Friday, 31 May 2013

Buying a hairdryer

We all want to achieve salon looks when we do our own hair, so it pays to invest in a good quality hairdryer. You will not only get better results, but it will also last longer. 

Most professional hairdryers use AC heavy duty motors. Look for a hairdryer with a high wattage – the higher it is the more powerful the hairdryer.  It can be difficult fiddling around with a dryer in one hand and a brush in another, so ensure that it is not too heavy. 

You need to control the temperature and airflow. Ideally, you want at least two speed settings as well as high and low heat options. The high is good for rough drying your hair. Once you start styling switch to a lower setting. To avoid burning your scalp and damaging your hair, don’t hold your dryer too close to your head or hold it in one spot for too long.

A cool shot button is good as it produces a blast of cold air which helps set the style. A professional dryer tends to generate more air-flow than consumer hairdryers so hair is dried faster. You need to keep the filter clean to prevent reduced airflow.  

Also look at the nozzle. Narrow nozzles help to concentrate the heat in one area so you are not disturbing sections that you have already dried. This is especially important for frizzy hair.

Always dry hair down the hair shaft to ensure that the hair cuticles lie flat, so you won’t get that fluffy effect.

A diffuser can be good for curly hair, but the downside is that it can take longer to dry hair. 

Buzz words

Ionic, ceramic and tourmaline are words that you often see on the boxes of hairdryers luring you with promises of shiny, healthy tresses.

These technologies have become more popular over recent years. Often manufactures combine a couple of them.

An ionic function emits negatively charged ions which bathe the hair, so water molecules can penetrate deep into the hair. Companies claim this process speeds up the drying process, reduces static electricity and protects the hair, making it shinier, smoother and less frizzy. 

Ceramic is said to heat more evenly and, therefore, the hair is not subject to as much heat damage.

Tourmaline technology claims to emit more negative ions than a normal ionic dryer and is reputed to make the hair less static as it helps to retain moisture in the hair.

These technologies have often been disparaged by scientists. In tests carried out, by Which?, it concluded that an ionic function “reduced microscopic signs of hair damage caused by drying at high temperatures and speeds, though the same can be achieved by drying on low speed and power.”

These are two hairdryers that I have used and have provided good results.

Parlux 385 PowerLight 385, £135,

This new light state-of-the art dryer is sure to be another success for this Italian brand, so beloved by top hairdressers. Thanks to the new K-Lamination motor the PowerLight  is the most  powerful model (2150 watts) to date. It also uses both ionic and ceramic technology and is eco-friendly as well as being extremely quiet.

The dryer also has four temperature settings and two speeds and a coldshot button and comes with two concentrator styling nozzles. If you have frizzy hair, use the narrower nozzle. Comes in a variety of colours.

How it performed

This dryer is superb to use as it is so light, you can concentrate on working that round brush. My hair also seemed to be dried in no time at all. I got a great result with this dryer. My hair was so silky and shiny but, to be honest, from Parlux, I would not have expected any less.

T3 Featherweight 2, £155

If you have locks that are hard to style or don’t want to use the usual high heat, high wind speed type of dryers, then this tourmaline ionic dryer could be for you. The company claims that it is faster than other dryers and that it has been “clinically proven to be better for your hair than air-drying”. 

The dryer also has two speed settings and three adjustable heat settings, the medium heat is ideal for fine hair. There is also a cool shot button. The Advanced SoftAire Technology delivers a greater volume of air to speed up the drying process. It has a long-life motor – itsT3 Tourmaline infusion process is said to last for the dryer’s life time.

How it performed

I first tried the dryer the day before I was due to go the colourist, as my hair is at its most difficult to blow-dry. The dryer is ultra-light and easy to manoeuvre, but does take getting used to. I usually rough dry my hair before styling, but with this dryer, it is better to work on sections from the beginning. Take out any excess moisture by dabbing hair with a towel.

The drying process was quick. My hair had plenty of body and was silkier and less frizzy than it would have been had I used a basic dryer. Remember it is a hairdryer not a miracle-worker, so if you have “fluffy” hair you still need to create tension in your hair by styling it using a good quality round brush.

