Well, here’s something I was expecting to hate but ended up loving: the Babyliss Cordless Hot Brush. I realised, through a bit of self-therapising (basically just me staring at the window for a while, pondering stuff) that the reason I took instant dislike to the thing was because it had lots of short, completely rigid bristles. It reminded me of the little brushes you used to get in the eighties to do hairdressing on the mannequin head’s plastic, knotted hair and it also reminded me of a certain type of mascara wand that I very much dislike.
So yes, I judged this particular book by its cover. (I don’t mind admitting that I judge nearly every single beauty and grooming product by its proverbial cover, because products are not people and they can’t be offended and so on the “moral offences” scale it’s pretty tame.)
But how wrong I was. The rigid bristles are there to slide and glide through the hair so that nothing gets tangled and it makes the whole process, if you’re simply sleeking everything down as I was, effortless and speedy. I had no idea what the Babyliss Cordless Hot Brush was supposed to do because I didn’t do any research before I turned it on, but I began brushing my hair with it and it was instantly smoothed. I then decided to mix things up a bit and brushed it from the underneath, like the hairdressers do, turning the brush as I went, and it gave a little bit of volume through the lengths and then a rounded-under finish. A very smooth, swanky, expensive-looking long bob.
I realise that in the age of “gadgets needing to do more than one thing” this isn’t the most all-singing all-dancing hair tool; it doesn’t use air like the Dyson things and it you can’t do fancy twists and turns with it like you can with a pair of straighteners (I mean I don’t think you can…again: haven’t read the instructions) but for me, it’s an absolute Godsend. Because I have that particular length of hair that looks excellent styled but that makes me look like a medieval lute player if I don’t do anything with it. And most of the time I really can’t be bothered to do anything with it. The Babyliss Cordless Hot Brush offers me a sort of “midway effort option”: three minutes brushing through, wearing silly heatproof gloves because I can burn myself on anything, and my hair looks just slightly more…purposeful. As though it’s actually in a style. All of the hairs point the same way and kick under at the bottom and, with some makeup thrown onto my face, I can get away with looking as though I’ve made a hell of a lot more effort than I actually have.
So there: mind changed on this one. I dismissed it straight out of the box but in just three or four minutes it had become the hair tool that might just convince me to keep my hair at the length it’s at. I don’t find it very heavy, though I’ve just looked at some reviews and a few others do – it’s not the sort of tool you have to hold up in a perfectly still position for ages (like a wand) but anyway, I didn’t find it noticeably cumbersome. Especially as it doesn’t have a cord – cords usually causes me all kinds of grief.
On another practical note, it takes around three hours to charge up for a forty minute use on maximum heat. Again, not a problem for me – it took seven minutes to do my entire head twice on max power and charging it up isn’t exactly a hardship. I’m not sure where exactly I’ll take it that will necessitate cordless styling but it’s nice to know there’s the option!
You can find the Babyliss Cordless Hot Brush online, RRP £180 but most places seem to have it at £120-ish – it’s currently £126 at LookFantastic here*. Watch me using the Hot Brush for the first time – the shirt I’m wearing, by the way, is from Boden here* and the hair oil used as a final finish is the excellent L’Oreal Professional Absolut Repair Oil, online here*. Brilliant, cheap as chips Elnett hairspray can be procured from just about anywhere in life, but if you need a quick link then click here*.
Here’s a little updated video on how I style my shoulder length hair – regular readers have seen this all before, I’m not sure much has changed.
The Cloud Nine curling wand is still the tool of choice (here*) – it’s just the right diameter for the curls I like to make (they quickly drop into waves) and it doesn’t have a clamp to negotiate with. I don’t get on with the tongs with a clamp at all.
I choose to curl rather than wave because if I just wave the hair, by the end of the first day it’s almost straight ,just with better texture and volume. Curling it gives me at least a day or two of full, sexy waves and then a day or too more of texture. If I use enough dry shampoo and try not to touch my roots I can get four full days out of one torturous curling session!
