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The Product That Changed My Life: Melanie Dunea

At first meeting, you probably won’t register my face, but you will absolutely take note of my hair. It’s a riotous bushel of brown coils: shoulder-length, impressive in diameter, and very, very curly—always a bit of an anomaly in this blow-dried world. And, while I have an admittedly strong personality, my hair is an outright rebel. It’s got an identity and swagger all its own—which means that for years, I never knew whether I was going to wake up to a frizz bomb or a dull, flat nest.

My hair and I used to be enemies. Throughout my childhood, I would brush and brush in hopes of resembling my girlfriends with their flowing sheets of silky strands. (It didn’t work.) The windy weather in Chicago, not to mention the year-round need for hats, contributed to the battle. As a result, my favorite hairstyle was the “Princess Leia:” two braids pinned rolled up and tucked next to the ears. It was tidy, cute, and reliable.

Then 15 years ago, everything changed. I was doing a photo shoot at Devachan, the cult New York hair salon that specializes in curly hair. As I was taking my Polaroids, I began feeling a bit self-conscious of my bun. “Tying your hair up with an elastic is murder for your hair,” was the first thing Devachan owner Lorraine said to me. She went on to passionately explain her philosophy of how regular shampoo is full of detergents that damage and break curly hair. Then she introduced me to her solution: DevaCurl No-Poo Conditioning Cleanser and One Condition Daily Conditioner. According to Lorraine, lather-free conditioning cleansing translates into the healthiest, bounciest curls. She diagnosed my hair as superdehydrated and promised that after a few weeks with her product duo it would be cured.

Naturally, I was skeptical. Not using shampoo went against every rule of cleanliness I had ever known. But as I looked around the room and noticed person after person with shiny, lush coils, I reached for my credit card. I say this without exaggeration: It worked immediately. The first time I used it, the magical duo quenched my parched strands, revived them, and brokered a long-overdue truce between myself and my mane.

Since then, I’ve been a religious DevaCurl user. As a result, I now have a stable and happy relationship with my hair. It’s still nowhere near predictable, but I’ve come to love that. I’m lucky: I have a huge mane of confident, hydrated curls that lead the charge as I march down the street.

Melanie Dunea is a photographer and the author of My Last Supper and My Last Supper: The Next Course. Follow her at @mylastsupper.

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