I often hear friends lament that their hair never looks as good when they do it themselves, at home, as when their stylist does it. Of course it would always help if we had an extra arm – on top of the usual two – to achieve the perfect blow-dry, but trust me: even with two arms it is possible if you know how… My wonderful hairstylist Kevin Moss at John Frieda gave me a little help with putting this into words, because he’s such a pro – and I believe we should all tune into the wisdom of professionals, whenever we get the opportunity…
Get the moisture out. I like to apply product when it’s completely wet, but don’t attempt to style hair till it’s at least 80% dry, or you’re just wasting your time, energy – and giving yourself arm-ache. (Either that or you can end up with hair that’s been ‘over-styled’, so all the oomph has gone out of it.) Ideally, squeeze and then blot hair dry with a towel and then use a blow-dryer to ruffle it till it’s basically just damp. If you want to achieve extra volume, hang your head upside-down – provided this won’t make you dizzy; you may find it more comfortable simply to tilt your hair and blow the drier into it, which will also get that all-important ‘lift’ at the roots. (If you do let your hair get a touch too dry, then spritz it with a plant mister to put some moisture back before styling.)
Apply your styling product. This is where you need a little help from your hairstylist – because he or she can tell you exactly what you need to use. Don’t feel like they’re just trying to sell you product – what they really want is for their handiwork to be shown off to its best advantage, and the correct product prescription helps with that. (Of course, I developed my own High Profile Thicken + Lift Spray specifically for my fine hair – so if yours needs va-va-volume, you may want to try it for yourself; it also works to deliver instant lift and shape to dry hair.)
Massage the product through from roots to ends. Ideally you want to section hair off and work the product through each section, rather than smoosh a whole load of product into one spot. (It can help to use clips to section hair, not just when applying product but when actually drying the hair – which I’ll get onto in a sec.) Don’t overload your hair with products: today’s products are designed for maximum effect, without having to use masses of them – and when products don’t work, it’s often “pilot error”! Read instructions and ask your stylist to show you how much of each product you should be applying, but failing that a palm-ful of mousse, for instance, is about right for medium-length hair, whereas a 5p-sized dollop of gel – no more – is also enough for medium-length hair. A good way to apply it yourself at home is with a vent brush or a Denman: work the mousse through the brush, then brush through your hair. Don’t apply directly to the hair itself or you’ll end up with too much product in one place.
Use a good hairdryer. Invest in a powerful hairdryer with a directional nozzle. I know, I know: the nozzle’s the bit everyone throws away when they buy a new hairdryer, but it’s the most important bit! The more powerful the hairdryer, the quicker you’ll get results. (Hairdressers can often be sweet-talked into ordering a professional hairdryer for you – which will help you achieve more professional results.)
Then start styling… Again, my advice is to ask your stylist which are the right brushes for you – they make all the difference in the world.
Do the front first. This frames your face – and it’s the first bit (and often the only bit) that someone notices about your hairdo. Sometimes all it takes to refresh a style is to dampen down the area around the face and style it again. (Sure beats washing your hair and starting from scratch, in my book.) If you’re doing your whole style, move on from the front to the sides, top and then the back and underneath last.
Go with the flow… For super-shiny results, be sure to blow-dry down the grain of the hair, from roots to tips. This smoothes the cuticle and enhances the natural shine.
Give it a shot of cold air. This helps to ‘set’ the style, so it holds its shape much longer. (Think of how plastic is pliable when it’s warm. Hair – though obviously it’s natural, not plastic – works in the same way; that sudden blast of cold air ‘fixes’ what you’ve done.)
Just add wax… I love hair wax! I love the textured finish it gives to hair: choppy and modern and a million miles away from those stiff perms our mums wore. (And so did I, in my time…!) You only need the merest smidgen, though: put a dab in the palm of your hand, rub your palms together really well and run your fingers through your hair to create texture. Lift the hair at the roots, for volume, and twist the ends, for extra definition.
Or just add serum… If you have the frizzies, serum is nothing less than miraculous. Again, you need just the teensiest amount – the size of a 5p – and you rub your palms together than then smooth over the hair. Some women can’t live without serum, but even those who don’t generally have frizzy hair can find it really useful on holiday in a tropical place, or when the weather’s a bit steamier at home. The danger is you end up with a lump, so start with a little, and repeat the whole process if necessary, rather than using a great big dollop all at once. I use my own Glammunition Thickening Elixir instead of wax, these days, which gives lift and a textured, modern look, at the same time.