BlissDom:

  1. Check my teeth. I have this one area where food always gets caught. Friends generally tell me if there is something nasty up in there. Seriously, I will love you if you lean over and discreetly tell me my lunch is stuck in my grill.
  2. Dance with me.  I plan to tear it up on the dance floor. I don’t need any alcohol or drugs or anything to get out there. If you want my drink tickets me to love you forever, dance with me. Don’t say you need ten drinks first. Just come join. I promise I won’t make you stand on the bar. Probably.
  3. Ask me if I know where I’m going. I was not born with an innate sense of direction. When traveling alone, I am 100% dependent on Google Maps, which probably won’t help much inside the Gaylord Hotel. If you see a woman weeping in a corner, chances are I have to pee and I can’t find a bathroom. If you can just point me in the right direction, I’d be much obliged.

Help me on any of these fronts, and I’ll pretty much do anything for you.

I’ve got my business cards and my iPad.

This Yankee is packing her big girl panties and her cowboy boots.

I promise to bleach my mustache for you.

But I’m not getting a spray tan or micro-demabrasion or liposuction or Rejuviderm or Botox.

{Unless someone is offering to sponsor that. In which case I totally am.}

Get ready, BlissDom.

I’ll be the 45-year-old shaking her badonkadonk on the dance floor.

What are the most important things you have ever brought to conferences — writing or otherwise?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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My Sleeping Bag Coat

When I moved to Rochester from New Orleans in 1995, the sunflowers in my backyard turned their yellow heads to face a blue, cloudless sky. That fall, the leaves on the maple trees turned red and yellow and brown and fell at our feet, but the sun stuck around. One October weekend, my husband and I hopped in his car to scout out a grape festival. Everyone kept saying how unseasonably warm it was. We hardly heard them as we scooped gobs of pie directly out of the tin and into our mouths. Standing there in our short sleeves, it seemed the warm weather would never end. Clearly, moving to Western, New York had been a delicious choice.

One October afternoon, a friend came to help me unpack the last of my boxes.

“Where are your coats?” she asked.

After five years in New Orleans, I didn’t have many. I held up my denim jacket, a green raincoat, and a few sweaters.

She shook her head. “You’d better get a good coat. Fast.”

But I ignored her. Because what did she know? Everything was so cozy in our apartment, and the afternoon light never stopped streaming through the stained glass windows of our apartment.

And then it happened.

One morning, I went outside to find everything blanketed in white. Shivering, I brushed off the windshield and hopped inside to turn on the heat. And after work, I drove directly to the nearest mall to buy my first sleeping bag coat.

Let’s be clear. My sleeping bag coat isn’t pretty. It isn’t fashion forward. But once the temperatures fall below 40 degrees, I am never without it. Black and puffy and filled with down, I wear it all the time. While I make breakfast. While I do the dishes. While I run errands.

I have even slept in my sleeping bag coat. Several years ago, we had a major ice storm. Trees cracked and power lines went down. People lost power for over a week. It was mid-April, and I could see my breath in my house.

Recently, I realized sleeping bag coats are kind of a Rochester thing.

Everywhere I go, there they are.

In the grocery store.

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 In a restaurant.

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Out for a walk.

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At Target.

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At the pharmacy counter.

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And again at the pharmacy.

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I know some ladies will argue that fashion should always come first. In my experience, these women are usually in their 20s. They often live in warm weather climates and wear bikinis with 5” hoochie-mamma heels.

In Rochester, we have to be pragmatic.

Because when it is cold for nearly six months of the year, we have to wear boots.

And hats. And scarves. And mittens.

We do the best we can.

We really do.

Cut us some slack.

Eventually it will stop snowing. The daffodils and tulips will dare to poke their heads out of the cold hard earth, and the trees will decide to sprout leaves. Things will green up. The thermometer will register above 60 degrees. Then, and only then, will I dare to step out of my sleeping bag coat.

What is the signature look in your neck of the woods?

I’m linking up with the fabulous folks at Yeah Write. Click on the hat to read good stuff from other peeps.

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tweet me @rasjacobson.com

A Reason To Hate Communal Mirrors

Image by Deric Bownds

I stood in my minuscule dressing room in Nordstrom’s Marshall’s, looking at the dress I’d put on thinking, Not bad for $49.99.

I ventured out to find the large three-way mirror located all the way at the other end of the long hall of individual stalls.

I know the psychology behind communal mirrors.

Stores want shoppers to come out because they are hoping you will get a compliment from a stranger.

