I just wrote a truly horrendously depressing intro and then deleted it (well, cut it; I’m very indecisive) because we all know that the world is a terrible place full of guns and I don’t need to retread that ground here. I’m in the sweet spot between the bonkers beginning of term and the stress-spending of Christmas and I have a mini-break to Yorkshire with my girls coming up. Let’s breathe deeply, get more sleep, and reflect on some of the absolute rubbish that’s been propping me up in the last couple of months.
1. RuPaul’s Drag Race
For the longest time I may have thought that RuPaul’s Drag Race was actually about cars. It’s the sort of stupid assumption that hadn’t made it into a fully-formed thought and there’s really no excuse. I’m not sure what prompted me to start watching but there it was on Netflix and I needed an easy-going download, so we met and now I’m in love.
Once I decided to start watching, I realised that while it is outrageous and OTT, it’s not as painfully camp as I thought it would be and RuPaul has this incredible charismatic way with her; it’s not schlocky, it’s insanely well judged. The character that RuPaul has created in his drag persona is gorgeous and the show has all the classics of reality TV: arbitrary judgement, editing that creates villains, a lower tier destined to leave early on in the competition. But what it also does is make the viewer really think about drag as an artform, and as a musing on gender. At least two contestants have come out as transgender, which prompts a closer look at gender and identity politics: for some Drag Queens the artform reflects the feminine side of their personality, for others it is more driven by the love of performance. For some Drag Queens, is it a stop on the way to fully realising and reflecting their true gender? And as cultural and societal norms shift, there will be an interesting conversation to be had around the relation of body and genitals to a person’s sex and gender.
In the meantime, there are fabulous gowns, terrible wigs- if I’ve learnt anything watching RDR, it’s that you need to spend on hairpieces, queen- and some very funny ladies. Get you some (on Netflix).
2. Into The Gloss
I had heard of Into the Gloss, a US-based beauty blog, but mainly in relation to the brand Glossier, which has just started shipping to the UK (and doesn’t the beauty press know it). Glossier is famed for its cool products which are marketed with hot young people who don’t hide their freckles when putting on their make-up and just dab on a spot of concealer where they need it. I cannot relate. But ITG is actually quite a fun, accessible site; yes it still showcases those Beautiful Freckle Girls, but there’s also lots of features about fillers and hair products and self-tanning, and they’re mainly quite compact and easy to read when you only have a couple of minutes.
I’ve been binging on their Top Shelf feature which interviews all sorts of people about their skin care and cosmetics; chefs, writers, actors, Creative Directors of fancy brands. It’s in the subject’s own voice and of course some of the pieces are 300 words on products that cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, but I still find the articles quite interesting and soothing. Along with the podcast Fat Mascara, it’s just a fun but well-written beauty diversion for the end of my lunchbreak.
3. Spreadable cheese
Modern thinking states that there are no guilty pleasures, that if you enjoy something then just accept it: there is no shame in enjoying Michael Bolton. But I feel like a cheese spread flavoured with Brie might be the exception. President Creme De Brie has been an absolute favourite of mine for a number of months; it’s cheap, tasty (arguable, but I like it), lower in calories than real cheese (about 300 cal for the whole 125g pot) and lasts ages in the fridge with a Use By of 2-3 months’ time.
Unfortunately- and I say that through stifled sobs- I have just found out that the President spready Brie is not vegetarian. NOT VEGETARIAN. I have been eating it with not an inkling! I’ve googled all the ingredients and most of them are not only vegetarian but vegan, so it must be the rennet used in the Brie. Which is weird because the normal President Brie is suitable for vegetarians. It doesn’t say anything about its animal derivatives on the pack or on the President website, but Asda, Ocado, and Waitrose all state the fact clearly. I must accept it.
Anyway luckily the SeriouslyStrong Cheddar Cheese Spread is suitable for me. It makes me feel nowhere near as continental as the brie, but at least it’s a tasty spreadable treat that can stay in your fridge for months until you’re too lazy or full of red wine to cook anything, at which point you just open a pack of crackers and dig in. I’ll do my mourning in private.
