The Super-Odd Reason Women Are Purposely Setting Their Hair On Fire

Photo: VP Photo Studio / Shutterstock
Velaterapia: The Super-Odd Reason Women Are Purposely Setting Their Hair On Fire
Self

We've learned so many things from the 24 seasons of America’s Next Top Model, including how to "smize" (smile with your eyes) and booty-tooch (over-exaggerate the arch of your lower back to accentuate your butt). But mostly, we've learned that modeling is hard.

Many times, you have to do things you really don't want to, like modeling a bikini in the snow or walking a runway 25 stories up in the air, all while a photo stylist or photographer is yelling at you and treating you poorly.

To be a model, you have to do things that aren't fun. And, apparently, having someone light your hair on fire is one of them.

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Velaterapia is a Brazilian hair treatment that involves a hair-professional running the flame of a candle up and down the hair; many models do it to get rid of split ends.

Cutting doesn't do the trick?

Model Alessandra Ambrosio posted a photo of herself on Instagram getting this Brazilian hair treatment:

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Here's how Velaterapia, or candle-cutting, works:

First, the hair is separated into small sections, twisted, and like a moth to the flame, contact is made. In a kind of magical way, the burning causes the damaged parts of the hair to stick out, almost as if they were summoned by an unnatural force.

The stray hairs are singed, and the rest of the hair is given a deep conditioning treatment. The burning supposedly opens up the hair follicle (the official term is called hair-shock), making it more receptive to nutrients and making the conditioning treatment even more effective.

It takes three-and-a-half hours, and Velaterapia fans get it done about every four months. Burning hair is one of the worst smells on earth, and it takes a real commitment to having perfect model hair to willingly breathe it in.

While this treatment has been popular in South America for a long time, it's also available in some salons in the United States, such as the Maria Bonita Salon in New York.

What are the risks of Velaterapia?

Elizabeth Cunnane-Phillips, a trichologist (someone who helps people who have hair or scalp problems) at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in NYC, says, "While burning split ends might remove the split in the hair, you're also creating a potential vulnerability to the fiber itself, which results in weaker strands. There are a lot more effective ways to remove split ends than to burn it off. I would say don't take the risk."

There are no studies that prove that burning off split ends is more effective than cutting them. Unfortunately, you may even cause more split ends from heat damage. You may damage your hair follicles, causing your hair to become dry, frizzy, and brittle.

Are the risks of serious burns and your hair catching on fire worth this beauty treatment?

If this sounds appealing to you, please pay the $150 to $200 to have a professional perform the candle-cutting — don't try to cut costs by doing it yourself at home! You could actually light your hair on fire and hurt yourself, or others.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in July 2015 and was updated with the latest information.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.