Sunday, 30 May 2010

Using a Hair Stick for A Ballerina Chignon style

A Messy Chignon is Held Easily & Securely With One Stone Bridge Hair Stick

I've been busy making videos for you again. This video shows you how to use a hair stick in a style which is more like a ballet bun or chignon.

If you prefer more of a French pleat or French twist style, that's my favourite method. Click here and you can see my video showing you how to make a French twist with a hair stick.

Have fun!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hair and Happiness

or Melissa Gets All Motivational and Stuff

I get to talk to women every day about their hair. A lot of the struggle that we women face with our hair is not really about what our hair is doing (or not doing) on any given day.
It is about what we think we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror, picking on the details. When women share with me their feeling about their hair and face, what is really going on is a sort of despair that they don’t look as great as they used to.

Can I get real with you about this? When you look at yourself in the mirror, this is not what the rest of the world sees. You are busy making weird faces at yourself, usually very serious and grim while you push your hair around or put on your eye makeup. The lighting is completely artificial and always at the same angle.

What does everyone else see? They see a relaxed, laughing, active woman. Where you see wrinkles, everyone else sees happiness – or passion! Where you see frizz, everyone else sees a woman full of interesting activities and things to do. A woman with a life, thank you very much.

Your Appearance Still Matters.

This isn’t to say that you should give up on trying to look good. Your appearance out in the world does matter. It is a form of self care. It is important to the people who love you that you are interested in doing your skin and hair care routine.

Your morning regime of readying yourself for the day is part of the rhythm of being a woman and in my opinion you should treat it as an important – and fun – daily ritual.

There are some basic foundations, some underlying emotional stuff to this self care that you should be aware of.

The Past Is Over.

I don’t care if your beauty was feted in the 1960s, 70s or 80s, when you could down a bottle of champagne the night before and roll out of bed the next day still looking fabulous. Any teenage girl can pull that off.

The world sees you as you are now. Your family, friends and colleagues see you as you are today, with the added wonderful benefit of knowing what a fantastic person you are, faults and strengths together.

The next time you look in the mirror, stand at an angle, in a relaxed normal position, as if you were having a conversation with someone you like being with. Cross your arms. Fiddle with your earring. Smile. Laugh. See? You look great right now. You really do.

So here we are in 2010 and you are the age you are. The good news, as my mother always says, is we are all getting older at the same rate. The most beautiful and stylish women in the world have all aged too: Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Tina Turner, Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve, the list goes on. They all got older. Go online and do a search for their pictures. No, they don’t look 22. But they still look like themselves, and they still look like they’d be fun to spend the afternoon with. Personally, I think they look better. Infinitely more interesting.

These women did not stay stuck in the style of their youth. Their look changed as time passed. Is your style evolving too? When you look at your hair, particularly if you want to try something new (which you should), remember to relax your face. Try to look at yourself with a pleasant expression. Tilt your head to the side, then slightly forward. Smile at yourself. This is your real face – not your bathroom face.
Stop rolling movies in your head of how incredible you used to look. It is not a style guide for today. Trust me.

Don’t Judge & Devalue Your Body.

Women who look great come in all shapes and sizes, all different hair and skin colours. Asian women don’t have better hair than European or Afro-Caribbean women. They have different hair. Start learning about the advantages you are currently blessed with and tweak your style accordingly.

Concentrating on the aspects of yourself you don’t like day in and day out is a recipe for depression. Stop doing that.

There have been psychology studies on basic behaviours that can improve your mood. Our brain makes judgments on whether something is good or bad unconsciously all the time. We are actually wired to subconsciously classify the world into good and bad. Our brains are not very interested in neutral judgements and it will look for clues so that it can sort a piece of information as either good or bad. It is that basic.

When you feed your brain positive information, you are training your subconscious to feel good about yourself and your environment. The brain actually needs five positive inputs for each negative one to feel that a situation is okay and under control.

When the balance is tipped too far towards the negative, your brain makes you feel anxious. Your brain wants you to do something to fix this environment because it is not comfortable. Concentrating on your faults to the exclusion of your strengths is just plain going to make you feel bad. This is why when you look in the mirror and count your grey hairs you get an unreasonable desire to surf the internet for solutions and magic potions.

Countering our brain’s controlling tendencies is pretty easy. Surround yourself with people who will complement you. You can do this by complementing others on how they look, act or think. If they are polite, and most people are, they will return the favour and you both will feel good.