I think about hair a lot, and I talk about hair only marginally less. I’ve written about it before, but anyway that was ages ago. One might argue that there are more important things to think about and that’s the whole problem; I haven’t written properly in forever because the world is so freaking overwhelming. I am genuinely overwhelmed by it. Work has been very busy this year so far but yawn, whatever, work is hard. That’s capitalism, babes! But it’s the political landscape that I’ve struggled to fathom, the lack of generosity and empathy in the way we are voting in the Western world (thank Christ for Trudeau and Macron), the million opinion pieces that make me feel worse. The seemingly constant belief by the common man that the rich will lift you out of your inequality! Why ask to be treated fairly if a billionaire can help put a (brown) face to your frustration and disappointment? It is so utterly depressing my creativity seemed to give a tiny pfft and disappear. I am left with too much to say and no words to express it all. And now a General Election!
But y’know what we can have a bit of control over? Hair! Well, to tell the truth, I’m not even sure that’s accurate, but I have to search for some order in this shitshow and why not start with my sharing the painful learnings of years of hating my hair? Beats thinking about the other stuff! Now, if you don’t have hair that you would hand-on-heart call ‘thin’ then you have my best wishes but you don’t know my life. Truly fine hair is the kind that experiences a gust of wind and goes greasy, blow-dries with some oomph but is flat in an hour, is generally hard to work with and won’t hold a curl. Now I have empathy with our fine, curly haired sisters, but that’s a whole different ballgame; I’m talking MY hair: flat, fine, caucasian, straight but with the ability to kink in a hairband, prone to grease. I had one huge blow-dry that lasted a few hours once, and that’s about all anyone’s been able to do. So often all you can really do is take away the factors that sabotage your hair, and here are my tips.
1. Get your hair cut regularly
Ugh, haircuts are so expensive. Even where I live- where the hairdressers don’t have websites- a cut is £35-£39. Extortionate. I think lots of people get a lady round their house rather than go to a salon and if you have one you like, awesome. In an ideal world, all fine-haired wimmin should find a stylist who knows their hair. They may not be the most cutting-edge (sorry) stylist in the world, but if you think they do reasonably well with your hair and they understand how finer hair works, stick with them. And then get your hair cut, every 6-8 weeks. I know it’s annoying, I know it’s hard to find the time (I go to a salon near work so I can do lunchtime trims), and I know it’s expensive, but it really is the best thing you can do for your hair.
Fine hair damages easily and if yours is anything like mine, I always need to apply some heat to it to not end up with a flat mess. So every time I’m using the hairdryer, I’m probably doing some damage, and that can be seen in split-ends or broken hair (which can make hair look quite fly-away). The more precise the haircut, the more it will benefit from regular trims, but I would argue that fine hair needs those trims even when the cut isn’t high-tech. In my experience and opinion, fine hair just looks better when it’s regularly trimmed. It just keeps those bobs looking healthier, and long hair looking as thick as it can do. When your hair gets ‘end-y’, it looks thinner.
I always walk out of the hairdresser looking flat and sad, but it passes!
1a. If you have a fringe, get it trimmed
More trips to the hairdresser, sorry. And this is one that I have come to quite late, but now I know the truth: if you have a fringe, take your hairdresser up on those goddamn free trims! I’ve been offered these for years and had never gone for one; I just found it a bit mortifying and I tended to wait until I was getting my hair cut properly. This may work if you have a sweeping kind of fringe and you go fairly regularly for the cut as evangelised about above. But for a heavier or more classic fringe, a trim keeps it from separating; the bane of a fringe-owner’s (wearer’s?) existence.
I combat fringe separation with the following tools:
Blotting papers for absorbing oil on the forehead (I like these; the case is cute and practical)
Even with all of that, if the fringe gets too long, it’s Game Over. But I do understand! Being a bit weird and awkward at times, the thought of going in to the salon to be told no-one could trim me seemed like a nightmare. But now I’ve realised how much neater and fresher I look (vanity will out), I just call them up, ask when the best time to come in for a fringe-trim is, and it’s relatively painless. At a push, a place local to you will probably trim your fringe- if they’re not too busy- for £4-£5.
2. Take B vitamins!
My gorgeous and clever big sister recommended Biotin to me and I was all like “Whu?” as I had never heard of it and I wasn’t much of a supplementer. Oh how times have changed! I didn’t use anti-ageing skincare then either and that time seems a million years ago. Now I take a tonne of supplements to help with joints and digestion and fatigue, and I sure do love my Biotin, which is basically a B vitamin that helps your hair, skin, and nails. It’s what’s in Perfectil, which I used to take, but the dose in just straight-up Biotin can be way higher. Since taking it, my nails grow so much faster and stronger and I feel that my hair is in better condition. My hairdresser has assured me that it will mean my hair is much stronger and a good friend recently told me that she’s been taking it for a couple of years, after she noticed some hereditary thinning hair, and she looks fantastic. It may not work for you but I’m certainly happy and it’s not expensive at all to try.