(It’s not that bad. I just get aching arms from holding the wand in the air, which is testament to how unfit I am. Or maybe not unfit: untoned. My arms have always been weak and flimsy; it was my intention, when I was in my twenties, to really buff them up, GI jane-style, and do pull-ups like Sarah Connor in The Terminator but I think I managed about four pull-ups, once, before I decided that arm strength wasn’t for me.)
After curling the whole lot – it’s important to section off tiny strands because if you try to do chunks that are too big they don’t curl so well – I spray my roots with Living Proof Dry Volume spray (here online*) and then the whole thing with Elnett hairspray (online here*.)
Dry Volume Spray is a hair miracle in a can: spritz roots and massage in and BOOM. Massive volume without any crunch or stickiness. It’s fast becoming my “can’t live without” hair product. Elnett is for holding the waves. Again, no stickiness or crispiness, this just brushes out if you need it to, though I like to just layer it over a number of days until I’m left with a huge, grippy mass of hair on top of my head.
Any questions, let me know in the comments. My hair, by the way, is cut to all one length just at shoulder level in a sort of blunt-ended long bob. No layers.
This is how I style my mid length hair now that it’s slightly shorter than usual – it sits just below the shoulder. Obviously I use the word style in its very loosest sense because I’m about as wieldy with heated appliances as an elephant would be with a crochet hook, but I’ve just about mastered the art of putting some waves in without burning huge welts in my head and so I thought I’d share.
(It’s incredibly similar in vibe and “technique” to this post here if you’d like to see my version from a few years ago.)
I use the Cloud Nine curling wand (it’s here online*). I like it because it doesn’t have one of those clamps on it, the long section of the tong that can be opened and closed. I hate those because a) they are too taxing on my very basic coordination skills and b) they look (to me) a little bit like the speculum they use when you have a smear test.
So yes, it’s just one long heated round-ended bit of metal, really, and you wind each section of hair around it and hold on until your fingers start to smoulder through the heatproof gloves**.
(**this is not official advice. You’re supposed to hold the hair around for a limited amount of time so that you don’t a) damage your hair and b) singe off all of your fingertips, but I have no idea what that amount of time is. I suppose you just have to experiment…)
There’s an art to the hair-winding. You section off small pieces of hair and then wind all of them away from your face, or maybe it’s supposed to be towards your face… but it should be clear to you by now that I have no idea what I am doing and that I just wing it. Sometimes the hair turns out OK, other times I look slightly deranged for a day or two until the curls drop out. It’s a risky business.
The best part of the whole process is the day after. Delayed gratification. On my bleached, roughened hair, the slept-in curls suddenly go huge and voluminous and I get a lovely, sexy texture that has body and shape but no real discernible curl. So on day 1 I have the full curl, which is fun, on day 2 I have the sexy texture and then it stays sexily textured for around two or three more days, throughout which I add more dry shampoo than you’d think would be possible.
On day five I usually can’t resist the urge to wash it. It starts to feel like old felt. I then give it a day off and start the whole process again. I just think that the curl/wave/texture thing works really well on this length hair. Shorter would actually be even better, but I can’t bear not being able to tie it up so it’s not an option for me anymore. I’ve learned the hard way with that!
So that’s my current mid length hair style. The long fringe bit is annoying – can’t wait for that to grow out! – but it’s relatively easy to tong that bit separately and just ease it into some kind of gentle face-framer or (on energetic days) power quiff.
This wasn’t even supposed to be a written post, I was just going to bung the video up, so please do watch that for a more sensible explanation of how I currently style my hair!
See also: How I Style My Party Hair
Wearing: red Adidas track pants, bought here* and a Boden cashmere jumper from a few years ago.
I always feel like a right berk recommending this to people when I can’t pronounce the name properly – I mean, how on earth do you say OI Oil without looking as though you’re doing an extreme facial yoga move? – but recommend it I do. A lot. Because, despite trying dozens and dozens of smoothing creams and silkening serums and pomades that promise to tame fried locks, this is still one of the very best things I’ve found.
