Originally published on MACs Magazine London

An article on how to maintain beards/stubble

24th August 2013

A survey has shown that women prefer hirsute men as they are appear “tough, mature, aggressive, dominant and masculine” while men with the five o’clock shadow(the re growth after a shave) are seen as the best partners for marriage or a night of unadulterated passion. Scientists are unsure as to why women are partial to puberty’s whiskered present but experts on evolution suggest it may be seen as a sign of aggression as it creates the illusion of a bigger lower jaw which emphasises the teeth as weapons. Ooh, caveman.

Whether or not beards can be seen as an adequate measure of the threshold of masculinity is debatable, but one thing is for sure, the right amount of stubble or length of beard can make a man irresistible.

Before deciding whether you want a full on beard or stubble, contemplate the look you wish to achieve. Are you trying to add years to your angelic cherub face or are you simply tired of endless hours glued to the mirror shaving? Both require maintenance but not as frequently as being clean shaven.

Pick either of these trends if you suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae, which is caused by shaving as the razor sharpens hair, meaning that as they grow, they curl back into the skin, causing painful bumps better known as ingrown hairs. By opting for a beard or stubble, you abstain from shaving the hair close to the root, which aids in minimizing the chances of those unsightly razor bumps.

Avoid growing a beard or stubble if you aren’t willing to upkeep maintenance, your other half has a tendency to break out in a stubble rash after a smooching session or Mother Nature has forsaken you in the hair follicles department. There is nothing worse than the semblance of sparse facial hair, it evokes thoughts of scrawny teenage boys. Cringe.

Maintenance!

Maintenance is the number one rule with this look, you don’t want to emulate a pre-historic cave man or be too precise with ridiculously thin chin straps (à la … ok mentioning no names). Aim for looking natural but not scruffy. To accomplish this style correctly, concentrate on eradicating stray hairs around your cheekbones and your neck that are outside the area of your natural growth. This will sharper edge to your beard/stubble.

Before shaving, do not skip exfoliation. Men’s skin is very different to women, it contains larger pores, more collagen, elastin, a denser supply of blood vessels and produces more sweat. A combination of these factors equals a multitude of dirt. Exfoliating unclogs pores freeing your skin of impurities; grease and dead skin build up. This process sheds dead layers of skin will allow new healthier looking skin to surface and exposes hair follicles allowing for a better shave and eliminates the likelihood of pesky ingrown hairs. Try Clinique or Nivea for Men. Look out for products with mechanical abrasives such as granulated pumice and sea salts or chemical abrasives like glycolic or salicylic acid to loosen and slough off those dead skin cells. To maximise exfoliation, use exfoliating gloves or a loofa and rub in circle motions into a rich lather. Alternatively, if you’re feeling particularly metrosexual, try an exfoliating mask to remove not only build up, but whiteheads too. A good old fashioned pumice soap will also do the trick. Wash lather off with warm water which causes hair to expand, making it softer and easier to cut. Don’t perform this skin shedding process more than three times a week as it will irritate your skin, causing it to lose collagen and elasticity resulting in thinner and more sensitive skin over time. Refrain from using bar soap, although it may seem like a cheaper option that will keep your skin clean, it can clog pores leading the rougher skin in the long run.

Secondly, apply a shaving gel or oil. Water is an essential softening agent but quickly evaporates leaving hair in its original state – it has been proven that dry beard hair is as rigid as copper wire. Gel or oil prevents this evaporation keeping your beard or stubble soft during a shave. Additionally, its lubricating benefits reduce friction between the blade and skin for a smoother shave. This way, you’ll be able to see the areas you want to shave and the adequate amount. Leave on for 30 seconds to allow hair to soften before you begin the shaving process. Shave the trickier places last to allow the hair in these areas to soften further. Steer clear of products with high alcohol content as the burning sensation tends to dry out skin rather than prepare it for hair removal through the hydration and conditioning of hair. As exfoliation dries out skin, you don’t want to further dry out of your skin. Canned foams or gels contain more air which affects the ability for your hair to stand upright which decreases softness, the thoroughness of your shave and increases the likelihood of razor burn. To shape and maintain length, take your razor or trimmer and shave carefully in the direction of your hair growth in gentle strokes to allow full control, thus decreasing the chances of removing too much hair. Gillette’s Fusion Proglide Styler Razor and Wahl’s Groomsman Trimmer Set are amongst the favourites this year. Furthermore, the most important thing to do when Maintaining a Straight Razor is to clean it once in a while because it tends to get dirty. Even small dirt particles can deform and damage the cutting edge of your straight razor.