According to an article in Real Simple Magazine,

Such praise doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself; it also helps forge an attachment to the product. Once someone gushes over the top you’re wearing, you’re more likely to “become emotionally invested in the item and have more trouble leaving it behind.” 1

As I twirled and inspected myself from all angles, a woman standing outside the changing rooms decided to give me her unsolicited opinion.

“That dress makes your ass look fat,” she said.

I felt like I had been zapped by a taser.

I stared at the woman but, for the life of me, I can’t provide you with one descriptive characteristic about her.

I tried to imagine how devastating an unsolicited comment like that could be to someone in a fragile place. I thought about all the young women suffering with eating disorders or low self-esteem who could’ve come in contact with this woman. I thought about how a woman who’d just had a new baby might have received her words. Or someone battling depression.

I decided to say something.

“You know, I feel good about myself these days,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure there were ten ways you could have told me that you don’t like this dress rather than criticize my body.”

I expected the woman to apologize profusely.

I expected her to be embarrassed.

I expected her to look down at the white-tiled Marshall’s floor in shame.

That’s not the way it went down.

“I drank a lot of coffee today,” she said. “I was trying to help you from making a expensive fashion faux-pas.”

I know all about toxic people.

I can usually hold my tongue, but I chose not to.

“I hope you don’t have daughters,” I said as I slipped into my dressing room to change.

I never saw the woman or her friend again. They disappeared.

But another woman in an adjacent stall knocked on my dressing room door. I peeked my head out.

“I heard that whole exchange,” she said. “Are you okay?” Her brows arched with concern.

I assured her I was fine.

“You are really brave,” she said.

“Not really,” I said suddenly feeling guilty. Because I’ve never really struggled with my weight. Or my self-esteem. I was channeling someone else. “Thank you for checking on me.”

The woman smiled.

I thought about The Golden Rule.

You know: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I know I have my own personal rules regarding etiquette in dressing rooms.

I’d love to hear yours.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I bought the dress.

And my ass looks fine.

I think.

1 Durante, Kristina qtd. in “Communal Mirrors.” Real Simple: 151. April 2012. Print.

What do you think about communal mirrors? What are your rules regarding giving advice in the dressing room? Is buying new clothes fun? Or is it torture for you?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

My Reading Glasses: Revisited

I’ve had my reading glasses for over a year now. At first, if you’ll remember when I posted about new glasses, I was suffering with the concept of how the damn spectacles represent that my eyes are getting older and that, by extension, I am getting older, too. I’m getting used to the concept. Some of you suggested that I try to find a pair of glasses that I really love, so I don’t feel as though I’ve lost my mojo.

Well, I’ve been trying. So here’s what I’ve got:

My actual prescription pair.

These are okay. They are kinda boring though, right? Anyway, this was my starting point.

Round?

These turned out to be some weird, unintentional tribute to John Lennon. So. Totally. Not. Working.

Do I look like a sexy librarian? Hmmmm. Not so much.

These are a vintage pair of specs from the 1960s that I picked up at a local street festival for $2.99. I like them a lot, but the burnt-orange finish is peeling off.

Okay, this pair is a hoot. Emergency purchase. On the way to school one day, I realized I did not have my glasses. Question: How would I ever be able to read all those English papers without glasses? Answer: I wouldn’t. So, I stopped at my local Walgreen’s and snagged whatever I could find in my prescription. There were two choices. I grabbed this pair and, without ever trying them on, made my way to the register. This pair cost about $15. In the classroom, I realized the frames were completely crooked, and no amount of bending or manipulating would make them sit right on my nose. That was a long day. (These glasses now live in our downstairs library. And by library, I mean, bathroom.)

These are my Drew Carey‘s. They are quite awful, but in a weirdly fabulous way. I really like them. I mean, I know I look like my dad in 1963 – but I actually think they are kind of hot. I think I am starting to love them.

My son used these for Halloween when he dressed as Harry Potter – about 6 years ago. They are useless, of course, seeing as though as they are completely lens-less. Still, if I could find a real pair in hot pink or apple green, I might be persuaded to go for them. 😉

I’ve decided that finding the perfect pair of reading glasses is kind of like dating: While searching for the right fit, I’m enjoying all the different types out there. And who knew there would be so many different types out there?

Curly Girly Goes Simply Smooth

“Bad, Bad Hair Day” by downing.amanda @ flickr.com

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I’m a sproingy girl, so my wild curls kind of mesh with my personality. In middle school, my straight-haired friends would marvel at my effortlessly formed curly-Q’s; some would even stick their fingers inside the corkscrews and squeal with delight. (Seriously, they did.) And all the while, I coveted their straight, blunt cuts. I watched them brush and comb their hair, stared as they absently dragged their fingers through their locks. Après shower, I slathered my hands with V05, a thick petroleum-like product, rubbed it all over my hair, and never touched my hair again for the entire day. If I dared to twirl or twist a dry tendril, it was over: frizz city.