By Daralyn Danns

Friday, 24 May 2013

Buying sunscreen

Sun protection is a must whether you are staying in the UK or jetting off to sunnier climes.

What to look for when buying sunscreen

Ensure it has both UVA and UVB protection.

Sunscreens in the UK are labelled with an “SPF" (sun protection factor), a measurement for the amount of UVB protection.

UVA protection is denoted by a circular UVA logo. According to the EU recommendation, the UVA protection for each sunscreen should be at least a third of the labelled SPF.

You may also see the “star” system. Sunscreens can have anywhere from 0 to 5 stars. Boots use this.

The British Association of Dermatologists points out  that if you opt for a low SPF, it may have a high level of stars, not because it is providing lots of UVA protection, but because the ratio between the UVA and UVB protection is about the same.

Stay out of the sun between 11am - 3pm

What SPF should you use?

The British Association of Dermatologists recommends using a high protection SPF 30+ to take into account that most of us don’t apply sunscreen generously enough.

An SPF15 sunscreen filters out, according to Cancer Research UK, 93 per cent of UVB radiation. An SPF30 sunscreen filters out 96 per cent. 

I asked Dr Bav Shergill, consultant dermatologist what he personally uses and he told me SPF50, which filters out about 98 per cent. No sunscreen will filter out 100 per cent.

Know your skin type

The lighter your skin, the more careful you should be. Even those with dark skin may burn in hot, strong sunlight.

Moisturiser or sunscreen?

Your everyday moisturiser may not contain UVA protection or be water resistant. You also tend to put less on than you would a sunscreen so you might not be getting adequate protection.

Sunscreen should go on after your moisturiser (which needs to dry first) before applying your make-up. Using powder rather than cream means you are less likely to rub the sunscreen off.


Use at least the equivalent of six tablespoons to cover your body. Don’t forget the ears, temples, chest, back and sides of the neck and feet – if uncovered.

Apply 15 to 30 minutes to clean, dry skin before exposing yourself to the sun and reapply all sunscreens every couple of hours – whatever it states on the label – more if you are sweating and after swimming.

Which brand of sunscreen?

All sunscreens have to comply with EU regulations, so it's fine to buy a cheaper cream as long as you use it thickly and frequently. It’s the level of protection it offers that is important.

These are ones that I have tried and liked.

Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced Protection Lotion SPF50, £19.29
Free from fragrance, parabens and artificial colours. This lovely light lotion, is a good combination of high SPFs with photostable UVA  as well as protection against the longer wavelengths of UVA. 

La Roche-Posay  Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Dry touch, £16.50
It has a lovely texture that absorbs immediately into the skin without leaving shine or white marks. It is non-perfumed and is paraben-free. Contains Mexoplex, which the company claims, guarantees "a very high level of protection against UVA and UVB rays."

Boots Soltan Sensitive 50+, £10.99
Another good one for sensitive skin. Has five-star UVA protection and helps protect against prickly sun allergy.

Clinique  SPF 40 body cream, £18.50
Uses SolarSmart technology that stabilizes high-level protection against UVA and UVB rays. Also good for sensitive skins.

Crème de la Mer The Reparative Face Lotion SPF 30, £85
Part of the new Soleil de la Mer collection, this high-performance cocktail of goodies is ideal for daily use on the face, neck and décolleté. It offers both UVA and UVB protection as well as being nourishing and nurturing.

Clarins Sun Wrinkle Control Cream for Face, SPF 50+, £18
A lightweight lotion that moisturises and protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Use daily. Great on face, neck and décolleté.

Sisley Super Stick Solaire, SPF 30, £67.50
Perfect for keeping in your handbag, this little gem contains UVA and UVB mineral screens. Use on lips, cheeks, nose, eye contours and ears. Comes in colourless or tinted to moisturise and protect rays. Again carries the UVA symbol.

