September 09, 2014

Ombre Hair Colouring

One of the most frustrating trends I've come across (not nearly as bad as leggings-as-pants, of course) is ombre hair. And the reason that it frustrates me isn't because it's ugly. It's because ombre hair colouring is typically misunderstood and poorly executed. Ombré, according to Webster's dictionary, means "shaded or graduated in tone". This to me calls for a subtle gradient between a few similar shades or tones of the same colour. (Not the same as dip-dying!!)

Here is one example of a beautiful ombre look: a natural/gold tone in a blend of different shades from medium to dark blonde. This perfectly mimics the look that natural blondes have in the winter when new hair has grown in but the ends are still sun-bleached from the summer.

This can even be done with less natural colours like the picture below. Unlike the previous, this isn't varying levels in the same colour family; it's varying shades in the same colour level. Vanessa has a copper tone followed by a cherry tone, finished by a yellow tone. The gradient in this look is good, but if a customer asked for this I'd be inclined to go cherry-copper-yellow, because that's the natural gradient you see in a rainbow and it flows a lot better visually.

Photos like those make me happy that ombre has taken dominance as one of the big hair trends right now: after the chunky highlighted and half-and-half styles of the 90s stayed popular through the 2000s without a lot of change, it's a relief to see colouring with better blending and more subtle pops of colour taking over.

But then there's this...unless you use many different shades to do the transition from dark to blonde, you get that look like you bleached your hair out a long time ago and never bothered colouring back. Let's say the dark here is a level 5, and the blonde a 9. Without taking hours with precise detail work blending 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 to 9, the best you could likely do is use a 7 in the middle and 9 on the ends...still not a great look.

But this type of look is worse. This is not ombre, this is dip-dying. If you have a severe line halfway down your hair, no blending or gentle transition has taken place. If your hair looks like a dual fiber paintbrush, please call it dip-dyed and leave poor ombre alone.

So how do you avoid a harsh line of colour? First off, stay close to your own colour. You can venture out by a few shades, or into the realm of different tones of the same shade. But black and blonde will never be ombre...say goodbye to your 1999 zebra highlights. Secondly, use a good ombre painting technique. The easiest way (and what I've done in my own hair, adding a cool red tone to the ends of my natural brown hair) is to put your hair in two high ponytails: this makes your hair very accessible both in proximity to your face, and by allowing access to different layers of your hair (think about how a low nape-of-the-neck ponytail looks smooth, while a high crown ponytail looks layered). Then get some hair colour that you can easily apply with your hands: a mousse formula is ideal. Squirt some of the colour mousse into gloved hands and scrunch into the ponytails like you would regular styling mousse, focusing on the ends. This will give a natural blended look with one colour.

For two or more colours, you may want to use foils. Within a piece of foil, brush on some water or hair conditioner onto your original hair colour starting at the scalp and going 1/3 of the way down the shaft. The water or conditioner will keep other colours from affecting your natural colour. Then paint the middle third of the strand with your first colour, overlapping the conditioner by a few centimetres. Finally use the second colour to paint the lower third of the strand to the ends, again overlapping with the previous colour (this creates the blended transition area).

Good luck and stay ombre!

What's Pink with Cheetah Spots?

The answer to the title is my sister's new fashion blog, apparently. If you like this blog but are frustrated with the profuse amount of beauty posts, thinking "There's just not enough fashion content here", you may want to check out The Fashion Cheetah.

The Fashion Cheetah

Powder Foundation

When it comes to base makeup, I don't like to wear much. I've tried various foundations...Maybelline Dream Mousse covers anything but can look dry, CoverGirl Clean Makeup is cheap and works but that's about it. The best liquid I've tried, was one of Paula's Picks, Revlon ColorStay--but apparently it's been reformulated for the worse. While these all did the job for me, liquid and cream foundations feel like smearing paint on my face and I try to reserve them for special occasions when I might want heavy coverage, such as being photographed.

Because of that, the past few years have seen me using powder foundation. While they may have a reputation for looking heavier and drier than liquids, I find a light-handed application is all I need to even out my skin. If I need a little extra boost in certain areas, a touch of concealer is more than enough (I like mark. Good Riddance or Benefit Erase Paste). While my skin is on the drier side, I typically apply the powder after moisturizing, so I haven't found any issues there. A powder foundation gives me the ideal amount of coverage without feeling heavy, and doubles as a mattifying/setting product since I'd be using translucent powder on top of a liquid product to get it to stay anyway.

