Category Archives: hair

Balls-out colour

I’m a big believer in colour refreshing products. Used judiciously, they can keep coloured hair, especially difficult colours like my coppery red, looking fresh and non-naff for longer, and can even help stretch out salon visits. Refreshing my colour is a Sunday ritual for me. I shower, brush my trusty Goldwell Soft Colour in 8K through any regrowth, then pull it through the ends, clip everything gooily up, then clean the house. By the time I’m done cleaning the colour is well and truly processed, so I shower, work through a deep treatment (at the moment Redken’s divinely buttery Real Control masque, review pending), and emerge ready to face the week.

But I’m a nerd, and I’m always on the hunt for something new. Revlon’s colour balls, erm, Nutricolor Creme is a fixture in salons around Melbourne. It seems you can’t go anywhere to get your hair did without facing a display of these brightly coloured balls, and I’ve got to say two thumbs up for packaging design. The single dose trial packets are truly ingenious, and the big pump packs are truly covetable. My colourist uses Revlon, so last time I went in for a cut I decided to pick up a single dose pack to give it a whirl.

The single dose pack opens up to two halves, separated by a peel off foil. The instructions ask you to wear gloves and spread the entire ‘ball’ through your hair. It also says you need only process for three minutes, which is a bonus if you’re in a rush. Revlon bills this as a colour refreshing, deep conditioning double threat, and it is… kind of.

Here is my break down of the good and the bad.

The Good

  • It’s very creamy, like a thick, unctuous gel, and easier to apply than a mousse.
  • True to Revlon’s word, it is very conditioning. My ends felt really soft and lovely.
  • It’s a nice, quick solution if you need to refresh your colour without mooching around the house for too long.

The Bad

  • It does nothing to virgin hair, which means when you rinse it out your roots will be intact. My old Goldwell standby certainly doesn’t colour regrowth the way a proper colour would, but the copper still ‘grabs’ virgin hair and blends regrowth away nicely, making it a great solution for the last couple of weeks before a salon visit.
  • It’s very conditioning, which also makes it kind of unsuitable to leave on your roots, anyway. Like a lot of people, especially those with longer hair, my roots tend towards oiliness and my ends tend towards dryness. The easiest solution for this is to keep shampoo to the roots and scalp, and spread conditioners and treatments from the ears down. Problem solved. Again, the Goldwell doesn’t really condition at all. While this means you need to condition afterwards, it also means you can apply the product right to the roots without getting any greasiness afterwards. My roots greased up like nobody’s business after using Nutricolour, just because it was so conditioning.
  • The copper I used wasn’t really copper. This is a major embuggerance with red hair products. The thing about a believable red is it’s not really red; it’s coppery. True reds tend to look fake, and I’m really shooting for a copper version of my natural dark ash blonde.  The colour I used, 734, promised an orangey copper but came out a deeper red. Goldwell Soft Colour in 8K is reliably copper, so it wins on that front.
  • Price! Nutricolour is $10 for a single dose, $40 for a pump pack. Soft Colour is $20-$21 per can.

It’s disappointing, I really wanted to like Nutricolour, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I guess my Sunday ritual remains unchanged.


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It was like they were reading my mind

TRUE CONFESSION: I have a GHD. I went through a phase of using it after before work at the kind of place where people would see me. I really didn’t like it.

This feels like sacrilege, because surely the GHD is the greatest thing that ever happened to hair. And perhaps it could be a great thing for my hair, and maybe I just don’t have the skills to use it, but I am but a lowly beauty nerd, not Dario Cotroneo. While I’m more than willing to put in an effort, I don’t want fixing my hair to feel like homework, or an exam I’m continually failing. I can straighten with a GHD, but it always feels a little crisp, a little flat, a little flat-ironed looking. GHD curls completely fail me.You know what doesn’t fail me? A hairdrier, a round brush, and a curling iron.

The hairdrier-round-brush combo is a difficult one, and it sounds like it would be much harder than a GHD. However, this winter I’ve found myself drying my hair after I wash it more often, as it’s just too cold to air dry, and when I do air dry my hair has the limp, stringy appearance of a puli dog.  So I started blow-drying, and found (a) that my fine hair will blow straight with next to no effort, so long as I keep the air flow moving from roots to ends, down the hair shaft, and (b) it’s possible to master the hairdressery round brush blow dry, complete with flipping the hair over the barrel of the drier when you reach the ends, if you look away from the mirror and stop thinking about it. Seriously. Try it next time you’re in the mood to play with your hair. Just let your hands do what they need to and the blowdry will follow.

Forgive the Image Searched picture - finding my camera was beyond me today

Forgive the Image Searched picture - finding my camera was beyond me today

The curling iron, however – and here we get to the point of the post (BURYING THE LEDE, YOU GUYS!) – is a lifesaver. Life. Saver. I use it to quickly Whoorl Curl a day-old blow dry, I pin up tighter curls, let them cool, then unpin for a more structured look, I wind broad sections around it, then quickly wrap those sections around Kevin.Murphy rollers to cool for very set, 1940s waves. You’ll see it has no clamp. I never use the clamp, and find no need to. It’s also a nice, smooth, versatile, if suspicious looking, cone. It heats up very quickly and has a wide range of heat settings. Babyliss Conical Styler. Get into it.

