Ruth Griffin's: Ultimate party season makeover
Research has shown that, in the run-up to Christmas, more than 70pc of women will make a hair appointment. It shows us that for the majority of women, their hair - their crowning glory, the tiara they never take off - is one of the most important aspects of their beauty routine.
Changing your hair is such an impactful way to alter your overall appearance: from a colour change to a serious chop, the right hairstyle can knock years off our look. In fact, there's even a cut known as the 'Botox fringe' - a soft feathered fringe - to cover frown lines.
Gone are the days when there were hard and fast rules on what was an "appropriate" hairstyle for women at different ages. Happily, nowadays anything goes in terms of styles, cuts and colour. We see the always-fabulous Helen Mirren strutting down the red carpet with a hot pink hue to her barnet and Jamie Lee Curtis looking gorgeous with a totally natural grey, pixie cut.
What most of us want is for our hair to be shiny, healthy and full in a colour and cut that suits our skin tone, facial structure and lifestyle. That's where this, week three of my Ultimate Party Season Makeover, comes in.
There are so many amazing hair products on the market now, which are formulated to protect, nourish and condition our hair. I would really encourage you to opt for a sulphate-free shampoo. And if you're still using styling tools from a decade ago, think about investing in some newer technology. The next generation dryers, curlers and straighteners have been adapted to cause much less damage and stress to hair than older models.
So how to get your hair in tip-top condition before Christmas? To make a visible difference in a month, use a hair mask twice a week. Do a 'cold rinse' at the end of your conditioning. It's tough to do in the winter months but, by sealing shut your hair shaft, it adds a super glossy finish to your hair. We often overlook the brushes we are using: mine is a boar bristle brush, which I find causes less breakage than plastic bristles.
Once you have nailed the foundation of healthy looking hair, now comes the fun part - what cut, colour and style to choose for festive parties. Balayage is still a huge trend, but with a move towards a much less defined, subtle merging of colours. Partings are either a strong side parting, or dead centre. I've listed my favourite styles (top right) that will suit most hair types, lengths and ages.
A huge trend this season is hairpieces, hairbands and hair jewellery - perfect to add some sparkle and glitz for Christmas parties and New Year's Eve bashes.
There are a ton of great options in Claire's Accessories that are actually adult-friendly. The advantage of hair accessories is that they are so easy to use and can hide a less-than-perfectly-coiffed hairdo. Simply pop in the hair, do a messy bun or leave your tresses down and you're party-prepped in minutes!
1. Wash your hairbrushes once a month with baby shampoo and very warm water, rinse thoroughly. Replace if necessary (broken bristles on brushes cause untold damage to your hair).
2. Use boar bristle brushes for less breakage.
3. If your hair is full of static, try this trick: run a clean dryer sheet over your hair and it will de-frizz and de-fuzz any standy-uppy broken hair fluff!
4. Use a hair mask twice a week. You'll see a difference in a month.
5. Invest in a sulphate-free shampoo. Sulphates can strip your hair of its natural oil, leaving it dry.
6. In the weeks running up to party season, give your hair as much of a break from heating tools as you can.
7. Ask your hair stylist/colourist their advice on styles you like, that are achievable with your hair length and type.
8. Get the smallest sized hairspray/finishing oil/dry shampoo, so you can slip it into your clutch for a hair pick-me-up mid-party!
9. If your hair has bald spots or is thinning, and you'd like to address it, consider looking at some natural hair extensions. Don't be alarmed, you're not going to end up with mermaid hair! Extensions are increasingly being used to simply fill out volume, not just length, so they can be a great option for women with sparse hair. Now would be the time to research it, before party season. There's a new, bespoke hair extension programme called 100% You from Great Lengths that's suitable for all ages. See greatlengthshair.ie.
10. If you've forgotten to book your colour and have a big bash coming up, don't panic! There are lots of root cover-ups that will temporarily disguise grey hairs. My new favourite is L'Oreal Magic Root Touch Up, €12.99, from pharmacies nationwide. Just spray and go!
