DIY – Brilliantine

Here’s a quick and easy one with a proper vintage feel!

Brilliantine – a light pomade used by the menfolk once-upon-a-time to keep their slick-backs, well, slick.

From Wikipedia – Brilliantine is a hair-grooming product intended to soften men’s hair, including beards and moustaches, and give it a glossy, well-groomed appearance. It was created at the turn of the 20th century by French perfumer Edouard Pinaud. He presented a product he called Brillantine (from the French brillant meaning “brilliant”) at the 1900 Exposition Univerelle in Paris. It consisted of a perfumed and coloured oily liquid. “Brillantine” was used as the French title for the film “Grease” in Quebec, Canada.

Here’s a handsome dream-boat demonstrating the finish one can get from brilliant Brilliantine, made with the following recipe. I sprayed the product into dry hair and combed back to style. It takes a few minutes to dry in and doesn’t dry hard, so the hairstyle stays malleable and can be re-combed. It has a very light hold, so keeping a comb in your pocket is a good idea.


The product is very runny, so like the DIY Salt Spray, you will need a spray bottle of some kind. I made my version without fragrance, but you can add some if you’re feeling fancy.

It’s very simple – just two (or three) ingredients!

Ingredients for about a 50ml spray (scale up or down depending on your bottle size):

•  3 tbsp (44ml) vodka
•  1 1/2 tsp (8ml) castor oil
• 10 drops (1/2 ml) Essential Oil for fragrance (optional)
Yes, vodka! Can be any brand, as long as it has a high alcohol content. You can get hold of neat castor oil in most pharmacies. It’s very good for your hair!
Now to decide – slick-back or quiff?!?

Happy and Hairy New Year

Here are 5 easy-peasy New Year’s resolutions you may wish to follow to keep your hair happy and healthy. Easier than giving up alcohol and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, anyway.

1. Gently does it.
When you shampoo, try not to rub and scrub away and pile your hair up on top of your head. Instead, work the shampoo (Nourishing Shampoo is a good one for winter hair) just into your scalp with your fingertips, then smooth the lather over and down the length of your hair with your palms. When you use conditioner, use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to get out any tangles. Always comb or brush your hair starting from the ends and working up to avoid too much breakage.

2. Equipment check.
If your brush or comb are a bit rough round the edges, shedding teeth and bristles, it might be time to update them as they’re probably shredding your hair. (Mason & Pearson make lovely gentle brushes but they will set you back a pretty penny, otherwise Denman paddle brushes are big softies too). Same goes for hair elastics and grips – the ones with metal joins can be damaging so try using covered elastics or hair grips which are smooth.

3. Weekly treats.
Fortnightly or monthly might be more realistic – but if you can get into a habit, do! Regular treatments will keep your hair moisturised and help keep it from breaking or splitting. They won’t repair split ends (contrary to some brand’s advertising campaigns) but are a good preventative measure.
I recommend —
For dry ends – on a night in when you’re staying home watching the telly or the like, wash your hair, towel dry it as much as possible, then run Treatment Conditioner through the ends. Either leave in for at least 30 mins then rinse; or leave it to dry in, go to bed and rinse it out in the morning (maybe don’t use your best silk pillow cases though).
If you have a dry scalp and/or dry ends – on dry, unwashed hair, use the pipette dropper of the Pre-Shampoo Treatment Oil to apply oil to your scalp and massage in with your fingertips. Squidge some more oil into the palm of your hand and run all throughout the length of your hair, brush in and as above, wash out after at least 30 mins or go to bed with it in your hair once it has soaked in. Wash and condition as normal in the morning.

4. Regular trims.
The only way split or damaged ends can be repaired is to cut them off. How regular are we talking? For short hairstyles, 6-8 weeks is about normal, but that’s more to maintain the shape of the haircut. For long hair you can get away with about 12. If the ends start to feel split or rough, best to get them trimmed before they get any worse.

5. Just relax.
Easier said than done sometimes, but very important! Stress is one of the biggest contributors to hair problems, and hair can be an indicator of general health and wellbeing. Make sure you make some down-time for yourself!


Are silicones the Devil’s work?

Do silicones damage your hair?

No, I don’t think so. Rather than damaging hair, they make it feel softer and give it shine, while making combing easier. They do get quite bad press — lots of talk of “build up”, “drying out” and “weighing down”. But so many things that we do to our hair to get it just how we like it (colour, blowdrying, even brushing!) compromise the condition just a little bit. Without being evil.

Silicones don’t come from plants or natural oils. Although they do start off as silicate, or sand, and then they undergo a lot of synthetic processes. They are used a lot in hair products because when they’re used correctly they really work. They work better than any other hair care ingredient, and they help any natural components to perform much better. So what do they actually do? They form a film or coating over the hair (which is removable with shampoo) to flatten the cuticle, soften and protect it. “This coating serves several purposes, it helps reduce the porosity of the hair which makes it less likely to absorb humidity; it helps reduce moisture loss from the inside of the hair; and it lubricates the surface of the hair so it feels smoother and combs easier”, says The Right Brain of The Beauty Brains¹. Sounds good to me!

Silicones are nearly always found in anti-frizz products but definitely DON’T belong in shampoos. This is where you get “build-up” from. Shampoos which contain silicones will never wash away silicones! If you’re using an anti-frizz product with Cyclomethicone in it (like my hair perfumes do), shampoo will remove it just fine as this is one of the lighter, more modern sorts of silicone.