This is really fun to do, especially to total strangers. I complement women all the time – on their hair, their shoes, their handbag, their car. They are grateful someone noticed, and they’ll find something nice to say about me. That cheers me up and I’ve made a new friend for the day.

Praise yourself. I don’t mean shouting affirmations in the mirror (it doesn’t work, scientifically tested and proven). Instead of rubbing your wrinkles or counting grey hairs, spend time nurturing your strengths. 

Pick your best bit (or ask your husband which is his favourite – that’s always entertaining!) and give it loads of your attention. Spending time on your appearance is not selfish behaviour. This is self care and it’s good for you. It should be fun for you and I guarantee it will put your world to rights every morning.

Take time choosing your lipstick to show off that great smile, spend another 60 seconds flossing your lovely teeth, moisturise your irresistible d├ęcolletage with some outrageously luxurious skin cream, dedicate Sundays to exfoliating your dainty feet. If you love your hair, buy beautiful hair accessories!

Thank people during the day for every little thing. This tells your brain that lots of good things are going on. It keeps a pretty good count, so the more expressions of thanks you can squeeze in, the more your brain will relax. In fact, if you can write down thank you’s, for some reason your brain gives this more importance. So email, text or scribble notes of appreciation to people. They’ll like it and it will make you feel happy.

Just so I’ll get my dose of appreciation in for the day, if you don’t mind, as I’m writing. I want to thank you for reading all my emails and articles about getting your hair in good condition. Claire and I have a lot of fun getting to know our customers all over the world and we are so touched when you share your thoughts and worries about your hair with us. Your trust in us to listen and care about your hair truly means a lot. We are humbled by it and we take it very seriously. Thank you.

Believe me when I say you’re pretty cool just the way you are. Lets go play with our hair now.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Why It's So Hard To Find Good Hair Clips

The Story Behind the Stone Bridge "Coast" Extra Large Barrette

This week we introduced our Coast Extra Large barrette. Normally, coming up with a new design of barrette is not much of a big deal.

You scribble some interesting shapes on a bit of paper and send it off to the factory. The real designers over there in France develop it into some hair accessories that actually work and look nice, and they go off and make a few hundred or so for you.

High Street Hair Clips

In the land of the High Street, you need to develop a design that will sell in the many thousands in a matter of a few weeks. So if you are a woman with not quite average hair - extremely thick, long, fine, curly or slippery - you just won't find any kind of selection of clips that will hold your hair.

There just aren't enough women with hair like yours walking through the town on an average day. The economic fact is that the market for clips to hold any one specific type of hair is not big enough for a retail chain to try and help you solve your problem.

Handmade Hair Clips Are Different

Stone Bridge is different. I am interested in the styling problems you have and I can carry not just one design that will work for you. Stone Bridge can actually give you a choice of hair clips, in a variety of colours, that will hold your hair.

We can do this because our products are produced in very small numbers. We sometimes only have one or two of a design because we can see it is good for a very particular type of woman. This is expensive to do, and the vast majority of our hair accessories are handmade to our specification.

Hair Accessories for Thick Hair

When I developed the Coast barrette, I was thinking about my customers with very thick hair and the difficulties they have finding a hair clip with a large and strong clasp. Most clips available on the High Street just break in these ladies' hair. They cannot do the job properly. I also wanted a clip that looked pretty. Not just a basic rectangle shape in the same old tortoiseshell and shiny black choices. *Yawn*

I put my ideas to our factory and they were 1) astonished at the size of the clasp I specified, and 2) couldn't believe anyone would wear such a large barrette.

The conversations went back and forth. They refused to make it because they would have to buy several thousand blank clasps (which are expensive all by themselves, trust me) and they worried no one else would ever request such a large design again. After many, many ... many ... conversations back and forth, my order was finally accepted and the Coast Extra Large barrette was made for you.

They look beautiful. And if you have thick hair, I hope you like them!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Secret To Shiny Hair

Pssst ... Not Everyone Can Have It

Did you know Stone Bridge does personal Hair Health Consultations? We can look in depth into the state of your hair and spend at least an hour with you one-on-one answering your questions specifically about your hair. We're not just about pretty hair accessories .

One of the questions we ask during the consultation is about what would you like to reasonably achieve with your hair. And a lot of women want hair with more shine.

Why does hair shine?