Shauna, The Miracle Worker

About a year ago, I went to a fancy-schmancy event where I was the only woman in attendance with seriously curly hair. Everyone else had perfectly smooth, pin-straight, flat hair. It was confirmed. Clearly, G-d hated me. As we posed for a photograph, I sighed and commented how unfair it was that everyone else had such perfect hair while mine was so unruly.

“Honey,” said one of the women, “You need to meet Shawna.”

It took a while, but eventually, I found myself in Salon LuSandra, not my regular salon, thinking about my husband’s words that morning before I left.

“I love your curls,” Hubby said again with emphasis adding, “Your curls are one of the things that most attracted me to you…”

“You’ll learn to love other things…” I told Hubby, smooching him on the cheek. “And it’s only semi-permanent. In four months, the wild woman shall return.”

I sat on the wooden chair in the salon for about 35 seconds before an extremely adorable blonde materialized and introduced herself as Shawna: the woman who was going to make my curls go away.

There was no time for nerves. Shawna wrapped my neck in a black towel and had my head tipped back in the sink before I could ask but-what-if-my-husband-doesn’t-love-me-after-we-do-this? She washed my hair three times. She scrubbed and scoured my hair as if I were a nasty little street urchin who hadn’t washed in weeks, maybe months.

Once in her chair, Shawna applied a chemical mixture to every strand of my hair from root to tip. She explained that once she was finished, I would have to wait for 15-20 minutes to let the product saturate each follicle. She told me that if I did everything properly, the process would reduce 50% of the curl and 100% of the frizz.

And by “frizzy,” this is what I mean.

Truth be told, I could not imagine what that even meant. I’ve always had frizz. I have always been the girl with crazy hair. In the decades before there were long aisles devoted to hair care products, if I attempted to use a blow dryer, I emerged a wild lioness – and I don’t mean in a sultry, beautiful way. I mean I had a mane that was enormous, fluffy and uncontrollable.

As she stood behind me in her black and white polka-dotted smock with skinny red trim, Shawna applied the chemicals. Wearing short black gloves that stopped just above her wrists, she painted and combed, making sure to coat every single strand, fussing over my tresses the way no one has ever fussed before. She was serious about this procedure.

That’s when Shawna reviewed The Rules associated with Smooth Keratin Treatment. She told me that for the next four days I could not get my hair wet. No shampoo. No conditioner. I promised:

On my honor, I do swear, not to wear my hair in a ponytail. Or use barrettes. Or clips or hats or headbands or any other fashion accessory that might leave a crease in my hair. I promise not to tuck my hair behind my ears. I promise to sleep carefully and, upon waking, I promise to touch up any bumps or lumps with a blow dryer and/or flatiron. I promise to wear a shower-cap while washing. I promise not to venture outside if there is any sign of precipitation.

But I was worried. I knew I had to teach over the next four days. What if I had to get to school while my hair was “curing” – and it just happened to be raining? How would I get inside the building without getting my hair wet? I made elaborate plans, involving umbrellas and shower caps and running shoes. I considered which colleague would not think less of me if I needed to leave a flat-iron in her office. In case of a hair emergency. In the end, I decided it would just be easier to cancel classes in the unfortunate case of poor weather.

Three hours into the procedure, I was amazingly relaxed. Maybe it was the cyclopentasiloxane (one of the ingredients in the Simply Smooth product). Maybe it was the prospect of no frizzies or the idea of not having to devote so many hours to hair care. Maybe it was just that Shawna knew what she was doing. Because she knew what she was doing.

Meanwhile, people wandered in and out and bubbled over with testimonials. They used words like “life-altering”: clearly, everyone loves this keratin treatment.

Eventually, Shawna removed my plastic hat, which was good because my eyes had started to tear up a little bit under there. She grabbed a dryer and started blowing-out my newly chemically treated hair. I was confused. My hair was still huge.

“Now we flat-iron every teeny-tiny section about five times,” Shawna explained.

For over an hour, Shawna tugged at my head.

And then it happened.

Someone walked by and said, “Oooh. Gorgeous hair.”

Could I have “gorgeous hair”?

And I realized (or I thought that maybe, possibly) they could have been talking about my mop, except it wasn’t a mop anymore. It was flat, shiny hair that looked healthy and vibrant and felt soft.

