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Chemical advancement. Permanent waves. Color development.

What sounds like a trip to a toxic-waste dump is actually a scene from a beauty show at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, where 5,000 participants this weekend are expected to look good.

It's tough work being beautiful.

Ask 14-year-old Charli Greasart of South Buffalo, one of hundreds of models who turned up Saturday in search of a new 'do.

"I don't want it that short," Charli pleaded, staring directly into the eyes of her hairstylist.

Rule No. 1 in the land of beauty: There is no such word as hairdresser. People who cut hair are called artists, stylists or designers.

"I'm not trying to talk you into it," assured Marc Moss of Atlanta. "But your hair needs attention. Why don't you wear it down?"

"It looks nasty," replied Charli, taking a seat at the far end of the room to contemplate the future of her follicles.

"I treat hair like I would a fabric," the artist explained. "I color it. I iron it. I design it."

Moss said he knew he wanted to style hair for a living since he was 4 years old, growing up in Mississippi. Moss remembers constantly combing his mother's wigs for inspiration. Now he gets $65 a chop back in his Atlanta salon.

On Saturday, he and other stars of the hair and beauty world convened in Niagara Falls for the Kayser beauty show. Presentations -- attended by hair designers from throughout the Northeast -- include clipper cutting, hands-on lessons in nail design and salon development.

Local models, meanwhile, were lining up at the respective booths hoping to be selected for a free haircut, color or permanent, which they will display during the show today and Monday. Some were chosen Friday night and were instructed to return with a good pair of heels.

"Are you tingling or burning?" asked another artist, as Tammy Quackenbush sat shivering in the stylist chair.

Rule No. 2: Wear layers. A wet head in a cavernous showroom spells frostbite for those with thin blood.

"I have no idea what they're doing to my head," said Ms. Quackenbush, 17, of Fuller Street. "My hair is naturally brown."

Now it's iridescent blond, a wet sponge-like mass that resembles a leaning tower.

"Did you blow dry her? I didn't notice the dryer was on," commented Martin Parsons of Toronto.

Parsons is a master of the tress, according to those at the show.

"He's major, a headliner," said one goateed devotee, whose black turtleneck was framed by a silver cross necklace.

Rule No. 3: Black is still beautiful. The presence of color detracts from the mane event.

"This is not easy," said Kelli Helmer, 14, of Cheektowaga. Kelli, whose wet hair was gathered in a towel, plans to spend 12 hours a day at the beauty exhibit, and she comes with a stiff painted upper lip.

"You have to put up with a lot," Kelli noted, "and if something goes wrong, you deal with it."

The exhibit will continue through Monday.

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