The concept behind shiny hair is simple. Your cuticle needs to be as smooth and reflective as possible. Women with naturally straight hair that is in good healthy condition are going to have the shiniest hair. Why is this? Naturally straight hair has a cuticle that lies perfectly flat and straight along the length of the hair. If the hair has been cared for, with no chemical salon treatments or rough handling, it will reflect light brilliantly.

Can curly hair be shiny?

Hair with any natural texture, from wavy to curly, has a cuticle that grows to protect hair that is not straight. Therefore the cuticle layers are curved and shaped to conform to a more uneven shape. If you have been caring for your textured hair and not damaged the cuticle, you will have some shine. But the curlier your hair, the less it will reflect the light. This is just a fact. You can fake it by oiling the surface, but there is always a knock-on effect such as weighing your hair down.

Can't you just straighten your hair to improve shine? No. When you straighten your hair, you are only straightening the inner structure of your hair. You are basically realigning the chemical bonds inside your hair so that it doesn't pinch up into its natural curl. You can't straighten your cuticle.

Can styling products make my hair more shiny?

Yes, but there are trade-offs. Silicone based products coat the surface of your hair, and this will give you better shine for about one day. The downside is that silicone doesn't wash out easily, but it does attract dirt easily. So these types of products are best used rarely, for special occasions.

Acidic rinses that supposedly "correct" the pH balance of your hair work by helping your cuticle to dry harder and they do help your hair to shine more. They aren't correcting your hair's pH balance, though. Only wet things have a pH. And hopefully we are more interested in what your hair is like when it's dry.

Homemade recipes using lemon juice or vinegar really should not be used. This level of acidity can eat into your cuticle, corrode the edges and cause irreversible damage to your hair. Most main brand shampoos and conditioners have an appropriate pH balance that will support your cuticle, so chances are you don't need to change this aspect of your hair care routine. So called "special" shine-boosting shampoos don't really differ significantly in their formula from boring Normal shampoos. (To learn lots more about styling products and what they really do, sign up for my FREE series of articles about Healthy Hair .)

The surprise benefits of heat styling

Interestingly, heat styling your hair from damp can help your cuticle dry harder and flatter. To avoid damaging your hair and to get the full benefit of using heat, set your straighteners or blow dryer to a warm setting only. Style your hair using your fingers rather than a brush to make sure the temperature is at a level that will help and not harm your hair. Basically, if it's too hot for your fingers, its certainly too hot for your hair.

Not everyone can have luminous shiny hair like they have on the television commercials, but doing what you can to maintain the integrity of your cuticle will mean your hair will be as shiny as it naturally can.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Oily Scalp? You Lucky Woman!

Sebum: The Secret Benefits To Oily Hair

Usually when when think about the oil in our hair, we aren't thinking good thoughts. Generally you want to find some super shampoo that will wash this oil (called sebum) out. the reality about sebum is actually pretty cool. While an overproduction of sebum  will weigh your hair down and can make it look greasy, sebum does some amazing things for your hair too.

The World's Best Natural Conditioner

The most obvious job that sebum does is condition your hair. You produce sebum all over your body, everywhere there is a hair follicle. Sebum is not just oily, it also has some sticky, waxy components to it. The heat from your skin melts the sebum to help it travel down the length of the hair where it hardens and forms a pretty tough invisible coat over your hair called the acid mantle.

The acid mantle seals your cuticle, protecting it from damage, helping the individual hairs to "slip" and not get knotted together. If your hair tangles when dry, this is a fair indicator that your acid mantle and the top layers of your cuticle are snagged and damaged.

Any products you use that eat into the acid mantle will also start to corrode the cuticle beneath and damage your hair. Sebum is slightly acidic, with a pH ranging from about 4 to 6.5. Water has a neutral pH of 7, so generally speaking does not affect this protective layer. Any decent shampoo or conditioner has a slightly acid pH around 4.5 to 6, formulated intentionally to support your acid mantle.

The sorts of things that women do put in their hair that will strip this layer away can include acids such as lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide (promoted widely as "natural lighteners"), permanent hair colour, perms and relaxants.

Sebum also creates an environment on your scalp (and on the skin elsewhere on your body) that is unfriendly to a long list of bacteria and fungi, which of course helps keep your skin healthy and prevents infection. There is also some research that there is a type of bacteria that does thrive in sebum that may help support our immune system.

