Darrell Barrett Salon and Spa provided me with a complimentary American Wave treatment. 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 if they said they wanted to give you loose, beachy waves that would look natural and last all summer? Then I bet we’d see something like this.
That was me. I am Kimmy Schmidt. Because when the Darrell Barrett Salon and Spa offered me a new hair treatment, I was both afraid and intrigued by this thing called the American Wave.
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 – Suiting Up
Step 1 for the Amercian Wave 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 – Waving Rods
The next step 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 – Sealing it up
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.
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 – Diffusing
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!
American Wave Video Review
Want to see more of my experience? I’ve got video for you!
And check out more of the beauty treatments I’ve tried in all my I TRIED IT beauty posts!
It looks great! i’d love to hear about how easy it is to style. Do you blow dry as normal or naturally let it dry. How long does it last?
You can blow dry it but if you do, it’s recommended that you use a diffuser (which I don’t have) and use the dryer on the lowest setting. For best results, they tell you to let it air dry. I prefer to let it mostly air dry and then sleep on it. For me, that gives me the best volume and I can spruce up the wave in the morning with product.
How much did it cost to get the perm?
Absolutely beautiful! Brava. Looks great on you. Thanks for the helpful vid.
I LOVE IT! That is a perm I would definitely get!
Shhhhhh – don’t use the P word!!!
Great look for you! I get they may not like the p word but I have to say as someone who gets a perm every year that it looks like a very loose spiral perm (which is what I get) and the process sounds the same.
One of the major differences, it sounds like, is the chemicals they use. These are supposed to be much gentler and kinder than regular perm chemicals!
Gentler and kinder chemicals would be a good thing!
Can it be used for colored hair?
Cute, I like it!
Looks great Fadra but lol ! I’m sorry I was just wondering if you got good reception with those purple things on your head?
The reception was great! But my sources say the solar eclipse coming up could wreak havoc with our Netflix signals!
Amy salons in Michigan that do this?
I tried to find out as there is a salon locator here: https://www.americanwavenyc.com/salon-locator/
It doesn’t look like there are any certified salons in Michigan 🙁 but maybe you are within driving distance of one in another state!
Hi, just been doing a bit of research about the American Wave, as my salon in The Uk is now offering this. I was wondering how long this has lasted in your hair? Many Thanks
Great question! I got this done last May and it’s now the beginning of February. While a lot of it has relaxed and grown out, I still have days where I can “scrunch” my hair a bit and still not have to really style it at all. Sometimes I’ll use a flat iron just to neaten my bangs and gives the roots of my hair a little lift but I’m pretty pleased with how long it’s lasted
That’s great, think I will give it ago!!!
You must post a picture somewhere after you do it. I want to see!
A few questions:
How long did the wave last for you? How much time did you have to spend on your hair every day after having it done? (I’m a school teacher & dislike getting up before 4 a.m. every morning to roll my hair on velcro rollers). Did you go back and have it done again or did you let it grow out?
I’m surprised no one has asked me that! I’d say I could coast on doing not much to my hair for about 6 months. I did let it grow and it never looked like “here’s where the perm ended.” And I can honestly say that I still have some extra body in my hair more than a year after. I haven’t gone back but I have thought about it. If I did, I’d probably say the 6 month mark is a good time for maintenance. And YES to easy morning hair!
Awesome! Thank you for replying so quickly! I have very fine, thin, flat hair and it takes a lot of work to get any volume. This sounds like something I could totally do! Thank you again!
Hi there! I have my appointment for my American wave tomorrow and I just wanted to be fully prepared- about how much did yours cost?
It looks gorgeous by the way!
Thank you! And congrats on your soon-to-be new hair! I didn’t pay for mine because I was hosted by the salon in exchange for writing about my experience but I think it *should* run about $200.
I will say that it’s been well over a year since I had it done and I still have extra body in my hair!
I love this post with the pics and funny commentary. We started offering American Wave in our California salon in 2018 and it truly does give soft wave patterns.
I got the American Wave in April. I hate it. I really like yours, however.
I wish I had seen this article before diving into a very costly (and time consuming) event. The American Wave I got cost $450.00. If you live in NYC, prices are in the 400 dollar range. The time commitment is over four hours.
Here are some differences that I think are crucial for this to work: 1) they used different size curlers on your head. My stylist used one size- making my hair look uniform and not as natural as yours. 2) they did NOT curl your bangs. Smart. My bangs went into the curlers and now I have wings. 3) you had a small test run. Again smart. Not me. The salon assessed my hair visually and there was no test done. 4) I also had a baylage coloring as well before the Wave but all the bits at the end now look like straw. My hair, always so super healthy, is now very dry.
Having lived on this earth with my straight hair for 50 years, I have no clue how to style it. I have straw hair with wings. Anyone considering this treatment, please follow Fadras advice. And good luck.
Waiting for the Wave to grow out – Peg
*** PEG **** I am so sorry you had such a bad experience! Hopefully you’ve figured out how to style it just a little bit. As a last resort, you can blow dry it straight and you’ll still have more volume than when you started!
Hello, did you ever have this done again? Would you?
Great question! I have not had it done again but I would definitely consider it. I felt like it lasted for a LONG time and even once it started growing out, my hair just seems fuller than it ever was. It was a great experience for me!
What product do you put in your hair while wet to keep it from frizzing?
Hi there – the one product that I used consistently (and loved) was the American Wave Elixir – https://arrojonyc.com/shop/elixir-defrizzing-gel. It’s pricey but worth it. The other trick is to brush your hair BEFORE you shower and then finger comb if after you wash it. Then, let it dry naturally whenever possible!
I got the American Wave in July. I was trying to let a bad hair cut grow out. This was the absolute best thing for my hair. Still have as much curl and volume as the day I got it. My hair is so very thick and it takes me 5 minutes to do in the mornings.