Set your trimmer and go over the majority of your beard to tidy it up, as you go towards your jawline and neck, reduce the trimmer to a lower setting to enable a natural blend for a well groomed look without looking completely clean shaven. Finish by rinsing your face and using moisturiser to replenish your skin.

An accentuated jaw line teamed with stubble is the perfect amalgamation of indisputable sex appeal in my opinion, arguably because of all the positive connotations this appearance arouses from masculinity to maturity, although I can appreciate a clean shaven man as well as a fully grown beard. It is solely dependent on the individual. Whether it’s a full beard, goatee or chin strap, proudly exhibit your facial hair but make sure it’s suitable for your occupation – nobody is going to take a wizard looking businessman seriously. If you’re intent on following this latest trend, channel the look of David Beckham, Russell Brand, Shia Labeouf, Christian Keyes, Gary Barlow, Lance Gross, the gorgeous Hugh Jackman or Idris Elba. Exterminate any thoughts of idolising the beards of Brett Keisel and Kimbo Slice and you are guaranteed to be the epitome of the perfect Alpha male causing ladies to swoon and become putty in your hands.

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Originally published on White Noise

September 2018

As someone who battled with acne for over a decade before finding a peaceful resolution, skincare is one of my biggest passions. I’m very eager to meet someone who loves it just as I do. As Jin Kwon walks over with a warm smile, I notice how flawless her skin is, a vivid testimony to why Korean beauty has become so popular across the globe. Jin is the CEO of Tonic15, a company that scouts for the best Korean skincare brands and brings their products to the UK.

Korean-born Jin’s love of skincare was passed down from her mother. She gives me some contextual background on skincare in Korea, explaining that going to a dermatologist is part of everyday life in thFe Far East. Just like my own, her journey with skin cosmetics has been an on-going one. “I realise how important skincare is as I age. I’m 34 now, soon to be 35. A face isn’t just a face. It isn’t just about what brand you put on it. It’s how stressed you are, how you manage it and what you eat. Your lifestyle shows on your skin.” It’s true. Processed sugar, dairy and hormonal changes turn my skin into an angry, bulbous battlefield.

Much like myself, Jin has always had her heart set on starting a business; she tells me that she originally wanted to set up a Korean fried chicken place when immigrating to London, but her husband wasn’t so keen. Graduating with an MBA from the London Business School last year gave Jin the kick that she needed. “I felt it was my last chance to start up a business.”

She decided to take the plunge and utilise her network of beauty magazines, spa, professionals and friends in the beauty industry. Jin explains how the scouting and on boarding process works. “If I find an interesting brand, I’ll reach out to them and help to bring them into the European market. It’s quite difficult because we have to go through regulations and compliance,” she says. I’ll work with the brand on their branding and marketing in the UK using services like Scaffolding Wrap Advertising and others.

Finding a routine that works for you is a game of Russian roulette with your visage, which Jin knows all about. Her business partner in Korea works alongside a number of Korean beauty brands, meaning Jin always has plenty of samples to try out. “I’m the master guinea pig. I have panel including people with different types of skin. Everyone has different skin so you have to test it on a lot of different types.” She compares her skin to her husband’s. “He has oily skin with acne. I have dry combination skin. I can’t promo what I don’t believe in. My goal is to share high quality products that I like and that works.”

I’m interested to know Jin feels Asian beauty has become so popular in the West.

She says, “The quality of Korean products is outstanding. Korean beauty is such an interesting space and its customers are super demanding when it comes to beauty. They’re really well educated. People are always checking the ingredients of products. If a brand has really harsh ingredients like parabens, then people never buy it.”

Ever the eager beaver, I want to know more about the ingredients in skincare products from the East.  “In Asia, horse oil is very popular. It has a lot of vitamin E. I’ve seen seahorse as an ingredient. Korean products are known for ingredients like snails and those are good, but now you see a lot of plant-based ingredients. I’m more focused on that. I make sure there are no harsh ingredients in it.” Harsh chemicals are a no-no for me too. They can mess with the skin’s natural barrier, causing inflammation, breakouts, dryness and rashes. I steer clear of products with benzoyl peroxide, which make my skin dry and itchy.

Korean skincare is infamously known for its 10-step routines, which Jin doesn’t abide by. “It’s about making sure you clean, nourish and protect your skin. You don’t need to use 10 products. It’s about finding the right skincare routine that you can use within a short time and keep it simple.” That’s exactly what Tonic15 does with its 15-minute fixes. “Everyone’s busy. No matter how busy we are, we should have those 15 minutes of taking caring of ourselves.”

