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To Buy For: The life-changing mask that helps your hair grow longer

February 13th 2019 / Victoria Woodhall / 0 comment

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If you need something radical to happen to transform the health and condition of your hair, this silicone-free treatment is it. Victoria Woodhall is converted

There are times when you know you’ve just met someone who will completely change the way you do the everyday things because they've made such a compelling case that you can’t go back to your old ways.

This has happened to me three times recently. I thought breakfast was unassailable until I discovered Ancient and Brave’s Cacao & Collagen, which with a dash of butter Bulletproof-style was brilliant for insulin stability. Lo and behold, once my Bircher was in the bin, my blood sugar levelled, I was on an even keel and more focused until lunchtime – no more snacking and a flatter belly. Meditation too was a losing battle, until the London Meditation Centre taught me that having racing thoughts meant that meditation was working, not that I was failing. Bingo, I was sold and now do it twice a day. Both of these ‘interventions’ are now part of my everyday life, they have radically changed the way I feel – calmer, better able to cope.

MORE GLOSS: Why you've probably got your hair type wrong

More recently, it has been the turn of my hair. Regular GTG readers will know that I struggle with hair breakage and thinning. Stress, bereavement, hormones, genetics and general decrepitude over the last five years have attacked my hairline – the very place where it’s most visible. I never notice other women’s handbags, shoes or frown lines but I sure as hell benchmark against their hair. Fringe like a pony? How…?

To give an idea of just how far my hair hangups go, I have a picture of myself with Meghan Markle taken in 2015, when she was just an actress in Suits. When I look at it don’t think, “Oooh there’s me with the most sought after woman on the planet". I think “Ooh there’s me with HAIR!”. I’d trade Markle for a full forelock any day.

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Victoria with hair (and Meghan Markle)

My recent hair pivot came after meeting hairdresser Michael Van Clarke. I promptly went home and scooped every product I owned into the recycling – shampoos, conditioners, oils, smoothers, styling mists. My hair is now on the slow road to health largely thanks to Michael’s ‘longer hair though better care’ philosophy and his 3” More Inches Lifesaver Treatment. This is a pre-shampoo mask that everyone with hair should have in their bathroom, not just if you have hair issues, but to have for healthy hair for life. It's for all hair types, and in my three-month experience, it leaves your hair baby soft, frizz-free and a younger version of itself. And because it doesn't break so readily, it grows longer.

A hairdresser for 25 years, Michael is the brother of fellow crimper Nicky Clarke and did his first Vogue session at 19, worked under John Frieda for many years before setting up his one and only salon in Marylebone, where he still cuts daily using his patented Diamond Dry Cut technique. If you have hair that does different things at the front than at the back and generally doesn't obey the rules (i.e. you're human) it’s a brilliantly bespoke technique that makes it all look 'joined up'.

Nutrition and lifestyle, of course, are key for growing healthy hair, and if you have a genetic predisposition to thinning as I do, there’s a limit to what you can do. But Michael tells me that the hair that I do have is breaking prematurely, and that’s something I can fix by laying off the daily heat styling and crucially, using products that repair and strengthen protein bonds so my hair won't break and I can grow it to nearer the length I want.

The reason why Lifesaver is not a budget product is that the hero ingredient is cashmere protein in high concentration - Michael explains that it's identical in molecular structure to human hair (which is just protein and water) and so the hair recognises it and absorbs it, rather than it just giving it a glossy coating.

Equally important is what’s not in it - silicone which is used in 90 per cent of hair products to give that glossy, smooth feel. It's not part of the hair's natural makeup. The problem with silicone, according to Michael, is that it's a lubricant which merely gives the illusion of healthy hair while acting as a barrier to moisture and therefore accelerating hair ageing. So your hair might feel glossy and healthy and you go all gung-ho with the heat styling, meanwhile underneath it's dry, frizzy and fragile.

He recommends removing silicones from my entire regime. I switched to his divine-smelling 3”More inches shampoo and conditioner (which, by the way, last ages and don’t leave your hair greasy as many ‘free-from’ hair products can). I also started on an intensive course of the Lifesaver, leaving it in overnight. It dries down quickly so you don’t need to sleep in a hair towel.

I use it before every wash and in three months, I have had the first new shoots in years, which have made it to beyond the baby hair stage. Yes, my hair is still fine, but the lifespan and condition have measurably improved. I'd say miracle, but it's actually science, and Lifesaver has 20 years of research behind it. lifesaver-pre-wash1.jpg

Coming off the 'cone can be a little painful. Like giving up caffeine, you don’t realise how much you’ve been relying on it. In the first week or so my hair felt unusually dry, but that’s because it was dry underneath all along. I now have soft locks that feel younger, like a child’s hair and I always scan the ingredients list for silicones on any products. Dimethicone and anything ending in ‘-one’ is death for my barnet.

For years my hair was resilient to anything I’d throw at it – and you may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to watch what you put on it (yet), but I can tell you that life sneaks up on you and the first thing to squeal is your hair. Many women report that hair loss and thinning affects their self-esteem. Obsessing about it certainly takes up way too much of my day. I’m happy to say I’m on my way to getting those three extra inches – and getting a life.

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Buy 3” More Inches Lifesaver Treatment £29 for a large 500ml pot. To get the full benefits, use a silicone-free shampoo and conditioner.

I recommend starting with the 3''' More Inches - Travel Pack £25 available here with pre-wash, shampoo and conditioner as the cheapest way to try for the full regime. It should last a couple of weeks to a month. For extra moisturising benefits, leave the conditioner on as a mask for half an hour.

There’s also a lighter version of the Lifesaver, Lifesaver UV, £20 which you can use as both as a pre-poo, a styling product and sun protection in summer.

The Diamond Dry Cut starts at £65 with one of Michael’s team.

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