Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Are natural products worth buying?

I was chatting to a friend last night who said that she only likes to use natural products on her hair. “So, how do you define natural,” I asked her. To which she replied a product that doesn’t contain chemicals.

I then asked her whether she drinks water. “Of course!” she replied. “Water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O)”, I retorted.

Organic, botanic and herbal are words that seem to imply that they are better for you than the word chemical which people think is bad for you.

Natural should mean any ingredient derived from nature as opposed to being produced synthetically.

In some cases, when a natural oil or extract is usedwhat you are left with is anything but natural and is usually different from its initial structure. Philip Kingsley, in his book The Hair Bible, points out natural ingredients “have to be extracted, leached, masticated and mixed with other chemicals to preserve them.” He goes on to say that the word “natural” on a label should not influence you when buying a product.  And he should know as he uses some natural ingredients in his formulations. 

Read the label to find out what you are buying. All manufacturers are required to state all the ingredients in the product on the label. According to EU guidelines they should be “in decreasing order of concentration of the ingredient in the finished cosmetic product”. For a rough idea of what you are buying, split the ingredient list into three parts. The top third makes up most of the product. If the ingredient which is being advertised as being “the wonder element” comes at the bottom of the list, it won’t be that effective.

Organic and natural products are not necessarily safer. Skin can react to natural products as well as man-made products.

By Daralyn Danns

Monday, 23 May 2011

The best hairbrushes

A bad workman blames his tools but, in my experience, having the right hairbrush and knowing how to use it helps create a more professional finish. Brushing can harm the hair. Marilyn Sherlock, chairman of the Institute of Trichologists, advises against brushing daily. She also says before using a brush you should ensure that hair is tangle-free. Ask your hairdresser to recommend the right one for you.

The round brush

Perfect for styling curly or wavy hair as it does help get hair smooth and sleek. The bigger the brush the straighter your hair will be. Invest in a natural bristle brush that has a good grip. Before buying a brush, you need to ensure that it won’t scratch your hair. Marilyn suggests testing it by rubbing your hands over the bristles several times. Hairdressers tend to recommend boar bristles as they help to boost shine.

Ceramic round stylers, although they dry the hair quicker (the brush retains the heat from your hairdryer) than a bristle brush they are also, potentially, more damaging to your hair and can leave your tresses looking dull. Keep moving it to minimise damage.

Frédéric Fekkai Large Round Brush, £46.
This natural boar bristle brush is great for adding volume, straightening hair and creating curl.

Vent brush

Has widely-spaced flexible pins that allow air to flow through the vents. Ideal for drying short to medium hair that doesn’t have much curl. Plastic pins are reputed to be the kindest to hair.


Philip Kingsley Vented Grooming Hairbrush, £16.35.
This cushioned brush is has been designed to be gentle on the scalp. The holes allow heat through which speeds up the drying process. This comes in a larger size, Philip Kingsley Vented Paddle Brush (£22.50) which is designed for styling long hair.

Grooming Brush
Think of a good boar bristle brush on a rubber cushion and Mason Pearson’s range immediately springs to mind.

Mason Pearson ‘Small Extra’ hairbrush (model: B2) in dark ruby, £86.75.
Hairdressers love Mason Pearson brushes as they are said to be kind to the hair and last for ages. Ideal for grooming for most types of hair, this model has extra stiff natural pure boar bristles.

Don’t forget to wash brushes regularly.

By Daralyn Danns

Monday, 16 May 2011

What to do when the colour goes wrong

I broke up with my long-standing colourist when she overdid the ash blonde highlights and made the rest of my hair too ginger. I asked on several occasions why I kept getting the "ginger" problem and what could be done about it. She told that as she was tinting on top of tint, it would throw up warmth. (I later found out that this base colour used on dark hair, which I have, would turn orangey.) So, I decided to try somebody else. 

The first time was fine, the second time the colour lifted and my locks were a dreadful copper shade with blue highlights. The colourist tried to correct it but made it too dark and too ashy.

Jo Hansford, one of the country’s top colour experts, is right when she says a bad colour experience can be psychologically damaging and can affect your confidence leaving you feeling depressed and unhappy. To say I was not best pleased is putting it mildly.

Jo's advice is, if you are not happy with your colour contact your colourist, explain your concerns and re-visit the salon to allow them to look at what can be done to rectify the problem.

“Trading standards state that a salon should be given the opportunity to correct any mistakes, but if hair has been very damaged or the salon feels they cannot rectify it then they would be likely to offer a refund,” says Jo. 

