stuff that works: hair

stuff that actually works for hair

My name is Sara and I am a hair idiot. When they were handing out the ability to do nice things with your hair, I was presumably in the queue for daytime napping, or biscotti-baking (vote for me, btw!) . I just have absolutely no hair ability.
This means I never ever look fancy. My ponytails are always bumpy and off-centre; my messy up-dos more like messy updon’ts. My Heidi braids look great until I try to pin them down, at which point they begin to slither, worm-like, down from my head and tangle up at my shoulders. Despite fifteen years of practicing, I still cannot reliably produce a curl with my GHDs, and I have a sneaking suspicion I even put headbands on in the completely incorrect manner. If hair-doing was on the UK curriculum, it’s safe to say I’d have needed specialist support.

So when I write a post sharing stuff that works on my hair, I mean really really works. Idiot-proof works.
& if anyone wants to pair up to create a hilarious new youtube channel where they demo hairdos to me, and I catastrophically fail to reproduce them, do get in touch. I see a guest appearance on Ellen in our futures.

Stuff that actually works on my hair

Kerastase Elixir – this is my hair Holy Grail. Nothing else comes close – I know, because I’ve tried them all in an attempt to replace this with something cheaper. This stuff has people saying things like ‘fairytale hair’ and ‘rapunzel’ to me, and makes me feel like I actually stand a chance of being let into the grown-up-women’s-club one happy day.

Pro-Curl Perfect Curl – I was quite sure this little gadget would eat my hair and spit it back out in the form of a frazzled bird’s nest, and first tried it with literal gritted teeth. Surprisingly, it has never got stuck! It gives perfect, uniform curls, and requires very little learning or technique – it sucks up your hair, and beeps when it’s time to let go. You’re just the brawn, and this thing is all the brain. Sadly, with my ridiculously strong hair, the curls only hold on the highest heat setting, so it’s not something I can use every day, but I do love having it in my arsenal.

Dry Shampoo – This almost seems too obvious to include, but I was in my LATE TWENTIES before I discovered that those cheap cans of Batiste are the answer to non-stringy fringes and acceptable second-day-hair. Also essential for when trying to put up my stupidly silky just-washed hair.

The wet brush – You’ve probably already heard of Tangle Teezers, but this equivalent from the US is even better in my opinion. Me and Orla both have fine, super tangle-prone hair, and this spares us all a lot of tears. Plus, unlike the Tangle Teezer, it can be used whilst styling with a dryer/heat.

Shea Butter –  A tip I took in my twenties from French hair-guru Frederik Fekkai, who declares that all women in Provence spend a day or two every summer with their hair slick with this butter, wrapped in a scarf for an Audrey Hepburn vibe.  Supposedly the sun warms it and helps it to penetrate, and of course it smells delicious too. To wash it out you apply neat shampoo, no water, massage through then rinse. When I do this regularly hairdressers comment on the good condition of my hair. When I don’t find the time, they stay suspiciously quiet, so I’m pretty sure he is right.

Home Brazilian Keratin treatment – I bought this kit when pregnancy made my hair completely wild & unmanageable. You apply it to your hair then straighten it super slowly, to cook it into your hair or something.  It needs leaving on for a few days – ideally with no tying back or products adding – but after that time you can wash and pretty much wake up to shiny straight hair every day. It definitely worked for me – in fact, it worked so well that I struggled to get my hair to hold any curl! Sadly the only picture I can find that sort of shows it is this one, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Texturising powder – Not to be mistaken for dry shampoo under any circumstances, this stuff makes your hair feel tacky, dirty and generally unpleasant. But it also makes it *magically* grippy and pouffy! For my fellow slippery-haired girls, this is the answer to fat messy braids, loose buns and backcombing that lasts longer than 30 seconds. It’s also great sprinkled over hair grips or clips to give them a bit more sticking power. Providing you don’t plan on touching your hair at all, or letting anybody else try, this stuff is ace.

Giving fewer fucks. Perhaps this is my best hair tip of all – it’s certainly the one that has saved me the most time, money and energy. I remember a hairdresser telling a 20-year-old me  ‘you don’t need perfect hair every day’ and I was aghast – what if I bumped into Prince Charming, or a TV crew, or someone I hate? Then I got a boyfriend who told me he disliked girls who wore their hair in buns as it was a ‘total waste’, & I became even more afraid of ever appearing with imperfect locks. He’s now long gone, as are those old, brainwashed beliefs. Quitting my NHS job gave me what feels like the first opportunity in my entire adult life to not do something with my hair every day, and it’s so incredibly liberating. I’m rocking the wet-hair-in-a-crappy-topknot daily, and I don’t care that it doesn’t make me look my prettiest, and I don’t care that I’m probably doing it all wrong. It’s not in my face or my lipgloss or lunch, and I bloody love it. 

hair recommendations

& some stuff that really doesn’t –

Coloured dry shampoo – while I firmly believe that dry shampoo saves lives, this was a disaster for me. Great in theory – no chalky white patches I failed to fully brush out – in practice, I touch and ruffle my hair so much during the day that I wound up with what looked like mud down my fingernails all day long. Not my most professonal look.