Big Sis did counsel caution with the Biotin as it caused a few spots on her and apparently, this isn’t hugely uncommon when taking the big old 10,000mcg strength; she cut down to half and the issues went away. There’s a variety of strengths out there and I’m thick with numbers so I get a bit confused between milligrams and micrograms… Anyway, I sometimes get a spot when I am, I suspect, hormonal, but that’s pretty infrequent and could just as easily be my wine consumption.
Purchase at Holland & Barrett, Amazon, or most shops where you’d buy supplements…
3. Styling product balance is KEY
I do not have the answer to this: whenever I think I’ve reached an Hallelujah moment with my styling products, I feel like they kind of stop working. And, if I don’t keep up with the other rules on this list, my styling products don’t work as well. I would say that the golden rules are:
Usually more than 2-3 products are going to weigh your hair down so don’t overload; and
If someone tells you some light-hold, all-natural spray is the answer to your dreams, she doesn’t have fine hair and do not pay heed
That second one might just be because I’m bitter. Either way, any time I casually Google ‘fine hair tips’ or similar, I get terrible articles about blow-drying your hair upside down. No shit! I need product recommendations, specifics I can use. I’m glad the Aveda product worked for you, but I need something to change the texture of my hair- fine, fine baby hair needs work (and if you have a less baby-like texture then I am very jealous).
I am currently enjoying the Oribe Maximista Thickening Spray, but it’s extortionate at £27. I got it with my Space NK loyalty points and while I’d like to buy it again, I’m not sure it’s demonstrably better than a bog-standard thickening spray. I need mousse in my roots, and I have been impressed with the TIGI Catwalk Root Boost Spray, which you can find for about £8 if you’re savvy. I spray it right into my roots in little bursts and then rub it in. I think it keeps a little lift in those roots through the day, and a bit of dry shampoo (I like Colab) helps refresh my hair when it gets a bit flat. I also usually use a bit of hairspray to finish everything off, and as long as it has a nice fine spray I’m not sure the brand matters too much.
I still stand by the products I recommended in my post a while ago, but I try different things when I’ve used a product for a while and the initial excitement has worn off. TIGI products are pretty good in my experience, and I love Fudge Urban Iced Coconut Cocktail hairspray because you need so little of it and it’s very handy to sling in your bag for trips and going out.
Ultimately it’s about trying different products and seeing what works on you, but too much product in your hair- even if it’s promising the world- will just weigh your hair down.
4. Go easy on the conditioner
This may be stating the obvious for most, and for fine-haired lovelies with dry lengths and ends, it’s also not helpful. But goddamn did it take me a long time to realise the truth of this statement. I think it was a hangover from having highlights and needing to use umpteen products to both boost and tame my dry, damaged blonde hair. So many brands that have a volumising range include a conditioner as part of it and I just continued to use it, but not conditioning has been a revelation.
My general advice would be that if you have fine hair prone to oiliness throughout, try skipping the conditioner; if you have a bit of dryness, then try conditioning first and then washing out with your shampoo; and if you’re dry through your lengths and ends or have processed hair then do what needs to be done, deep-condition, and ignore this tip. Philip Kingsley Elasticizer is a great choice if you do need a full-on conditioner but want to avoid heaviness; pop it on while you’re brushing your teeth and then shower and shampoo off (you can leave it on for 10-20 minutes if you really need to condition deeply).
5. Dye your hair regularly
If you don’t dye your hair then I’m not suggesting you start! I’ve always found that my porous hair likes a bit of semi-permanent dye, but I’ve no idea whether this is the case for other fine-haired peeps. What I do know is that if you do dye, keep it up because hair that has had the colour stripped out- which is essentially what is happening when you’ve dyed your hair and the colour starts to fade- tends to feel weaker and thinner. My personal experience is that my hair looks stronger, shinier, and thicker when it’s freshly dyed (well ok, after I’ve washed out the custard-y conditioner that you put on afterwards a couple of times), and sadder and thinner after about 4 weeks.
I realise this isn’t easy if you’re fancy and go to a salon, but I am ride or die for my Blue Black at home.
6. Volumising shampoos and conditioners will promise the earth…
…and sometimes they’re not bad. But honestly, I go into every new bottle of shampoo with my eyes shining and with hope in my heart, and I just don’t think that there’s a magic bullet. It pains me to say it, but there’s only so much shampoo can really do. Gah! It’s so sad.
