x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

How to get film-star hair

Stylists to celebrities are taking appointments in Dubai this week. Here's their advice on how to care for your locks.

Marie Robinson is one of three visiting stylists. Courtesy Belle Femme Salon
Marie Robinson is one of three visiting stylists. Courtesy Belle Femme Salon

Haircare is arguably the most dreaded thing in my life. I was born with what I like to call "Egyptian hair" - it's not your typical thick, glossy Arab hair, nor is it a trendy afro: it's somewhere in between the two and incredibly frizzy.

To top it off, hairdressers in the UAE didn't have a clue what to do with all the different textures of hair (including mine) that came from all parts of the world and sat in their chairs: fine, curly, frizzy, flat, straight. These mixed messages resulted in me chemically straightening my hair at the age of 11.

It took me a long time to realise that I wasn't the only one having to deal with unmanageable hair. All my friends had to go through their own hair disasters in front of an entire class of snooty teenagers, whether it was a coppery mane instead of fresh summer locks, raccoon highlights that turned green after a nice day at the pool or the dreaded "Rachel" haircut.

Those torturous childhood years taught me the importance of a good hairdresser - one who enhances your natural hair instead of attempting a complete overhaul. A few years in London also turned my scepticism about celebrity hairdressers into belief; surely their fame as miracle workers had some basis in reality?

This week Belle Femme Salon will host three hair experts from New York: Marie Robinson, Amy Huson and Allison Woodruff, who are all based at Robinson's eponymous salon in the appropriately named Flatiron District.

The three hairdressers are responsible for Scarlett Johansson's, Anne Hathaway's and Michelle Williams's famed coiffs. "They're just like regular clients that have a major event to go to. They want to look great, feel confident with their overall look," says Robinson. "It's a bit of added pressure when you know how much they will be photographed, but it feels great when they get rave reviews for their red-carpet look."

To get that lustrous, red-carpet-worthy mane, Huson (the colouring expert) likes to use a gloss to "give hair tonnes of shine".

Woodruff, a styling specialist, suggests a few key products: "I use a volumiser like TIGI Superstar to plump up the hair and create texture so that the style - whether up or down - won't fall out. I then set the hair with a curling iron and a heat styling spray like Oribe Anti-Humidity. It's important to let the set cool entirely before taking the curls down or touching them. Once I've decided on the final shape I finish with Elnett Forte to make sure that the look doesn't move."

When it comes to their everyday clients, the hairdressers take a simple approach to long-term care and maintenance. Huson believes you should splurge on a good quality shampoo and conditioner: "They are so important in maintaining beautiful looking colour and health of the hair." Woodruff, on the other hand, is "very particular about hairspray. I can't stand wet, gummy or sticky hairsprays. Good hairspray should be dry and brushable".

As for the basics, it turns out the age-old question of how often to wash your hair isn't as simple as we all thought. Where most hairdressers have a uniform policy for all hair types, the team at Robinson's salon agree that different hair requires different washing rituals. "I have normal/fine hair that tends to get oily and I have to shampoo every day," says Woodruff. "Dry and/or curly hair does not need to be shampooed often because shampoo strips the oils it needs to look lustrous. At the end of the day you should wash it if it looks dirty but it's sort of an individual preference."

For greying hair, Robinson prefers to blend the greys away instead of completely dyeing it: "Use a semipermanent colour that won't leave a regrowth line. This works great if you have up to 25 per cent grey. For more than 25 per cent grey, I suggest permanent colour."

The hairdressers are fuss-free when it comes to their own locks, with a focus on total hair health.

But how do we really know if our hairdresser is right for us? "If you don't fully trust your hairdresser then you should not be seeing them. It's very important for both of you to have that trusting relationship," says Huson.

For more than 20 years I thought I knew my hair better than anyone else. Then I met my current hair stylist. I stopped the chemical straightening and stopped blasting it with heat, and instead chopped it all off into an asymmetric pixie cut with natural curls that just fall into the cut. For the first time in my life I can jump out of the shower and leave the house. That's something I never thought I'd ever say.

Robinson, Huson and Woodruff are taking appointments at Belle Femme Beauty Salons from today until Thursday. For more information call Belle Femme Beauty Salon on Jumeirah Beach Road, 04 395 3334, or Belle Femme Beauty Boutique and Spa on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, 04 437 0207