I have a lot of hair. It's thick, long, naturally wavy (2B S-curls, to be specific), and, for the past two years, bleach blonde—a high-maintenance decision that is laughably at odds with my aggressively low-key approach to haircare. This always feels most apparent during my touch-up appointments at L.A.'s Mèche Salon: My color guru (and friend) Matt Rez chides me a little for being terribly lax with my Olaplex treatments, I sit as he painstakingly highlights my ridiculous mane, and roughly six hours later, I'm on my way with the hollow promise to take better care of my strands.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
It is thus unsurprising that my hair's natural texture is as inconsistent as my commitment to maintaining it. On a good day, my hair air-dries to a pile of soft, defined waves—the kind of beachy texture that others might use a wide-barreling curling iron and a bottle of salt spray to obtain. But on a bad day, which is really an average day, it's poofy, dry, and shapeless; a mess that no amount of Shu Uemura Essence Absolue ($69) can rescue.
So when, during one of my more recent color appointments, Rez suggested that I try out a natural version of a keratin treatment called Cezanne—assuring me that it would allow me to maintain my natural waves, sans frizz—I leapt at the chance of getting next-to-perfect hair without having to sacrifice any of my laziness.
A few weeks before my treatment.
I waited a few weeks to let my fresh color settle before finding myself back at Mèche, this time in the chair of colorist Tania Whittier, who has embraced the Cezanne treatment as her specialty. She says that she actually learned first about it the same way many of her clients do: while seeking out a formaldehyde-free alternative to traditional smoothing treatments. Formaldehyde is incredibly effective at penetrating deep into the hair cuticle, providing optimal smoothness, but it's also a known carcinogen.
While safety should obviously be the top priority, efficacy is important, too, and Whittier says that Cezanne is the first of its kind to deliver the results her clients are seeking. And in some ways, it's even better. "Formaldehyde treatments are done by pushing the keratin into the cuticle with heat, and the formaldehyde acts as its finishing product," she says. "It gives the illusion of shine, but over time, the hair becomes dry because it's too harsh on the hair, especially fragile hair. Cezanne uses lemon and crab apple extracts to gently open the cuticle of the hair to allow the keratin to enter the cortex." And as with other keratin treatments, Cezanne would allow my hair to air-dry to smooth, frizz-free perfection.
The other thing that makes Cezanne unique—and the factor that ultimately convinced me to take the plunge—is that it's truly customizable to a targeted texture. After the treatment is applied and blow-dried, a flat iron is used to seal it in. If I wanted to go really straight and sleek, Whittier would just pass over my strands several times with the flat iron. I could go totally straight and sleek if I wanted. That would just entail using more heat. But I really love my waves, so I requested that we maintain as much of my natural bend as possible (while eliminating all frizz and dryness, of course).
One month post-treatment.
All in all, the treatment took less than two hours from start to finish—barely a blip compared to the time I'm used to spending at the salon. I walked out with hair that was stick-straight but oh so smooth, and Whittier promised that as soon as I washed my hair—which I was allowed to do immediately, by the way—it would air-dry to a softer, smoother version of my texture. I was so impatient to see what that would look like, that I couldn't contain myself. When I got home, I dunked my head in the sink and marveled as my waves began to reappear bouncier, softer, and shinier than ever before.
Full disclosure: Because the priority was repairing my hair and eliminating frizz, my texture definitely lost some of its bend, especially in the weeks immediately following the treatment. My 2B waves fell into a more tousled, 2A structure. But it still looked like my hair, and the wash-and-go ease of it all was more than worth it. And two months in (Cezanne can last up to four), that original texture has slowly started to return while the frizz that typically accompanies it has yet to appear.
I went back to Mèche yet again a couple weeks ago, this time for another color refresh with Rez. For once, I didn't feel guilty as he ran his fingers through my soft, healthy hair. "This was such a good decision for you," he said. I couldn't agree more.