You Cannot Control Your Sebum Production

Sebum cannot be "stimulated" by over-shampooing or massaging your scalp or by taking any kind of nutritional supplement. Its production is completely influenced by your hormones. There are drugs that will reduce sebum production, but they work by manipulating your hormone levels and are prone to some unpleasant side effects.

Dry scalp?

As women age, our sebum production drops. This can result in your scalp and hair feeling drier than it did when you were young. In this situation, it is worth experimenting with extending the number of days between shampoos. Grooming your hair with your fingers instead of a brush can also help spread sebum from your scalp further along the length of your hair. You may also want to try using a leave-in conditioner on the ends of your hair.

It is good to have a wash, obviously. But sebum is really quite important in maintaining healthy looking hair, so it is worth trying to find a balance between washing your hair and retaining a good amount of your sebum.

Did you find this article interesting? Learn more easy ways to get your hair in better, healthier condition by signing up for my Free Healthy Hair Advice articles. Healthy hair is really easy to achieve. I can show you how! (And you can unsubscribe any time, not a problem!)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A French Twist Variation for Shoulder Length Hair

I have just returned from visiting one of our customers who was choosing some hair accessories for a wedding she was attending as a guest.

Now, what I love about visiting customers is I get to see how you like to do your hair and how you use your hair accessories. Sometimes I can teach you a few tricks, but I almost always learn something new myself.

Today, I broke one of the rules on a classic French Pleat or Twist style, and it meant my customer had a whole bunch more options on how to wear her hair. Not to mention a world of new hair claws that will now hold her hair.

If you suffer from slippery hair, try experimenting with this version and see if it makes a difference for you.

Traditionally, a "perfect" pleat starts low down at the base of your head. This gives you an attractive fold or line in your hair that runs all the way from your hairline at your neck ideally up to your crown. This is very sexy and flattering as it draws the eye vertically down your head along the line of your neck.

However, my customer's hair would not cooperate without massive intervention with grips and hair spray ... it was all going wrong. Undaunted, I was quite determined to figure a method to get her hair into an easy pleat she could do every day and without effort.

My Lady's Hair

My customer has very straight, shoulder-length, fine hair, but a lot of it. She has been growing out her fringe, which is now quite long. Her stylist has been feathering layers into just the ends of her hair to blend in the fringe, so the front layers are still shorter than the back.

Twisting her hair into a traditional pleat without help from grips or hair spray meant the layers simply slipped out of the style. Her "tail ends" were also quite short and didn't arrange into a nice peacock tail.

The New French Pleat

Throwing caution to the wind, I started her pleat with a ponytail at slightly higher than the middle of her head - about a centimetre above the tops of her ears. I twisted the ponytail once and folded the hair up. We used her favourite hair claw, again slightly high on the head, to hold the twist. Her layers were held in and she had attractive cascading tail ends to arrange over the crown of her head or falling back over the clip as she liked.

So which hair clip did she choose for the wedding? Ooo la la! The stunning large Swarovski Pave Crystal hair clamp. Gosh, her hair looked nice!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Matching Your Face Shape to the Best Hair Style

Forget Fashion - Your Face Shape Determines What Style Works Best for You

We all know that body shape makes a big difference on whether any given dress will look good on you. The same principle applies to hair styles and hair accessories.

The ideal face shape in "attractiveness" studies in psychology is oval. Through styling your hair you can create the illusion of a more oval face (and if you've got an oval face, then the world is your oyster, you lucky lady!).

What I think is even more fun, though, is once you know your face shape, you can look up other celebrity women on the internet and you will have access to a complete catalog of pictures of hair styles that work - or sometimes DON'T work - for your face shape.

How to Work Out Your Face Shape

For some reason, a lot of articles about determining your face shape recommend using "your favourite lipstick" to outline your face on your bathroom mirror. This must be a man's idea. I can't think of a worse use for your favourite lipstick. Plus getting lipstick off your mirror ... the mind boggles.

The way I did it, I took a picture using the camera on my computer, printed it off, and then drew lines on the picture. My lipstick is safe, the mirror is clean.

I found a really superb video on YouTube that shows you how to work out your own face shape and then suggests your celebrity "look alike" to get you started.

Click here to see this video about How to Work Out Your Face Shape.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Can Swimming Damage Your Hair?

How Chlorine and Salt Affect Your Hair and How to Protect It

Last summer we rented a charming beachside house in North Kent that, to my daughters' delight, also had a swimming pool. We did A LOT of swimming.

