Showing posts with label hair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hair. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hair: She does, with a new product

Long a devotée of salon colour, my curiosity was piqued when my co-MIL N. e-mailed me about L'Oreal Preference Mousse Absolue.

Its features murmured "I'm different": a no-mix reusable mousse that keeps 4 to 6 weeks after the first go, and supplies enough product for touch-ups or 
(depending on hair length) two full apps.

I had been certain I'd never try home haircolour again. Box reds had gone on too dull or harsh, and when last trying about a decade ago, my splatters transformed our bathroom walls and floor into a "Dexter" set that cost $150 to repaint. I never got the stains out of the flooring.

But, after seeing the flash production of my colour at the salon (has to be a box opened out of sight), and having already bought the Secret Weapon, a good round-the-neck mirror, I thought, Well, it's only hair, why not?
Early last Saturday am. I frothed in "Sensational Auburn", made a bowl of café au lait while it processed, and said a brief matinal prayer to the Goddess of Created Colours. A half-hour later, no mess, stress, rinsed and finished with a generous dab of a luxurious included conditioner, and—the reveal:

(Actual colour is even more vibrant and shiny; the bright outdoor sunlight washed the shot a little.)

It was only after my little triumph that I looked up product reviews and found a startling amount of scathing comments: some said Mousse Absolue doesn't cover greys, smells unpleasant, stings. 

This was so alien to my experience (and I have a lot of grey) that I began to wonder about deliberate misinformation. Is there a cabal of colourists dissing this product to protect their turf? Are the women posting princess-and-the-pea types? It was no more chemical-smelling than the salon product, and less messy.

At very least, the Absolue adventure reminds me to revisit old shibboleths, stay open and profit by the industry's innovation. That's profit in more ways than one: over a year, I figure my savings to be over $700!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Helen Mirren's floral frock, three ways

The Daily Mail recently noted that Helen Mirren has been photographed in the same flowered Dolce & Gabbana dress at least five times since 2012. 

I applaud Mirren for not only her abundant talent, but for her realistic approach: if it's a great dress, give it a good run! We can learn from how she's styled it at various times.

The two earlier shots serve as a) a cautionary example, and b) an it-depends.

At left, what seems to be a matching jacket worn with the dress makes her look like a walking wallpaper sample. Her bland hairstyle makes even Dame Helen look like one of those matronly, carefully-coiffed women you see at charity events. The nude heels don't remotely go with the dress.

The pearl rope gives pearls a bad name and explains why some women avoid them: too high on the neck, creating a strangled, tight effect, and at the same time, drooping toward the famous bosom in oddly-arranged strands.

Sidebar: Dame Mirren does know how to rock pearls; here she is at the Geilgud Theatre in an ultra-long rope worn with wit and a marvelous grey-lace dress I would kill for:

On a second occasion (top right), she seems to have put herself in the hands of a stylist who thinks leopard plus floral plus bootie equals hip. The coat desperately attempts a pattern-mix, but the leopard bears no relation to the floral and its length looks haphazard: just shy of long enough, but not short enough to be smart. (Or perhaps the dress was altered to remove the sleeves and create a new neckline?) However achieved, the slight scoop is a more flattering cut and her hair is softer, less staid. The ensemble at least moves into the right decade.


The third time's the charm; finally, as seen above, the dress comes into its own. The cardi frames the print without competing, the box bag is chic, the leg is light, the shoe discreet and though not as edgy as the bootie, suits the retro-print dress. 

The only questionable note here is the necklace, which has a nice vintage feel, but seems to sit low. I think floral print plus flower necklace is a bit repetitive, but if I looked like Dame Mirren, I might try it.

Hair and makeup just superb!

A closer look at the necklace; what do you think?

