Hair oils: Exactly which one is right for you?

With benefits ranging from conditioning and adding shine to treating dandruff and stimulating growth, hair oil has become like liquid gold for our tresses. And forget all those drippy, sloppy, sticky after-effects: the big beauty players are creating a completely new generation of oils for the hair. They’ve swapped sachets for sleek pumps, heavy textures for featherweight silkiness and potent blends that do a zillion things at the same time. In fact, I would contend that hair oil is the new hair serum.

choose-hair-oil4How? While it creates a glossy, swishy shine, the humble hair oil also provides protection and nourishment for your strands. And where serums simply coat tresses with silicone, oils add shine in a far more hair-friendly manner by calling on essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants that penetrate the follicles to treat and condition simultaneously.

And that’s not all: hair oil tames frizz and leaves strands manageable, while also protecting against the harshness of heat styling. Plus, it speeds up drying time as the oil reacts with heat to repel water from the hair. And the good ones even create a barrier against the environment: slip some on to protect your hair from sun, salt water and chlorine, or use it as a mini-shield against the effects of pollution.

However, before you dive into the world of hair oil, it’s vital to know exactly which one will work for your strands. There is a hair oil for all textures and types – including the most baby-fine heads of hair. You just need to pinpoint your best fit!

Hair oil for coarse, dry or chemically processed tresses

Hair becomes coarse and dry when it’s damaged, hence you need nourishing oils to repair its structure. One of the top hair oil choices here is virgin coconut oil, which penetrates the hair shaft to patch and protect it from the inside-out. Besides this, it is also lightweight, non-greasy (making it great for fine hair) and helps prevent dandruff.

Then there is avocado oil, which is rich in proteins and amino acids, along with high levels of vitamins A, D and E. All these are vital for hair’s health: for instance, proteins help fill in the cracks in the cuticle, so each strand becomes stronger. However, since avocado is a heavier oil, it works best on medium to thick hair.

Argan fruit and oil

Argan fruit and oil

Argan oil is loaded with vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids that provide rich nutrition for your hair. It also contains linoleic and oleic acid to moisturise the strands. Plus, argan oil’s small molecular structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft, repair damaged hair follicles and restore lost moisture. Using it as a hair oil puts back lost lustre from hair straightening and other chemical treatments, helps keep colour vibrant, prevents dryness and acts as a shield against harmful UV rays and environmental pollution.

Hair oil for dull tresses

Sweet almond oil has high amounts of vitamins A, B, and E. As a hair oil, it heals split ends, improves scalp circulation and adds shine to dull hair. The fatty acids provide UV protection by reflecting harmful rays, while vitamin E makes strands grow longer and stronger.

Or try pomegranate seed oil, which contains punicic acid to revitalise dull strands and increase flexibility. It also safeguards your tresses against environmental pollutants, thereby helping keep them in optimal condition.

Hair oil for thick tresses

While everyone is reaching for argan oil these days, the exotically fragrant oil is more suited to thicker heads of hair. It is sticky and can be hard to get out of fine hair – you’ll need to shampoo two or three times to fully rinse it out, or else you’ll get build-up. Yet for richer locks, argan oil can strike the perfect balance of shine, scent and manageability.

Hair oil for fine tresses

Thin or fine strands get weighed down very easily, so look for a light oil that can give them some texture. The structure of jojoba oil is closest to that of our scalp’s natural oils. This allows it to absorb immediately, making it the lightest and most non-sticky of all hair oils. Yet it also packs a hefty nutrient punch with anti-bacterial properties to keep the scalp healthy, stimulate hair growth and moisturise the strands.

choose-hair-oil2Oil for hair loss

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in high levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are terrific for moisturising, protecting and nourishing the hair. It also has B vitamins (niacin and biotin), vitamin D and vitamin E to help banish bald patches. If that’s not enough, olive oil helps in battling dandruff, which can be one of the reasons for hair loss. Other benefits include deep conditioning, sealing split ends and strengthening hair from the inside out. However, because of its heavier texture, olive oil is more suited to thicker hair.

