Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hot and Cold: Which is Worse?

Temperature and the Health of Your Hair

A question I get quite frequently when I help customers with the health of their hair in a personal consultation, is about the effects of cold and heat on hair.

With winter approaching, the personal care companies will be rolling out their "winter care" recipies of shampoo and moisturisers for you to run out and buy. But do you really need them?

Extreme Weather and Your Hair

As a general rule of thumb, the weather has no effect on the health of your hair. If you can imagine that the cuticle of your hair is as tough as your fingernails, you know from your own observations that very hot and very cold days have no effect on this kind of hard, dead material.

What does dry and cause damage to your hair is intense sun for prolonged periods and being blown around by the wind. It is easy to protect your hair from these elements: put it up (and I, of course, recommend you use hair accessories made in France) or wear a hat.

An exception to this rule about the weather is extremely cold weather - we're talking sub-zero temperatures.

I was told a wonderful story at a dinner party recently about a trip my friends made to Siberia in the winter during the Soviet era. They travelled by train and frequently hopped off to wander around, as much as they were allowed to.

My friend had a moustache at the time and not knowing about the effects of very cold weather, was happily walking around without having his face wrapped up. His wife turns to him and comments that his moustache is covered in ice. He reaches up to touch his face and comes away with half his moustache broken off in his hand.

How did that happen? Our hair is very absorbent and good at holding water. In sub-zero temperatures, any water in your hair will freeze, even if it is lying close to your body. Once frozen, like any delicate structure, it will snap easily.

So when you're off skiing in the Alps this winter, if you can't put your hair up (under your helmet, for example), tuck the ends down inside the collar of your jumper. Your body heat will help keep your hair at a safe temperature.

Washing your Hair

What about the tradition of washing your hair in hot water and rinsing in cold?

This has very little to do with your hair and more to do with whether you want a product to cling well to your hair or not.

The fact is it is pretty irrelevant what temperature water you use on your hair. Warm (not hot) water is best for the health of your scalp, as it will allow you to clean the skin of your scalp without lifting away too much oil and drying out your skin.

Hot water is most effective in helping to lift oil  from a dirty surface. This is why we use hot water to wash our dishes. The higher you can heat oil, the runnier it gets making the detergent's job of lifting it away easier.

Most women (and certainly anyone reading this article) do not have hair that is so dirty that only hot water will help get it clean. Even after exercising, you are only washing away sweat, which is mostly minerals, not oil, and warm water will be sufficient for the job.

Now the point of the "cold rinse" is to allow the conditioning molecules to continue clinging to the hair. It doesn't make the cuticle "lie down". This will happen of its own accord as the hair dries.

Heat Styling

If you've signed up for my free article series about healthy hair, then you know my views on using blow dryers and hot irons for styling your hair.

If you haven't read these yet, the summary of my opinion is this:

We use heat to give us more control during the styling process. However, most heat styling tools are used at too high a heat, to dry the hair more quickly because we are an impatient species. While a low level of heat helps the cuticle to dry harder and flatter compared to air drying, a high level of heat can bring the water in your hair to a boil. The steam created inside your hair then bursts out through your cuticle, not just at the ends, but all along the length of your hair.

So do straighteners damage your hair? You bet.

So these special winter protecting shampoos and conditioners are marketed in quite a cynical way. It isn't the weather that's the problem (unless you're in the Alps or Siberia and showing off your long hair), it's our own vanity and haste to have hair like Cheryl Cole's got on the telly.

Can you straighten your hair using cold air? Sure! If you've got a few minutes to kill, I found a video on YouTube that will show you one way to do this. I wouldn't recommend this method, but it's entertaining to see it done.


Straitening Your Hair Without Heat

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Easy Formal Updo Styles

Sparkly Hair Accessories For Dressy Hair

I made a very quick video for you showing you two types of formal hair clips you can tuck into a French pleat style.

This is suitable for anytime you want your hair to look smart: dinner parties, going to the theatre or for attending weddings. If your pleat is solidly held and secure, you can use these hair accessories to dress up your hair and it takes literally 20 seconds.


Dressing Up Your French Pleat

Dressy Stone Bridge Hair Clips for Your Formal Updo

Antiopa Swarovski Crystal Butterfly hair claw
Golden Hibiscus Swarovski Crystal small barrette

Browse the full Stone Bridge Collection

Friday, 1 October 2010

Do Volumising Hair Products Work?

And Should You Be Using Them On Your Fine Hair?

We have a lot of customers looking for hair accessories that work in fine hair. So we talk to women every day about the issues they have with their hair being so fine and how it looks.

If you've got fine hair you know how frustrating it is to look in the mirror and see your hair clinging to your head or hanging down in an unimpressive curtain. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have masses of swishy hair that actually looked like something when you wore it up or styled it?

The shampoo companies know your feelings of frustration. They feel your pain. So, voila, they found a solution for you. Volumising shampoo.

But how do these work and are they any good for your hair?

Thicker Hair? Or More Magic-In-A-Bottle?

These volumising products do make your hair thicker and they work in one of two ways.

1. They coat your hair, or
2. They swell your hair

Coating the hair

The original volumising products from a few years back, coating was the common solution. Like conditioner, a fine layer of sticky molecules would be deposited along the length of each hair.

So your hair was fractionally thicker. It felt thicker when you touched it. But only by a microscopic amount. You couldn't double the thickness of your hair this way.

Plus the coating weighs your hair down, contributing to the limp feeling that some fine hair has. The end result would be hair that felt thicker, but didn't really look thicker.

Swelling the hair

Now, the most common volumising products work by swelling the hair. This is basically done by attracting and trapping more moisture in the centre of the hair. This sounds harmless, but it isn't.

The structure of your hair is very spongy. You know yourself how much heavier your hair feels when you take a shower and your hair is completely saturated with water. Your hair can hold a lot of fluid.

However, your hair is also very exposed and more susceptible to damage when it is swollen because the cuticle is flexed out and disturbed from its protective closed shape that it takes when the hair is completely dry. To have hair that is dry and "blown up" means your cuticle is roughed up, and its edges are easily chipped and broken.

Using volumising products on a daily basis will damage and weaken your hair.

Saying all this, fine hair with a roughed up cuticle can be less slippery and easier to style. If you don't have ambitions to have very long hair and the shininess of your hair isn't important to you, then volumising products (or indeed any styling or treatment that ruffles the cuticle, such as perming or dying) might be the solution you are looking for.

However, if you want to grow your hair past shoulder length and you want your hair to be naturally shiny, then you must protect the cuticle of your hair. In this situation, I would not recommend volumising products for your hair.

Learn More About What Damages Your Hair

Did you find this article helpful? Sign up here for my free series of articles about taking care of your hair. Having healthy hair is cheap and easy. I can show you how.