As contrast, and part of my own internal might-I-wear-print-in-this-lifetime? dialog, I checked out Mirren's recent appearances in solids. Here she is in ecru, at a Women in Film pre-Oscar party (with Melanie Brown):

And in one of my favourite-ever Mirren evening gowns, an enchanting shade of green, at this year's Golden Globes:

She's wearing glamourous emerald earrings, and here's a closer look at her hairstyle, a vast improvement over photo #1, but maybe she was growing it; we've all been there

I'm thinking a solid shade lets the woman wear the dress, not vice-versa. 

Your take? 

PS. Upon receiving her star, placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, Mirren said, “I couldn’t be prouder and more happy that I’m actually going to finally lie next to Colin Firth, something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hair: Failing funky

My head was turned by new salon on my street: orange Vespa parked in front, orange and high-gloss white decor, retro bossa nova groovily wafting. Pitchers of water with fresh mint and orange slices, croissants, espresso bar. Nice people, cool place. 

And hey, the name is "The Redhead" in French. Was this not meant to be?

"Brigitte", a flame-haired stylist in a sequined t-shirt, told me I should have something "un peu plus 'funky'". I believe in letting stylists do their thing; my only stipulation was to be able to dab in some product and go, no hot irons or blowouts. Though shocked by the amount of (my) hair on the floor, I walked out happy– it was a change– but almost immediately began thinking "I need to get used to it." 

Day 1: Trying to make friends

Here's that cut. I am already questioning it in this photo. At my left, out of camera range, sits a largish glass of chablis.

Yesterday, Brigitte had casually achieved a Janelle Monae poof on the long side which I could not replicate. It's hip, but looks odd with my Hermès scarf. I remove the scarf; the cut is still kind of jarring. My hair is now loaded with a wax that leaves residue on my pillow.

Day 4: Party

A few nights later, I join three girlfriends with great hair. We are all over 60. Though Francine, at far left, looks grey, her hair is actually that sixteen shades of blonde thing.

R., on my right, and I have been close friends since '82. She said nothing, which said something, know what I mean?

I ask myself when, in the last three decades, I had seen this style, and the answer is, on me in...1985. I begin to have serious reservations. Like the Dorothy Hamill wedge, should this 'do come back?

I receive this party photo and like everyone's hair but mine.

Day 5: Seeking expert advice

After studying the photo evidence, I Skype another longtime friend, the forthright Susan, and ask what she thinks. She always looks terrific in a natural, breezy way and has worked as an image consultant. 

Susan does not hesitate a second: calls it dated and dreadful. We decide the cut is like a mullet rotated 90 degrees and about as current.

Day 6: Get this thing off my head!

The next morning, I take another chance at a different nearby salon, Blush. Totally different vibe: Femmy and formal, with crystal chandeliers like an opera house's. I simply enter on a whim and beg for book the first available slot.

The stylist, Maggie, is a calm, 50ish woman who handles my curls deftly, evincing thirty years of experience. Her first words are, "Passé", and "I can fix this".

The fix is more or less my usual style, if shorter over the ears. "We are going to get more length here", Maggie says, tugging down both sides like the 'do is a pair of misbehaving Spanx.

And this costs 30% less! No fancy bevvies, but I am offered samples of masques and a pen.

Someone might prefer the funky cut. If so, I have some Pat Benetar albums for you.

What did I learn?
1. Let a stylist experiment, but realize that you may not be suited to his or her idea.
2. Funky after 50 (OK, well after) is unwise unless you're maintaining your signature look. Think Suzanne Bartsch, Suzy Menkes, Lynn Yaeger.
3. Everyone needs a friend with a good eye and absolutely no qualms about being honest.

I suspect, the "If you wore it the first time, don't wear it the second time around" aphorism goes for hairstyles as well as clothes.

I'm not sorry I took a chance; you have to, if you wonder what you'd look like with something different. But I didn't return to Brigitte for the fix; her sensibility does not correspond to mine.

How wild a departure have you taken? Did it work out?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More on managing thinning hair

According to some health-related sites, 40% of women experience some hair loss during menopause. I'd estimate double that percentage will notice loss in the decades that follow. If you've maintained thick, healthy hair into your 50s or beyond, are you lucky! But if you always had fine hair and are now losing some, your heart sinks when you look at your brush. 