For fine hair, there is coconut oil. This is made up of saturated fatty acids that soothe the scalp and keep it hydrated. A hydrated scalp promotes hair growth because there are no dead or dry skin cells to clog the hair follicle. Coconut oil also helps reduce hair breakage by strengthening the hair shaft.

Or try out rosemary essential oil. It contains over a dozen antioxidants, vitamin B, iron and calcium, so its application works to strengthen brittle hair and treat scalp problems that hinder hair growth. At the same time, it easily penetrates follicles and delivers the essential nutrients, thereby making hair grow faster and thicker.

Hair oil for dandruff & itchy scalp

Thyme essential oil is antimicrobial, so its usage as a hair oil can help treat itchy scalps plagued by bacteria and fungus. It is best used with grape seed oil as a carrier, since the former also contains Vitamin E and linoleic acid to nourish the scalp and help prevent dandruff.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil

Oil for ALL hair types

Still a bit puzzled? You won’t go wrong with rice bran and hemp seed oils, which suit all types of hair. Rice bran contains vitamin E and creates a harder shell around the cuticle so your strands suffer less breakage; while hemp seed oil is packed with amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and minerals that make hair stronger and healthier.

Mix-and-match your hair oils

You can also custom-blend various hair oils according to your needs. For example, if you have coarse hair that’s also afflicted with dandruff, mix coconut oil and thyme essential oil. Similarly, you can use a nourishing oil for scalp and a light oil for hair strands. So, use your own experience of your hair and create a personalised oil blend for yourself. Or pick a blend off the store shelves – just read the ingredient list to know whether it suits your strands.

Do you use a hair oil? Which one? And will you be making any changes after reading this post?

Clay 101: Which one’s best suited for your skin. And hair. (Because clay masks are everything!)

While I have yet to achieve Louis Litt’s levels of mudding (What? You don’t watch Suits? Why??!!), the lure of a simple clay mask that literally sucks out toxins and other accumulated grime from deep under your skin is massively ooh-worthy!

That’s why this innocuous ingredient, which literally comes from the earth and has been used by some of history’s most gorgeous women since ancient times, is fast becoming one of the trendiest staples in today’s beauty circles. From face masks and soaps to deodorants and hair conditioners, clay seems to be just everywhere.

And it’s one of the simplest face masks to put together: Mix with a liquid (plain water/milk/rose water/yogurt/aloe… the possibilities are endless) and apply. That’s all!

But which clay to choose? Bentonite? Kaolin? Fuller’s Earth? Which one will work with your skin type and sort your specific complexion or hair issues?

Let’s figure it all out.

Bentonite clay

This fine-particled, grey-green clay (avoid the white variety – it’s over processed) comes from volcanic regions and is rich in magnesium. Bentonite’s signature is its unique molecular structure, which develops an electrical charge and swells up like an open sponge when mixed with water. This makes it particularly great at sucking out toxins, bacteria, fungus, oils and even excess sodium (hello water retention and puffiness) from the skin’s very follicles.

All properties that make bentonite perfect for oily, acne-prone skin and complexions suffering from large pores, is subjected to pollution or has chronic infections. On the other hand, dryer skin types should try and avoid this particular clay – not using it more than once a week.

Fuller’s earth

This ancient volcanic ash sediment – also known as Multani mitti – is so absorbent that it’s even called upon to soak up small oil spills and draw out poisons from the body. It looks very similar to bentonite and is again great at drawing out toxins, excess oil and other impurities from the skin.

However, it has one additional property: This particular clay is great for treating hyper pigmentation, because of its mild bleaching action. It also boosts circulation but may be too drying for some complexions.

Kaolin clay

This finely milled clay is the gentlest of all and comes in many colours. White kaolin (which is also used to make porcelain) is the mildest. And rather than being absorbent, it’s a gentle exfoliant that’s great for softening the skin. This make white kaolin clay perfect for dry, sensitive complexions. Yellow kaolin is a little more absorbent and exfoliating, with the additional benefit of boosting skin circulation.

