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RPZL entered Flatiron's busy blowout scene (see: DreamDry, Blo Blow Dry Bar, Drybar) earlier this year with one major distinguishing factor: They do extensions. And then they blow out those extensions—made from "Remy" human hair, widely considered the highest-quality hair used for extensions and weaves—to long, luscious perfection.
Co-owners Monica Thornton and Lisa Richards, who came together with no professional beauty background to speak of (Thornton's a lawyer, Richard worked in the business of entertainment), couldn't find a salon that catered to women who wanted to try extensions but weren't ready to spend thousands of dollars. So they did what any entrepreneurial women would, and created it themselves.
The salon invited me to try their RPZL Next extensions ($550, or $850 for a full set), which are two steps up from clip-ins and one step up from tape hair (both of which are offered here as well). This service takes little strips of hair and individually fuses them to a client's real hair via keratin bonding. They last the longest, look the most natural, and give the wearer the most versatility in terms of styling. Though I originally went in on a Friday afternoon thinking I'd do tape—thicker pieces of hair with an eight-week life span—the seamlessness of one client's Next extensions swayed me.
With a name like RPZL, it's easy for the salon to go full-on princess in its decoration. But fortunately, things remain understated. The color scheme is gray and white, though that gray is covered in glitter. Its biggest nods to its namesake heroine are its oversized logo—a crown backlit in gold—behind the concierge desk, and masquerade accessories like paper tiaras on sticks at the ready next to the photo booth.
After comparing hair sample after hair sample to match my texture and color (old highlights and box dye jobs left my hair with different hues at the roots and the ends) and a standard shampooing, I sat down in the Penthouse suite, equipped with a glass of champagne and a Baked by Melissa cupcake frosted in glitter. Senior stylist Azzy Parsiani, a hair master with decades of experience under her belt, quickly got to work on the extensions, deftly grabbing each piece of hair from a handy belt. What she used to attach the Remy hair to my own can best be described as a hot glue gun (though no glue is involved), and the keratin that fuses each extension into place just feels like plastic.
Azzy worked meticulously to find just the right spot for each extension, making sure that the telltale keratin strips would be properly covered by my natural hair, and testing each strand to confirm that it wasn't applied too tightly. Though it felt much faster, I spent more than three hours in the chair between consultation and blowout (transformations take time). But looking in the mirror to see longer hair, rather than shorter, after a salon visit was worth the wait.
I felt straight-up boss when I walked out onto 21st Street with freshly-blown waves bouncing against my back. No way was I putting my beanie over this.
Truth be told, the final result wasn't as long as I had imagined it to be—Azzy had to steer me away from what she referred to as "stripper hair" from time to time, and trimmed the extensions to better blend into my natural hair. Regardless, I felt straight-up boss when I walked out onto 21st Street with freshly-blown waves bouncing against the middle of my back. No way was I putting my beanie over this, winter winds be damned.
I returned home and did what came naturally: Took a bunch of pictures and made plans to go out (I called it "taking my hair out on the town.") It pleased me deeply when my co-worker didn't immediately recognize me from behind when she approached me at the bar. "It looks so real!" she exclaimed, pinching the pieces between her fingers. My mother expressed similar disbelief when I met her and my dad for dinner the following night, my blowout limping but still looking far better than my own attempts at heat styling.
The three things that finally deflated that blowout? First, sleeping. Despite Azzy's best efforts to make sure none of the extensions she hot-glued would cause tension, that plasticky feeling still takes some getting used to once your head's on the pillow. She could tell just by looking at my scalp where my hair took the most abuse during sleep and purposely didn't put extensions in there, but it still took awhile to get comfortable those first few nights.
Second, sweating. I was afraid that my roots would show if I put my hair in my gym-ready high ponytail for a class at The Fhitting Room, so I arranged it in a loose bun that promptly came undone around my twelfth jumping jack. I ended up smashing it into a tangle of elastics that made my third challenge, showering, even tougher.
Preparing to get into the shower every time I planned on washing my hair (every three days or so, following RZPL's guidelines) was an ordeal that lob-lengthed me wasn't used to. So many hidden knots formed in my maze of a mane that needed to be brushed out before I hit the water—the salon recommends holding your hair firmly at the nape of your neck and brushing from the bottom up to avoid breakage.
Preparing to get into the shower every time I planned on washing my hair...was an ordeal that lob-lengthed me wasn't used to.
And those first few times under the showerhead, I didn't feel like my hair was getting clean enough—my fingers just weren't used to working around all those little bonds to work up a good lather. Plus, you know how weird it feels when you need to use so much less shampoo, conditioner, mousse, everything when you cut your hair? It feels even weirder to do the opposite.
I got the hang of styling pretty quickly, and that's largely thanks to the extensions' unbelievable ability to mimic your hair's natural texture—curling iron skills not required. I played up my waves by adding a generous amount of texturizing spray to wet hair and blow-drying with a diffuser from every angle possible for about five minutes, always leaving the extensions a little damp because they took longer to dry. I'd finish that off with some hair oil to smooth flyaways and moisturize the ends, and maybe a glop of a curl-shaping cream if I was going for a big-hair-don't-care vibe. Pro tip: always go for it.
Within two weeks or so, everything that felt like a challenge—shampooing, ponytails, jogging—became second nature. My hair grew out a bit, and any tension I previously felt when gathering my hair into a topknot or massaging my scalp in the shower became virtually nonexistent. No one could tell that my hair wasn't my own just by looking at it, and I found myself frequently telling people that there were fake strands. More people than needed to know, truth be told.
Reality hit about a month later, when I ripped out a small chunk of hair (pretty much all fake) while rush-brushing my way into the shower. I saved it and kept it on the edge of my bathroom sink for a few days—call it a memorial, I guess. So I've made my appointment to have the extensions removed in a couple of weeks and move on to my next hair phase. It's nice to know that the option for instantly long hair (with a bit of budgeting on my end) is easily in reach now, should I feel the need for it. Just know that I'll never be throwing #longhairdontcare on the end of my Instagram caption, because I'll care. A lot.