For women seeking the most lustrous of locks, there’s a new hair-conditioning craze that involves fire. It’s called velaterapia and this two-plus-hour "candle-cutting" treatment has become popular, especially among Victoria’s Secret models like Alessandra Ambrosio and Barbara Fialho who posted photos of their treatments on Instagram.
Since then, interest in this imported-from-Brazil treatment (the country is also famed for bringing keratin blowout hair-straightening treatments to the world) has exploded.
Here’s how it works: During the treatment, heat from a lit candle is applied to dry and damaged hair. The ultimate goal is to repair frizzy or split ends that result from constant styling, chemical treatments and regular blow-drying.
The spa service, which dates back to the 1960s, costs about $150 to $200. It begins with a hair stylist sectioning out multiple strands of hair. Next, the hair is twisted tightly in sections (your hair will look like dreadlocks) before the flame is pointed at the hairs that jut out. Those "fried" or dried ends are then clipped of — while preserving the overall length of your hair.
Given the fact that the treatment involves hair burning, this is definitely one of those beauty experiences that comes with caveats, especially because once you have this done, it's recommend that you repeat the treatments at least every four months or so.
“Using an open flame on the hair can cause damage, which in some cases can be irreversible,” says Dr. David Bank, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York, and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School in New York City. “Anyone who tries this should proceed with caution.”
Defenders of the practice say the deep conditioning that takes place after the candle-cutting will help repair your hair. But keep in mind that the smell of burned hair may be objectionable!
“I understand the whole concept behind this treatment,” says Julie Ricevuto, a beauty expert at You Beauty. “And, if it’s done by a professional, there are some benefits.”
Proponents stress that by opening the hair cuticle in the heat, the hair is then left open to absorb more of the nutrients in the conditioning treatment that immediately follows.
“The idea is that the hair is then smoother once this process is done,” Ricevuto says.
Whether it’s good for your hair or not, experts urge anyone interested in the treatment to never try this at home. It's best to get this treatment from a specialist at a salon.
“This is one of those things I’d only trust to a professional who does this routinely,” Ricevuto says. “After all, you’re putting a flame against your hair. Flames are hard to control. You could burn pieces of healthy hair, which could end up weakening the cuticle of your hair in the long run.”