“Try not to touch it,” Shawna said.

The following four days were all about the hair. About not touching it and avoiding water.

Here are the results:

Day 1 – no curls. And no shampoo.

On this morning, I showered (with a shower cap) and used a flatiron to dry any wet areas. See that one little “dip”? I got rid of that!

Day 2. Still no shampoo.

Day 3. Stinky.

This is where things got tough. I had to conference with  students, and I felt like my scalp may have smelled more than a little funky. I asked a good friend to give a sniff (good friends do things like this), and she said, “Not so bad.” I pressed on, impressed that my hair on day 3 looked even better than day 1!

Day 4. Definitely wanting a shower!

I can’t lie. Day 4 was rough. Our family went to a football game, and I was terrified that I would see people I knew because – even though I had been showering my body, my head was stinky. Or, at least, I felt like it was. It was. I’m just putting it out there. I mean, I was coming up on 96 hours without shampoo.

Day 10

So, this curly-haired girl now has straight hair. What used to take hours to try to accomplish can now be easily achieved in under 25 minutes. Do I miss my curls? Kinda, but this is a fun little hair vacation because I know they’ll be back. They always come back. And besides, if I don’t want to blow dry, I can wear my hair like this:

Wavy hair with no product!

So I can wear my hair straight or wavy. And the biggest surprise of all? Hubby likes it! Only downside, I never realized how many products I would need to buy to have this hair. I had to buy a blow dryer (never had one before), a flat-iron (never had that either), and I had to buy a boat load of products (shampoos, conditioner, serums, oils) that are specifically formulated to extend the life of the procedure; otherwise, the curls will return more quickly!

The procedure has confirmed it for me: curls or no curls, I’m still a wild woman. And while I am enjoying the change, I kinda like knowing my inner wild woman and my outer wild woman will be reunited in full force around March. 😉

Has anyone else had a “hair experience”? Do tell!

tweet me @rasjacobson

Making Peace With Reading Glasses

 

photo by kiwikewlio @ flickr.com

 

Allow me a vanity moment. It has happened. My husband – an ophthalmologist – warned me that the day would come, and it finally did. I now have reading glasses.

It happened quickly. One day, I was churning through my students’ papers unencumbered, and the next well . . . we were sitting at a restaurant and I was complaining about the fuzzy print on the menu.

“Fuzzy print?” husband asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “Can I see yours?”

He generously handed over his menu.

It’s blurry, too. I’m confused.

“Time to make that eye appointment,” he guffawed.

Six months later, I have reading glasses stashed all over every corner of my life: the night-table drawer, the kitchen desk, in the computer room, in the library (read: bathroom), in my car, in my purse. None of these reading glasses are pretty as I purchase them in Val-U packs of three (or more) from Target. I have this one pair of thick black frames that I would never wear in public because when I wear them I seriously look like Drew Carey‘s sister.

I have to admit, I feel notably less sexy with my glasses on. I’m sorry, but it is true. I would rather look smokin’ hot in my red dress and stumble into the dessert table at somebody’s wedding than wear my glasses. And I don’t need them for distance, so I can’t wear contact lenses — and I am not a good candidate for LASIK, so you can stop right there with those suggestions. I am simply a latent hyperope. I don’t exactly know what that is, but it sounds very high-maintenance. Apparently, there is nothing for me to do except try to “make nice” with my new reading glasses.

“Eventually you are going to need to be fitted for a lovely set of bifocals,” my husband recently teased.

Alas, I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. 😉

What surprises have you learned about yourself as you’ve grown older?

Shopping as an Art Form

photo by Maureen Lunn at flickr.com

My sister-in-law, Sheryl, possesses the uncanny ability to walk into any store and put together an unbelievably amazing outfit from random separates. To watch her fingers dance across the racks, shifting and sorting, occasionally holding things up to herself, keeping and discarding, making complex decisions is truly incredible. It doesn’t hurt that she is a size 0 – what doesn’t look good on a size 0? – but still, she really knows how to shop.

For a long time, Sheryl was outfitting three children, herself, as well as her husband. I have always told her that she should be a professional shopper because then she could get paid to spend all her time in the mall, but it’s not a joke. Shopping for five people takes time. A lot of time. Oh, and did I mention that my sister-in-law would do all this putting together of perfect outfits while talking to friends on her phone?

I have to really concentrate.

Really. Concentrate.

I do not have Sheryl’s super-power. Unless I see the outfit fully formed on some mannequin, I’m pretty lost.