Davines OI Oil.
I’m not 100% sure on how to say the Davines bit, don’t have a clue on the OI bit, but don’t let pronunciation faze you: because surely that’s one of the great things about internet shopping? Being able to order stuff that you can’t pronounce in real life. Or, even better, being able to order all of the stuff that is too humiliating to do face to face.
(The fact that I now can’t think of a single thing that would humiliate me to buy face-to-face means that I have sunk to new lows. Unctions for various complaints of the orifices, athlete’s foot cream, stuff for ulcers and boils, bunions and buboes; the pharmacist in my local Sainsbury’s has seen it all and neither of us bats an eyelid. I always wonder whether it’s the combination of shopping items that cause’s embarrassment, rather than the items themselves. Though to be quite honest I rarely overthink this nowadays. I mean, if you found yourself at the checkout with a cucumber, some lard and a packet of condoms then you’d probably want to rethink your shopping list but I can’t think of much else that would make me pause for thought. Just to be clear, I’ve never rocked up to the tills with that combination of items, but once I did buy just an aubergine, two courgettes and a large pot of yoghurt because I was making an emergency vegetarian curry for a visiting friend and the man at the checkout said “that looks like a fine Saturday night in.” WTF.)
Where am I going with this? I have no idea. Poor you, clicking on a seemingly innocent haircare review and being plunged into the depths of my meandering mind. OI Oil. No idea how to say it, because they’ve capitalised the O and the I which further confuses me – if it’s not “Oi Oil” then is it o-eye oil?
I like to think you shout it, like Harry Enfield pretending to be a builder.
“Oi! Oil! Over ‘ere! Come on then if you think you’re ‘ard enough!”
But I’m guessing that would be off-brand. Davines is a very high-end, high-performance haircare brand and I’m not sure that Harry would be their poster boy. Everything I’ve tried from this company has been gorgeous, effective and a cut above much of the competition, so I’m going to be sensible from now on and give it the credit it deserves.
OI Oil Absolute Beatifying Potion is a hair-finishing serum that contains oil, but doesn’t quite behave like an oil. Which is a blessing for those with fine, easily-weighed-down hair. You get all of the sheen and conditioning benefits of the oil (roucou oil, which is apparently 100 times richer in beta carotene than carrots; handy if you, like me, would like your hair to be able to see in the dark) but you don’t get the greasiness.
Obviously if you pour the stuff on and baste your whole head in it, things would start to get greasy, but why would you do that? You need a minimal amount – for long hair, I’d dispense about the size of a 10p coin – and that minimal amount manages to groom, tame and polish without any heaviness whatsoever.
My hair just looks sleek and smooth, but not in that nineties Jennifer Aniston way that needed four hours of straightening to achieve – the surface just looks healthy and…well pulled together. So I’d use the OI Oil on days when my hair looks tousled, for example, leaving it looking tousled but incredibly healthy, rather than tousled because it’s just dry AF and I haven’t had my split ends cut off in five or six months.
How do you use Davines OI Oil? Well here’s the most beautiful bit: pretty much in any way you want. Massage into damp hair and allow to air-dry, massage into damp hair before blow-drying, smooth over dried ends to get rid of frizz or spread a small amount between palms and then press them lightly down the lengths of a finished style to give it polish and sheen.
My most-employed way of using OI Oil is on hair that I’ve basically washed and forgotten about, hair that has dried into a huge Helena Bonham-Carter bird’s nest on my head, tangled and stressed. And you know that when you’ve left your hair to riot like that then there’s very little you can do to pull it back from the brink – some of my lowest hair moments have been when I’ve brushed my hair out from the freshly-washed bird’s nest and it just sits, lank yet somehow still frazzled, hanging down in tattered curtains on either side of my face.
