One of the best things about being in my mid-20s is the personal growth everyone encourages. I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring my likes and dislikes. I’ve found that one of my dislikes is doing my hair. Several months ago I took my best shot at becoming a naturalista and long story short it was a hot mess. I found out I’m terrible at doing flat twists and all the styles I tried take way too much time for me to be doing them multiple times each week. After that “journey”, I still wasn’t ready to return to the world of protective styling, so based off a recommendation from my hair stylist, I decided to try the Design Essentials Strengthening Therapy System Express.
The Design Essentials Strengthening Therapy System Express (STS Express) is a three step system designed to maximize manageability and increase the time your style lasts, while simultaneously making your hair stronger and repairing damage. STS Express does this through an amino-acid infused smoothing and thermal treatment that temporarily straightens and smooths frizzy, naturally curly, transitioning, multi-textured, and/or chemically altered hair for approximately 12 weeks. According to their website, the benefits include “long lasting smooth, intense frizz protection, enhanced manageability, safe and effective (Formaldehyde free), proven on all hair textures”.
Before I got the treatment, I wanted to do my research to see how other naturalistas felt about the product. I was rather disappointed to find very few reviews on the Design Essentials website and majority of the videos they had of stylists performing the service were on models with loose curl patterns. My hair is very tightly coiled so these videos really didn’t do much for me. I took to YouTube, where I still struggled to find reviews from anyone with hair close to mine. The few reviews I did find warned of a destroyed curl pattern both immediately after use and well after the 12 weeks the treatment is supposed to last. Despite this, I took the word of my stylist and gave it a try.
The day of my appointment, my hair was first washed with the sulfate free cleansing shampoo. Next, my hair was split into four sections and the smoothing mousse was applied with a comb. It is important that each strand is coated, so the mousse was applied in very small sections. I then sat with the product in my hair for a while (sorry I can’t recall the exact amount of time). The product doesn’t have a strong odor or burn your scalp (death to relaxers. lol jk). Then, my stylist applied the thermal therapy leave-in sealant to my hair to remove residue and seal in the smoothing mousse. She then blow dried my hair from root to end til it was dry. Lastly, she flat ironed my hair in small 1/8″ sections, making sure to pass over each section 1-2 times. It is important that your stylist flat iron your hair at a temperature that is appropriate for your hair type. I wanted curls, so she did that, and I was done. The entire process probably took less than 90 mins from beginning to end.
So let’s address the things I liked first. My hair has what I feel is a tight undefined curl pattern. My hair basically drinks water and when it gets wet it shrinks like a rolly polly. Immediately after applying the smoothing mousse, I noticed that my curls were quite a bit looser (were wash-n-goes in my future?!?). When she flat ironed my hair, it seemed noticeably straighter! Unfortunately, that was as good as it got the day I got the treatment. While my hair was shiny, it didn’t seem any more shiny than when she usually does it and I was in no rush to see if humidity would have me looking like a poodle. About two weeks later, I washed my hair myself and I was so pleased! My wet hair was SO much more manageable as far as de-tangling and blow drying. My blow drying time was probably cut in half. The best part about it all, my curl pattern wasn’t ruined! Yes, my curls were a bit looser, but it was very much still curly. About a month after receiving the treatment, I decided to return to protective styling and chose to forego a closure to see how my hair would blend with my extensions. I had to give another check mark for the STS express because my leave out (the hair NOT braided and protected under my extensions) blended perfectly! It’s now probably been about 12 weeks since I had the treatment and while I can see its effects diminishing (it washes out as you wash your hair) it’s still working. I’ve had my hair in a protective style for 8 of those 12 weeks so it’s hard to identify what I should attribute my hair growth to.
Now, for the two things I was less than pleased with. After she was done with my hair, there was a white residue (looked like dandruff) very visible in my hair and on my black top. Additionally, in my opinion, my hair had an unpleasant odor. I was very skeptical about the absence of a step to rinse or wash excess product out and clearly for good reason. While my mom nor boyfriend commented about the white flakes, I felt like they were just being nice because it was almost all I saw when I looked in the mirror.
I was originally hesitant to get the service because of the few reviews I’d seen and the price starts at about $100. For someone like me on a budget, this is definitely not a necessary expense and falls into the category of a splurge. However, I rationalized getting the treatment because I knew I’d be doing my hair at home for quite a while and this would make things a little easier. Which brings me to my next point, if you are not going to be visiting your stylist on a regular basis after getting this treatment, PLEASE be sure to consult them about the best products to maintain your STS Express. You don’t want to deactivate and/or ruin your treatment. All-in-all I would definitely get the treatment again. I’m unsure if having my stylist wash after blowing drying is an option, but I’ll certainly be asking to avoid that white build up.
I hope you enjoyed this video from the Design Essentials website. If you’re wanting to learn more about Design Essentials or the STS Express, please visit their site here.
Thinking about getting the STS Express, but still have more questions? Drop them below and I’ll reach out to my expert for answers!