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A winter lifesaver


I love winter. While the chill and wind does dry my skin out a little, it’s much easier to add moisture to your skin than matte out overheated, oily slickness. I love coats, and thick tights, and boots, and scarves, and everything. I don’t, however, love the usual frizzed-out, tormented hair, so for the first time this year I bought a cheap knitted beret from Target to hide my shame.

I’m not usually a big hat wearer, as they seem to scream you don’t have to be crazy to wear a hat, but it helps, but keeping your head covered truly does help. For a while I was letting my hair outside the hat, but then I watched the epic French slasher Inside and, as usual, got a new hair idea from the least likely of sources. Right in the beginning the doomed protagonist peevishly twists her loose hair up and pulls a beret over the top, and my life was changed. The only problem is it can be hard to keep all the hair tucked up inside, so I began keeping a couple of bobby pins in my back pocket. Now, when I want to head out on a cold day, I just twist my hair into the loosest of buns, secure with a pin or two, cover with a hat and head out. The hat stops the cold from wrecking my hair, and when I unpin the bun I get loose, soft, frizz-free waves. Perfect.

This might prompt the question, why don’t you just use a hair elastic? Well, I have the world’s most dentable, pliable hair, and I find that hair elastics crease my hair into big, unappealing folds. Pins make better waves, and I reckon you should totes try it.

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Oils ain’t oils

coconut First, a proviso. I recently lost my best beloved Canon 350D in a cab (!!), which means I’m relying on a wee Panasonic Lumix to illustrate my posts here. This. KILLS. Me. Photography is one of my many things. I’ve photographed many a wedding, many a band, many a show, I’ve even had a picture on the cover of International Dulcimer Magazine. This is not to say I’m totally obsessed; I just take real pleasure in taking good photographs, just as I take real pleasure in a beautiful lipstick or foxy eyeshadow quad or fulsome powder brush. Fortunately, I’ve recently come across decent employment, so in time I should be back to my picture takin’ ways.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to my New Favourite Thing. Remember how I was trying to find a decent hair treatment? Well, I’ve found it, and it is that glamourous jar above, which can be yours for the princely sum of $6.90. I heard about the deep conditioning powers of coconut oil through the wonderful Primped forums, via ThreeGlossesLady. I’ve been working great palmfuls of the stuff into dry, unwashed hair, massaging it well into my scalp then combing it through the ends. I let my hair stew for a good 40 minutes to an hour, then shampoo and take to my head with my tint brush and Goldwell Soft Color. It’s truly wonderful stuff, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Learning from experience: hair loss


Man, I seem to be really hair obsessed lately. I do have other extremely mature and important obsessions. Like dipping a regular pencil eyeliner into Mac Fluidline and using it to line the waterline. And the cat on a Roomba genre of cat video. But few people seem to talk about hair loss outside Advanced Hair ads and spam emails, and that’s a real shame because it’s a problem that affects a lot of women, and it can be frightening and demoralising and very difficult to deal with. I know, I’ve been there, and here is what I have learned.

1. Go get professional help.
Hair loss is a big health red flag. It can be caused by a number of things – stress, hormonal changes, some medications, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heredity. Either way, if you think your hair is thinning, or that more is coming out in the shower or on your comb than you’re used to, or if you’re having to give the hair elastic a few more turns each time you do a ponytail, go to your GP straight away. They can do some blood work and investigate what might be causing it.

2. Talk to your family.
Female hair loss can be congenital. In my case it’s my dad’s side of the family. My aunt and grandmother both began losing hair density when they were in their late 20s, early 30s, and while I am not in my late 20s I’m not taking any chances. Ask them if they ever noticed any hair loss, at what age, what they think may have triggered it. This will help you figure out the appropriate way to treat the problem.

3. If it’s stress, go see a shrink
I am a huge, huge advocate of seeking counselling. It’s made an enormous difference in my life and I’m not ashamed to say it. If you’re so stressed your hair is falling out, you don’t need a yoga class (though that certainly will help), you need to sit down with someone trained and sympathetic and talk about what’s going on in your life and what you can do to make it easier on yourself. If you’re in Australia you can claim back the cost of your therapist visits through Medicare, so be sure to talk to your GP about that.

4. Go easy on your hair
You can pull a lot of hair out just by being a bit mean and unfeeling towards your hair. Wearing your hair in a tight ponytail all the time, for example, can cause traction alopecia, where all the tension makes your hair just give up and say ‘uncle.’ Use a wide tooth comb to detangle your hair before brushing, starting at the ends and working your way up, and please tell me you’re not brushing your hair when it’s wet. That’s just asking for trouble. You may want to rethink your hair styling ways, too. Perhaps it’s time to ease up on the GHD and start air drying.