Velcro rollers – why don’t I just stick my head in a thicket of brambles, hey? And then throw some kittens in for good measure. Nope.

Babyliss Big Hair – This just didn’t get hot enough to do anything it was supposed to do, and it was definitely not any easier than using a dryer and a brush, despite all the rave reviews online.  One day it mysteriously lost ‘traction’ (I’m not sure what else to call it) whilst sitting unused in a drawer, thus becoming even more pointless, redundant and dusty. At least I didn’t need to feel bad about throwing it out after that.

90% of all YouTube tutorials. I have finally come to the sad realisation that I just do not have the same thick, malleable hair as these YouTube chicks. They are genetically blessed, and I, quite tragically, am not. There can’t be any other explanation.

Do you have any hair secrets you can let me in on? Or any other disasters you can share to make me feel a teensy bit better about my ineptitude…?

  • Sheona

    Oh man, N must’ve hated me! I’ve give up on stupid YouTube tutorials now, after my disaster the other week… I just need to rock the curls but I think I look like Jesus.

    • A thumb or Jesus! Tough choice. I think you always look beautiful (and better to be hated than the target of naked-photo-googling, right?) xx

  • BritW

    I feel you sister. My hair is neither curly, nor straight, but very, VERY thick. It seems to behave the best when I have it grown halfway down my back, which is OF COURSE, the most high-maintenance style/cut to have it in.
    I think I like Giving fewer fucks the best. 😉 Though I am a big fan of texturizing powder and dry shampoo.

    • Oh man, and here was me thinking thick hair was the answer! Mine is as thin and floppy as spaghetti. What IS the hair Holy Grail then? Besides giving fewer fucks of course, which it the answer to almost all of life’s problems in the end… x

      • BritW

        Little birdies have told me that hair like yours can rock a pixie. 😀

  • Amen. I feel then same way about colored dry shampoo!

  • CaliMel

    My hair is super coarse and wavy. I’m also VERY lazy when it comes to brushing it. I wear ponytails almost every day and end up with rats nests near my neck. It’s horrible. As a kid I actually had to cut the knots out of my hair because it just tangles like crazy. So basically, I’m pretty sure no one has perfect hair. We all just hide it or don’t care and the only people that do have “perfect” hair are the ones who either have stylists or people who hide how whack their hair actually is by disguising it as normal. Which I totally have done too. Hair has horrible knots and is greasy on top? Let’s just do a side braid!

    That curler is magical! I have the same exact one and it’s so worth the money. I thought it was going to suck my hair off and then it was going to get stuck and it would burn it all off but nope! Works perfectly.

  • I feel like the voice of future doom but just wait till Orla starts school! I cannot believe the complex plaits and updos some mums achieve on their daughters before 8am. How do they do that? How do their children sit still? My daughter has the sort of hair that falls out of plaits and buns within an hour of being done. I always thought I was dextrous I can draw sew and paint but I am a butterfingered klutz at hair!

  • LOL Sara, I’m pretty sure you and I are long lost sisters. All your foibles with your hair mirror mine exactly! If no one else offers, I am totally up for the YouTube channel idea! In the meantime, I’ll look into your suggestions above. xx

  • I couldn’t agree more about giving fewer fucks. I nearly always have roots (comes with being a bleach blonde) even though I have the BEST hairdresser, my fringe is always annoyingly grown out and it’s nearly always slightly frizzy. But I couldn’t really care less these days. I have more important things to do! BTW I am totally terrified of the Pro-Curl. Anything that sucks your hair in = hell no! My main hair recommendation is really good shampoo. Philip Kingsley has transformed my scalp forever! x

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  • I make my own dry shampoo with arrowroot powder and cocoa powder so it blends into my dark hair. It’s so cheap, and I love how I can apply it exactly where I want it and blend it in with a blush brush, but it’s also one of the reasons why I pain my nails so much! That dark griminess under my fingernails is not ideal! I think I’ve recently stopped scratching my head as much, though, because I haven’t noticed the grime much lately, which is nice. 🙂

    In my perfect world, I will have stopped using shampoo and hair products entirely, my scalp will have adjusted to produce the perfect amount of oil, and my hair will look perfect all the time! 😀 I want to try no-poo sometime in the next year just to see how my hair reacts. Wish me luck (and courage to actually DO it)!