Nivea Sun Protect Lip Balm, SPF 30, £3.29
If you are always reapplying balm to your lips, try this one. It is water resistant and offers both UVA and UVB protection.

How long can you keep sunscreen?

If a product has a shelf life of less than 30 months, you should see an “open jar” symbol on it. The period marked with a letter “M” is the amount of time that you can use the sunscreen once it has been opened.

Staying safe in the sun

Here are some tips for staying safe in the sun – home and abroad.

Wear sunscreen when you are sitting near a window or in a car as UVA rays can penetrate. Remember that sand, water and concrete can also reflect UV radiation, increasing the levels you absorb.

Wear wide-rimmed hats, sunglasses with good UV protection (look for the CE marking) and clothing which is thick enough that when you hold it up to the sun, it doesn’t shine through.

Stay out of the sun from 11am- 3pm – the hours may vary depending where in the world you are. The rule of thumb is: when your shadow is shorter than you, the UV rays are strong, and you are more likely to burn.

Avoid sunbeds.

By Daralyn Danns

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Staying safe in the sun

We all love the sun. Yet, despite all the warnings about the dangers many of us are still not sun savvy. 

According to the latest research from the British Association of Dermatologists, half of Britons believe their skin to be darker than it actually was. The findings also revealed that many people (more men than women) think that a base tan will protect against sunburn. These people are spending more time in the sun than they really should.

A tan may make you feel good and look better than white pasty skin, but it is actually a sign the skin has already been damaged by UV radiation and is trying to defend itself.

Vitamin D and the sun

Sitting in the sun should not be used as an excuse to ensure you get vitamin D. The British Association of Dermatologists advises against sunbathing to increase your vitamin D levels and says that it may increase your risk of skin cancer in doing so.

“Small amounts of incidental sunlight, as you might get through your daily activities, may help to boost your vitamin D levels; just exposing your face and forearms to the sun should be enough,” it says.

The renowned dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe points out that sunscreen is a filter and not a block so you will automatically be getting exposed to small amounts of sunlight. He suggests getting vitamin D from supplements. If you think you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, consult your doctor. Foods such as oily fish and eggs are also good sources.

A cloudy day is not an excuse for not putting on the sunscreen and covering up

The different types of UV rays

UV radiation from the sun is in three wavelengths – UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC does not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. UVA and UVB are the two main types of rays that damage the skin.

UVA rays are present all year, though more intense in the summer. They pass through glass and penetrate more deeply into the skin, causing more photo-ageing effects than UVB.

UVA exposure generates free radicals which in turn damage DNA and predispose the cells of the skin to skin cancer and other cancers.

UVB rays are largely filtered out by the Earth's atmosphere in the northern winter and are only strong when the sun is overhead. These are shorter rays than UVA and cause direct DNA damage. They are the rays responsible for the majority of sunburns and cause some damage to collagen but at a slower rate than UVA.

“Intense UVA and UVB in summer sun increases skin pigmentation which in turn creates new sun spots and makes existing ones darker,” says Dr Lowe.

Why skin peels?

A sunburn is the skin’s reaction to overexposure to UV radiation.
Peeling after sunburn is the body’s response to getting rid of damaged cells. “The redness from sunburn leads to inflammation and increases skin cell death and shedding,” points out Dr Lowe.

The best way to protect yourself is to wear sunscreen every day. (Choosing sunscreen and how to apply will be covered in another post.) Dr Lowe advises wearing it even in winter if you want to stop the visible signs of ageing. He also recommends wearing protective clothing and a hat as well as glasses that have a UV protection seal, when the sun’s rays are at the strongest. Cancer Research UK says that during the UK summer, the sun's UV rays are most powerful between 11am and 3pm.

It also points out that 30 per cent to 40 per cent of UV will penetrate through cloud cover.” For example, if half the sky is covered in clouds, 80 per cent of UV still shines through,” it adds.
So, don’t be fooled into thinking that a cloudy day is an excuse for not putting on the sunscreen and covering up.