My oldest daughter, Anita, has very long hair and she makes the cross with her fingers at me whenever I try to approach with the hairdressing scissors. So you can imagine that if I can't trim her hair, she gets regular lectures from me about how to keep her long hair in good condition. She loves it, obviously, all this good advice I have to share with her! I can tell by the way she sighs.

So, what does swimming in the sea or pool do to your hair and what can you do to protect it?

Salt versus Chlorine

The most damaging element in sea water is salt. If you swim in the sea without a swimming cap, your hair will dry with a fine salt coating. Leaving salt on your hair will cause it to draw moisture out of the core and it will give the hair a sort of tacky surface that encourages your hair to tangle, which will damage the cuticle.

The nasty part of pool water is of course chlorine. If you leave chlorine to dry in your hair, it penetrates the cuticle and then can recrystalise inside the centre of your hair. These crystals are very sharp and snag at your hair when you later brush through it.

Protecting your Hair

The best way to protect your hair is to wear a swimming cap. However, sometimes this isn't reasonable and it very usually isn't fashionable either. If you don't want to wear a swimming cap, and you swim frequently, you should try to rinse your hair within 5-10 minutes of leaving the water. You absolutely must not brush your hair until you have thoroughly shampooed, conditioned and then dried your hair. This will ensure that you haven't left any sharp crystals of salt or chlorine clinging to your hair.

If washing your hair isn't possible, then thoroughly coating your hair with silicone serum each time before going into the water will do an excellent job of protecting your hair. The silicone clings and coats hair brilliantly and is water resistant. This is probably the only situation that I would recommend using a product containing silicone as it doesn't wash out completely with shampoo. However, for swimmers, silicone is very good at protecting your hair both from chlorine and from the copper that is responsible for colouring fair hair green.

If you have long hair, I recommend wearing it in a loose plait. This will help reduce tangling until you are ready to rinse your hair.

Frequent swimming without taking steps to protect your hair  can significantly dry and damage your hair. The best protection is to not put your head underwater, or to wear a swimming cap. Rinse your hair immediately after leaving the water, ideally shampooing and conditioning it at soon as possible.

Taking just a few simple steps can dramatically improve the health of your hair, making it much more manageable and easier to style on a day to day basis.

If you want to learn more really easy ways to keep your hair healthy by making small changes to your daily care routine, sign up for my Advice for Healthy Hair articles. They are completely free and you can unsubscribe any time, not a problem!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

How to Use Banana Clips

I found an excellent video for you on YouTube showing you how to use banana clips to make a cute rockabilly look.

This lady is combining a quiff with her fringe and then using the banana clip to create a cascading ponytail with her layered hair. It is a great, sporty look that with some adapting to your own personal style (either messier or more sleek, whichever suits you better) can work at any age. This is does not have to be a style only for young women.

She also uses a few styling techniques that I want to make sure you know about, if you've not seen these before. 

Smoothing Your Hair

She finishes her style with quite a bit of hairspray. To get a very smooth look, rather than spraying her hair directly, she coats her hands with hairspray and then uses the palms of her hands to smooth down her hair. This is okay and I think it works for the weight of her hair. An even better method is to spray the back of your brush or comb and use that to smooth your hair.

Sometimes using your hands on your hair, little flyaways can end up sticking to your fingers, undoing all your work and generally being irritating.

Hairspray for Oily Hair?

As another nitpicky aside, she comments that hairspray is good for oily hair because it absorbs oil. This isn't in fact true. The alcohol in hairspray is evaporating away water from the hair, making it dryer. Then the hair itself absorbs the oil. I wouldn't generally recommend this a a daily care routine if you have oily hair, but it is a good thing to know if you have a bad hair day and need a quick fix!

I tried resizing this video but it isn't fitting on the page very well. If you find this annoying, you can also come see this video on the Stone Bridge You Tube channel here: How to Use Banana Clips

Hair Accessories for this Style

Classic French Banana Clip. Classic French design, perfect for a pretty ponytail. 
Plage French Banana Clip Just like the one shown in the video. A beautiful, swirly design. 

Friday, 14 May 2010

Lin from North Yorkshire writes ...

One of our customers and devoted fan of hair accessories, Lin H. from North Yorkshire, wrote to me to let me know how she was getting on with her new French Handmade U Pin. She says,

"Dear Melissa, Thank you so much for the parcel, as beautifully wrapped as a birthday present. And so nice to get your little note too. The U pin is absolutely gorgeous, for the first time ever I can do a perfect chignon with one pin and no pain! And it's firm and secure, doesn't fall out no matter how hard I wiggle my head. Trust the French to know how."

