Love affair with hair: Two friends get a make-over

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Glam gals: Jen got a keratin treatment and Suzanne got color.

Image 21

Location: 4823 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn

Hours: 9 a.m.to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday (client accommodations can be made)

Services: haircuts, styling, color, chemical services, manicures, pedicures, waxing and makeup

Contact: (708) 422-1421

In business: 15 years

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Our hair is the pièce de résistance of our appearance. Let's face it, pretty hair is half the battle when it comes to feeling good. It's so easy to get stuck in a rut. Either we cling to what once worked or have unrealistic expectations of an impractical style. Caveat emptor: What looks good in a magazine often gets lost in translation without a stylist, proper lighting, and hours of prep time.

Raise your hand if you've ever stretched a color and cut to the point where even your husband notices, and gently suggests moving up your hair appointment. Guilty as charged.

Men actually play a significant role in a woman's tenuous relationship with her hair. They are obsessed with hair - especially long hair. Last night in an entertainment news flash one of the breaking stories was how a model's degree of hotness significantly dropped after chopping off her locks. Gentlemen, get over it. Ladies, don't buy into it.

Both in need of a little spiffing up - we admit it - we visited Image 21 in Oak Lawn for a mini makeover. Pauline Kontalonis and Lauren Carroll, our respective stylists, were armed with proper styling tools and advice - especially when it came to taming Jen's unruly mane. And to top off our newly styled tresses, Angela Villanueva, the salon's cosmetologist, treated us to a personalized makeup application.

Jen

I have very thick unruly course hair that is 50 percent kinky and 50 percent frizz. My celebrity hair twins are Slash and the lead singer from LMFAO. To compound my hair woes, I've been going gray since my early 20s. Most of the lucky women in my family reach cotton-top status by their late 40s. So it's a constant battle of the lion's mane verses a skunk stripe. And this is only after using hair care products and regularly (almost) coloring my hair. My childhood would have been completely different if I could have had a little mousse or hair gel.

Biggest hair crime: Unfortunately, I have two. When I was in college, I cut off my hair because my boyfriend at the time thought it would look great. A week later, he broke up with me. For the record, it wasn't one of my better looks. Secondly, a couple of years ago, I decided to go blond. Three hours later, I left the salon looking like Carrot Top. The next day, I spent $200 at a different salon for an emergency corrective color. Biggest lessons learned: Stay true to yourself and don't try to be someone you're not.

Sue

I cannot lie; I like my hair. The problem is I never do anything different and it's because I loathe change of any kind. An inch off here, layers trimmed, no color deviation - that's my credo. It's my own fault entirely. In the spirit of fairness, I'm growing my hair long one last time as a final hurrah to my 30s (even though I have three years). Unfortunately the grays have set in for me, too. And with dark hair they're more prevalent and noticeable than ever. I also have very fine hair and as one who's slightly anti-product, my usual styling routine consists of letting my 'do air dry, and possibly using a straightening iron for a bit of polish. Pathetic, I know. I crave some volume but lack the skill or patience to dedicate the time to it. The hot rollers I ordered from Amazon a month ago have left me looking like Cindy Brady.

Biggest hair crime: Oh where do I start? My hair was at its worst when I dyed it too dark and wound up with jet black locks and Dutch Boy bangs (think Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction). As a result of my OCD tendencies, I became fixated on having said bangs perfectly even, and had them trimmed constantly. Simultaneously, I tweezed my eyebrows so excessively they were about an inch in length each. The color completely washed me out. And the bangs, although cute in kindergarten, weren't propelling me into early adulthood. They also drew attention to my missing brows. I looked creepy and perpetually surprised. Biggest lessons learned: Softer color and bangs are key; eyebrows should cover entire length of eyes.

Pauline decided the way to go for Jen was to give her a keratin hair straightening treatment to smooth out the hair. Keratin-based treatments provide three to four months of hair smoothing that comes in three different strengths. Jen opted for the most potent strength in order to drastically cut down on the volume. It doesn't completely remove the curl from the hair; it just makes it manageable and significantly less frizzy. By using sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, the result will last even longer. Pauline cut long layers and a side bang to reduce the bulk of the hair, which was taking over Jen's face. Jen looked transformed from a frizzy mess to smoothly coiffed. And the keratin treatment will drastically reduce styling time.

After Sue told Lauren she wasn't looking for anything drastic, Lauren decided to clean up Sue's ends and layers, add some textured side bangs, and apply a rich dynamic color of medium brown and medium natural brown. As a coup de grace, soft curls were incorporated to give more volume. The trick was the Denman brush blowout, JoiWhip mousse, TIGI root lifter and Sebastian Reshaper hairspray.

Hair in check, it was on to transforming our faces.

Angela Villanueva has her own line of cosmetics. She asks all her clients to bring in their cosmetics to not only see what they are using, but build on the items they already have. She customizes foundations and believes makeup shouldn't be elaborate, but simple and effective through basic application, and utilizing a color palette that best works with a particular skin tone. Angela showed us how to even out our skin tones, the best colors for us and how to apply the makeup to enhance our features. Ten minutes with her and we were transformed. She showed us firsthand how it is possible to achieve such a look in just minutes without a lot of products or fuss.

Both styles are complementary yet easy to maintain. Going with a girlfriend is fun and gratifying. It allows you to laugh at yourself, but also provides the encouragement to try something new - even if it's as simple as hair spray. And it's so much fun to not only see your own look, but see how great your beloved friend looks. From there, you can hold each other accountable for keeping it up. You deserve it.

Jennifer Mifflin and Suzanne Witt are two Chicago-area writers on hiatus from daily assignments. When they aren't chasing terriers and a two-year-old or playing chauffeur to pre-teens, they throw caution to the wind and chronicle their journey as moms, friends and fellow neurotics on ChirpyGirls.com. Visit Chirpy Girls on Facebook.