Fighting the myriad signs of aging isn't the best use of time, but we all want to look good, and hair is a very deep subject for women.

Since my initial post, I've observed hordes of women getting extensions at my new salon. My stylist says about half are mature women; the other half are 20-and-30s who want their luxuriant manes bumped up to unnaturally lush levels. I've seen so many applied that I no longer think "great hair"; I think, "$1,500 in extensions".

The problem is that extensions add volume only from mid-crown to mid-head, so if you're thinning on top or at the temples, they won't cover that. I don't have extensions, but if you do, please tell us how you like them.

I watched a soignée woman in a posh department store ladies' room casually take out a small compact that I thought was eye shadow and daub it at her hairline, near the part. She saw me staring (well, wouldn't you?) and showed me her DermMatch

Her bob looked just fine, but she had an area at her temple where her part revealed a receding patch, about the size of a quarter. DermaMatch is scalp makeup, designed to 'paint in' the bare scalp so it blends with the hair.  

She pulled back her bangs to show me the opposite, untouched temple hidden by her bangs– a dramatic difference. She said there was a little rub-off on her pillow but she'd changed to dark cases. Caveat: The product would not look realistic on large areas like a full part or thin crown.

She said if the bare spots grow, she will have a transplant, and is unwilling to take drugs like Propecia.

She has localized hair loss; there are other approaches for overall loss of fullness. Volumizing shampoos and conditioners are multiplying as cosmetic companies respond to boomers' dismay over hair you can see through.

You can drop double digits on fancy salon stuff, but Good Housekeeping gives top marks to two Pantene products, Pantene Pro-V Full & Thick Shampoo and Conditioner, each under $6 at most drugstores. These expanded strand diameter up to 9% and got top marks from consumers for making hair look thicker.

Dry shampoo applied at the roots to add lift from the scalp is another stylist's weapon. I like Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo, also great for travel.

Another strategy is an optical trick: place some highlights or lowlights near the face to provide contrast, which reads like thickness. But, stylists counsel, don't carry those lights throughout the head, because if they dry out the strands, you can get breakage of that now-finer hair.
M., a pretty, 60ish woman in the beauty industry, told me that she teases to add volume. She lightly back-combs the under section only, beginning at around ear level (where one would normally add extensions) so the top layer of hair falls naturally over the teased underlayer. On the weekends, she gives it a rest by brushing it back, held by a scarf or barette.

She invited me to touch her hair; there was about half as much there as I would have guessed. M. had lightened her colour to several shades of pale blonde, because a high contrast (dark hair, white scalp in her case) makes hair look much thinner.

Helen Mirren has fine blonde hair like M.'s, and appears to have volume added either by restrained back-combing or a roller set, then relaxed by a blow-out. She could also use extensions; many actresses do.

And I hope you noticed Dame Helen's pearls.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seven tips for finding a new hair stylist

The move required a new hair stylist. (Eventually, a dentist and family doc, but first things first.)

In the neighbourhood adjacent to mine, I rented a temporary apartment for the moving week (via Airbnb, a great resource) and found my stylist, Laurie of LocalB, by peering through its large window daily and noting how good everyone looked, both in the chair and holding scissors.

If you're thinking of switching hairdressers, here are my ideas, and please, those of you who've done it, please add your own:

1. Go to a neighbourhood that echoes your style.
if you want classic, coiffed hair, check your business district; if you want something casual yet polished, cruise the upscale neighbourhoods, and if you want edgy, asked the tatted-up girl in funky bar where she goes. This is a good screen, because salons attract a certain clientele. 

Not 100% reliable, though: my Parisienne friend Daniele got a knockout classic bob–every hair cut with microscopic precision– at Toronto's Coupe Bizarre, from a girl with a half-shaved head and barbell studs in her face.