Red kaolin is the most absorbent, making it perfect for oily, congested and acne-prone skin. Pink kaolin is a mixture of red and white, which is great for oily yet sensitive skin that needs medium-level exfoliation and detoxification.

French green clay

Made of mineral-rich volcanic ash mined from the bedrock quarries of France, this green clay’s molecular structure helps pull out deeply seated toxins, bust blemishes, soak up excess oil, boost circulation and balance skin’s pH levels. It is also a great anti-ager, given its toning action, which boosts circulation to repair damaged skin, soothes out fine lines and tightens the pores.

French green clay is a boon for oily and acne-prone skin, though it may be too drying for those on the other end of the spectrum.

Rhassoul clay

Mined from Morocco’s lava fields, Rhassoul clay has a dual action: It contains a super-potent blend of minerals and is negatively charged. Since most skin toxins are positively charged, the latter quality literally helps suck out blackheads (it’s seriously the best treatment for blackheads!), excess sebum and other debris out of skin pores. The inherent minerals simultaneously tone, calm and soften the skin.

This means Rhassoul is not as drying as bentonite or Fuller’s earth, making it great for dry skin as well. This particular clay is also great for hair and scalp, since it sops up excessive oil, pollutant and product buildup.

Umbrian clay

Indigenous to the Umbrian region of Italy, this clay is super-loaded with minerals and is also highly absorbent. It’s not only great for detoxifying and de-greasing, Umbrian clay also helps maintain the skin’s pH levels, soothe irritations, calm inflammation and refine the pores.

Umbrian clay is best suited for normal to oily complexions, though drier ones that are tempted by its other benefits can also bring it out once a week. The trick is to not let it dry on your face completely; rinse off while the clay is still a bit wet to the touch, to stop it from dehydrating your skin.

Blue clay

One of the rarest cosmetic clays around, blue clay is found in Siberia and has an exceptionally high mineral content. Besides being super-absorbent and drawing out impurities, it also nourishes the skin, stimulates blood circulation and tones the complexion.

This makes it perfect for mature skin, since it has a potent ant-ageing action, ironing away fine lines, stepping up cell metabolism to keep wrinkles at bay and restoring suppleness and elasticity.

Dead sea mudDead Sea mud

Though this is technically not clay – mud is a mixture of soil, silt, clay and water – the terms are often used interchangeably in the beauty industry. And Dead Sea mud (seen above in its natural habitat – the Dead Sea) is one of the most cult skincare ingredients out there, revered for its super-high concentrations of salts and minerals (specially magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium). This makes it a terrific deep cleanser and exfoliator, while killing acne, nourishing the skin, restoring pH levels, treating conditions like psoriasis and eczema, toning and clarifying the complexion, improving its texture and even smoothing out cellulite and stretch marks.

Dead Sea mud also has another huge benefit: It is great at easing out the pain of sore muscles, combatting inflammation and relaxing the mind and body, hence appearing in a lot of body masks and scrubs. It is good for all types of skin, including dry and sensitive ones.

European Moor mud

Also known as Balneoo Peat, European Moor mud actually contains almost no clay. Instead, it contains the organic residue of multifarious flowers, herbs and grasses, which make it rich in natural enzymes, minerals, amino acids and vitamins. Originating from Hungary and the Czech Republic, its high humic content makes it a potent anti-inflammatory and circulation booster, which helps detoxify the body, decongest the skin, soothe joint inflammation, ease achy muscles and smooth away cellulite. European Moor mud is highly soluble in water, so it won’t clog up your bath tub either.

Have you tried a clay product before? How was your experience?

Spring beauty essentials: The 12 new beauty products I am obsessing over this season

After a long career in magazines, I have developed a deep distrust of that particular industry’s beauty awards, top 10 lists and best-of-the-best new launch announcements. Why? Because the unwritten rule in literally every magazine that I have ever worked for is simple: The position and number of products on any of these lists is directly proportional to the number of advertising pages bought in the magazine by the beauty brand. That ‘world’s best lipstick’ tag doesn’t sound half as authentic after that, right? Even if it comes from your favourite publication?

