My hair has a life of it’s own. It’s thick, wavy and grows like a weed. Many tell me I’m lucky to have it, but I tend to think of it as a blessing and a curse. If it’s styled right (as in professionally done), I love it. If I have to style it myself, the process takes a little more than an hour. And no matter what new hair trick I try, I can never get my hair to look as good as it does when I leave a salon. That’s my problem on a regular basis. But over the last two months, my hair really took on a life of it’s own. It was like I woke up and had mermaid hair, but not in a sexy way. Think long, matted and out of control with seaweed in it. To make matters worse, people started saying I looked like “Pocahantas” as if it was a good thing. Let me tell you, when I was five-years-old, I wanted to be a Disney princess, but as an adult? No thank you. Basically, I needed a hair makeover. Bad.
That’s why I decided to enlist the best hair team in Los Angeles: Anh Co Tran and Johnny Ramirez. They opened their first salon together about a year and a half ago, and I’ve been stalking their Instagram feeds ever since. If you haven’t looked already, do so now.
It’s easy to see why they’re quickly becoming the “it” guys in the industry. They have a very distinct style when it comes to hair–laid back, sexy and effortless with sun-kissed highlights. Tran’s inspiration: Cindy Crawford hair from the ’90s with lots of layers and flipped to the side. Ramirez’s inspiration: A beach baby with natural highlights that perfectly frame the face.
My hair transformation starts bright and early at 9am (that’s early for me because it involves traffic). First up, “Before” pictures by Ramirez because he’s been documenting his transformations for years. We chat for a minute and I tell him I want the full Ramirez-Tran specialty. He warns that it can be done, but with my type of hair, it will take all day. That doesn’t deter me.
Next, into Tran’s seat. I have to say, they don’t waste any time here. And with good reason. Throughout the day, I get a glimpse of just how busy the salon can be. Ramirez and Tran alone see anywhere between 20 to 30 clients a day, and to manage the workload, they have a ton of assistants that arrive at 6:30am to prep before the boys get there at 7am. And every single one of them is efficient because they know they won’t leave until each client is perfect, which means they sometimes find themselves at the salon until 2am. But back to Tran.
Tran’s haircut has two phases if you’re getting color done. Phase one is a “rough cut” and the base for the look. He cuts your hair while it’s dry so he can see the shape. “I can see how your hair moves and if there are cowlicks, and the way you part it,” he says. “A wet haircut is generic.” He runs his fingers through my locks and then gets started.
While he cuts, he tells me, “I think the look for 2015 is lots of movement. The long bob has been in for a while now, so it’s not a fad. If anything, people want change and if they have long hair and don’t want to cut it off, then they want movement and sex appeal.” Adding, “For your hair, we’re gonna keep the front a smidge longer than the back, so it swings forward. It’s more modern and I want to maintain that sultry look.”
(As Tran starts my hair cut, I quickly cancel all of my meetings for the afternoon because I underestimated how much time goes into the transformation)
Phase one of my haircut is complete and it only took about 40 minutes. That’s about 6 inches chopped off my hair in some parts and I’m already glad I did it. Now it’s time to start hair color with Ramirez. But first, he and Tran discuss the look they’re going for with my hair so that they’re on the same page.
This is where it gets really tricky. I’m a fan of highlights, but I have never been a fan of highlights in my own hair. That’s because no one has ever gotten the color right on me. I have dark hair that I tend to dye even darker on a regular basis to even out the red undertones, so anytime a hair colorist brings out the bleach, it’s almost a guarantee that my hair will turn copper. Ramirez assures me this won’t happen. I’m going to have a “chestnut color with some highlights” when he’s done.
The process starts with Ramirez “breaking up the dark brown with some highlights” and then it all gets a little fuzzy for me. Yes, he explained what he was doing, but it tends to be a little technical, so I’ll break it down in my own words.
First, he put foils in my hair with bleach, and I was put under a hair dryer. That might not sound unique, but actually it was. That’s because every few minutes, one of his assistants would come over and check my hair. If some spots seemed to lift quicker than others, he or she wiped it off. There was never a long stretch of time where I just sat there without being checked on. That’s important because we all know bleach can be scary. Phase one is now complete and I have officially been here for about two hours.
(I don’t like to sit under hair dryers.)
Next, I sit back in Ramirez’s chair and he starts to tease my hair. And when I say tease, I mean TEASE my hair. I end up looking like a Mexican-Korean version of Marie Antoinette. He adds more bleach and foils to my hair in very strategic places, but at this point I can’t decipher what’s happening. I just trust the process because I know he’s a pro and I see his perfectionism at work. At one point, he gives some straight talk to a client who desperately needs to fix her botched hair color from another salon, and desperately wants Ramirez to do it. Long story short, he said he couldn’t. At least not what she wanted. He suggested they take the process slow, and when she badgered on, he finally said, “Listen. I understand how you feel. When I want something, I obsess about it. But I’ve had to learn the hard way that sometimes you have to work towards it to get it right.” I was impressed. She wanted to lift the color out of her hair really bad, but when they tested a few strands, they broke apart. Even with that knowledge, she was game. He just wouldn’t have it and convinced her to take it slow. I then go back to the hair dryer.
At this point, I need to have a conversation with someone and stop looking at my phone, so I grab one of the assistants. We talk about the process my hair is going through, and he tells me their main goal in these first two steps is to lift the hair color enough so it doesn’t turn copper. Ah-ha! So that’s the key. No one has ever taken the time to lift (aka, bleach) the color enough, much less go through the trouble of babysitting it for hours to make sure it doesn’t over-process. It makes a lot of sense because my hair is so dark to begin with, it’s a beast to get the color out. I sit a little while longer and then they blow dry my wig. I mean, my hair to lift the color a little more.
(This fur ball is my hair)
Five hours down and just when I think it will be impossible to detangle my hair, the Tangle Teasers come out. They’re those funny looking plastic brushes that every mom with a young daughter loves. The team continues to impress me. They get the tangles out in record time and start the next phase. There are some secret tricks that Ramirez does to give the color his personal touch, and then they tone it.
(The sun is setting outside the salon. My hair is almost finished.)
We’re in the home stretch! My hair color is finished and now it’s time for a rough dry so Tran can add the final touch to the hair cut, because remember, he dry cuts. Then he and an assistant go in for his signature look: loose, tousled waves. Their trick is to start the barrel down the middle of each hair section, clamping loosely and twirl, while leaving the ends out. I make a mental note, so I can try to replicate it at home.
The look is complete! Best eight hours of my hair life. Seriously. I got a hairstyle that will last for about a year. Ramirez says the color will grow out in a natural way because of his technique and the hair cut has an “I woke up like this” vibe that needs little maintenance. But something tells me I’ll be back sooner. I love the hair color. I love the hair cut. I love the style. And most of all, I really love the boys and their team. Everyone was professional, worked really hard, and showed my thick hair a lot of love and care.
And of course, one last picture to end the day-long ordeal. Visit Anh Co Tran and Johnny Ramirez if you really want to give your hair new life (they’re also in New York City, Miami and other major cities often, so keep up with them on social media). It’s completely worth it, and even if you can’t get in with them, I highly recommend the rest of the team at Ramirez | Tran Salon. All of their work is spectacular!