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polish & prime: rapunzel, rapunzel, how do you manage that mane?

When I was four, like many little girls, I cut my own hair. I decided I didn’t want my fringe anymore so I cut that off as well – there are photos of me with this strange, stumpy little fringe that not even Bettie Page could pull off.  A few years later, I went through a Tom Boy phase. This phase lasted all of two weeks, but it was enough for me to convince my mother to get my hair cut in a page-boy style. I remember being devastated when I got the below doll for my eighth birthday, because when you pressed her belly button her hair would grow or shorten. That didn’t happen to me (believe me, I think my belly-button is still bruised).

Her hair grew on command. Mine did not.

I did a lot to my poor hair between the ages of 15-25. Colouring? Oh, did I colour. When I was 12, my childhood white blonde hair had finally succumbed to the ash blonde (a nice way of saying “dirty blonde” or “dishwater blonde”) my roots occasionally remind it is today. I used to colour my hair myself, and then when I was 15 I decided to dye my hair brown…and then back blonde again. You can all imagine the result.  Since then I haven’t dared touch it myself, preferring the safety of the salon. My hair has been: white blonde, strawberry blonde, copper, chocolate brown, reddish-brown, golden blonde, and honey blonde. And back around again and again.

For the past few years, I’ve gotten into having long hair. Until I turned 24, I rarely had my hair past armpit length. A chin length bob or shoulder grazing cut sorted me for the majority of my life. I forget why I started growing it – but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was in the middle of a Master’s Degree and was working 30 hours a week  and getting a haircut kept being forgotten about. Also, I hadn’t found a great hairdresser.

Which brings me to great hairdressers: one of my guy friends was really confused recently when I was mentioning I had to leave work early the next day because it was the only appointment I could get with my hairdresser before she went on annual leave, ‘But Freya,’ he said, ‘Can’t you just get someone else to cut it? Or go somewhere else?’

I nearly dropped my drink.

I don’t know what it is that makes girls fiercely protective over their hair or their hairdressers. I didn’t used to be as bad as I am now. But I had an “experience”. Let’s flashback to a year ago. I’d just moved back to Sydney after a year in Canberra. Started a new full-time job – my first career job! I got a pretty decent tax return and thought ‘Let’s get my hair done’.  It was July, my hair was waist-length and hadn’t been trimmed since early March. I was prepared to lose an inch. I went to a new hair dresser who had an amazing website, ridiculously fantastic reviews, AND had styled a Spice Girl’s hair before.  I was already besotted. I went to my appointment and when I took my hair out the first thing she said was ‘Wow, and that’s all your real hair!’

I told her how much she was allowed to take off. She said, ‘I might have to take off a centimetre or two more’. I concurred. She put my hair behind my back…and cut it off so it was level to my armpits. Now, my mother calls me preying mantis because according to her, I’m all limbs, but somehow I think my torso is long enough that the difference between my waist and my armpits is not 6 or 7cms. She then told me ‘it needed to be done, and I really didn’t take that much more off’. The massacre of blonde locks on the floor of the salon begged to differ.

Needless to say, I went home and cried and never went back. However, I had to go back to a new hairdresser and fix what she did to my hair, because she also aggressively told me I needed “layers” and kept swiping at my hair with a razor until I begged her to stop.  This time I was smart enough to ask a few friends. My friend Rachel – who always has amazing hair – recommended Atlantis Salon in Paddington. Atlantis has recently rebranded as ‘Original A’ Salon.  It was there I met Emily Brown, my hairdresser extraordinaire, who knows she pretty much needs to hold my hand through routine trims. What I love about Emily is that she listens to me, and is completely honest with me. She knows that having long hair is important to me (and thanks to her, it is pretty much waist length again), so when she colours it, she takes the health of my hair into account.  She also clearly explains everything she is going to do before she does it, and even lets me “negotiate” with her when it comes to my trim. And like I mentioned, since I’ve been burned before, she’s really great about when I say ‘when you say you’re going to take off 3/4s of an inch, can you show me on my hair? Will it still be mermaid length?’ As well as placating my haircut fears, Emily is also an amazing blonde colourist. She weaves highlight magic and creates such tonally gorgeous and natural-looking blonde hair. Whenever she blow-dries my hair after an appointment I almost want to ask myself for my hairdresser’s number.