Thanks Lin! Isn't her hair gorgeous?

Do you have pictures of your Stone Bridge hair accessories in action? I'd love to see them. Email me at and show us how brilliant your hair looks! Don't worry - I won't share your pictures with the world unless you tell me it's okay first. I wouldn't do that to you.

How to Style Curly and Wavy Hair Easily

Get the Best From Your Natural Curls and Waves
After about a decade of demanding poker straight hair, the fashion industry has decided to smile favourably on curly hair again.
For curly girls, this is great news, but after so many years of running your hair through straighteners and using whizzy ‘ice shine’ shampoos designed for straight hair, it is easy to forget how to take care of curls.
The good news is it is dead simple. With regular attention and careful use of the right hair accessories, your curls will be looking great and you’ll be the envy of all the straight haired women.

How To Make Curly Hair

Hair is basically composed of a stretchy, stringy centre called the cortex (and occasionally, in thicker hair, also the medulla) which is protected by about seven layers of overlapping scales called the cuticle. The individual strands of hair come in a number of shapes ranging from crescent shaped to oval to perfectly round. The scales of the cuticle are curved appropriately to fit snugly along the natural shape and curl of your hair. On straight hair, the scales individually look quite smooth, like a fish scale. When you run your finger along a straight hair, if it is in good condition, it will feel completely smooth. In beauty industry marketing, this ‘feel’ is held up as an ideal.
Wavy and curly hair have more arched scales, appropriate to the texture of your hair. The individual strands can also vary in shape and thickness along the length of the hair, so your curl will not necessarily be uniformly tight or loose as it grows from the follicle. These two qualities give your hair a different feel. Some people describe their hair as coarse or wiry feeling, when in fact you are pulling a shaped hair straight and ruffling the cuticle away from the cortex.
When you do this, particularly when you use straighteners on naturally curly hair, only the cortex is straightened in the process. The cuticle doesn’t change its shape. The cortex is now more exposed, will lose moisture and is at much greater risk of being damaged. If you have colour treated hair, this opening up of the cuticle will also speed the fading of colour from your hair as it is much easier for the pigment molecules to fall or wash out.
It is also more difficult for conditioners to work effectively on a ruffled cuticle. First, there are more ridges for the conditioning agents to try and fill up. For this reason, when you condition curly hair when you are in the shower, the longer you can leave the conditioner on before rinsing, the better. Second, if there has been damage to the cortex, this changes the magnetic field of the surface of the hair, and conditioner cannot cling as easily to these spots. (For more information about this, read my review of Nanoparticle Technology in salon treatments)
So, to put it simply, to have healthy curls just let your hair be curly. But what about frizz? How do you improve the definition of your curls?

Calming Frizz

When you have straight hair, it looks best hanging in a shining, even blanket. To get this, you brush it. A lot. With curly hair, you want the opposite. You want your curls to lock and twist together sympathetically. How do you get this?
First, you need to make sure your hair has a good moisture content. You do this by conditioning your hair. A lot. Ideally, you should try to condition your hair every day, either in the shower with a rinse out formula, with a leave-in product, or both. Some very porous hair types benefit from also being oiled, and olive oil or shea butter are two very effective products for this. All this conditioning helps to protect your cuticle and lock in moisture. Avoiding heat styling also helps your hair retain moisture.
When your hair is wet is when your curls will “lock” together. Once you step out of the shower, either apply your leave-in conditioner or your curl styling cream while your hair is dripping wet. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands. Tip your head over with your hair hanging down to let your curls lock. Flip your hair back and DO NOT TOUCH your hair again until it is dry. If you really cannot bear your hair wet, you can use a diffuser on your hair dryer, but you may introduce frizz into your hair. Curls really are better left to air dry.
If you have wavy hair, you are nearly finished. All you do is brush your hair through once it is dry. Your waves will be perfectly formed according to their natural shape.
To add volume to curly hair, when your hair is dry, flip your hair over again and fluff it with your fingers and gently separate out a few of your curls. Some hair types benefit from a little diluted conditioner and water (something you can mix yourself and keep in your handbag or desk drawer) being spritzed on during the day to refresh the curl. You can use your ‘curl refresher’ to help tame down frizzies as well.
The most important thing to know is that all curls are different and there is no one magic, top styling product that will work perfectly on everyone. You just have to experiment to find the formulas that work best for you.
If you haven’t been conditioning your curls regularly and you want to start wearing your hair naturally, it will take some time for your hair to get used to the new routine. Be patient, keep a few good hair clips on hand in case of bad hair days, but try to stick with it. Your hair will really start to improve and in a few weeks or months I can guarantee you will love your curls.

