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9th August 1998

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The new look

In hues that can put a rainbow in the shade, hair colouring is the latest thing to wear and then turn heads wherever you go. From bold to subtle, the choice of colour is all yours. Ayesha R. Rafiq finds out...

It's new, it's hip, it's the'in thing.' Red, black, auburn, blonde or blue, it's your choice. You can have it on for a day or a year, whatever you like. No, it's not the latest Chanel creation, it's hair tinting.

Spend five minutes on the street and the chances are you will spot at least three people with three imagedifferent types of tints, and these would have cost anything from Rs. 500 for a streak or highlight, to Rs. 2000 for a full tint.

Hair tinting has been around for quite a while, since the Eighties in fact but it's only in the mid Nineties that everyone got tired of having plain black tresses and felt like putting some colour into their life, or hair, rather. It's become so much a trend and not a luxury anymore. It's almost a 'have to have', hair necessity. How, we wonder, did changing the colour of your hair become so popular.

It seems that tinted hair looked so good on those who initiated the trend here, that suddenly everyone else wanted it. But most are still just a little bit wary about it, as they opt for a imagenon-permanent tint which will fade out in a few months, while the bolder go for permanent tints which you have to let grow out.

But it still seems to be a bit of a 'wild thing' to do. Most schools have introduced punishments for tinting hair. Teachers think that it's too much of a fashion trend for school children to get involved in. But Himali, a 16-year-old schoolgirl seemed to voice the thoughts of many of her peers, when she says, "It's just a fun, girl thing to do when you get together with your friends." She says that at a pyjama party she and her friends tinted each other's hair. "But we were all suspended from school till the tint grew out, so it looks like I'll have to wait till I'm older," she moaned.

The age group and variety of people seems to be increasing rapidly too. Whereas earlier it was the image20-30 age group, and people such as models or actresses who would go in for it, now the age group is around 13-50 and even encompasses company executives to housewives.

The older age group, it seems, opts for tinting mainly to "hide our gray hair," says Mrs. Ismail, a 'forty something' housewife. "But I can't deny that there is a little of the fashion element involved. Because I decided to go in for it because all the young ones have tints now." But instead of going in for artificial hair colours and peroxides, they prefer to use the more natural and 'hair friendly', henna, which gives the hair a subtler glow.

The 15-30 age group, with whom colouring is most popular , tint their hair mainly because it's a fashion trend or because it looks good or is 'cool'. Some, like 22-year-old Avanti Perera, admitted that they went in for a tint not knowing what would work best for them, and were not particularly pleased with the colour they had got. "I thought it would make me look more sophisticated, but it doesn't really suit my skin colour," she said. Many girls were scared it would damage their hair.

But while tinting is all the rage with the girls, the guys still seem to be wary about 'this new imageinvention', as Dinesh Weeraratne put it, and prefer to hang on to their black hair. "I might consider it if more guys were doing it, but right now it's not very popular among the guys. They might look at you in a weird way if you suddenly sport red hair". But the male hairdressers themselves seem to be trend setters in this area, both streaking and highlighting their hair.

So what kind of tint or highlight works for you, and how best to protect your hair?

Nadeesha of Salon Naresh says that the current trend started due to a great deal of Western and Eastern influence. "Nowadays, many older people want to colour their hair to hide the gray hair, but we prefer to use an artificial colour instead of henna as it is very basic and the henna dye might not suit everybody. What really suits Sri Lankan complexions are shades of burgundy and dark shades of copper, and that is what most people ask for. Since we have the freedom of mixing colour, we can generally find a colour that suits any skin colour,"

The trend really started because colouring your hair is a wonderful way to emphasise a nice haircut, she says. Especially because Sri Lankan hair is generally dark brown, a nice fashionable colour will bring out the different lines of the cut.

Most of the products in the market are now aimed at home care, but it is still advisable to go to a qualified hair dresser so as to get the colouring evenly spread etc. If some types of colouring or peroxide touch the scalp, it could result in severe dandruff or itching due to dry scalp. It is essential to do a skin test before actually colouring your hair to check is there are any adverse reactions. You should generally apply a little of the colour behind the ear or on the inside of the elbow and keep it on for 24 hours. If there is no allergic reaction, then you could have the green light to colour your hair.

Nadeesha advises that as tinting could dry the hair, one should condition the hair with every wash, and oil it with warm oil about once a week. Although some people complain that they don't have time for it, the after care is essential as the hair could even break if not taken care of properly, in addition to looking dull and dry.

She says that often people come in and ask for a colour, while not really knowing how it will look when applied or not knowing the name of the exact shade they want. "That is why it is very important for the hair dresser to have colour chart ready, and also take the time to chat to the client and find out what he or she really wants,"

While semi-permanent tints could last for about six weeks, if you wash it about twice a day it could fade off in even ten days. Even the permanent tints which have to grow out, could lose colour and become lighter with frequent exposure to sun or chlorine.

Kamal Hettiarachchi of Ramani Fernando salons say that people often come in with magazines, wanting their hair to be coloured that way, or mention a member of a popular pop group such as the Spice Girls, and ask for a tint like theirs. He says highlighting could take about three hours, while a tint takes about 45 minutes to complete.

They generally try to use peroxide with a strength of six or nine percent, but if you try to do it at home, you should use a strength of three percent, as this, if accidentally applied on to your scalp, will cause the least damage.

But now, for the less adventurous, those who have no time to take proper care of their hair, the timid who want a colour that will wash off immediately, or for the do-it-yourself maniacs, there is a new product called hair mascara. It works just like eye-mascara, the only difference being that this goes on your hair. What's better is that if you're in a rush to go for a party and don't have time to go to your hairdresser, you can just streak or highlight your hair any way you like in about 10 minutes. It also washes off with just one bath.

So, while tinting seems here to stay, the emphasis seems to be on soft and subtle, rather than bold and loud. A colour change is just a tint away, and no need to worry, if you don't like it, just wash it off. So it's good-bye to plain black locks, and hello to tints and streaks.

Suntan out; Pale skin in

The medical profession is warning everyone about the dangers of sun-tanning because of the damage the sun does to the skin. Over-exposure to the sun leads to premature aging, a rough, leathery texture, freckle-like spots of brown pigmentation (liver spots or senile freckles), pre-cancerous skin growths (solar or actinic keratoses), and, most important, skin cancer. There has been an alarming increase in the incidence of skin cancer in several countries over the last 30 years as tanning has become more fashionable.

At particular risk are those who have fair skin and freckles; blond, red, or light brown hair; blue, green, or gray eyes, and who burn easily and tan little if at all.

The ultraviolet rays of the sun are responsible for this damage. Experts initially believed that only the ultraviolet radiation responsible for sunburn (UVB) was dangerous, but now we know that the ultraviolet radiation responsible for tanning (UVA) is also potentially harmful. There is even some evidence that long-range infrared radiation (IR) may also be harmful to the skin. While UVB radiation is most intense at midday (10 am. to 2 pm. 11 am to 3 pm. UVA radiation can do damage all day long.

For the sake of your skin, you should forget about the tanned look and go for the porcelain look that was popular in the Victorian era. When you must be out in the sun, you should wear a sunscreen that will provide protection from both UVB and UVA.

Familian Fashions

A fashion show featuring sarees and eastern wear by Rasi Silks was one of the highlights of Familian Glamour, a coffee evening held last month at the Hotel Ceylon International. Pix by Dunstan Wickeremaratne

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