That is when OI Oil comes into its own. On my fine, colour-treated hair it just seems to perform small miracles, working its way through the damage to come out with something that’s a hell of a lot more than just presentable. And yes, a glance at the ingredients list tells you that the silicone-heavy formula is very much in a similar arena to your Frizz-Eases and your Moroccanoils, but there’s something about this one that works incredibly well on my fine, blonded hair.
You can find Davines OI Oil online here* – a small bottle is £24, but a large bottle, which is almost three times the size, is £35. On the one hand, a small bottle would probably last you an age and I’m always hesitant to recommend unnecessary super-sizing, but the numbers here point in only one direction. Economy of scale and all that.
I raved about this wondrous shampoo and conditioner duo just after Christmas but – as usual – it has taken some time to edit my written review. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing at all, because it’s given me a chance to test Olaplex 4 & 5 (sounds like a virus) to an almost obsessive degree.
You may have heard about Olaplex; it started off as an in-salon, professional product for helping to drastically repair and strengthen damaged hair, and it was one of those treatments that people whispered smugly about, people who were in the know.
“Your colour looks nice, darling, where did you get it done?”
“Oh, you know, darling…Barnabas does it.”
(I am hugely aware that these fictional people already sound like total twats. If truth be told, I’m regretting having even started the off-piste dialogue section, but now I’ve created Mandy and Gwyneth I feel I can’t stop. Forgive me, Olaplex, they’re not going to do much for your street cred, old Mands and Gwynnie, but they absolutely are OMG obsessed with your product, so it’ll all be good PR in the end.)
“The Barnabas does your colour?”
“Yes, darling Gwynnie, always has done always will.”
“Well, not always.”
“He will have to die at some point.”
(I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Someone intervene. I think it’s the sinus medicine I’m on, it has sent me totally bonkers.)
“Well, Gwyneth, there’s no need to wish ill on someone like that, he’s -“
“I’m not wishing ill, Mandy, it’s a simple fact of life. He will, at some point, die. Anyway, Jonas does my hair and look how strong it is, despite the fact that I bleach the living tits out of it every four weeks. Touch it Mandy. Touch it.”
“I don’t need to, Gwyneth. It looks strong as a horse’s mane. You basically have a horse’s mane. You’re basically a hor-“
“Olaplex, Mandy. My hair has never felt so strong and healthy. So robust. So…”
“Empowered. I know, Gwyneth darling. I get Olaplexed too. Olaplex one and two. Stronger hair, stronger you.”
OH MY GOD, OLAPLEX, I’VE WRITTEN YOU YOUR NEXT WORLDWIDE AD CAMPAIGN! That’ll be £450 please.
Anyway, Olaplex is the kind of strengthening treatment that people (especially people who bleach the bejeezus out of their hair on a regular basis) can’t get enough of. Steps 1 and 2 are the in-salon parts, with 1 being the bit that you apply when you’re actually having your colour done and 2 the after-rinsing part. Many colourists mix it directly in with the hair colour or bleach and it helps to rebuild the structure of the hair, making it smoother and stronger. Despite the hair being dead. Which is weird, when you think about it. It’s a bit like using No More Nails to glue a skeleton back together.
And there’s a home bond-strengthening treatment, now, as well as the in-salon steps; there’s step 3, the Hair Perfector, which is a pre-shampoo leave-in treatment, and there’s step 4, a shampoo, and step 5 which is a conditioner. Oh, and step 6, which is something you leave-on after you’ve rinsed out all the other gubbins.
Here in this review I’m talking specifically about steps 4 & 5, but I will come back to 3 (and 6!) in a later post. I need to try them properly, but as far as I can tell step 3 is a kind of Elasticizer-style pre-shampoo deep-conditioner and step 6 (The Bond Smoother) is more of a leave-in treatment that protects against frizz and so on when you’re blow-drying.
So far, however, I haven’t felt as though I’ve needed them at all. The shampoo and conditioner work amazingly well on my hair, leaving it feeling so (empowered) strong and smooth, I haven’t really felt the need to reach for the stronger stuff. The big guns.