With autumn on the way bringing with it dry and cold air, it’s time for a skincare overhaul, but not all at once. Jin says it’s important to build a relationship with each product to see how it reacts. She gives me some more tips “You shouldn’t exfoliate seven days a week, but it’s good twice or three times a week to make sure you don’t have dead skin cells piling up.” She says, “It’s good to moisturise and mix a little bit of oil for a good hydration level. During the changing season, you need to use products that are thicker in texture.”

With enviable skin, I’m dying to know about Jin’s routine. “If I have make up on, I’ll use an oil cleanser and then I’ll use a foam cleanser and toner,” she explains. “It depends on how lazy I am, but I’ll use a sheet mask and moisturiser, or Essence and cream moisturiser. Twice a week I exfoliate. When my skin feels dull, it’s a bit of a psychological thing, I’ll use a sugar polish or mandelic acid.”

If you feel like jumping on the Korean beauty bandwagon, here’s a rundown of Jin’s favourite products.  “Black sugar polish from Klairs.When you use it, it’s such a treat. It exfoliates really well. You feel the difference. It has the oil in it as well as shea butter. After you exfoliate, it keeps your skin moisturised and balanced.” Toner? “The mandelic toner is milder than your typical AHA or BHA toners. It works for sensitive skin.” Serum? “Huxley has such good quality prickly pear seed oil. It’s not sticky but has a velvety texture.” What if you’re looking for a quick fix? “We have the Huxley sheet mask.” What’s the last step? “Mist with oil is important. Essence with lotus leaf extract by the Lotus is lovely with a lovely scent.”

Jin sends me away with my first taste of East Asian beauty. It’s a mini pamper kit including a scrub, a selection of masks, as well as a chemical exfoliator (to slough off those dead skin cells and clean out my pores). It’s too early to see the effects, as you should really commit to a product for at least 28 days (it takes roughly that amount of time for your skin to regenerate), but the difference in quality is obvious. I’ve completely fallen in love with sheet masks and I’m eagerly awaiting my next batch of Korean skincare products.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m officially a K-Beauty convert.

 

 

Originally published on White Noise

August 2018

From snipping the locks of Diane Abbott to P. Diddy’s mum, we met the celebrity hairdresser shaping an afro revolution.

Walking down a narrow corridor into Derek ‘DeCutter’ Clement’s section of Bella & Bello Hair and Beauty in Ealing, I’m met with a flurry of customers entering, leaving and waiting. Known for his dedication to black hair, the Grenada-born hairdresser’s career spans over three decades. Having worked with the likes of Billy Ocean and Patti LaBelle and in the historic Splinters salon, his CV is enviable. The DeCutter range now encompasses hair products, cosmetics, and nutrition. He’s even penned a series of erotic novels set in hairdressing salons.

Derek shared the secret of great haircut, the future of black hair, and how he impressed P. Diddy.

You’ve said that hairdressing found you after you visited a salon. What was it about that visit?

I never knew about hairdressing and the services provided by Mark James hair supplies online . I must’ve been 17 or 18, walked into Splinters International, owned by the late Winston Isaacs. While I’m sitting there waiting for my girlfriend to get her hair done, I saw all these black people. As a black child going to school, the white kids would be pushed to excellence and we weren’t. I thought to myself, “Bloody hell. When I leave school, it’s quite likely I’ll experience the same thing, so I need to work for a black company.” But no such place existed. I went to the West End, and there it was, a black salon! Owned by black people!

Splinters was nothing but brilliant. It was the Motown of hair. You were taught to speak, to dress well; the standards were extremely high. The place was massive. There could have been 50 young hairdressers working at the same time. I started shampooing hair, I moved up to become artistic director of the company and, soon after that, I owned my own shop.

How have you seen black haircare change?

Black hair’s evolved phenomenally. We used to emulate the white salons, the big names like Vidal Sassoon – the Trevor Sorbies, the Daniel Galvins of the day. Winston Isaacs himself was a Sassoon-trained hairdresser, so he brought the technique of cutting white hair into afro hair. Our approach was to ensure that afro hair was relaxed, that it moved, bounced and had direction. We expanded on the idea. So when you see a customer from my shop, you’ll see the bounce. Afro hair moves with shape and balance. Afro reincarnation, that’s the term I use! For years, it’s been straightened, it’s been Jheri curled, but 90% of our clientele prefer the natural look at the moment.

What was it like working with the likes of Billy Ocean and Patti LaBelle, as well as managing P. Diddy’s personal barber shop in New York in 2001?