I have tried many different combinations and I’ve often thought I found a keeper, only to get halfway into the bottle and lose faith. Philip Kingsley and TIGI Bed Head were pretty good. The L’Oreal Fibrology range is ok, and is nice and cheap. Sali Hughes rates the Bumble and Bumble system and what I find interesting about this, even though I haven’t tried it, is that part of the aim of that range is to avoid hair-loss, which is a more long-term aim than a lot of ranges will work towards but worth thinking about, and definitely part of the benefit of taking Biotin.
I’m currently using STEMM by Deciem and I really love it. I’ve stopped using the conditioner because as light as it was, it still weighed my hair down, and the shampoo is mildly conditioning anyway. I also use the Density Stimuli from the same range and I have no idea whether it works but I’ll probably keep going for a bit. I think my hair currently looks the best it ever has and I’m sure it’s a combination of all of the tips I’ve set out here; and there’s no scientific way to see whether that’s the case or not cos I did them all at the same time! But the STEMM feels really good when I use it and I just make sure to do a proper shampoo once every 1-2 weeks as it hasn’t got any of those chemicals that are so handy for cleaning the crap out of your hair.
So that’s it; these are the things I’ve learnt the hard way. Maybe everyone else knew and I just hadn’t cottoned on? Very possible. But hell, this piece was long. I wanted to get a few words about hair down as I hadn’t written for so long and here we are at 2300. Congratulations if you got this far- email me and I’ll send you some hair styling products that are still 90% full!
In the mean time, I’ll be throwing more money at the problem and pretending we’re staying part of the EU. Ciao.
I have fine, fine, baby hair. If you have such hair and you’re ok with it then I’m thrilled for you, but I can only describe my hair as thin and also crappy. Realising the LIE of most famous women’s hair- that even a full barnet is usually enhanced by extensions, I’m looking at you Kate Middleton- has helped my pain a little. But the fact remains that my hair is poker-straight, ‘lank’ is not too harsh a word most days, and it’s prone to being weighed down by product so it’s a constant balancing act to get the combination right. And even when that happens, an hour later it’s flat-to-head.
When I went for a haircut November last year and asked for ‘shoulder-length’, I was nearly inconsolable when she cut it to my chin. It’s not a flattering length on me, having such a round face, and it meant losing a good 6-8 inches, around half of which I had not intended to lose. “Oh well”, I thought, “at least I’ll be able to get some volume in my hair again”. NU-UH. Taking care of my hair, regularly colouring it, and using decent products means that my mane is as healthy as it’s ever been, which makes it even more difficult to style. If that sounds illogical, just think about how much easier it is to get volume and texture into hair with broken bits and messed-up hair shafts. Stupid healthy hair was doing me no favours.
With the exception of following the advice of the hairdresser who proclaimed to 15 year old me that “only a perm will help!”, I have tried almost everything. I dry my hair upside-down, which for me has always got the closest to root-lift that I’ll ever see, but for a special occasion I’ll get the Remington Big Hair out. It’s not a game-changer but I find it using at the just-drier-than-towel-dried stage, with a blowdry lotion or spray can have a good lifting result. Never use mousse with the Big Hair though, or you’l end up with a knot the size of your fist.
When it comes to volumising shampoos and conditioners, I have used A LOT of them, cheap and pricey. Whenever I think something is making a difference, it’s not long before the effect wears off and I’m back to limp hair. I have tried all the usual suspects: Bumble & Bumble, Ojon, Philip Kingsley, Percy & Reed, most of the brands they sell in Boots. Until recently, I was exclusive with TIGI Bed Head Epic Volume and we were very happy together. It makes my hair marginally more voluminous than not using it, and by buying the large 750ml sizes, it’s actually insanely cheap and convenient too. But it’s not the change I want to see in the world.
In the last month (six weeks probably) there have been two main things that have changed. The first is that after a year of trying to grow my hair to shoulder-length, I’ve realised that I need to give in and live with the bob. I got the first haircut that I’ve been happy with for aaaages (thanks weird Chris at the Toni & Guy near work…) and I finally tried L’Oreal Fibrology. I’m not going to go on about it but after Sali Hughes recommended Firbology and I realised that I’d been using the Thickness Booster too often in the shower (it’s only supposed to be twice a week), I am now very impressed by the results. But shampoo and conditioner alone can only do so much. I need much, much more…
The much more is styling product. Before I do anything, I prep with a primer. I know this sounds like a needless step but I genuinely have found that it helps my ‘style’ to have staying power. It’s not a cheap product but a very small amount goes a long way (yes, really) and although the Living Proof one has achieved cult status, lots of people prefer Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm and I bloody love it.