Here, instead, I’ve put together a list of the top beauty launches for this season that come sans payment or inducement of any kind. Hopefully, they will catch your fancy for all the right reasons – as they did mine!

Clarins 4-Color All-in-One Pen, $30

Anyone growing up in the ’90s will definitely remember those four-colour retractable pens that were the height of cool back in the good ol’ days! Well, Clarins now has a makeup version for you, with three eyeliners – blue, black and brown – and a neutral coloured lip liner. All available at a click. Makes packing that vanity kit so much easier!

clarins-4-color-penClarisonic Sonic Foundation Brush, $35

If I had to choose one single product from all the ones listed here, this would be it! The company that has so far been taking off every last bit of our makeup at 18,000 micro-pulses is now going to be putting it on at 18,000 micro-blends… simply by popping on this new brush head onto any existing Clarisonic device. It works with both creams and liquids, the sonic technology making primers, foundations, blushes and concealers simply melt into the skin for a flawless, airbrushed finish that mere mortal hands would find nearly impossible to rival. Total blessing for someone like me who knows we need to blend, blend, blend and then blend some more… but is usually just too lazy tired to follow it through!

Clinique Chubby Crayola Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm Collection, $17

It’s not just about the packaging. The joint venture between Clinique and Crayola has made every childhood dream of scribbling on your lips with jumbo crayons come true. The limited edition collection of 10 Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip Colour Balms is not just encased in the signature Crayola packing, the two companies have also worked to colour match and name match to actual crayons in the latter’s sets. My favourites? The punchy Brick Red and sangria-hued Red Violet.

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Sephora Sweet Balms, $6

Did I mention the ’90s theme running through almost every one of Spring’s beauty products? Sephora joins the bandwagon with Push-Pop-inspired lip balms. They come in three tints – violet, pink, and coral – and will transport you right back to days filled with Bonne Bell lipsticks and PEZ candy dispensers!

sephora-sweet-balmsLabiotte Chateau Wine Lipstick Fitting, $15

Wine + Korean cool = Total awesomeness. This time in the world of lipsticks. Labiotte’s wine bottle-shaped lippies contain actual wine extract and come in four varietals: Malbec Burgundy, (a purplish berry), Nebbiolo Red (a cherry red), Shiraz Red (a more pink-tinted red) and Cabernet Red (a deep rose). Or you can opt for one of the six long wearing lip tints, or one the eight Wine Melting lipsticks, which mimic the look of wine-stained lips.

labiotte-chateau-wine-lipstick-fittingNars Sun Wash Diffusing Bronzer, $40

Finding a bronzer that’s just the right amount of glow-y without piling on the shimmer may just be the Holy Grail of makeup. And NARS seems to have gotten it just right, debuting the cult Laguna bronzer (along with three other shades) in a brand new super finely milled formula that seems to light up your face from the inside out. It’s so fine that while the texture starts out as a powder, it literally melts into skin like a cream. And you can build it up from sheer to super-pigmented with just a few swipes.

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Tom Ford Soleil Lip Balm, $36

There’s just something about summer that makes me want to stay far, far away from heavy lipsticks in the daytime (is that just me?). But I also don’t much like the look of bare lips, especially when offset against a tinted moisturiser or a touch of glow-inducing bronzer. Tom Ford’s new lip balm flirts with just the right amount of colour and the perfect levels of hydration to keep lips both tinted and supple in one go. It starts off as a sheer wash of colour but moves into serious pigment territory with a few more swipes, making it totally multipurpose. And since it’s a balm, there’s no wilting, drying or slippage in the heat. Win-win all around.

