A good blowout is like the perfect lusty fling: It lasts for a week tops and puts an unprecedented pep in your step the entire time. But it’s not always exactly what you want.
I realized through my many, many blowouts at various locations I always end up with something different—even though I consistently ask for the same style. The scene is always the same: I walk in and sit down with my stylist for the day, and we chat about what I want. I say “messy, textured waves” and get whisked back to the sink. The end result is always beautiful, with the curls bouncing and the compliments a-flowing. But it is interesting that the same description can yield such varied results.
I decided to take my theory on a test drive and hit up a few different places and services in the city. Each time, I would ask for the same thing and watch what happens. I’d say yes to anything they asked: products, tools, etc., as to make sure I wasn’t interfering with the process. Then, I’d photograph the results and come to a final conclusion.
Ready to follow along? Keep scrolling to read my in-depth reviews and check out the video at the bottom.
DreamDry, Rachel Zoe’s chain of blow-dry bars, first opened its doors years ago in New York (remember watching the chevron floor drama unfold on The Rachel Zoe Project?) and has since launched two locations in New York City and another two in Chicago. It’s dreamy, it’s glamorous, but would its stylists be able to give me the blow-dry I was looking for?
I sat down for my appointment with Jay, a hilarious bleach-blond stylist who immediately understood my vibe. As promised, I said I wanted “messy, textured waves” and nothing else. He took me back to get washed and quickly started on my hair. He waxed poetic about his time spent with celebrity stylists Jen Atkin and Harry Josh, regaling me with stories of their best advice.
Jay worked on my hair exactly as I wanted him to: He did a quick rough dry and added a few different products to add extra muscle and grit to my fine locks. He cocktailed together Kérastase’s Elixir Ultime Original Oil ($58) and Oribe’s Matte Waves Texture Lotion ($42) and ran the mixture through my hair. (FYI: The Oribe product is truly life-changing. I’ve been using it every day since.) Then, Jay smoothed the curls out with a round brush and used three different tools to give me the best waves of my life. He said it was a tip from Atkin herself, that no matter what a client asks for, to go the extra mile. In this case, that meant clamping in a few S waves with a flatiron, smoothing out my (split) ends and then going in with two different-sized curling irons. He made each wave unique, turning my chair around to properly style every section. The magic is in the variation, he explained. It looks most natural when the curls aren’t uniform. “And stay away from barrel curls,” he mused as we both laughed. The last thing I wanted was a prim style, and he knew that. I was 100% satisfied (over the moon, even) when he was finished.
I skipped my usual desk lunch and met up with L’Oréal Paris’s celebrity colorist Kari Hill for some lighter and brighter locks. During that time, I realized the post-color blowout was always an important one. It’s the first time clients would see their color, and stylists make sure to get it right. I decided to continue my experiment—ask for just “messy, textured waves” and watch what happened.
Michael Braun of the on-demand beauty app PRIV (which brings whatever beauty service you need directly to you) was another delight, keeping the conversation up with jokes and tons of laughs. But would his blow-dry turn out as well as Jay’s did? And, more importantly, would I leave with something totally different despite the same request? He started off by asking if I was okay with products—stylists always do this to make sure they don’t use something you’re not into. To keep the experiment controlled, I thought it important to let the stylist do his thing, no matter what I thought. So “Yes!” I exclaimed. “Bring on the products.” He used a light, wave-defining mousse (my favorite is Ouai’s Soft Mousse, $28) on my wet hair and began blowing out each lock. He curled with the brush, a skill I’ve been dying to master, and mussed it up with each stroke so it wouldn’t look too polished. Check plus, I thought as he continued. He, too, used a flatiron to create a few S waves throughout and then a larger-barrel curling iron on the rest of my hair. He finished with L’Oréal Paris’s Elnett Satin Hairspray ($13) and ran his fingers through the curls to break them up. I felt beachy and blond in all the best ways. While I fell in love with Jay’s interpretation, I think objectively this style was the truest to the original description. And that color.
The last blowout was from the Ilias Zarbalis Salon, a chic, well-lit space in the West Village where celebrity stylist Owen Gould took care of my hair. I said my usual “messy, textured waves” shtick and let him do his thing while we sipped on refreshments and chatted.
He, too, applied a mousse but stuck to the script when it came to the curls. I left with a stunning head of composed, bombshell waves. The curls were polished when I left the salon, but once I woke up the next morning, it looked like perfection. All I needed was a quick spritz of dry shampoo for texture, and I was beyond thrilled. Life hack: Sleep on your fresh blowout for texture and grit, and you’ll be elated come morning.
In the end, I realized it’s not about a stylist’s ability to give me what I want (although obviously that’s part of it); it’s also about artists making stylistic choices when performing their craft. In this case, each hairstylist listened to what I said and did his own interpretation of the words. I left with three beautiful ’dos, each different in ways that represent what each stylist does. I didn’t bring in a photo, so they just had to go off of my words, my vibe, and their own choices with products, tools, and a certain flick of the wrist.
Psst—We decided to put together a fun video of a similar experience (same concept, different stylists) for your viewing pleasure. Take a look below!
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.