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Burning your hair to get rid of split ends? Some women are trying candle cutting

Desperate to have healthy long hair, women are trying a candle cutting to get rid of those damaged split ends without losing the length.
/ Source: TODAY

For those with long hair, or those trying to grow out their hair, the thought of a haircut is often enough to make your stomach turn. But now there's a new trend for getting rid of split ends while preserving your hair's length. It's called candle cutting, and it literally involves using a candle's flame to burn away dead ends.

Currently used by supermodels like Barbara Fiahlo and Alessandra Ambrosio, the trend originates from Brazil, where it is known as velaterapia. TODAY spoke with a stylist who performs velaterapia on his clients regularly, Ricardo Gomes at Maria Bonita Salon in New York City, to get the inside scoop.

"Actually a lot of people get confused about the treatment because they think it has to do with the wax of the candle," said Gomes. "But it actually involves just controlling the flame."

Just like most methods of hair styling, it requires a trained stylist in this technique. So ladies don't think you'll be trying one at home for quick DIY fix.

MORE: A clever way to repair split ends and 8 more hair tricks

For best results, the technique requires dry, straight hair that is sectioned into small pieces. Gomes warns that if the sections are too big, it's hard to get all the split ends. Once the hair is divided, each section is twisted. The stylist then quickly runs a flame over the frayed pieces sticking out of the twist in order to essentially burn them off. The twisting method ensures that only what is damaged is removed from the hair.

Once this process is complete, the stylist washes the hair and puts in a deep conditioner. The intense heating of the hair opens the hair cuticle, creating an opportunity for nutrients to be injected and sealed in. The mask along with a cold rinse ensure that the cuticle is closed, creating healthier faster growing hair. After, the hair is blown out. Any leftover split ends are carefully trimmed using a method that cuts on top of the hair.

However, there's a catch to burning the hair: the smell. Those of you who have never smelt burnt hair consider yourselves lucky because it's a strong and long-lasting odor (which occurs because the keratin in our hair contains sulfur).

For celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa the thought of the smell is enough to make her wary.

"My first initial thought was that if you've ever smelled hair that is burnt it's terrible. The smell of burnt hair sticks around for a while and I think it's one of the first things that would turn people away from it."

It turns out this treatment isn't just for anyone. As Gomes explained it's only really effective for a certain types of hair.

"It's recommended for people who have pre-treated hair, highlights or use lots of hot tools. This is ideal for those people with lots of split ends who don't want to cut the length," said Gomes who also advises that only people with shoulder length hair or below consider the treatment.

Potempa says that it would be very difficult to cut any length from the hair because there's no way to control the flame and how much length you are taking off.

For Jim Markham, hairstylist and founder of hair care company ColorProof, he's more skeptical of this working based on his experience trying it years ago.

"It is possible for it to work, but not consistently and will be a mixed-bag at best. You may burn some split ends but you will also burn some of the cuticle and cut through the cortex, weakening and destroying the hair," Markham wrote in an email to TODAY.

Because this treatment essentially shocks the hair with such high heat, Gomes only recommends clients get the treatment every three to four months. The treatment itself takes about an hour and half and the cost depends on the thickness and length of the hair. At Maria Bonita, for example, prices start at $150, but can go up to as much as $250 depending on the hair type.

Gomes who's been performing velaterapia for three years learned it during one of this trips back to Brazil. He said while he was taught to perform it using one technique, he has since developed his own over the years.

And it turns out velaterapia is actually nothing new. Gomes said that the technique was popular in the 1960s and 1970s in Brazil. However, he thinks the recent fascination with it has to do with the fact that people are increasingly looking for products and treatments that do not include chemicals.

"It's not so far-fetched that we're playing with heat with the hair," said Potempa who explained heat is often used by hairstylist with such actions as heating the scissors before a haircut. She also added the women put intense heat on their hair regularly with hot tools.

Still scared to try it?

Potempa and Markham both note there are still other options out there for getting rid of those split ends like shampoos, conditioners and masks.The best thing to do is take one strand and pull it. If it splits, then that's a sign you need to do something about those frayed ends.