Partly because I can’t imagine what the big guns might actually do. I don’t want to go OTT. I mean, can hair be too strong? Could that be a potential problem? I have visions of me whipping my mane over my shoulder and accidentally killing someone. Or demolishing small buildings with my plait. Mind you, it could be quite useful if I wanted to lasso things. Buffalo. Horses.
Anyway, the shampoo and conditioner are bloody brilliant. I have the proper “wow” sensation when I use them – even before drying my hair off I can feel that satisfying slip, the slip that I haven’t really had since first dying my hair. (Twenty five years ago almost. I first had highlights at sixteen, I saved up money from my weekend job and went to a place that used a crochet hook to pull massive wads of hair through a rubber hat with hundreds of slits cut into it. The indignity.)
You can find Olaplex at Space NK here* – small bottles of the shampoo and conditioner are £13, bigger ones are £26. I will report back once I’ve tried steps 3 and 6 – if I haven’t garrotted myself with my strong-as-steel ponytail in my sleep.
If your hair is weak, frazzled, generally just dry and shite (name of my new hair serum I’m going to bring out – Dry n Shite) then this stuff is well worth a try. I mean, if you can get your salon to use the first steps when you’re having your colour done then all the better, but my colourist doesn’t, and I am still having great results from the home stuff. It gives me the weighty, swingy feeling that I love but none of that horrendous semi-oily residue that some strengthening products seem to leave – have you ever experienced that? Like a rubberised coating that won’t come off? Argh! Well Olaplex doesn’t do that. All hail.
Here are my 2019 favourites for skincare and haircare, including the latest shampoo discovery that actually changes the entire feel of my hair and the skincare that’ll make a proper difference to your beauty routine.
I was going to do a bodycare version of this 2019 roundup, as well as a “best books” video, but I’ve left it too late and all of a sudden the whole “best of last year” thing seems very outdated. It’s the video equivalent of being that person who’s still saying Happy New Year! to people they haven’t seen for a while – I mean when do you stop saying it? February? Move on.
I’m listing the products beneath each video pane for ease, but please do give them a click and a watch – the haircare one is particularly brief, which will no doubt make some of you ecstatic with joy.
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35, is usually £36 but at time of writing it’s £24 on Amazon (legit retailer) here*: https://amzn.to/2NCyNmK find it in most department stores and on FeelUnique here*: http://bit.ly/2NDbMA9
Dr Sam’s Flawless Moisturiser, £25 here: https://drsambunting.com/products/flawless-moisturiser
Kate Somerville Retinol Vita C serum, £85 here*: https://bit.ly/30xCK1q
Murad Retinol range, from £25 for a small serum size, here*: http://bit.ly/2TzC7CI
Arden Retinol capsules, from £42 here*: http://bit.ly/369Esas
Inkey list Collagen, £8.99 here*: https://amzn.to/38b9b8e
Hada Labo Lotion, £16.95 here*: https://amzn.to/2TwiwDs
Beauty Pie Plantastic Cleansing Balm, £11.89 + membership here*: http://bit.ly/3694HxL
My Plantastic review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/skincare-review-beauty-pies-apricot-cleansing-balm/
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/skincare-review-the-ordinary-squalane-cleanser/
Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Mask, £55 here*: http://bit.ly/38kXjAP
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, my review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/the-pmt-skin-saver-and-four-ways-to-use-it/
May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon Balm, £159 here*: https://bit.ly/2sy54E4
Cicaplast Baume B5, £7.50 here*: http://bit.ly/2FZluIS
Olaplex Shampoo, from £13 here*: https://bit.ly/38CdGsM
Olaplex Conditioner, from £13 here*: https://bit.ly/38EW2Vm
Josh Wood Uplifting Shampoo/Conditioner for Blonde Hair, £10 each here*: http://tidd.ly/17c52c40
Virtue Full Shampoo from £14 here*: https://bit.ly/37rauA5
Davines OI Oil, £35 here*: http://bit.ly/30WVS91 (this is the large bottle and it would last for years if you use it as sparingly as I do!)