Philip Kingsley, a leading tricologist, says² “Considering they have been in existence for only about twenty years, their popularity in formulations is amazing. You have to be careful, as they were primarily used for their waterproof effects and as such were difficult to remove, often resulting in dry or heavy hair. Dimethicone was originally used in the two-in-one shampoo/conditioner combinations, which proved unsuccessful in the long term. The modern silicones are the volatile ones (those that slowly evaporate), which can be excellent emollients, softeners and protectors.”

The Beauty Brains sum it up — “You can’t simply say all silicones are bad. Some women will find silicones too heavy for their hair, others will love the soft, conditioned feel they provide. You’ll have to experiment to find what’s right for you”.

How have you found using them?


¹ From “The Beauty Brains: Real Scientists Answer your Beauty Questions”.

² From Philip Kingsley’s book ‘The Hair Bible: A Complete Guide to Health and Care.’

Why sulfate free?

So what’s all the fuss about sulfate free shampoos?

Of all the sulfates, SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) seems the biggest one to avoid in shampoos. Sulfates are surfactants (detergents) which create a lot of bubbles. Because of this, and because they’re cheap to manufacture, they’re used in a lot of different products. SLS in particular is used in body washes, washing up liquid, shampoo, toothpaste and even engine degreasers. And because we’re exposed to it so often it means that over time our skin is becoming sensitive to SLS. As a result, skin dryness or irritation can develop. And when used as a detergent in shampoo, they are said to dry your hair out over time.

The lots-of-bubbles thing is just an illusion. Advertising relies on visual imagery, so adverts have led the people to believe that the more we see a product lathering, the more it appears to be cleaning. This actually isn’t the case. It’s not the bubbles that do the cleaning, they are just air! There’s no real correlation between how bubbly a detergent gets and how well it cleans. Less lather-y products still clean just as effectively.

In regard to shampoo, are sulfates actually bad for your hair though? The problem is that they are harsh cleansers compared to more naturally derived surfactants. They strip out natural oils (sebum) from the hair far too effectively (along with any colour you may have put in it) – ultimately drying the hair out over time. You may think that that’s a good thing for oily scalps,  but actually stripping the natural oils away altogether causes the scalp to overcompensate and produce even more oil. Which leaves you in a vicious, greasy cycle.

Using a sulfate free shampoo means that you preserve your scalp’s natural oil balance while mildly cleansing your hair. Which is particularly good for wavy or curly hair types that tend to freak out and go frizzy after too much washing.

There’s even an alternative method to sulfate free shampooing called co-washing that I’m yet to try. Effectively it means skipping shampoo altogether and just washing with conditioner (so no detergents are involved).

Anyone tried that yet, and did it work for you?

DIY – Sea Salt Spray

diy sea salt spray

Sea Salt Spray is the stuff to use for big, beachy waves which have a matte texture (ie not glossy/shiny). If you love how your hair feels after a dip in the sea, you can now recreate that feeling very easily! It also gives your hair more grip when tying it up. Unfortunately it won’t make straight hair wavy (sorry straighties!) but it will enhance and define waves and curls, whether natural or created with styling implements.

It’s easy to make your own at home and you can play around personalising it until you get the recipe just how you like it.

For this simple DIY version you will need:

• A bottle with atomiser spray. Plastic, aluminium or glass, new or re-used (obviously it needs to be fillable and cleaned thoroughly). I prefer to use amber glass bottles because they protect the contents from sunlight, giving a longer shelf life (and they look pretty).

• A vessel to mix your potion in, and a spoon.

• You may need a funnel if you are not of steady hand or have a bottle with quite a small neck.

Ingredients for about a 100ml spray (scale up or down depending on your bottle size):

• 3 and a 1/2 tablespoons (about 62 ml) boiling water

• 2 tablespoons of epsom salts (bath salts, aka magnesium sulphate) or ordinary table salt (sodium chloride)*

• 1/2 teaspoon (3ml) aloe vera gel (optional)**

• 20 drops (1ml) Essential Oil for fragrance (optional)***
* Epsom salts are less drying on the hair and give a slightly better texture than table salt.They can usually be bought at pharmacies or some bigger supermarkets. If you can’t get hold of epsom salts, ordinary table salt or  rock salt work too (ordinary table salt is cheapest and easiest to dissolve).
** Aloe vera gel is a little treat for your hair if you want to splash out a bit, as it has moisturising and conditioning properties. Holland and Barrett sell small tubes which aren’t too pricey, otherwise pharmacies usually sell it too. Make sure to get the gel and not aloe vera juice.
*** If you’re on a bit of a budget, lavender or citrus essential oils like orange or lemon work well. Mid-range, rose or vanilla smell lovely and aren’t too pricey. If you’re making a more decadent potion, go for neroli or jasmine. Alternatively, you can try adding a few spritzes of your favourite perfume instead of essential oils, or actual sprigs of dried lavender or camomile flowers which will infuse into the seawater. If you do use herbs or flowers, add in half a teaspoon of neat vodka to act as a preservative. Have fun experimenting!

What to do:

Add the salt to the boiling water and stir til all the salt dissolves. If you’re using the aloe vera gel, add it in now and dissolve. Wait til the mix cools down to lukewarm / tepid before adding the essential oils (they don’t like to go into very hot water, bit too delicate) or whatever else you’re adding. Decant into your spray bottle.
(If you’re putting in non-liquid things to infuse, put them in the bottle before adding the liquid.) Add a little label and the date, it will most probably have a shelf life of about a year.
The essential oils will most probably separate from the salt water, so make sure you shake the bottle before each use. Spritz onto damp hair and dry in with a hairdryer. Or spray onto dry hair and scrunch in to accentuate the texture. Voila!