5. You might need to bring out the big guns.
Minoxidil, AKA Rogaine, is the only medication proven to treat hereditary hair loss. It doesn’t treat all causes of hair loss, so be sure you’ve ruled out other possibilities before you start on it. While you can get it over the counter at pharmacies, it does interact with other medications and can have side effects, so be sure to have a chat to your pharmacist before you begin.  One of the major side effects for women is hair growth in unwanted places. I’m in my second month of a four month trial right now (it takes four months before you start to see results), and I am getting a little extra fuzz on my cheeks, but my body hair is blonde so I don’t really notice it. If you’re prone to facial hair, you might want to start on the 2.5% concentration, rather than the 5%.

The patent on Minoxidil expired in 1998, so you can buy generic versions for much, much less than the Rogaine branded one. It can be hard to find the cheap generics in pharmacies, though, so I buy mine online. Minoxidil is a bit of a commitment.  You need to apply it directly to the scalp twice a day. It can make your hair look a little oily, but I’ve found my application technique has become much better since starting, so that’s not such a problem. It is hands down the least sexy thing in my bathroom, and going through airport security and having strapping, handsome security gents go through my arthritis meds and Minoxidil is downright humiliating, but if it ends up working for me it’ll be worth it.

So yes. That is what I have learned about hair loss. If this can help just one other scared, demoralised woman out there I wil be very happy.

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Using a hairdryer right now is batshit crazy

Image via the LIFE photo archive

For the benefit of my foreign readers, much of Australia is currently in the grip of a four day heatwave, the kind that fells the elderly and buckles train lines and makes front-page news.  It’s incredibly hot at night, too, so hot that last night I put a flat sheet through the spin cycle of the washing machine and slept beneath it. It should ease a little by the weekend, but until then using a hairdryer is absolutely, positively out of the question.

There’s a technique to air-drying, believe it or not, regardless of your hair type. For reference I have fine, tangle prone hair that’s ringlet curly in some parts, wavy in others, and dead straight around the nape of my neck, a section that seemingly loves growing faster than the rest of my hair, making me look as though I have extensions.  I can reliably coax it into fairly uniform waves, though, if I follow these steps.

– Find the right products. I like to use a light styling cream (at the moment I love Kev Murphy’s Motion Lotion, even if it does have a rather porny name), and then when my hair is 95% dry I spray a curl refreshing spray through the ends (my MOP curl refreshing spray is almost empty, and I’m keen to try EVO liquid rollers and why is it that new haircare brands insist on spelling their name in all caps?) I keep meaning to buy a colour protecting spray to put over that, and I’m working through the last of my Frederic Fekkai Summer Hair spray. I’ll probably go for KMS Colour Protect next, because it isn’t too expensive.

– Don’t comb! I used to comb through with a wide tooth comb, but on my hair this just disrupts the curl pattern. As soon as you step out of the shower you need to handle your hair as little as possible. Flip your head upside down and use a towel to squeeze out just a little water, just enough so the dripping doesn’t drive you crazy. Squeeze the ends up to the roots, like scrunching but without the late 80s name. At this stage I work through my cream of choice, by squeezing it through the ends.  I get along with the rest of my toilette, then squeeze out my hair again using a t-shirt. The t-shirt is vitally important. A towel won’t remove enough moisture, so if you towel you’ll have to keep towelling and towelling and frizzing and disturbing the curl pattern. Use a t-shirt, squeeze from ends to roots, comb out and blow-dry your fringe if you have it, then do. Not. Touch. Have breakfast. Fidget with your bag. Get dressed. Engage in a lengthy inner dialogue about whether you’ll wear gloss or lipstick or balm today. Make fun of the cat. It takes around 40 minutes for me to get ready after I’ve showered, and this is roughly the amount of time it takes for my hair to dry to 95%. Spray your ends, squeeze again, spray on your sunscreen, out the door.

Now take your lovely hair  somewhere with air conditioning and stay there until this all goes away.

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Never go full ‘ranga; or, trust your hair stylist

‘So are you going to adopt a new persona with this new hair?’

‘Like what?’

‘Like… saucy 1940s reporter? Sassy 1950s dame? Wisecracking Katherine Hepburn type?’

‘Hmm, I was thinking more Joan Holloway crossed with Julianne Moore from Safe. You know, saucy hypochondriac.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

So I’ve gone from blonde to full, proper redhead, as is the style of the time. As far as post-breakup hair changes go I highly recommend this one. My skin looks better, paler, brighter; my eyes bluer; my hair shinier. I was contemplating putting a box semi through, but after consulting with a senior colourist at my new favourite salon I decided to front the cash and go the professional route.

And, my oh my, am I pleased I did. To be honest, when they first rinsed the colour out and dried my hair I was a little worried, as it was much darker than I thought we had discussed. But now that it’s been a few days and the colour has lost that new colour look it is absolutely flawless. Not quite what I originally had in mind; it’s much, much better. After discussing maintenance, aka how much money I’m willing to spend (some, but my version of ‘some’ is not the same as others), we decided on a coppery version of my natural dark ash blonde.  And so it is; a darkish, coppery strawberry blonde, not fake or naff or Napro Live Colourish in the slightest. The plan is to go at least two months between salon dye jobs, so it should fade down (slowly, with regular colour refreshing treatments) to a more strawberry version of my natural job.

So if you’re going to go red, see your colourist. They are nice people who will find a way to make you sassy without spending all your money.

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