My friend Ellie also has shopping super-powers. That girl can find a bargain like nobody’s business. One day we were looking for boys’ boxer briefs. (Exciting, I know.) I quickly picked up a package of Fruit of the Loom marked 4 pairs for $5.99; I was ecstatic. Meanwhile, Ellie moved two feet beyond the display to a box marked “Clearance” and found 6 pairs of the same brand for $4.99. Suddenly, I was less than enthused with my find, but content that I didn’t miss out on the better deal a mere 24 inches away. Just the other day, Ellie and I happened to be at an amusement park with our children, when she ran into someone who asked, “Hey, do you happen to know where I might find a fanny pack?” (I actually thought this was a totally ridiculous question and almost said, Nobody should know where to buy fanny packs in 2010, but, seeing as I didn’t know this woman, I refrained.) Not only did Ellie know where to find a fanny pack — (“Wal-Mart, right next to the women’s underwear”) — but she then produced the aforementioned fanny pack. Who carries around a spare fanny pack? Ellie, Lord love her.

Meanwhile, another friend — Sara — has been busily planning her wedding. Sara found her wedding dress for $9 at a consignment shop. When she noticed it on the rack, it still had the original tags on it and had been dramatically slashed from its price of $1925.00! Okay, so what if it was a 2005 model? That makes it vintage! Sara’s wedding is going to be phenomenal, not only because two people who really love each other are getting hitched, but also because of all the little touches that she keeps finding and buying for bubbkes (with coupons from Michael’s and A.C. Moore, of course). Sara has long been the “The Queen of Curb” and has collected amazing items for her homes over the years from items that others decided to throw away. Several years back, she found a gorgeous buffet on garbage day which she promptly slid into the back of her car. I absolutely covet this piece of furniture, but I must confess, had I seen it roadside, I probably would have just driven right by.

When I was in New York City not too long ago, my friend (and favorite City Mouse) Nancy brought me to Canal Street, at my request. If being on Canal Street is what Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder feels like, I totally get it now. I was completely over-stimulated. Every where I looked there was something to see, to touch, someone making noise, someone offering something. People wanted us to go into super-secret back rooms and make decisions about items in under two minutes. I could barely move. Where I was paralyzed, Nancy was cool. She knew what she wanted and how to find it. Nancy came forth victorious; I wound up with 12 self-adhesive moustaches for my son to bring with him to summer camp.

What is wrong with me that I do not have the ability to shop like these people? When did they give the lessons on how to really shop? Was I absent that day?

Are you a good shopper? If so, where did you learn how to do it? And can you share some tips?

I Can’t Believe I’m Sharing My Hair Guy

Every few months, I have my hair highlighted at isobel, a chic little salon located at 796 South Clinton Avenue in Rochester, New York. isobel is truly one of the best kept secrets in town because, Owner, Michael Livernash, and stylist Stephanie Hernandez run the place with a level of personal attention not found in many other salons these days where one person may wash your hair, another may do the cut, while a third person might step in to finish. Not so at isobel where Michael and Stephanie work together to make every client feel special.

That said, I’m a little stingy about sharing Michael. First of all, I’m a bad sharer. I like the attention Michael gives me; I eat it up like the needy, little housewife that I am. I am pretty sure Michael gives all his clients this same level of attention; he seems to know everything about all of us. He sure as hell knows everything about me. He knows I want to look like Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker, and he gets me pretty dang close (hair-wise). He laughs at my dorky jokes, but he also answers my questions seriously – when I have them.

Being a twit, I have been toying with trying this Brazilian Keratin Treatment that I’ve been hearing so much about. It’s a pricey procedure that takes several hours and, if done incorrectly, can result in serious damage. A naturally curly-haired girl, I recent saw a Tyra Banks Show where a woman with serious frizz tried the procedure and the results were nothing short of miraculous. She went from hair that was unable to be combed to smooth, shiny locks that obeyed. I asked Michael about it.

Before My Hair Appointment

He explained that it is actually a pretty cool technology, but there are two different kinds of product: one that contains formaldehyde, a serious toxin associated with all kinds of cancers (you know, they embalm dead bodies with that stuff), and another product that doesn’t contain formaldehyde.

Michael said in either case the “keratin penetrates the hair improving and repairing the quality of the hair from the inside.”

“So should I do it? I asked, uncertain.

“You have great curls. Why do you want to get rid of them?”

After Michael's Magic

You see, this is why I love Michael. Not only does he color my hair perfectly, but he says all the right things, too.

For now I am content to have Michael color and straighten my hair once every two months. It’s nice to know I have a choice. It’s even nicer to know I have Michael.

How many of you have used this Brazilian Hair Straightening Process? And what do you think?