Hair Accessories for Curly Girls

Here are just three hair accessories that I recommend for curly hair, but we have a wide selection that will work for your hair.

This Barrette is perfect for curly hair, it provides a sturdy hold all the while looking positively stunning in your hair. 
This claw has a nice, strong hold and the swirly patterns on this clip bring out the best in your curly hair. 
With no sharp edges or teeth to catch your hair, this comb is a perfect way to hold your curls up in a neat French Pleat. 

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Herbal Treatments for Dandruff?

Normally I want to talk to you about hair accessories, naturally. But I was stuck on a plane earlier this week and against my better judgement started reading a small article in a British broadsheet newspaper about how you could make a tincture to help with dandruff. As usual, I was left smacking my forehead, wondering how these things get published in newspapers. I thought journalists had to do fact checking? I guess not.

The article outlining this recipe, to be fair, did not claim to cure dandruff (though the headline did). What I think the recipe was really for was a sort of smelly moisturising balm that would pretty much lose any effectiveness as you had to wash it out TWICE after half an hour. Well, that was a waste of an afternoon, then.

What causes dandruff?

There are two broad types of "dandruff" conditions, where the skin is irritated, itchy and flaky: dermatitis and psoriasis.

Scientists generally believe dermatitis, or if your head is oily, seborrhoeic dermatitis, is caused by a type of yeast or fungus from the Malassezia family that feeds off the sebum in your scalp. The fungus is pretty hardy and rubbing random herbs or other natural things found in your refrigerator with supposed antibacterial qualities on it in the hope of making it go away is no good at all. The yeast feeds on fat, so using an oil based natural, herbal tincture to try and battle your infection is pretty hopeless.

All main brand dandruff shampoos (such as Head & Shoulders or Nizoral) use tested antifungal ingredients which kill the fungus. The two most common anitfungal agents used are pyrithione zinc (used in Head & Shoulders) and ketoconazole (used in Nizoral). These agents target different types of Malassezia yeast, so if one brand doesn't work for you, try using the other to see if you get a better result.

Tea Tree oil (melaleuca) has also shown some effectiveness in killing a range of types of yeast, however, there are to my knowlege no commercial shampoos with enough of the extract to really be effective. A lot of the references to tea tree oil I've seen to date on shampoo bottles is pure marketing fluff.

You can purchase pure tea tree essential oil, however it is poisonous and should not be swallowed. Using tea tree oil on your skin can cause severe skin irritation including rash and blistering. Harsh stuff for a natural cure. You have been warned.

This condition is less common and completely different from dermatitis. Usually there are well-defined, hard silvery patches or plaques. These can often be ring shaped and red at the edge. The flakes sometimes come away in large sheets.

Psoriasis isn't very well understood. Current thinking is that it is caused by an auto-immune disorder, and groups of skin cells just start rapidly reproducing. There is no cure, but the two most favoured treatments are coal tar extract and UV (ultra violet light) treatment for more intractable cases.

Coal tar extract works by slowing down the production of skin cells. Shampoos such as T-Gel or lotions such as Exorex are available without a prescription at most chemists and can be effective for many people. If your condition doesn't respond to these treatments, you can be eligible for light, or phototherapy, treatment on the NHS. There are considerable side effects to phototherapy as the UV exposure can rapidly damage and age your skin, so do give the shampoos and lotions a good chance first.

Again, given that the condition is related to your immune system being out of whack, rubbing some herbs in your hair is honestly not going to help one bit.  

Phew. I'm glad I got that all off my chest. At least until I come across another screwy cure for dandruff ...

How to Do a French Pleat or Twist Style

If your hair is just past shoulder length and not too slippery, a French pleat or twist style is dead simple. Not only is this style classically chic, it is in fact probably the most gentle updo style for your hair - provided of course you have the right hair accessories and use our easy-peasy backscoop method.

Here is a video where I demonstrate how to do a French pleat using just one Stone Bridge, Handmade French U Pin