2. Sit in a nearby coffee shop and see a few heads, before and after. Notice whether a woman leaves with that "looking gooood" bounce in her step. Maybe book a manicure there and take a good look around. If they're turning the chairs in 20 minutes you are likely not going to get personal attention and a precise cut.

3. Be wary about online reviews; there is a good deal of shilling and slagging in the gossipy, competitive hair world.

4. The time-honoured advice of finding someone with a great cut and asking who did it? Meh.

The stylist who's great for one may be only mediocre for you. Some stylists have biases, so everybody gets layered bangs. Others stylists can be inconsistent or simply lose interest in their work; some rest on their reputations. I prefer someone up and coming, not yet a star, who still has juice for the job.

Similarly, portfolios on the salon's web site are not perfect predictors either, or the creator may be long departed.

5. Make sure you see the stylist first, rather than booking by phone. If he or she has an unflattering cut or crummy colour, make any excuse to get out of there. Women with curls: if the stylist picks up thinning shears, run.

Some salons offer an initial consultation for a minimal fee; the cut is not done then, but you can discuss ideas and let your radar sweep over the place.

6. Pay attention to the product lines they sell. The better the products on offer, the more likely the salon benefits from regular seminars offered by these companies.

7. Finally, resist loading the stylist with too much baggage. It's OK to mention that you abhor short bangs or don't want your ears showing, but a good stylist is an artist first. Let him or her have some creative freedom; it's hair, not cosmetic surgery. As my stylist friend Ingrid said, "We've seen thousands of heads, you've seen one."

I only told Laurie that I don't want to blow out or chemically straighten my curly hair. She revised the shape, an improvement subtle to the world but appreciated by me. 

Isn't that what we all want: a great cut we can manage ourselves, rain or shine?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Long, grey and mad at Mum

Commenter Susan wondered whether I'd seen the New York Times article, "Why Can't Middle Aged Women Have Long Hair?" by Dominique Browning; here it is.

Browning is disturbed by her mother's hatred of her long grey hair; her "worried sister" and "concerned friend" sing backup. This article could well end at para 2: "I feel great about my hair."

Instead, she catalogs and rebuts the complaints. To the rap, "You're still living in the '70s", Browning replies, "And why not? I like being 55 going on 15." Might a teensy bit of growing up be in order here? If a woman behaves, looks or thinks like a fifteen-year-old forty years later, she might better see a therapist than a hairdresser.

When family, friends or complete strangers comment on hair, it's data, not Ultimate Truth. But also consider the saying, "If three people come to your gate with a message, pay attention." 

Get an opinion or two from expert hairstylists, someone with a fresh eye, not the person who's seen you for a decade. Then do what pleases you

As for the belief that "it's aging": maybe in long and grey, you look fully your age or even a few years older. If you enjoy the pleasure, versatility, and aspect of your personality that your swath of grey asserts– so what? 

Your hair could well not age you, either– it's the critic's own projected fear of age you're hearing (and this is my guess about what Browning endures.)

If "is it aging?" is the sole criterion for choice, we are shackled to the vain pursuit of an ever-more-distant past. Isn't liberation the point of rebellion?

Browning notes that most mature women didn't wear their hair long and loose generations ago, grey or not. That's true, unless you were arty-eccentric or a member of certain religions.

Somewhere past forty, you put it up in a proper chignon or perky beehive by day, or cut it shorter. But times and styles change.

Harris' glorious grey
Two generations ago, no respectable woman (and there's a term you don't hear anymore) would let her bra strap or slip show. My friend Jennifer's 85 year old father still maintains that open toed pumps are worn only by prostitutes. Browning's mother, at least 75, is shaped by her times.

Today, some women with long grey hair look like they're out on a day pass, while others toss chic, shimmery manes. Much depends on the hair's health and how the rest of the package– makeup, teeth, clothing, even posture– reads. See Emmylou, patron saint of glam, groomed greys.