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Julep Love Your Bare Face Detoxifying Cleansing Stick, $28

This one’s perfect for popping in your purse – a face cleanser that comes in stick form and is packed with rice bran oil, reship oil and fruit enzymes. Just rub the stick across your face and rub gently with damp fingers to emulsify for squeaky clean skin. No fear of spills. No breakage. Just easy portability married with maximum efficiency.

julep-love-your-bare-face-detoxifying-cleansing-stickYuni Shower Sheets Large Body Wipes, $15

These are a Godsend for long journeys and other offending factors where you feel icky (hello, long day in office hell!) but having a bath is simply not an option. The oversized sheets can be reused multiple times and will leave you looking and feeling minty fresh. I have taken to stocking one in my purse just in case, coz who knows what waits round the next corner!

yuni-shower-sheetsLush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb, $8.95

What looks grey and grungy but explodes into the most gorgeous, pretty-inducing ribbons of pink, orange, yellow and green when it enters your bath? The Lush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb. Forget about the sexy, spicy myrrh and black pepper scent… I want this one purely for the feeling of bathing in a rainbow!

Pixi Peel & Polish, $24

While I am all for an at-home facial, sometimes there are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done. Enter this brilliant new peel, which sits on your face for just two minutes, dissolving away dead cells and other accumulated grime. I pop it on while in the shower to maximise time efficiency… genius, or what?

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Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask, $22

While I adore sheet masks, they’re sometimes too sticky and slippery and sloppy for my taste. Charlotte Tilbury’s “dry” version solves that problem with a precedent-setting fabric that substitutes traditional sheet mask serums for tiny vectors of vitamins, floral extracts, peptides, oils and butters. It also works on a smart technology, which tailors the mask to your specific problems. So, for instance, your T-zone may need brightening, your cheeks may need hydration and your jawline may need lifting… and the mask will tackle each zone both independently and simultaneously. According to Tilbury, you can even use it over your foundation for a creamy radiance. And it comes with these clever loops that hook around the ears and hold the sheet firmly against the skin.

My only grouse? Each mask is capable of being re-used there times, which means a lot of folding and popping it in and out of the packet. Given my way, I would stick to the single use, chuck-it-out effortlessness but in this case, the pros clearly outweigh the cons.

Parfum vs EDP vs EDT: What the brands will never tell you (it’s more than just concentration levels!)

This time in Paris, I had an epiphany. A huge one: All these years, I have been wearing a false Chanel No. 5. Not fake, just false. That’s because what we know as Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum is not really the legendary fragrance created by Ernest Beaux for Mademoiselle Chanel in 1921.

It is, in fact, Beaux’s parfum, as re-imagined for a more contemporary audience by Chanel nose Jacques Polge in 1986. And the difference, contrary to common belief, lies not just in the concentration of oils. In fact if, like me, you are only familiar with Chanel No 5 EDT or EDP, discovering the parfum will be like finding a completely different fragrance.

parfum vs edt vs edpIsn’t it just about the proportion of oils to alcohol?

No, it’s not. Definitely and absolutely not. As you go up the fragrance ladder, it’s not just the concentration that changes but also the materials and their quality. The EDP and Parfum versions might, in fact, have additional notes that are left out of the EDT altogether because of their price and “heaviness” (EDTs are typically fresher and lighter).

For example, it’s believed that only the Chanel No. 5 parfum contains jasmine from Grasse – the EDP is crafted with flowers from other, lesser sources. Impossible to say for sure but when you smell the two simultaneously, the parfum does deliver a fresher, more rounded jasmine story.

The second thing you notice is that Polge has underlined the original’s bright citrusy top notes and made the vanilla drydown much warmer in order to create a modern twist. The creamy notes of peach that lace the rose, lily of the valley and jasmine heart are also more prominent, while the amplified voluptuousness of sandalwood and the darkness of leather and incense replace the plush, rich muskiness of the original.

The EDP sillage itself is beautiful and long lasting but definitely less powerful. I would say that if the parfum is haute couture, the EDP is the Little Black Dress – both are thrilling in their own right but the former is definitely more majestic.

While I use Chanel No. 5 as an example, the same story runs across all perfume houses, from Dior to Van Cleef & Arpels.

And that’s why, price matters…

  • Chanel Parfum: $260.00 per ounce
  • Eau de Parfum: $33.82 per ounce
  • Eau de Toilette: $26.47 per ounce
  • Body Spray: $13.10 per ounce

What’s you take? Do you wear Chanel No. 5? Which one? And would you rather buy a Parfum, an EDP or an EDT?