Hair care methods have developed over time. As more technologies come into play, you’d think that traditional and historical methods would fall out of fashion. This is not always the case, as tried and tested techniques are sometimes the best. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the practice of velaterapia. Thanks to Victorias’ Secret Angel models, including Alessandra Ambrosio and Barbara Fialho. The latest to Instagram with hair treatment is Ambrosia. But it turns out Fialho was way ahead of the game when she popularized this trend back in 2014. And everyone from The Daily Mail to Fashionista covered it in their stories. They promoted it as an effective method of dealing with split ends and creating healthier and shinier hair. The process involves being brave enough to put a candle to your locks.
We know velaterapia as Brazilian hair burning, candle cutting, or even fire hair. These names clarify exactly what goes on when you opt for this treatment. It involves singing off the ends of the hair with a candle and methodically removing all split ends. Thus, creating a shinier and healthier finish. It’s a professional technique, so no one suggests you take a candle and put it in your hair. And there are obviously risks and benefits. So let’s look more closely at the hair burning process and some historical examples of similar techniques.
How does velaterapia work?
Velaterapia translates from Portuguese as candle therapy. It involves an experienced practitioner burning or singeing the ends of the hair. The idea is to expose damaged hair strands to the lit candle and remove them quickly and effectively. It is a professional therapy provided by experts.
They divide the hair into small sections, twist the hair strand, and expose them one by one to the open flame of the candle. The exposure time is only a few seconds. But the brief exposure burns away the split ends and damaged hairs, leaving only healthy locks. The process can also help the hair follicles lock in nutrients, and the deep conditioning treatment is applied afterward. The open ends of the hair are particularly receptive to additional treatments and products.
The whole process would only take about 2-3 hours (depending on hair length) with any hair type – whether it’s dyed or straightened! It repairs damage from chemicals like bleach while also helping to combat health problems caused by styling with heat tools and chemical treatment, as well as constantly dying over time.
The historical significance of hair singeing and burning
In Native American culture, hair has huge significance, and its value and importance cannot be overstated. Hair is tightly connected to a person’s cultural identity, and long hair is an expectation in many indigenous American cultures. Styling, grooming, and care of long hair are all commonplace in indigenous American society. One can link this ornamentation and styling to individual families or tribes. It is also an expression of self-esteem and self-worth.
Some tribes in South America use single braids, while others may use two, three, or more. Others will paint their hair in ceremonial colors and utilize various accessories from fur wraps to feathers, beadwork, and more.
Haircutting in Native American culture is usually a sign of a significant event, usually traumatic. Many tribes cut their hair after the death of a close family member or a traumatic event in their close family. The cutting of the hair represents the time spent with the deceased family member. In some cases, it can also be a sign of new beginnings.
Indigenous Americans never throw their cut hair away. They believe it is symbolic and still holds real value. To throw it away would be disrespectful. Instead, they treat it with respect. People burn their cut hair ceremonially with herbs and spices such as sage or sweetgrass. Alongside the burning hair, tribespeople will talk of their lost loved ones and their dreams and hopes for the future.
In a less culturally important context
Velaterapia was also commonplace in early 20th century England, though not with the same name! In Edwardian Britain, singeing was a common alternative to cutting hair. One publication of the time stated:
“One of the best ways to treat impoverished hair or hair that is not in normal condition is singeing. In some cases, even the healthiest tresses may require this treatment since it gives a new boost to growth without risking bleeding, as clipping may do. […] You should not go for singeing more often than once in three months, and sometimes at longer intervals.”
Further publications from the period suggest using a lighted taper to trim the ends of the hair and much favored over simply cutting. The Manual On Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis, And Chiropody from 1906 states:
“Singeing is done with a wax taper made especially for the purpose or by an alcohol burner that allows a small flame to peep through a perforated surface. Wax tapers are usually recommended and can be obtained at any wholesale house, or you may use the ordinary gas lighting taper.
The hair is taken down and combed out, like preparing it for shampoo. Take a small strand separately and twist it firmly to compel the short ends of the hair to spring out from the coil. Prevent it from catching fire as you pass the singer over the hair to catch the protruding ends.”
The practice from over 100 years ago is surprisingly similar to the velaterapia carried out today.
Does velaterapia actually work?
We know Brazil is famous for its exceptional and innovative approach to hair care. And hairdressing is a hugely popular vocation across the country. Even in other countries, Brazilian hair extensions and treatments are amongst the most popular. With this in mind, professionals carrying out this treatment have the experience to deliver the desired results. The main benefit of velaterapia over alternative methods for removing split ends is the precise nature of the practice.
While hair trimming with scissors may cut many large sections of your healthy hair, the Brazilian treatment of “cauterizing the hair” or hair burning focuses on the split ends alone. It’s a process where an open flame cauterizes the hair follicle, which opens up the channels for nutrients, removes split ends, and makes your locks more manageable. Your hair looks much healthier and shinier.
Like many beauty trends, there is no significant clinical evidence to support the benefits of burning off split ends. Similarly, while you may be happy to trim split ends yourself at home, you should not attempt velaterapia.
A word about safety
As mentioned throughout this article, velaterapia is professional treatment. It is something you should only consider with the help of a trained professional or a hairstylist. Attempting to burn your split ends yourself could be extremely dangerous, and the risk of fire and burn injuries is much higher than the benefits of removing split ends.
Risks and side effects of velaterapia
Using candles to burn and treat your hair has benefits and a history of being preferred over the use of scissors or other treatments. However, there are risks associated beyond the fire and burn injuries we’ve already discussed.
It is very easy to sear off and remove a lot more hair than you hope for, and you could even end up with bald patches or areas of hair much thinner than others. Another unintended side effect of trying out this therapy without professional help is the chance of causing even more split ends and significant heat damage to your hair. When carried out incorrectly, velaterapia can even cause damage to the hair follicles and leave your hair brittle, frizzy, and dried out, resulting in weaker strands and, ultimately, hair loss.
Alternative treatment options
The annoying problem of split ends wouldn’t quickly heal, and once they appear, the only way to get rid of dead ends is to remove them. Once you’ve had velaterapia or opted for a haircut, there is a wide range of different methods to help keep your hair in top condition and minimize split ends coming back. Changes to consider include:
- A strict conditioning regime focused on the end of the hair
- Avoid shampoo on the ends of the hair.
- Consider leave-in conditions or hair oils to nourish the dead ends of the hair.
- Minimize the use of hairstyling treatments and opt for natural styles where possible.
- Avoid the use of heated tools such as straighteners and tongs.
- Avoid the use of hair ties and elastics that encourage hair breakage.
- Consider cutting back on hair washes or the no-poo method to help nourish your locks.
Small changes to your routine can help ensure the health of your hair and cut back on the need for additional treatments and therapies such as velaterapia.
Other candle hair therapies
Candle hair therapies do not stop at velaterapia. Many beauty therapists utilize candles in different ways. From scented candles to create a relaxed ambiance and mood to hot wax treatments using tapers and candles, there are many opportunities to incorporate candle therapies in a beauty and hair care regime. Don’t forget Hopi ear candles that originate from the American Hopi tribe in Arizona. Hopi ear candles utilize a specialist ear candle. These candles are usually crafted from natural ingredients, including beeswax, herbs, and honey. Then, they insert candles into the ear canal to help to alleviate any ear, nose, and throat problems such as congestion and inflammation.
What will they use them for next?
The versatility of the humble candle knows no end. The benefits of velaterapia and other candle-related beauty treatments remain untested by science, but many have stood the test of time. With the right experience and training, there are many versatile ways to incorporate candle therapies into your beauty and hair care regimes.