By Daralyn Danns


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Destination Vilnius, Lithuania

A quirky mix of ancient and modern, Vilnius is wonderfully beguiling. The almost perfect picture-postcard medieval old town, the largest in central and Eastern Europe, is the jewel in the crown. It's Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance meets contemporary high-end fashion.  

After renting the audio guide from the Vilnius Tourist Information Centre (Vilniaus Street 22 and Didžioji Street 31) I began my tour of the Lithuanian capital at the 16th-century Gates of Dawn, the only remaining gate from 10 that once studded the old city walls. It is now one of the main landmarks of Vilnius. Inside is a chapel, a sacred place for Catholics.

From there it was on to Pilies Street, the old town's most vibrant thoroughfare where lively cafés, sophisticated boutiques, and market stalls are peppered amongst its old colourful buildings. If you feel like some retail therapy, Baltic amber is the customary souvenir. 

Aerial view of Vilnius

It was almost a relief as I wandered round, to see a few imperfections: cracks in the pavements and buildings undergoing renovation. Among the graffiti, which, surprisingly, added to the ambience, were courtyards concealing the remains of ancient houses that were once home to the gentry.

The Church of St Anne, a stunning piece of Gothic architecture is well worth a visit. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte thought the church so beautiful he wanted to take it back to Paris in the palm of his hand.

For superb views of historic buildings fusing with 21st-century skyscrapers, on the other side of the river Neris, head to the observation deck on the top of Gediminas Tower.

It is a good job that Vilnius is a great city for walking as it is all too easy to pile on the pounds here. The Lithuanians like their potatoes. Every dish seems to be served with them. The national dish is potato pancakes. Another speciality  is cold beet soup. The  black bread is addictive. 

One of the city’s most moving museums is the Museum of Genocide Victims (open Wednesday to Saturday ) in the former headquarters of the KGB. It has been kept as it was in Soviet times. So as you walk through the cells you get a real sense of the prisoners' appalling living conditions. The padded cell is enough to send shivers up your spine.

Vilnius as seen from Gediminas Tower

After ticking off most of the tourist hot spots, it was time to do the scenic stuff.  Užupis is Vilnius's answer to Montmartre in Paris. The area, neglected by the Soviets, has become home to artists and creatives. Užupis has its own constitution and president. There is a lovely sculpture of a mermaid that sits on the embankment of the Vilnia. It's an idyllic place to spend a Sunday morning.

No trip to Vilnius would be complete without visiting Trakai (about 17miles outside the city). Surrounded by three lakes, this pretty town is a favourite of both locals and tourists. The castle, which is on an island, is the town's main attraction. In the 1990s, it was rebuilt from the medieval ruins.  The red bricks piled on top of the old stones resemble something out of Legoland. Despite that, there is something magical about the place.

Over the centuries the people of Lithuania have been tortured and oppressed by various regimes including the Russians, Nazis and Poles. All of which have influenced the culture. The Jews, too, have left their mark on the city. Vilnius, (or Vilna, in Yiddish) was once called the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

It was only in 1990 that the independent State of Lithuania was re-established and not until 1991 recognised by the USSR. Laura, a young Lithuanian woman told me how she would never forget 23 August 1989 and the so-called Baltic Road. In defiance of Russian rule, two million people from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, formed a human chain along roads between Tallin, Riga and Vilnius. "We all sang and held hands. It was a wonderful feeling of unity," she said.

In Cathedral Square, home to the monument of Gediminas, the Lithuanian Grand Duke who founded the city in the early 14th century, you may see people twirling round in clockwise direction. This is because they have found the miracle tile and hope to be granted a wish. It’s the place, Laura told me, where the human chain ended.  

For Lithuanians, in this country where you can almost taste the optimism that fills the air, their hopes and desires came to fruition. Approximately a decade later, this former Soviet Republic became a member of Nato. On 1 July, Lithuania gets ready to assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Miracles do happen when you are strong and brave.

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there

Wiz (

Staying: The Narutis Hotel, restored 16th-century Lithuanian luxury hotel  (

For further information on Lithuania visit