- Velaterapia, or ‘candle-cutting,’ is popular with Victoria’s Secret models including Barbara Fialho, Alessandra Ambrosio and Isabeli Fontana
- The treatment involves twisting the hair into sections and running an open flame through the length of it
- It aims to rid locks of split ends without taking anything off the length
- The method costs between $150-200
Annabel Fenwick Elliott
14:57 EST, 23 June 2014
17:10 EST, 23 June 2014
Last week, Brazilian supermodel Barbara Fialho revealed the very unusual secret to her glossy locks: she burns her hair to keep it healthy.
Velaterapia, we learned, is a process whereby an open flame – usually a candle – is used to singe off and ‘cauterize’ split ends, opening up the follicles to make hair more receptive to conditioning; all without taking anything off the length.
Femail jumped at the opportunity to test out the procedure, in the hopes that this tester would emerge from the flames with a luscious mane, rather than a frazzled mop.
From frazzled to sleek: Much to my surprise, Velaterapia actually worked wonders, transforming my damaged locks (left) into hair that verges on healthy (right)
I should admit upfront that I haven’t so much as trimmed my hair for over three years, such is my love affair with long tresses.
So between this obstinate refusal – I practically have to prize the snapping scissors out of the hands of hair stylists when I get it colored – and my bleached ends, there is nothing healthy about my hair, long though it may be.
I tracked down one of the only salons in New York City to offer Velaterapia – or ‘candle-cutting’ as it also known – an upscale Brazilian salon in Nolita called Maria Bonita; frequented by Victoria’s Secret models Alessandra Ambrosio, Ana Beatriz Barros, Isabeli Fontana, and Barbara Fialho herself.
Girl (literally) on fire: My stylist twisted my hair into small sections, leaving my copious number of split ends to stick out, then ran a candle back and forth under them, singeing off the damaged parts
Ricardo Gomes – my chirpy, chiseled Brazilian stylist – sits me down and starts twisting my hair tightly into small sections as he launches into a mini-history of the practice, while I eye his hands suspiciously.
After I make him promise, at least three times, that he is not going to hack off any of my length – despite our mutual agreement that my ends are crispy and my attachment to them is bordering on the insane – he takes up his candle, and proceeds to run it methodically back and forth under the length of each twisted section.
Yes, this was fear-inducing, and yes, it smelled exactly as you’d expect: of burning hair. After he had finished with my full head, I was left with small white globs of candle wax clinging to a mass of poodle-like dreadlocks, before being whisked off to have my hair rinsed, and an intensive conditioner applied.
The graveyard of split ends: You can clearly see the sizzled remnants of my split ends and the flecks of white candle wax at this, the most undignified stage of the process
The open flame, I’m told, has opened up my hair follicles to allow better absorption of the conditioner, and I’m propped under a heat lamp for 10 minutes as it works its magic.
As Ricardo rinses and then blow dries my hair, he invites me to think of candle cutting as a regular trim, and recommends I get the treatment every eight to 12 weeks, in the manner of Ms Fialho.
I’m surprised to learn that candle cutting has been a popular and
widespread hair care method in South America since the 1960s, and many women there literally burn off their split ends with candles at home. A
terrible idea, he points out, assuring me that stylists such as himself
are carefully trained in the art, and very practiced.
Pesky ends: While the mid-section of my hair was left in much better condition after the candle-cutting (before, left, and after, right) the crispy tips which were left untreated do still stand out
No scissors! Left, my hair just before I had my candle-cutting appointment and right, two days after; just as long in length but with a freshly-cut, layered look – achieved only with the help of an expert flame-thrower
Ricardo says that while Brazilian glamor pusses have been stopping by this New York salon for candle-cutting for years, he first noticed a sudden surge in demand for the practice around two months ago, when curious Americans started asking for it too.
Indeed, at one point during my treatment, a perky blonde customer strolls in for her appointment and, upon seeing Ricardo dancing around my hair, calming setting fire to it with an elegant long-stemmed candle, asks the receptionist with barely concealed alarm: ‘Excuse me, but what on earth is he doing to her hair?’ – before coming round to the idea and actually appearing quite impressed.
At the end of my two-hour treatment, which costs between $150 and $200 depending on the length of your hair, I run my fingers through my freshly blow-dried tresses and am extremely impressed. It feels a good deal smoother and healthier than it did before, and neat layers have appeared, as if my hair has been expertly cut, but not shortened.
Devotees: Barbara Fialho (left) recently revealed she was a die-hard fan of candle-cutting, and fellow Brazilian supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio (center) and Isabeli Fontana (right) also employ the technique
One problem that remains, of course, is
my crispy ends, which, if Ricardo had run his flame under, would have
been eaten off in a moment. Because the mid-section of my hair is now so
much more sleek, the dry ends are even more noticeable – which has led
me to concede that perhaps it is finally time to give them the chop.
Brazilian supermodels swear by it, the beauty editor at Brazilian Vogue has labelled it ‘unbelievably’ effective, and for me, it blows a regular haircut out of the water. Velaterapia appears to rid (almost) the entire length of your hair of split ends, leaving the rest of your tresses healthy and soft to the touch. In summary, having a candle taken to your hair is not nearly as crazy as it sounds.