But first – how to nuke your hair
I’ll begin with a disclaimer. Hair really isn’t a problem in our family. My dad has a full head of hair. My mum’s raven tresses are pretty epic. And my brother struggles to control the hairgrowth, pretty much everywhere. So Deliciously Hanushka won’t be claiming that once she was bald, but now she’s not.
However, this is not to say that I haven’t suffered. It all started when I was 14. If you knew me in school or university, you might remember. It began quite innocently, with a bottle of Sun-In to lighten my boring black barnet. However, I soon lost control. People spoke in whispers of an electrocuted orangutan roaming the back-alleys of Kings College. Everything about me was mono – the hair, the eyebrows, the skin: all glorious tangerine.
Of course, I didn’t see it. Never one to suffer from follicular modesty, in my mind, I was a trendsetter. I was Vidal Sassoon. Actually scratch that – I was better.
I bleached, highlighted, dyed, trimmed and baylaged my way through my teens into my twenties – all from the privacy of my bedroom. By the age of 25 I had well and truly nuked my barnet. My once thick glossy hair resembled something that had emerged from the deep-fat fryer of a Chinese takeaway.
It took a couple of years of dedication, a lot of maintenance and even more patience from my angel of a hairdresser, Angel Cifuentes. But I’ve finally got the hair I felt I was born for. Here’s how we did it.
How to colour your hair without ruining it
These days when I look at someone’s hair, I see one of two things. Either they’ve been to a competent hairdresser – or not. Finding the most flattering haircolour for you is the holy grail of beauty. More often than not, when I look at someone my mind enacts a complex mental carousel of click-n-drag wigs to determine their hair destiny. Sad I know.
Being a redhead is my spirit animal. My colour is a kind of woody chestnut. It’s warm but also quite tonal. In the winter, I tone it darker and more mocha. In the summer, I let the sun and sea take care of things – the colour goes kind of amber with natural highlights.
Loreal Inoa – the hair colour I use has completely transformed my hair. I cannot tell you how passionate I am about this product. This might sound like a sponsored post but it’s 1000% genuine. I would honestly recommend Inoa to anyone, because it completely does what it promises. After years of use, it has (as Angel said it would) restored my hair to virgin condition. My ends are no longer frizzy and my hair is now glossy rather than frazzled.
It’s a permanent colour but completely ammonia free. It’s a professional product, so not something to try at home. Over time, you will see the condition of your hair improving as opposed to deteriorating – which is the problem with most other colours. Inoa works with an oil delivery system, so the colour is delivered with less alkaline agent. Like all colours, it works by opening the hair cuticle and enveloping the hair fiber in a film of oil, thereby propelling the water-based colorant and pushing it deeper into the fiber. Obviously, we can’t pretend that colouring your hair isn’t a harsh chemical process – but if you have to do it, you should aim for the mildest way possible.
Usually I’ll apply the Inoa with 20% oxidant and then finish off with a clear gloss or a silver toner (if I don’t want to be too ginge). If hairdressers try to suggest a different product, I invariably decline. This worked for me and I’d be crazy to mess with it.
Hair Treatments – shampoos and conditioners
The science of shampoo is pretty simple. It’s mostly water with some foaming agent and surfactant. The surfactant does most of the work by reducing the surface tension of the water. One end of the molecule is attracted to water and the other end is repelled by it and attracted to oil – as you rinse, the water takes the grease and the dirt with it. The most common surfactants tend to be labeled as ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate.
Apparently, the cleansing properties of sulfates were first discovered in the 1940s for washing tanks and removing oil from the world’s dirtiest weapons. If you know your haircare – you’ll know that sulfate-free shampoos are all the rage. You’ll also find many websites pointing to the carcinogenic properties of sulfate-compounds.
I always take advice from websites with the words “green”, “natural” or “mama” with a spade of salt. But more reliable sources do confirm that sodium laureth sulfate can be contaminated with dioxine – a known carcinogen. As such, some producers have added an extra purification step to their production process to make dioxane free sodium laureth sulfate.
But we are digressing. I am easy when it comes to shampoo. I don’t believe that something which is 80% water with a bit of foam needs to be particularly high-tech. And as much as I love Oribe products, forking out £50 on a nice smelling lather seems preposterous. I therefore tend to buy my shampoos from pretty much anyone but prioritise moisture.
Never one to skip the conditioner, I favour heavy textures which I apply on the ends and brush through. The mechanics of conditioners are pretty simple – they smooth the outer hair cuticle and encourage it to lie flat. I’m therefore not particularly fussed about the brand, so long as I can feel it working.
There’s so much more that I’d like to say, as I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface with this particular topic. Some of the more obvious things, like the necessity of regular trims and a great diet have gone unsaid. But the key takeaway is this. With hair, you get what you put in. The majority of hair catastrophes come from overstyling and poor product choices, especially the use of bleach, ammonia and peroxides. There are no quick or easy fixes – but when it comes to colour, I urge you to consider what you put on your hair. The more damaged it is, the more porous it becomes and the more susceptible to breakage and frizz. It’s those baylages and full-heads of highlights that cause the most damage. I for one have learnt my lesson. There’ll be no more hair-raising dye jobs for me, thank you very much.