The battle of the blowout: Our beauty editors go head to head
By Lesa Hannah and Sarah Daniel
One doesn’t own a brush, the other relishes the pain inflicted by bristles. Lesa Hannah and and Sarah Daniel on why they hate/love blowouts.
LESA: Says no
“You don’t want this?” asked my co-worker incredulously. As quickly as I had torn through the thick envelope, revealing a shiny giftcard for a series of blowouts at a swishy local salon, I had shoved it into her hands. Her lax fingers, unable to grasp the slim piece of plastic, demonstrated her disbelief. “I hate blowouts,” I explained.
That probably makes me an anomaly in the beauty editor world—and, to a greater extent, among women in general—but it’s true. I often turn them down when they’re offered at hair events. I dread them at the end of a haircut. I don’t even own a brush. (Relax, I’m not a total sloth; I comb my hair when it’s wet.) It’s not that I can’t appreciate the sleek glossiness of a professional blow-dry on someone else; it’s just not for me.
For one, they take far too long. The clipping up of every section of damp hair, followed by the painstaking, vigorous yet methodical pulling with a boar-bristled round brush while baking under the blazing heat of a T3 dryer—it makes me crazy. (If we’re talking investing time for primping purposes, I’d much rather spend it having my heels sloughed, my pores emptied or my legs lasered.) My next issue: Between the yanking and the scorching temperature, they hurt. And while most girls consider this pain worthwhile, I don’t. That’s because what I’m ultimately left with is something that would be more appropriate adorning the lady delivering the day’s top headlines from behind the news desk.
Instead, my heart and head’s desire is that slightly dirty-looking French girl hair. You know what I’m talking about—some texture, some roughness and a modicum of messiness. It looks like you didn’t really try, but of course you did. (Well, at least I did.) Even when a more, say, formal style would be called upon by others, I keep things undone, wearing a messy chignon for my wedding and a somewhat destroyed-looking roll to my brother’s.
I can trace my love of this approach back to 1994, when I fell for Winona Ryder’s hair in Reality Bites. Her character, Lelaina Pierce, had this choppy cut that I immediately had to emulate. These days, I stare at pictures of Alexa Chung and consistently bring the same photo of her to my stylist. I am transfixed by the work of editorial stylist Paul Hanlon, whom designers like Proenza Schouler and Altuzarra rely on to craft dishevelled coolness for their shows. Citing Kate Moss as the most iconic woman, Hanlon says, “There’s something about her that’s effortlessly cool. It’s the ease of it that gives it the confidence. It’s kind of amazing, really.”
I will confess, I once had a blowout I liked. When I was clear about my preference for a beachy texture, Sean Godard of Toronto’s Salon Tocci delivered. After dousing my hair with salt spray, he twisted it up in small sections all over my head—to enhance natural waves—and diffused it on high heat. That’s when it hit me: At the heart of it, the conventional, springy blowout goes against what you have; it’s predicated on making your hair do something it doesn’t naturally do. Maybe deep down, my aversion is saying something more: I am not into manufactured perfection, be it old-lady salon sets or the artifice of Kim Kardashian’s bouncy waves. What can I say, I’m a champion for authentic beauty.
LESA’S BEACHY BASICS (shown above)
Bumble and Bumble Bb. Texture ($33, at Sephora)
Kevin Murphy Hair Resort Spray ($25, kevinmurphy.com.au)
Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray ($36, donato.ca)
Fekkai Coiff Oceanique Tousled Wave Spray ($28, at Shoppers Drug Mart)
Living Proof Full Shampoo ($28, at Sephora)
SARAH: Says yes
Jane Fonda’s ’80s workout mantra, “No pain, no gain,” refers to the muscle burn that produces flat abs and slim thighs, but I move that the catchphrase be applied to blowouts too. In my opinion, a head of lifeless, fine hair is far worse than any other flat entity, be it a chest, a punchline or a fizz-less flute of Prosecco. And after years of fighting that fate—sleeping on plastic rollers before Picture Day, waking up at dawn in high school to put in oversized Velcro cylinders, experimenting with every body-boosting elixir out there and getting haircuts with more layers than an onion—I have learned that nothing, nothing elicits the same long-lasting volume as a blowout, hence my obsession with them. But just like there is an art to braiding hair (the braid bar is the new blow-dry bar, btw), there’s an art to drying hair.
For me, that TSN Turning Point came a few years ago when the BlowDry Lounge opened in the street under my condo. Until then, I’d hit up whichever salon was closest to home or work. I decided to give it a try, and booked an appointment with the owner, Beni Sicilia. When he hooked his round brush into my hair, he put so much muscle into it I felt like one of those bobblehead dolls on a taxi driver’s dashboard. I also occasionally cringed at the searing heat from his Ferrari blow-dryer (the sports car company makes the megawatt engine inside); when the nozzle was pointed right at my roots, I imagined leaving the salon with a scalp full of cigarette burns. That didn’t happen, of course, but what I did leave with was the most amazing blowout of my life, lasting a record three days.
“That pull that you’re feeling is basically us getting right at the root, lifting the root. Ninety-nine per cent of blow-dries collapse because you haven’t dried the root properly,” Sicilia says of his technique. “The blow-dry replaced the roller set that the ladies used to get in the ’60s and ’70s. What that did was it dried the curl, and then they came out of the dryer. They sat there for a little bit, the rollers cooled off, and then the hairdresser just brushed it through.” Blowouts are based on those same principles, he explains, with the round brush basically acting as one roller.
Since that first appointment with Sicilia, I have become a blowout snob. And after getting hundreds of them, I am now so in tune with the warning signs of a bad one that I can call it in under five minutes. “There are telltale signs that the blowout isn’t going well,” says Sicilia. “If you over-dry the ends, you’ll never get that bend. And then after, if they’re like, ‘Oh, let me smoothe out your ends with a flatiron,’ suddenly the body in the blow-dry kind of dies out.” Another red flag? “Overdoing product is a blow-dry killer.”
During a trip to London this past fall, I encountered the aforementioned blow-dry fail. The afternoon I arrived, I found a salon that took walk-ins. It was a risk, but I had to get ready to do a big interview and figured anything would be better than doing it myself. I was wrong. My stylist was reed thin and confided that she’d skipped breakfast that morning. Translation: Without any protein in her belly or caffeine coursing through her veins, she would be short on stamina. Long before she reached for the flatiron and drained half a can of hairspray, I’d already called it. Time of death: 8:55 a.m.
The same thing happened on my wedding day. Since I was getting married on a beach, and low-maintenance hair was my mission, I decided to get a blowout. I didn’t mention my impending nuptials to the local stylist I found, for fear that he’d try to talk me into getting an updo. As he gingerly worked on my hair, a friend let it slip. “It will look like shit,” he fumed, as if somehow I had betrayed him. “It’s going to be completely flat by the time you’re saying your vows.” But I already knew that.
SARAH’S VOLUMIZING VITALS (shown above)
Label.M Blow Out Spray ($23, blowdrylounge.ca)
Pantene Pro-V Triple Action Volume Mousse ($6, at drugstores)
Rene Furterer Volumea Volumizing Shampoo ($30, at Sephora)
Viviscal dietary supplement ($52, viviscal.com)
Klorane Oil Absorbing Dry Shampoo ($15, at drugstores)