Great literature is filled with rapturous descriptions of beautiful hair.
John Milton wrote of "the loose train of thy amber-dropping hair." Rupert Brooke rhapsodized about "live hair that is shining and free."
And in his song, "To Celia," Ben Jonson wrote:
"Give me a look, give me a face
"That makes simplicity a grace;
"Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
"Such sweet neglect more taketh me
"Than all the adulteries of art."
You will notice that none of the poets used words such as frizzy, fried or cotton-candylike. That's because those words have nothing to do with beautiful hair. Yet judging from the number of frizzy, badly blond coifs we see these days, you'd almost think cotton-candy hair was an asset.
Now we aren't averse to hair color that comes in a bottle. Nor are we against perms and hair relaxers. We think it's wonderful to be able to improve on nature.
But a delicate head of hair can take only so much chemical abuse before it frizzes up, splits apart or begins to fall out.
There are steps you can take to prevent such disasters, though. Perhaps the best thing you can do for your hair is to leave it to the experts. This certainly seems to work for Madonna, whose hair has been blond, brunette and several shades in between.
You can also do it yourself, though it will take time and care. First of all, use reputable products and follow directions to the letter, said James Viera, vice president and corporate technical director for L'Oreal.
Apply the hair color first, he said, then wait at least a week before doing the perm. (If you do the procedures in reverse, the hair color will relax the perm.) In that interval, be sure to condition your hair well to get it in the best possible shape.
When you're ready for the perm, set aside lots of time so you can work slowly and carefully. Make sure you roll your hair smoothly on the rods. Treat your hair gently after the perm, too.
"You shouldn't take the perm rods out and immediately blow-dry," Viera said. "It's like taking a hot iron and using it on a beautiful silk blouse."
Instead, let your hair dry naturally. The more often you can do that, the better.
Finally, be sure to baby your hair between perms. Use a deep conditioner and give it a hot-oil treatment once a week. And get regular trims.
"If you do that, your hair will be more pliable and flexible," Viera said.
Not to mention shining and free.