For a while I had an Avon rep in my area and bought pretty much all my makeup from Avon since it was convenient, fairly good quality, and the flyers she brought around always had good sales. I especially liked the mark. products so I used mark. Powder Buff for quite a while. I would still recommend this product as it gave the performance I was looking for at a reasonable price. However, every single time I bought one the compact broke. One dropped on the floor and the entire cake shattered in addition to the compact, which was more my fault than anything. But the other ones consistently had the hinges snap. I ended up moving and not bothering to find a new Avon rep, so since I didn't want to pay shipping to order online and the packaging was garbage anyway, it was time to find something new.

As usual I checked out Beautypedia for the best-reviewed powder foundations, and landed on the Palladio line from Sally Beauty. And also as usual, Paula's recommendation was great. Palladio Dual Wet and Dry Foundation has a great texture, applies smoothly, and I would say is even better than Powder Buff at the same price point. Additionally, I have had no problems whatsoever with the compact breaking. If you're looking for a product that allows you to vary the coverage at a very reasonable price, I'd definitely recommend Palladio.

Palladio Dual Wet and Dry Foundation Laurel Nude

May 14, 2014

Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth

In the market for a new shampoo and conditioner, I decided to try out Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth collection. I figured, having curly hair, a "smoothing" collection would be good for calming down any frizz and keeping curls neat.

Overall, this is not a bad shampoo or conditioner. The scent is pleasant, the product is pink. The shampoo is a fairly standard formula, probably a little too heavy for someone with an oily scalp but good if you're a little dry. When I use dandruff shampoo I like to do the second wash with this product to keep my scalp from getting too dry. Within the Herbal Essences line, though, I have to say I think their basic Hello Hydration does a better job, and I certainly have products I like better outside of their brand.

As for the conditioner, I found it much too light. I ended up with a lot of split ends--now, I have been growing my hair out and I tend to get split ends past a certain length so I won't blame it on the conditioner per se, but I certainly get better protection and hydration from other products.

What I really found funny was the marketing of this product though. Maybe they've changed the packaging since I bought it, but the bottles I have look like the ones on the picture above and claim to make your hair smooth. If you look at their website, you'll see the bottles say "straightening", not "smoothing". I did actually find that it was a lot harder to style my hair curly and it seemed to be getting straighter and straighter. I ran out of the conditioner and bought a new one for curly hair and my hair seems to slowly be getting curlier again.

I would really be interested to know what ingredients are in this product that make your hair straighter. As a hairstylist, I've worked with keratin smoothing treatments and done chemical straightening procedures. Since these treatments rose to popularity I have seen keratin shampoo/conditioner combinations come out that claim to slowly smooth your hair out over time. But this product doesn't contain keratin, and since my hair has bounced back, I'm wondering if perhaps it's some sort of chemical that temporarily gets in the way of the bond arrangement in the hair.

Bottom line: If you are actually looking to make your hair a bit straighter, I would recommend this product. However, if you're just looking for smoothness, try something else.

May 08, 2014

Product Review: Biore Charcoal

Quite a while ago I was sent a free sample of two new products from Biore: the Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser and Self Heating One Minute Mask. I was pretty excited to try them out. According to their website, charcoal draws impurities out from the skin and cleans better than a normal cleanser.

I started out with the face cleanser, which was a somewhat unappetizing colour due to the charcoal. I didn't notice much of a difference in texture or lather from my regular cleanser. However, it did leave me with some tingling.

After cleansing I moved onto the mask. I like masks. I know they're not particularly necessary for your everyday skincare routine, and that a good cleanser and moisturizer are quite sufficient. But they're still fun once in a while and I especially looked forward to this one because I was imagining the stereotypical "woman in a mud mask" from movies and I figured having charcoal smeared all over my face would be pretty close. This mask wasn't just disappointing though, it was alarming. I experienced the same cooling and tingling as with the cleanser, but much more strongly. Combined with the self heating of the mask, I had rather intense hot and cold going on at the same time on my face to the extent that I felt like my face was burning. I couldn't even keep it on the full minute. After rinsing it off I still felt like my face was burning for a while, but at least my face looked fine, no noticeable redness.

After checking out the ingredient list and Paula Begoun's complaints about the brand, I'm going to take a guess and say it was the menthol...a skin irritant. I really wouldn't recommend either of these products. Biore says they give a "deep clean you can see" and especially with a mask I would have expected at least sort of a glow, but I didn't see any difference from normal. Their claim to leave skin "tingly-smooth" is about true, but for me the tingle was more like burning.