Olsson Scandinavia Sensitive Hair Spray, €19.99, or my favourite L'Oreal Elnett, €4.50, from pharmacies.
Toni&Guy Finishing Spray, €9.99, from pharmacies.
Batiste Bare Dry Shampoo, €2.60, or Klorane Seboregulating Dry Shampoo with Nettle, €11.50, from pharmacies.
L'Oreal Elvive Fibrology Fine Hair Thickening Mask, €5.99, or Pantene Smooth and Sleek for Dull and Frizzy Hair, €5.99, from pharmacies.
Tangle Teezer Back Combing Brush, €13.50, Boots stores nationwide, or Trevor Sorbie Tail Comb, €3.89 from pharmacies.
Kerastase Elixir Ultime Oleo Complex, €34.90, salons nationwide and millies.ie. Use before styling and as a finishing serum. A little goes a long way.
Imedeen Hair and Nails, €24.99 from pharmacies and health food stores nationwide. Always consult your GP before taking supplements.
5 of the best hair helpers
● Best straightener
Steam Pod by L'Oreal, €180, from Peter Mark nationwide, is hands down the best straightening tool I've used - it's ideal for coarse, frizzy, thick hair! This will leave your locks Pocahontas-straight, super shiny, glossy and fuzz-free and your blow-dry lasts so much longer. This styling tool uses continuous steam (instead of just heat) to flow gently through your hair fibres, repairing them as it styles.
● Best Wave maker/curler
GHD is a brand well known for its famous straightening irons, but its curling wand is now causing a stir in the beauty world. Use this to achieve the softly waved hair looks from Max Mara, D&G and Daks (see Trends above). GHD Curve Wand Gift Set, €135, from hair salons and electrical stores nationwide.
● Best hydrator
I'm always harping on about the improvement in my hair's condition after I ditched shampoos with sulphates in them. Sulphate-free shampoo does feel different to use (a lot less suds), but it leaves hair silky and glossy long-term. My favourite is Pureology Hydrate Shine Mask, Shampoo and Conditioner, €42.50, from selected salons, Peter Mark nationwide and millies.ie.
● Best Multi-tasker
For a tool that straightens hair as well as it curls, and that also protects your locks, check out the Instyler Cerasilk, €119, from instyler.ie. Its bevelled edges and woven fabric over the ceramic plates work fast and safely, and it allows you to tame frizz close to the roots without causing those annoying crease lines.
● Best Hair dryer
With a mega 2400-watt strength, a long lead and super lightweight shell, this is a next generation hair drying tool. Lanaiblo Hair Dryer, €99, from lanaiblo.com.
4 weeks to Christmas: things to do this week
● Book hair and colour appointments now.
● Use a hair mask twice a week.
● Replace any hairbrushes that have broken nibs or missing spokes.
As seen at: Daks (pictured) and Julien McDonald.
The look: The roots and hair ends are kept straight, with only the mid-lengths subtly waved. Adds volume to the hair.
DIY suitability: Easy to achieve at home using a heating tool.
Best for: Great for all hair lengths, especially good for short and mid-length hair, and all ages.
As seen at: Bottega Veneta (pictured).
The look: Super sophisticated look, modern 1940s. My personal favourite.
DIY suitability: This is difficult to do properly at home. I think this look requires professional help. Bring a picture into your salon to recreate it for a party.
Best for: Mid-length hair and all ages, but toned down for the over-40s.
Soft wave & side parting
As seen at: Blumarine, D&G and Max Mara (pictured).
The look: Soft, subtle wave with a strong side parting.
DIY suitability: Easy to do at home with a good curler/wave tool and plenty of product.
Best for: Great for shoulder-length hair and longer. Suitable for all ages.
As seen at: Chloe and Topshop Unique (pictured).
The look: Perfectly straight, super glossy hair. A throwback to the 1990s.
DIY suitability: Easy to DIY, just use the Steam Pod (see below).
Best for: All ages.