Too much mousse will overload my hair and ultimately make it greasy, but lotions, sprays, volumising oil, and the like just aren’t enough to get any real hold into my hair. I’ve tried combinations of products for years but when I finally stumbled across TIGI Bed Head Small Talk (currently £7.99) and gave it a go, I realised that the consistency is different to anything I’ve tried before. It’s got a sticky, elastic quality to it that bouffs up my hair; the first time I used it was a revelation and it has been ever since. You can even get a mini travel version for around a fiver, but you have to keep looking as it often sells out.
Just before I blow-dry (upside down, and after my fringe has been done separately) I use a teeny bit of the L’Oreal Fibrology Serum on my ends. It makes me feel like I’m fully committing to the Fibrology regime, and having my ends a bit silkier so I can straighten them helps give my hair the illusion of thickness. I want root lift, but wispy ends can undermine your whole effort.
After blow-drying, I tip my head upside-down and spray some VO5 Plump It Up Dry Backcomb Spray (a bargain product that lasts forever) or Colab Dry Shampoo, which I’ve stockpiled at home. I also really like TRESemme Texture Style Devine Definition Spray for adding a little definition to my layers, but you must be sparing with it. A light spray, at about half arm’s length, leave it a few seconds then run your fingers through your layers. I then, of course, finish with hairspray. I’m a die-hard TREsemme Freeze Spray fan but a lighter hairspray in this case is no bad thing. I like Fudge Skyscraper, which is around £9 but cheaper stuff will do just as well, I’m sure.
And finally, the acid test. Does my hair, after the commute, windy London, and a day in the office, still have a bit of oomph left? Yes, for THE FIRST TIME EVER, I can confirm that my hair actually has some life at 5pm. Those with genuinely fine hair will know how rare this is. I am going to stockpile all of these babies! Never. Going. Back.
It’s quite a big boast to say that I had awesome hair the other day. Should I made that boast to, say, Kate Middleton or similar (incredibly likely to happen) then I daresay there would have been a fair amount of scoffing. But my interpretation of awesome is somewhat different to them: I don’t want swooshy and smooth; I want dishevelled and Parisian. I want Caroline De Maigret after she’s been caught strolling through the Tuileries on a particularly blustery day. Geddit?
The hair gods smiled upon me on Thursday. They felt for my plight in waiting an hour JUST TO GET INTO THE TRAIN STATION and then having to stand on my journey to work before arriving late and realising that a rubbish morning of commuting doesn’’t exempt you from actually having to do some work. The hair gods saw me painstakingly straightening my hair this morning and added just the right amount of heat and windy weather to give me something akin to De Maigret dishevelment as my reward. So surprised was I with my wavy locks that I snapped a few bathroom selfies. Sad but needs must, right?
The fringe was a bit separate-y, but not too much; the front was wavy but looked intentional; it had that slightly volume-y quality that means you can fluff it with your fingers a bit and it looks sexily messy. This style I could never achieve if i actually tried to do so. Tongs don’t work on my mane as it all just goes a bit frizzy and eighties. My fringe precludes the mermaid waves fashion folk are so keen on. My only hope is to either wear it straight or hope that a similar hair miracle happens. The word i’m probably looking for to characterise the whole look is ‘ratty’, but ‘undone’ or ‘gently tousled’ sounds rather more appealing.
Undone hair looks nonchalant, easy-going, cool, casual – many of the attributes that ladies who are anything but want to emulate.
As anyone with fine hair will know, all you can really do is try to add volume and hope for the best. It’s difficult to contrive dishevelled without ending up with lank and greasy, attractive as that is. My current tools to try to inject a bit of joosh into my locks are the L’Oreal Elvive Fibrology Double Serum and some Pantene Volume Booster Spray Gel, which I actually picked up in Poundland and have been spraying like mad ever since. I use the latter first, lifting sections of wet hair and spraying at the roots before smoothing the L’Oreal serum on top. Then it’s fun and games with a hot hair dryer and a round brush.
I know my accidentally awesome hair may not look like much to some but it made me happy. I felt relaxed and French for the rest of the day, and therefore got absolutely no work done at all. Hey ho!
Any pro hair tips to achieve the look every day? Please feel free to share – I need all the help I can get! Photos of me tweaked using Fotor filters & effects. Don’t judge: I was taking snaps on my phone in a toilet.