Tangle Teezer Brush for fragile hair, £12 here*: https://amzn.to/3aGpPif
Colab Dry Shampoo, £3.50 here*: http://bit.ly/2RpALce
Good grief I put Elnett’s Extra Strength Hairspray through its paces for these photos! Short of sitting in a sauna for an hour, I can’t think of anything that would test the limits of a hairspray more. Gale force winds, driving rain, what felt like sleet at one point, a broken car heater that wouldn’t stop blasting out boiling hot air, two kids riding on my back using my hair as reins (“be a horsey Mummy”)… By the end of the day I should have looked like Worzel Gummidge, instead I looked pretty presentable, all things considered.
I wasn’t even set the task of testing the Elnett Extra Strength Hairspray’s powers – all of that was purely incidental. My intention was to take some nice pictures and tell you about the limited edition Electric Nights can, which is a very festive red instead of the usual gold, but I got sidetracked by the performance.
It’s no secret that I have a very long-term love affair with Elnett – just read this post to find out why it gets me all sentimental – but the Extra Strength version is new to me. I have to admit to the fact that I was slightly apprehensive about the first application, because stronger hairsprays usually leave my hair as crispy as a Ryvita. Stiff as a board. And I hate that feeling. I love the hold and I love what a strong hairspray can do, in terms of keeping things sleek or adding volume or what have you, but I can’t stand not being able to run my hands through my hair.
Not a problem with the Elnett Extra Strength – just like the original, there’s no stickiness or crispiness to the finish and you can simply brush it out when you want to restyle. I have no idea how this miracle is achieved, but I’m glad that this particular level of low-commitment hair styling exists. Because I like to brush out my high-glam before I go to bed, in the same way that I like to take all of my makeup off.
Anyway, the hold is excellent. I didn’t quite test the “up to 24 hours” claim but I think that my extreme conditions more than made up for the shortened timeframe. The weather was truly frightful and my broken car heater basically replicated what it would be like if you stood in front of an industrial space-heater for ten minutes. One half of my face was actually cooked, like a boiled ham and the metal buckles on my coat were glowing red, like iron on a blacksmith’s anvil. It’s amazing I’m still alive, quite frankly, and even more amazing that my hair still looked almost perfect.
In case you’re wondering, my choice of festive hairstyle was a three-step catalogue of near-disasters. “Do something festive”, they said, and so I was going to do this amazing, towering, backcombed up-do with sleeked sides and a messy chignon. And then I woke up and realised that I wasn’t Guido Palau and went with some low-key waves.
I’d like it recorded, however, that I did spend quite a while prepping and fussing with my hair to achieve this particular look: first I blow-dried it smooth, then I put in rollers through the top and front to give it a bit of bounce and lift (surprisingly this made quite a lot of difference!) and then I went in with the waving tongs and gave it all a once-over.
Fixed it all in place with liberal amounts of Elnett Electric Nights Limited Edition Extra Strength Hairspray, including one dizzying upside-down session where I sprayed the roots and underneath sections to give a bit more texture and body.
My usual (almost daily) use for Elnett is to fix down the flyaways around my hairline when I have my hair in a neat bun or ponytail, but it’s equally as good for setting styles that are looser or longer – because you can brush it out the styles feel flexible and natural.
Right, that’s enough of this year’s Elnett love-in – you can find the limited edition Electric Nights version at Superdrug here – it’s £4.19.
What’s your usual party style for hair? Do we all have one? And which kind of style is the one that you always dream of doing but never quite achieve? That “ooh, I’m going out-out so I must do something with my hair that is potentially going to make me late but only after I’ve burnt myself twice with something heated and then cried and then realised that my whole head looks like a haystack and that it looked better before I started”?
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