Darrell Barrett Salon and Spa provided all complimentary treatments for me. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
If someone said they wanted to give you a perm, would your face look something like this?
What is the American Wave?
Technically, it’s called the Arrojo American Wave because it was developed by Nick Arrojo for his ARROJO NYC salon. And from what I’ve heard, Nick doesn’t want you to use the P-word. Because it’s not like perms of the 70s and 80s. You won’t have kinky hair that smells like a chemical factory. And you won’t have the marked delineation between straight hair and curly hair that lets everyone know it’s time for another perm.
“American Wave is a professional salon service to create soft, natural-looking, wave and curl patterns, bounce, body and movement for those that want to make the graceful elegance and individuality of texture a part of their hairstyle and identity.” – Nick Arrojo
Now that was a description of a salon service this fine, straight-haired girl just might want to try. And thanks to Darrell Barrett Salon and Spa outside of Baltimore, I had the chance to transform my locks in the capable hands of Sarah, a stylist at the salon.
Who should give me my American Wave?
This part is really important. In order to get the American Wave, you need to find a salon and stylist that is officially certified. And it’s not just a piece of paper. It means that stylist has actually trained at the Arrojo Advanced Academy in NYC and learned the technique firsthand, which is exactly what Sarah did.
I visited Darrell Barrett Salon about a week before I had planned to have my American Wave. Sarah had to assess my hair by not only looking at the condition of it but also by removing a piece of my hair and testing it.
Sounds complicated but all she really had to too was see if my hair floated in a cup of water. She was testing the porosity to make sure my hair type would “take” the wave. If your hair has been chemically lightened, you may not be eligible for the American Wave (there is, however, something called the Color Wave for you bombshell types).
Once I had the go-ahead, I scheduled the appointment and bit my nails as I waited a week for my new look!
What’s the procedure for the American Wave?
I was told to plan for about three hours at the salon so I blocked out my calendar and charged up my phone ready to document it all!
Step 1 involved suiting up, or rather, caping up. I had towels around my neck and wore two capes to make sure none of any of the solutions or water would drip down onto me.
Step 2 involved the waving rods. You’ll notice two different colors – the purple were larger and the gray were slightly smaller. In addition to varying the sizes, Sarah also rolled some rods forwards and some rods backwards. The idea is to create variation in the waves so that it will look more natural.
If you have a sensitive scalp, be prepared. The rods are rolled right and will pull on your scalp somewhat. Notice that Sarah didn’t touch my bangs. You definitely don’t want to wave them unless they’re long and blend naturally into your hair.
Step 3 is this lovely look. Sarah covered all of the edges of my hairline with thick cotton to catch any of the waving solution. So the next step involved saturating every rod with the American Wave solution and placing a plastic cover, or tent as I like to call it, over my head. And there I sat.
After a while (I can’t remember how long but I don’t think it was more than 15 minutes), Sarah escorted me back to the wash room for Step 4 – neutralizing and rinsing.
The neutralizer was applied and I sat in the chair for just a bit longer until it was time to rinse. Sarah told me she’d spend at least a full 10 minutes rinsing, which she did, before removing the rods and finishing up my hair.
Step 5 involved a return to the chair where Sarah gently towel dried my hair and then used a low setting on a hair dryer with a diffuser. Her advice it to finger comb the hair and let it air dry but she dried it carefully so I could see the finished result.
The Finished American Wave
Sarah presented my brand new, wavy ‘do. And it doesn’t look permed does it?
It wasn’t until she took a picture of the back of my hair that I really fell in love. Was that really my hair? Was that truly my new wash and go style? Was there really no curling iron involved for this look?
Yes, yes, and yes. Even better was the fact that the balayage highlights I had done at another salon a few weeks prior really stood out and added dimension to my normally straight hair.
The real question was – could I make this happen at home?
Caring for the American Wave
I did just as Sarah suggested. I tried to switch to washing my hair every other day. In fact, it was easier to do because my hair didn’t lay as flat on my scalp and therefore didn’t pick up as much of my natural oils.
When I did wash my hair, I made sure to use conditioner from the top of my hair to my roots, avoiding the scalp, and finger combing it through before rinsing.
Finally, I gently towel dried my hair and applied product (more on that below). If I was in a hurry, I would use my hair dryer on the lowest setting, concentrating gently on the roots more than the ends. The best technique for me was to let my hair air dry and then sleep on it. Somehow, I managed to get more volume that way!
As for products, Darrell Barrett Salon and Spa graciously sent me home with three Arrojo American Wave products (Rehab shampoo, Submerge conditioner, and Elixir hair product). They are all great products that I’m still using but if you can only splurge on one, make it the Elixir. That product will make or break your style.
And if you’re like me and choose to sleep on your hair or simply need a touch up, also pick up Arrojo Wave Mist. It’s a light spray that I use on dry hair to “reactivate” the curl in my hair while giving it a little scrunch.
THERE. Now was that so bad? And you thought I was getting an ugly ol’ perm. If you’re looking for a little wave in your hair that comes with low maintenance, definitely check out the American Wave. But remember, only certified salons can give you this specific treatment. My personal recommendation is simply to call Darrell Barrett Salon and ask for Sarah!
Want to see more of my experience? I’ve got video for you!