Unfortunately, in the UK, hairdressing is not a regulated business. Some hairdressers are registered with the Hairdressing Council ( In severe cases you would have to consider taking legal action.

Usually, when the colour goes wrong, it is invariably, too dark, too light too, too ash or too warm. “If a tint is too dark it's nothing to do with the development time, it's down to the colour choice,” says colour expert Mathew Alexander. “The only way to lift a tint is with a bleach bath or a colour stripper which can dry the hair, ruining the condition.

"If a tint is too light, it needs to be reapplied, a shade (or more) darker. When a colour is throwing off too much warmth it can be toned to a more neutral shade. If a colour is too cool it can be toned to make it warmer."

I went back. It turned out too yellow. I bumped into a friend who works in the industry who said if they haven’t interpreted what you want and haven’t created the right tone to suit you; do you really want to go back again?

To be continued.

By Daralyn Danns

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

What to do when your cut goes wrong

It has happened to all of us. We’ve let the hairdresser do their stuff and, despite having a consultation, when we look in the mirror the final result is not what we hoped for.

Yet, so many of us – including me – say nothing, pay up and leave the salon. 

Great cut by Michael Charalambous

Well, it’s my hard-earned cash, so I now I have vowed always to say something. After all, we are all walking advertisements for their salon and a professional hairdresser wouldn’t want you to be unhappy.

If you ask for a trim, make sure your idea of 2.54cm (1in) is the same as theirs. Of course, if you can see the cut is going wrong at the time, stop them and ask them what they are doing. If they have cut it too short, there is not a lot you can do. But, if the style isn’t to your liking, they may be able to improve it.

Later, if you find you can't style your hair after you have washed it yourself, go back to the salon and ask for some guidance. If you feel that the cut could have been better tell them.

A bad cut won’t last forever, it will grow out.

By Daralyn Danns 

Monday, 9 May 2011

Straight talking – the Brazilian Blow-dry

When the Brazilian Blow-dry became the must-have beauty treatment, and newspapers were waxing lyrical about it, one of my editors asked me to do a piece. The thought of turning my fluffy tresses into sleek, shiny locks was appealing, so I agreed.
However, after I looked into it, I decided not to have it done. I contacted scientists, as well as speaking to trichologists, suppliers and hairdressers. Keratin treatments, I was told by a scientist, work by bonding the cuticle layers of the hair together and, therefore, they are only effective on the hair cuticle’s surface. The treatment was sealed in with hot irons (around 200- 230C) which in the wrong hands can cause the hair to break. Hairdryers are sometimes used instead of irons.

Formalin, a solution of formaldehyde (approximately 36-39 per cent) dissolved in water and in that form also known as methylene glycol, is what I was told, makes the hair straight.

Formaldehyde can be inhaled as a gas or vapour or it can be absorbed through the skin as a liquid. It is said to be particularly dangerous when heated. The EU Cosmetics Directive permits a concentration of 0.2 per cent of formaldehyde to be used in cosmetic hair products. Also products that contain or release formaldehyde should be labelled with the warning “contains formaldehyde”, if the concentration exceeds 0.05 per cent. 

Even when using products with safe levels of formaldehyde, salons have to be well-ventilated as overdosing on this substance can irritate the eyes, skin and may cause respiratory problems. It has also been linked to cancer.

Further research indicated that products were containing more than the amount laid down in the guidelines. Fears about the use of formaldehyde saw what are claimed to be formaldehyde-free versions hit the market. They don’t tend to last as longas what you are doing is effectively ironing in a conditioner, which may not produce as impressive results. If the products do straighten you need to know what the substance is that makes the hair straight. Research has shown that there are products labelled formaldehyde-free which contain formaldehyde.

Before you have any smoothing treatment it is imperative to carry out extensive research. Ask to see evidence that the product complies with EU guidelines. Enquire about the training your stylist has had and the ventilation (this could be an indicator of whether formaldehyde is being released into the air). Also talk to people with your type of hair about their experiences.

It is interesting to note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US (OSHA) has recently issued a “Hazard Alert” about these products ( This makes interesting reading for both client and salon.

In conjunction with a report issued in October 2010, Oregon OSHA ( advises Oregon salons and stylists that “hair smoothing treatments – particularly those generally referred to as 'keratin-based treatments' – should generally be treated as formaldehyde-containing products…” 

Health Canada ( has also highlighted the fact that several of these treatments contained more than the permitted levels of formaldehyde (0.2 per cent).

By Daralyn Danns