Splinters was the salon to go in those days if you were a celebrity, politician or lawyer. Everyone aspired to Splinters; it was a high-end salon. I was blessed to do all the famous people. As a young stylist, it was brilliant. Sheila Ferguson, Paul Boateng, Diane Abbott, they all came to the salon and I did their hair. I was very blessed indeed.

Were you starstruck, awkward or nervous?

No, I think P. Diddy was quite impressed with me. [Derek laughs.] I’m from London! They loved it over there.

You’re also big on the teaching element of hair.

It’s about honesty. Somebody taught me the trade; it’s incumbent upon me, therefore, to teach others. My daughter’s only two and that’s all she talks about: hair, hair, hair! It’s important to ensure that we create legends of the future. Hair growth is holistic. The hair shaft is actually dead, it doesn’t have any feelings. The hair root however, is within the scalp. So the emphasis should be on healing or nourishing the hair root.

And you run hair surgeries too?

I use this wonderful thing called a hair and scalp facial: coconut oil, aloe vera, mangoes and bananas mixed together and put it on the hair. The scalp is where the hair enters into the world. It’s like your plot of land. It should be healthy, nourished and moisturised for the hair to be healthy. The scalp, to me, is absolutely fundamental.

Do you find that scalp issues are more problematic within our community, as opposed to other ethnic groups?

Not really. I think black hair needs moisture and as a result, I tend to recommend that my clients drink water. It’s crucial. It goes directly to the hair root and nourishes the scalp.

Do you deal with problems like traction alopecia?

Traction alopecia is massive; it’s almost pandemic. Weaving is fine, wigs are great, braiding is brilliant. But we have to ensure that the braids aren’t done too tight, the weave shouldn’t stay on your head as if it’s the be-all and end-all. Wear a wig, fine, but remove the wig at night. Your weave should be done in a way that won’t break off your hair. The problem is leaving a weave in for too long.

Let’s talk about your technique. What is it about cutting that you love so much?

With a good cut, the customer gets the benefit of a great shape. You’ve got three things in a good cut: shape, balance and movement. Without those three things, the hair doesn’t move, there’s no direction. There’s nothing better than seeing a woman walking on the street and her hair’s moving, but it falls back into that shape based on the cut. As a result, I’ve created my own scissor collection. They’re marvellous. I love cutting hair.

What’s been the high point of your career so far?

I opened my first shop at the tender age of 24. It was a three-storey building in Maida Vale called Derek Clement. A year later, we had another shop in Lewisham called Noir. We had another shop in the West End where we collaborated. The year after, I was nominated for afro hairdresser of the year by the Hairdressers Journal. I didn’t accept it. I was young and naïve. I thought, “Why am I afro hairdresser of the year? I’m a hairdresser! I didn’t want to be referred to as an afro hairdresser.” So I didn’t take the award.

Do you mind being called an afro hairdresser these days?

Oh, I love being called an afro hairdresser now! I love it; it’s afro hair! [Derek laughs.]

What’s been your biggest obstacle?

I love obstacles. Obstacles are nothing but stepping stones, so when I come to them, I have to keep it moving. I lost my shop in 2014. It got burnt down. I’ve had to collaborate with others since that time. The only obstacle I have now is to make sure that we get back the Derek Clement shop.

What do you think the future of black hair is?

Black hair is going places. It’s achieved respectability and integrity. It’s a great thing to see that the average black girl doesn’t feel embarrassed to wear her natural hair. I’m looking forward to the different trends, textures and styles. I’ve got this wonderful acronym called BLACKS: braids, locs, afro, curls, kink and straighten. Afro hair can do all of those things. Afro hair is phenomenal. It has no bounds, it’s brilliant. My business partner, Rudy Page, says afro hair is vibranium. It’s the one thing that brings us all together. Wherever you come from or whatever texture, it binds us together.

Originally published on White Noise

July 2018

With the best shop front designers Instagram is their shopfront and their salon is someone’s living room – their place or yours. But the inexorable rise of the social media nail artist has mostly remained an East London phenomenon. Arnelle Paterson paid a visit to one of the exceptions: Triple N Salon.

With nearly 10 years under my belt, when it comes to acrylic nails, I’m a veteran. Stiletto, coffin, oval, ballerina, square, French, plain, and huge chavtastic gems – I’ve had them all. You’ll usually find me on the high street amongst a stream of Vietnamese chit-chat, low prices and minimal interaction. Today, however, I’m ready to take it to the next level.

