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Smart Consumer: How to get the right cut for a less than hairy price

The price of maintaining womens' hair is pretty ludicrous. But it is always possible to slash the costs of hairdressing. Hair can be cut or coloured at home at little or no cost, potentially saving the DIY-er several hundred euro a year.

But the results frequently come with an enormous emotional price, not least of which are months of bad hair days. Fixing a dye job gone wrong, for example, can be an expensive business and sometimes there's little option but to wait until the hair grows again.

Given these recessionary times, is it possible to trim costs and still enjoy a glossy mane of stylish hair?

The secret, according to the experts, is not to scrimp on quality but to find ways of maximising the hairdressing investments you can still afford.

1The Cut: So, I want hair like Kate Middleton but I'm fed up paying Celtic Tiger prices

Talk of haircuts might strike fear into the bond-holders of Irish banks, but few women are prepared to forego regular visits to a salon to maintain or try out a new hairstyle. Costs vary, depending on the salon and the area of the country. Prices, across the board, have fallen of late.

At David Marshall (www.davidmarshall.ie), which still operates on Dublin's South Great George's Street, the price of a cut by a top stylist has been reduced from €120 to €95. A newly qualified stylist in a Dublin city centre salon costs about €50. For local salons the price can be as little as €30.

Why pay more for a top stylist? "You're getting a precision cut," says David Marshall. "That means it's much easier to maintain and doesn't need a lot of product to give it style. It also grows well, holding its shape even when it gets longer."

It's rarely a good idea to try a home cut. Check out hairdressing schools such as David Marshall's or Peter Mark's (www.petermark.ie), where cuts can cost as little as €25.

If you're trying out a new style it's worth paying a little more for a good stylist. But beware the style you choose. Fussy cuts require regular trims. A good basic style that you can manage on your own is the best way of giving haircut costs a haircut.

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Saving: Investing in a good cut might cost more but will easily pay for itself by lasting longer. Two less salon visits a year saves €100.

2It's time for some colouring but I'm absolutely skint -- what about home kits?

Sales of home hair dyes have risen over the last few years which is hardly surprising given that they are so much cheaper than a salon colour with a €75 plus pricetag. Women will always disagree about whether home colouring is a good or bad idea, but the products have improved dramatically.

Garnier's Herbashine (€9.99) is new to the market and contains no ammonia while still providing good coverage according to the makers. Clairol's Nice and Easy Perfect 10 is a very popular brand and it too retails for €9.99, although it is sometimes on offer in retailers for just €6.99.

For best results invest in a dye-brush which costs just a few euro. To ensure even coverage ask a friend to apply it -- you can return the favour. Don't use your best towels -- hair-dye stains are next to impossible to remove.

Potential saving: Four less trips a year for a colour saves about €250.

3 I'm more a highlights kind of woman -- how can I save money here?

Meche highlights, which use foils or a streaking cap, are probably the most expensive way to highlight hair. Costs vary, but €150 is not uncommon. Aside from the initial cost, they require regular maintenance.

Enter balayage, a new technique which involves painting the hair with colour free-hand. It's not only cheaper and requires far less maintenance, it's bang on trend.

Ireland's Miss Universe Rozanna Purcell has her hair coloured with balayage, reports Peter Mark's Michael Doyle, who styles many of Ireland's top celebrities.

"Rosanna travels a lot so it makes perfect sense for her," he explains. "The root is left natural which means you don't have to keep retouching."

Saving: Switching from eight sets of meche highlights a year to four balayage highlights a year and save as much as €400.

4 Aaaagggghhh! I'm going grey!! It's time for tints

Recession or no recession, few Irish women intend to go grey. But keeping those silver roots from showing is expensive. For those who simply can't bear to go without a retouch every three to four weeks, some salons such as David Marshall's offer half-price tints (€35 instead of €70) to regulars. It might be worth talking to your regular hairdresser about a similar deal.

The other option is to make a tint last longer. Doyle suggests a dry shampoo from Bumble & Bumble which will cover grey roots temporarily. At about €40 it's pricey but there are cheaper versions around. Masking -- which means the tint is applied only to the hairline and parting -- is another stop-gap which can cost as little as €14.

Potential saving: Negotiate a half-price deal or stretch out those salon visits to save at least €150 a year.

5Keeping everything in shape -- do I need to buy pricey shampoos?

Well, yes. Bad haircuts require lots of product to give them style. So the best way of cutting product cost is to invest in a good cut -- and good shampoos. While shampoo and conditioner can be picked up for just a few euro at most supermarkets, they can play havoc with the hair's condition, particularly if it's coloured.

Non-detergent shampoos are expensive but they will keep hair looking glossy.

Potential saving: Using salon-quality shampoo and conditioner will help preserve colour and keep hair in good condition at little cost

6 So, we've seen how to save a few bob on cuts and colouring, what about some DIY at home?

There are several tricks for jazzing up hair. For added volume put Velcro rollers into almost-dry hair and leave them until the hair is dry. Heated styling aids such as straighteners and curlers are fine to use.

It's worth spending time finding out how to use them and there are plenty of video 'master-classes' available online. The Peter Mark website, for example, has a range of videos on styling techniques.

Potential saving: Go DIY with some Velcro or heated rollers and save the cost of a salon visit. Between €20-€30 saving each time.

7Blimey, I'm a man and totally freaked out by the prices women are paying. What's out there for us, haven't I seen places where haircuts are just €5?

Well, you have, but you might be taking a big chance. If you're not too bothered with quality, fine. But the experts reckon a shop offering a €5 haircut will not be paying much attention to the finish and by the end, it'll be too late. Better to plump for a traditional barber -- Jack's Barber shop in Store Street, Dublin, is reasonably typical; it does a cut for €14, and boys for just a tenner.

You can of course shell out even more; some men think nothing of paying up to €100 for a posher cut

The best way for men to cut costs, Michael Doyle says, is to "embrace the grey". "There are too many men walking about with badly dyed hair," he says. "Ditch the home colour and pay for a good cut instead."

Potential saving: A marriage?


Those in the market for bargain hair-dressing offers should check out new website, Salon Addicts (www.salonaddicts.ie).

It offers online deals for up to 100 Irish hair salons. The site is well laid-out and lists all the prices on any given day. For example, a 12-week blow-dry, which can cost up to €300, is available at some Dublin city salons via the site for less than €100.

Salon Addicts’ Cormac McNamara explains that both the salons and the website offer discounts.

An online form allows customers to choose a salon, a day, a time and even a stylist. About 10% of the price is payable on the site when the booking is made, with the remainder paid to the salon at the time of the appointment.

Counties covered at the moment are Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Limerick and Wicklow. Galway and Cork will be added soon. It's worth keeping an eye on the websites of your favourite salons since they regularly offer special deals.

Check out www.hairdressers.ie for a fairly comprehensive listing of Irish hair salons. There's also an online shop which sells clip-in extensions as well as a range of styling products and devices.