She says, "My mother still makes me feel like a 15 year old" and "My mother has a lot to say about my looks"– and I sense that isn't a shower of compliments. Browning's real challenge is what's between the two of them, not what's on her head.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Barrettes, combs, clasps: Hair accessories

I have been asked, what about hair accessories?

Few accessories look more juvenile on a woman of 50+ than the hard plastic headband. (Hillary Clinton looks like she is about to wash her face in this '08 New York Magazine shot.) I've castigated this item before, and recognize that perfectly wonderful women wear them. If you must wear yours to practice your cello, all right. So, I'd better ante up and provide some alternatives.

I suspect the reason why I see so many women in little-girl headbands and bitsy barrettes is that chic hair accessories are hard to find.

You can go two routes: the decorative, or the discreet.


Decorative hair accessories should be considered jewelry; if you'd wear it on your dress, wear it in your hair. You will have to tolerate plastic on most pieces, either in the mechanism or visible surface, but there are some attractive models nethertheless.

Vintage Kimono hair clip, $20, Takishimaya. Made of vintage kimono fabric, 5 inches long.

Plissé bow barrette of Italian leather, in black, cognac, dark blue or coral, $65 from Dominique Duval.

Jaw clips can rise above the plastic look. This leather-covered version comes in six colours; shown, teal, $55 for the Rustic Leather clip, from Dominique Duval.

For a more polished look than a coated elastic, with enough room for thick hair, France Luxe's Volume Ponytail Barrette in camel horn. Price, $24.

L. Ericksen's Makeover Pinch is a long (5 1/2 inch) clip for twist-back styles, and I like the nacré onyx finish, $40 from France Luxe.

For thick,
voluminous hair, this France Luxe Rectangle Volume Barrette, called Voltaire. At nearly 4 inches long, it will hold a low ponytail in place; shown in the summery Voltaire Green colourway; price, $21.


Blue Heron Woods make beautiful hair accessories in exotic woods. All pieces are handmade, so your order might take several weeks to produce.

Shown above, Large East Indian Rosewood Barrette, $21. Measures 3 3/4 inches long, a pract
ical size.

Blue Heron's curved mahogony and turquoise hair stick is a graceful option for a twist or up-do; $19.

France Luxe's Sexy Oval is just that, 2 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, for holding back a smaller amount of hair just so. Comes in nine different finishes, shown , the vibrant Tokyo, $16 from
France Luxe.

This vintage (ca. 1959) black French barrette, price, $18.95 from Accessories of Old, is like nothing I've seen made today. And it's still on its original card.

Like a littl
e twist with your classic?

The France Lu
xe Triple Row Stud Volume Barrette adds pyramid studs for an edgy dimension; price, $98. Available in black and two torty finishes, shown, Tokyo.

I like this so much I might grow my hair!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Renata switches to short

One of Scott Schuman's (The Sartorialist) favourite subjects, Italian stylist and journalist Renata Molho, 59, has cut her hair. Renata is widely admired for her elegant/careless look, a sort of Mediterranean Jane Birkin.

Above, Renata in her long mane, the classic mature Italian woman's flag, ca. 2006.

Another shot, in Feb. 2007: long hair, big glasses, flat boot.

In a p
hoto published this month on The Sartorlalist, she's had a cut. Looks like a wavy bob, uncoloured. And similar coat (or is it the same?) to '07's; she doesn't feel the need to change her cocoa-over-cream combo.

It's interesting to see how a different hairstyle changes nearly the same attire.

What is your impression of her in the long hair, and then with the short?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gran Goggles: What to say to a hairdresser

Lately I've become obsessed with looking at the hair of women 50+. In my large city, so many have monotonous haircuts.

Some look dated. The cut at far left has a lot of detail but it's not very touchable or modern.

The cut at near left is kludgy, boxy and too short for the "edgy asymmetry" (stylist's words) to work (note the Mamie Eisenhower bangs)– and worst of all, it was on me. Aaargh, took six months to grow out.

I suspect we were both cut by stylists wearing Gran Goggles.