Mobile and home-based nail artists have been popping up all over my Instagram feed with a brilliant array of designs and colours, but until now they’ve been primarily in South and East London, and I’m not prepared to make a nearly two-hour trip.

Triple N Salon is one of the few independent nail technicians in West London that offers the kind of nail art you’ve got pinned to your Pinterest board, and I’m pretty pumped.

The woman behind it, Niki Nikolova, opens the door to her home nail business in Isleworth, which started in February this year. She describes nails as her passion, a hobby that she’s had all her life. It’s no surprise when she tells me that she grew up around hair and beauty: Niki’s mum owned a salon in Bulgaria complete with nail technicians and she used to observe them working their magic. In fact, she’s only had someone else do her nails once or twice. I think I’m in safe hands.

Bulgarian-born Niki moved to the UK nine years ago, and that’s when she started to experiment with nail art. “Back then, my English wasn’t even entry-level. It was really bad. I couldn’t understand English for a few years!” she admits. “It was time for my GCSEs and they gave me a list of subjects that I had to choose from, and I was thinking: what subjects can I pick where I don’t have to speak English?” she laughs. “And I thought: art! Oh my God, that’s it! I’m going to start drawing. My teacher was such a great lady that I fell into it.”

She went on to study computer animation and effects for films at university, but nail art was always at the back of her mind. Later, after bagging an office job in Colchester, she had a revelation: “The guy that was sitting next to me, every single second that he wasn’t working on an actual project he was researching stuff. He was into the job, and I wasn’t,” she confesses. “I was trying try to sneak a look at nails, or thinking about what I was going to do to my nails that night. I was really good at my job, but that’s not enough. You have to like it as well.”

After a year, Niki decided to get her hands off the keyboard, and into some adhesive. “I wanted to be my own boss. Being able to schedule my own time – I absolutely love it. I usually prefer to work in the evening. My brother is five years old and when he’s not at school and someone has to take care of him, we can take turns.” Judging by the beaming family photos surrounding the room, it’s obvious that family is important her. “It shows me that in the future when I have kids, it’s going to be so easy. I also love going on holiday, so this is perfect. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission, I can just book!”

I ask her about a typical workday. “On most days, I work 11 or 12 hours back to back.” My eyes widen at her response. “But it’s so fun, I love it! And sometimes those hours are travelling between clients, so it doesn’t really count.”

It’s not only Niki’s new-found freedom that she enjoys. “There was this girl that had an operation on her toe and her whole nail was gone, so she needed something because she was going on holiday,” she recalls. “It was just so sad – you want to look pretty! So I did an acrylic extension and she was so happy. It made my day.”

Want to be a nail art pro? “It’s just practice. Everyone has different nails and you have to know how to work with that. You can’t do one or two people and expect to be good.”

Niki’s technique is completely different to what I’m used to. Each small movement is carefully calculated. I’m impressed that she remembers the exact size and even hue of ombre that I wanted. It feels different too, less plastic, more nail-like. Showing me an array of samples, she realises how indecisive I am. Is it that obvious? “I’ve got three shades of pink. I think the middle ones are more like the ones you showed me,” she smiles. Phew.

Niki warns me that my nail-biting habit may affect the longevity of my acrylics, although I’ve never had that problem before. She also gives me some pre-holiday advice. “Be careful with sun lotion, same with chlorine or swimming in the ocean. Don’t bang them against anything, or open cans with them.” I leave feeling pretty inspired.

After the appointment, it quickly dawns on me how immobilising nails this long can be, from putting necklaces on to keeping them debris free (the chicken eating experience just isn’t the same). One of my nails fall off in the shower sooner than I expected, and I blame London’s hot climate. Niki advises that I get some nail glue prior to my Marrakesh trip and it does the trick. Nearly a month later, my gel polish tootsies remain intact. Long nails don’t work for my everyday routine, but you can bet you’ll find me with a full set before any special occasion.

Originally published on White Noise

May 2018

To round off our Growth theme, we decided to focus on that one thing that we all have in common.

It’s never just hair. It can signal how your day is going, the weather, your heritage and even your personality.

With 40,000 hairdressing, barbering and beauty businesses in the UK , it’s a pretty big deal. So we headed out to White City Place to find out what coiffed your cheveux.

“I don’t know who I’d be without this kind of hair actually.”
“I’ve started to recede a little bit now, I feel like I’m losing a little bit of me.”
“I feel like it’s important to have some kind of cultural symbolism especially as I work in a very white area.”

White City is a melting pot of diversity, so I expected nothing less than hair being seen as an emblem of identity celebration. What struck me about the comments was the strong sense of pride that people felt towards their barnet.