So, if any of you are looking for an amazing Sydney hairdresser, definitely book in with Emily. The rest of the staff at ‘Original A’ are pretty fab as well, judging from what I see when I’m in there. They’ve recently moved salons, and it now has a slightly-grungy, hip, NYC warehouse feel to it – which I love, because it feels like a creative, relaxed and warm space. Through the back of the salon is their consultation area and café. During your consultation and your appointment, they offer Nudie juices, organic teas, coffee, and my favourite: red and white wine.  They also walk around with trays of addictive sugared peanuts and smoked almonds. Amazing.

Another benefit of ‘Orginal A’ is that they used products from O&M, who are renown for using products that substitute harsh chemicals (such as ammonia) with botanicals and essential oils. This is not only amazing for the well-being of your hair, but it also makes the difference when you’re sitting in the chair for two or three hours – you don’t get a headache from breathing in the fumes of everyone else’s colour.

In my year of getting my hair to grow quickly (to replace the hair lost in the massacre), I have learnt the following:

  1. If you’re serious about growing your hair, stop with all the blow-drying, straightening, and curling. Heat dries out your hair which makes it more prone to breakage. If you can’t step away from your beloved GHD, then apply a heat serum to the ends first and make sure you counteract with regular deep conditioning treatments (both at home and in salon).
  2. I don’t know if it’s just because I deluded myself into thinking they work, but you can take vitamins (such as silica) that increase the health of your hair. Likewise, follow the cardinal rules of drinking lots of water and having a healthy diet.
  3. Step away from the peroxide. The heavy chemicals stress out your hair, so you might need to asses if it’s more important to you to be Hitchcock blonde or have Rapunzel locks.
  4. You know those amazing head massages you get at the hairdressers during your shampoo? Hairdressers don’t just do it as a sweet add-on. Massaging the head stimulates the hair cuticles and helps to release all the nourishing oils they contain. So when you shampoo your hair, give yourself one.
  5. Don’t brush out wet hair. Use a wide-tooth comb instead, and start getting tangles from the bottom of your locks and work your way up.
  6. Get trims. I know. And you may be thinking (like I’m sometimes prone to) “But my hair grows from the top, so why does it matter about trimming the ends?” It’s because of those sneaky split ends. They keep splitting, and make your hair look tatty and ratty.

My favourite things to use on my hair:

  1. I’ve only had this for a week (Emily used it on my hair during my appointment and I HAD TO HAVE ONE), but I’m already obsessed: Tangle Teezer.  The Tangle Teezer is able to flex with your hair, and the bristles are soft, so you don’t feel like you are ripping out your hair with every brush. The curved body also makes it really easy to use and control. Plus? Check out all the colours it comes in. So much fun. I have the original but I have a feeling I’m going to be ordering the compact one pretty soon – perfect for carrying around in your bag.
  2. While, as I mentioned before, you’ll eventually have to get a little scissor action to neaten those split ends, there is a new product that can prolong the time between these visits (and shorten the amount taken off): TRESemme Split Remedy  Shampoo and Conditioner. Split ends used to be forever – it was said nothing could cure them apart from the snip. TRESemme Split Remedy is changing that, as it binds split ends for a smoother look. I was a little doubtful before using it, but two weeks in, the ends of my hair did appear healthier and smoother than they were before using the product. I also love TRESemme as I LOVE the larger bottles. So handy, particularly when your hair is like mine and practically drinks in conditioner. They also have recently launched on online scissor free salon with hair tips from some pros.
  3. I’m addicted to these snag free hair elastics. Sturdier and stretchier than they initially appear, they are snag-free, easy to use, and mostly undetectable.

So, those of you with long hair, or those who are growing it out in pursuit, what are your long healthy hair tips?

(Image credit)


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