DISCLAIMER: This material is presented for educational purposes only. Neither I nor Blackgirllonghair.com encourages the use of this technique at home.
So just when I thought hair care couldn’t get any more extreme, I stumbled upon an article about burning away split ends with fire. Yes, you read that correctly – burning away split ends. From my research, I learned that this method of “cutting” has been practiced in various countries and for at least a century. For example, here is a video of barber Warren Lewis (in Memphis, Tennessee) cutting a customer’s hair with fire:
Nonetheless, this hair cutting technique is news to many people. In Brazil, the practice is called “velaterapia” and performed a little differently. I’ll talk more about this version of fire cutting today.
Velaterapia (candle therapy) – what is it?
Velaterapia roughly translates to “candle (vela) therapy (terapia)”, or what some call, candle cutting. Lace and Hair, a salon that offers this special service in São Paulo, Brazil, defines it as:
“a process [by] where a flame cauterizes the hair, leaving behind a passage of nutrients to its interior; removes split ends and the impermeability of the hair caused by brushing and other chemicals.”
A section of dry hair is twisted until fly aways appear and then essentially run down with a flame. (These burnt fly aways are then trimmed off with scissors.) This step is repeated section by section until the whole head of hair is completed. Ending with a deep conditioning treatment, the entire process can take two hours and cost around $200 at some salons. On the Lace and Hair site, it is said that this service is for those with “hair that need[s] a deep repairing process,” but many women are also using it as a way to remove split ends without loosing length. Think of it as a speedy search & destroy, but with a flame of course.
Does hair burning really work?
When I used to get braid extensions installed as a child, a lighter or other source of flame was regularly used to burn the ends and sometimes flyaways. (Perhaps this brings back memories for many of you as well.) However, the aim was to seal the ends of the extensions and melt away any strays of the extension hair; it was not to burn my real hair.
In reading about a flame being brought to someone’s real hair, I could not accept the definition of candle therapy as a healthy process “leaving behind a passage of nutrients to its interior.” What is this “passage”? Burnt off segments of the cuticle layer that leave parts of the cortex – the “interior” – exposed? Is that a good thing? Nonetheless, the general consensus from those who have had it done professionally has been largely positive. Many women rave that this candle therapy leaves their hair feeling “healthy” and “smooth.” Here is a Cameroonian woman with relaxed hair sharing her experience with burning her hair in a very similar fashion. (The video is in French but the process is visual):
While I do think this is a pretty interesting technique to rid the hair of split ends, at the same time, I am concerned about invisible damage that may be done to the remaining hair and in the long term. For now, I’m not sold on the method.
Would you try this “candle therapy”? Do you think it will catch on in the natural hair community?