The s
tylist sees his gran's face superimposed on the 50+ client's. You get a safe, outdated cut that is not adapted to your face, body or style. Either it's a short, generic wash n' wear job since older equals "not interested in any styling" or a bizarre attempt at recovering our youth for us by channeling the '80s.

Hairdressers need our firm guidance to remove their Gran Goggles.

We have to get them to view us differently, so we get
a style that makes us look current and fabulous.
What to say to the stylist

1. "I want to work with my hair's texture."

Shown, fashion icon Yasmin Sewell in her trademark asymmetrical wavy bob. 

She's working her natural wave and curl. No blowout, no highlights, no thinning shears– just healthy, well-cut hair. (Yes, I know she is well under 50, but I want to illustrate an attitude.)

 The 'done' hair like minkie lady's reads as stiff and passé.(Photo from Advanced Style.)

Here's Helen Mirren in two styles. The soft, elegant sidesweep, far left, is one any decent stylist can muster. 

I like the cut at the near left even more; the tousled bangs and layers are the work of a stylist with a fresher eye.

2. (If short): "Give me details!"

If you sit in a stylist's chair engrossed in the latest Vogue, not on the alert for the Gran Goggles, you are a sitting duck for a by-the-numbers short cut. Get the cut with something going on. Let's look at two very good cuts.

The pixie,
worn at far left by Dame Judi Dench, is beloved for its care-free ease; it too can be cut by any stylist, but needs careful attention and customizing to each head.

The pixie that's too short at the back or over the ears looks harsh. Note the softness at her nape and the slightly thick sideburns. She's also wearing beautifully applied eye makeup.

Annette Bening's pixie is longer, with sideswept wispy bangs and texture that softens and lightens the crop. It's insouciant, not hard.

Supershort buzz: If necessary as a result of health issues, that's one thing, but this is too severe for most women– unless Gertrude Stein is really the look you want.
(Photo from Advanced Style.)

Detail can be created by colour, too. You could play with innovative effects, like this client of Lisbon hair salon Hairport in her natural grey with auburn tips on a textured, artful short cap cut.

3. "Give me movement."

Chin length is the point where movement and shine are obvious and essential. Ask for the 'little bit undone' look.

The artistry is in the excellent cut, not the styling, and shows off her stunning white.

(Photo from Advanced Style.)


4. "Give me simplicity, beautifully executed."
Vanessa Redgrave: shining, well-tended natural grey in a simple bob. Redgrave's hair is not thick, so one length, impeccably trimmed, suits her.

Diane Sawyer in soft, minimal layering that you want to touch, and the best blonding money can buy.


5. (If long): "Style me with a fresh look that I can replicate at home."You don't want your long hair to look like you haven't re-thought layering since the '70s.

Soft waves will require time with a curved brush or a few rollers, but a loosely-waved style is more soignée than a careless ponytail or stuck-behind-the-ears lank length.

If you want to wear your hair up, ask your hairstylist to show you how to make a chignon that looks not-too-perfect.

Those of us who remember the introduction of mousse can get terribly tidy, and that's not as chic as leaving
a few ends out.


Undoing a Gran Goggle style

Posting on a site called Make or Break Moments, Deborah Chaddock Brown told of her visit to a new salon where she asked for "short, easy to care for, something different".

This is what she got, and she hated it. You can see why: a fusty, incoherent style that pulls her face down. I find her expression so touching, trying to put a brave face on a bad 'do.

Though she didn't complain, the owner could see Ms Brown wasn't happy with the stylist's job and called to as
k her back for a complimentary re-style. 
Ms Brown was a brave woman to walk back in there, but, impressed by their request to make it right, gave them another chance. The owner did the second cut.

Way better, don't you think? Stylist #1 had scissors, but also Gran Goggles. The owner had the eye to know that a softer, simpler yet sophisticated style with broken-up bangs would make Ms B's eyes look huge, and flatter her cheekbones.

And this is the same salon.