The Apprentice is Back

University has been keeping me busy the past few years with little free time to spend blogging. However, I have finished all of my classes for my final year and am looking forward to my graduation in June. This leaves me with a lot of free time on my hands, although I'm spending a lot of it searching for a job. You can expect to see me posting a bit more often now!

December 29, 2011

Hair That Rocks: Down to the Core of it All

When one thinks of the connection between rock and hair, the first thing to come to mind may be the glam rock hair bands of the eighties (see Figure 1). With a little more information, this idea may be discarded faster than David Lee Roth's shag. The parallel drawn here refers to actual rocks: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic.

Figure 1: Twisted Sister, a typical Hair Band of the eighties (ebcak, 2008).

Rock cores are long thin pieces of rock removed from beneath the Earth's surface using a hollow drill. These segments are cut through the many layers of rock laid down by past events (Plummer, 2004). When removed and laid out for examination, the newest layers are at the top, with a visible progression of events continuing down the core to the oldest layer at the base (Plummer, 2004). Likewise, hair strands are produced from the top down, in protein units with the oldest segment at the end of the hair (see Figure 2) (Beatty, 2002).

Various landmarks throughout a rock core, such as fossils, deposits, and change in rock types can be used to deduce the geological history of that point in time (Plummer, 2004). Surprisingly enough, biochemical and isotopic signatures can be read along the hair strand, giving a history of an individual's health. Chemical indicators can be used to note hormonal changes, stress levels and diet (Hill Wood-Salomon, 2011). Hair samples have even been tested from preserved specimens, finally solving mysteries such as what percentage of a population was affected by events such as water contamination (Matsumoto and Yoshinaga, 2009), or the geographic route traveled by a murder victim (Courtland, 2008). Events such as change in location can be determined by a sudden switch in isotopic concentration (drinking from a different water source, for example) in the keratin units of the hair strand (Ehleringer et al., 2008).

Figure 2: A side-by-side comparison of rock cores and hair strands (ISGS, 2010; Hair Compounds, 2010).

Rock deposits can be altered through further events such as folding and fractures, changing the accuracy of events read along a core sample (Plummer, 2004). Similarly in hair, as the age of the event in question increases, the likelihood of taking an accurate measurement of chemical ratios decreases. Hair is structurally altered and often damaged by environmental factors such as sun and wind. Hair and scalp conditions produce abnormal strands, containing different initial chemical ratios, which would give quite different results than a healthy hair (Beatty, 2002). Physical abuse occurs on a daily basis for many, through brushing, heat styling, and chemical alteration such as colouring and perming. Furthermore, data is lost when the hair is cut, removing the oldest records at the base of the hair strand (Beatty, 2002). This process is also observed in rock samples, where glacial erosion has removed one or more layers of rock, leaving a gap in the timeline of relative dating (Plummer, 2004).

Hair analysis techniques are still in discovery and developmental stages. Nevertheless, the potential applications are incredible. Many conditions which are currently tested for by drawing blood may be examined by taking a reading from a strand of hair (Hill Wood-Salomon, 2011). Depending on the length, the recorded sequence can reveal events years into the past, providing an impressive ready-made medical record (Cerling et al., 2009). Who knows what the future may hold? As they today, gone tomorrow.

Works Cited

Beatty, D., 2002. Milady’s Standard Cosmetology.

Cerling, T.E. et al., 2009. History of Animals using Isotope Records (HAIR): A 6-year dietary history of one family of African elephants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(20), pp.8093-8100.

Courtland, R., 2008. Your history is printed in your hair : Nature News. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

ebcak, 2008. 80′s Glam Metal Rock Bands | Cool Stuff - ebcak. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

Ehleringer, J.R. et al., 2008. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios in human hair are related to geography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(8), pp.2788 -2793.

Hair Compounds, 2010. Measuring Stress Through Hair | Hair & Compounds Blog. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 2 December 2011].

Hill Wood-Salomon, J., 2011. Science for hairstylists: the potential uses of hair samples in medicine. [personal communication] [Discussed 7 October 2011].

ISGS, 2010. ISGS - Geological Samples Library Collections. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

Matsumoto, M. and Yoshinaga, J., 2009. Isotope ratios of lead in Japanese women’s hair of the twentieth century. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 17pp.643-649.

Plummer, C., 2004. Physical geology & the environment. 1st ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.