Trouser Up To Prevent Lyme Disease

tick remover card by lifesystems

Down here in Dorset, we’re surrounded by footpaths by fields where sheep, cattle and horses graze and deer roam, foxes and badgers are rife – even the odd hedgehog, and mice and voles scuttling around in the grass and undergrowth. Yes, it’s rural bliss. It’s also prime hunting ground for ticks, the tiny critters that piggyback on all these beasts.

The problem is that the ticks feed on the blood of their hosts (little vampires!) and about 10% of them ingest the infectious bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme disease, which is virtually always transmitted to people by the bite of an infected tick.

Like many people living in the country, I used to blithely pull off ticks from my horses with bare fingers, squishing them under my nails. Then, some 15 years ago, I started to hear stories about neighbours being diagnosed with Lyme disease and suffering long-term debilitating symptoms. These can be serious enough for sufferers to give up working and may include neurological problems. Read More…

Miscarriage & Acupuncture


I have only seen my husband cry once. Not when his father passed away after an eighteen year struggle with Multiple Sclerosis but in the airless SANDS unit at St. Thomas’s where he howled like a baby as he held the body of our six month old fetus.

Swaddled in our two year old daughter’s blanket, our baby boy had died after a sudden placental abruption at twenty-four weeks. We buried him as Millar McDonald, several weeks later in the smallest white wooden coffin imaginable on the saddest day ever. Burying your child is not the order of life.

His little heartbeat had flickered on the monitor for hours after I’d gone to hospital with a heavy bleed. And then nothing. How naïve had I been to assume it would be an overnight stay at most.

Nine years later, I still recall the beeping of a jammed buzzer, drifting in and out of consciousness, being covered in foil blankets, haemorrhaging badly, blood transfusions and being whipped into the operating theatre to give birth to a baby who had already died inside of me. Read More…

Weekend Read

Green torn paper background with no. 10 text

It is the day of all days.  So hello 4th July and it’s Super Saturday, American Independence Day and Shabir’s birthday.  In no particular order.  And after last week’s missive where Shabir questioned my sanity regarding loading the Weekend Read with gifts and treats, I am about to do the biggest give-away in the history of VH as we launch a new brand.  Touché sweetheart, this one’s for you.  Timed to perfection.  By me.  Happy birthday.  To you.

Let’s go straight in.  It’s a haircare brand.  It’s called ‘It’s A Ten’.  They have products for every hair type and I will introduce each product range gradually over the next few months.  Known as THE ‘go-to’ haircare brand in North America, the name reflects the fact that each product combines ten benefits into an all-in-one gold standard formulation.  And gold-standard they are.  I will walk you through as we initially launch with ten products. But the first thing I want to tell you is that It’s A Ten’s meteoric rise to fame in the US was all achieved by sharing.  And we are about to do the same here.  Heaven help me.  I feel a drama coming on.  Strong.

We launch with five of the iconic Miracle Leave-In products.  I use the word ‘iconic’ because in the US the Miracle Leave-In range sells over 13 million bottles a year.  Yep, 13 million.  So what’s the big deal secret, well each Miracle Leave-In spray, by design, helps smooth hair, eliminates frizz, restores shine and also enhances the natural body in hair, dependent upon which formulation you choose.  And oh my, if we are going to shake up the haircare world, we might as well do it with this remarkable range which is like no other leave-in conditioning product in existence (thankfully).  Trust me.  And Jo Fairley.  And several million American people. Read More…

Let Me Count The Ways I Love Costco

Supermarket with the stock organised

I was out running the other day, as you do in lockdown. To make your head, and maybe even some body parts, feel marginally better. I happened to be listening to a Goop podcast which I hadn’t done for a while – they can be interesting but often totally woo-woo too.

One minute Goop’s chief content officer Elise Loehnen is talking about ending the war of self, whatever that means, and the next she and her guest segue into eulogising about Costco. Yes Costco, the world’s second biggest retailer after Walmart, with 95 million members and 731 branches – 28 in the UK.

Loehnen said something like, “I keep asking my husband – ‘When can I go back to Costco?’ ” and the other woman replies: “OMG, nothing brings me greater joy than a four pack of plastic-wrapped cereal”. Instantly I liked them more.

Read More…

It’s A 10

sparkle background with it's a 10 product display

I must have tried a gazillion hair masks in my day. You can virtually hear my bleached-to-high-heaven hair slurping them up from the next county. But just sometimes, I try a product that makes me do a double-take – and It’s A 10 Miracle Mask was one of them. From distressed to silk-tressed, in a few minutes: that’s the best way I can put it. Converted, delighted and surprised, I then figured I’d try something else in the range – the spritz-on conditioner that’s had the beauty world buzzing.

Now, no leave-in conditioner on the planet has ever managed to smooth and soften my monstrously hungry hair to my satisfaction – till It’s A 10 Leave-In Conditioner, which turned my feelings about leave-in conditioners upside-down. And I’m really not kidding here. (Which is of course, duh, why it’s America’s bestselling leave-in product, with 13 million sold every year.)

Who ARE these guys?, I started to ask. And then Gill – brand-sleuthing Indiana Jones of the beauty world that she is – told me It’s A 10 would be landing on Victoria Health, and would I like to interview the founder & CEO, Carolyn Aronson…? You betcha, I replied. So: one seriously fun Zoom call later (not something you can often say, actually), here’s the gen on this just-landed-at-VH haircare name and its dynamic founder.

What made you think the world needed ANOTHER haircare line?

My whole career was spent as a hairdresser, behind the chair for 20 years with my own salon. I started in beauty school at the age of 16, having been torn between being a nurse and a hairdresser; hairdressing won and I’ve lived and breathed hair for over 30 years. This isn’t my first venture – my first company completely failed and I lost everything, so I started It’s A 10 from nothing. It was born out of the fact that when I had my salon, I used to cherry-pick the best products from different lines; I could never understand why there wasn’t one range that did everything I needed it to. Well, now there is!

Why the name?

It comes from the idea that every single It’s A 10 product offers 10 different, easy-to-understand hair benefits. I wanted to create hair products that worked across many different hairtypes, rather than a complicated range with too many different collections that just bamboozled the customer. Working as a hairdresser with every type of hair on the planet from the finest baby blonde to black coils has given me an insight into how to create a hybrid hair product that would work across multiple hairtypes, something that was easy for the customer to grasp. Even hairdressers get confused by the ranges out there! I would layer products to get the results I wanted; my products do it all, in one. At the beginning, we had no budget for advertising or promotion, so we just got it into hairdressers’ hands – and it became a huge word-of-mouth hit, in salons and beyond.

What’s your fundamental philosophy for the range?

It all begins with healthy hair. We help you bring hair to its natural, healthy state, nourishing the scalp, protecting with antioxidants, protecting the hair shaft… When you do that, natural body is restored, hair will behave better – and I’ve had countless women tell me their hair grows better and faster, including many black customers who we’ve reunited with their roots because It’s A 10 has enabled them to return to their beautiful, natural hair state. Most haircare just delivers cosmetic benefits, but the idea behind It’s A 10 is that it really feeds the hair. So depending on the particular product, we pack it with ingredients like sunflower seeds, panthenol, silk amino acids, green tea leaf extract, sweet almond oil, linseed extract, marshmallow extract, oat kernel extract… It’s not an organic line but I am very particular about the ingredients within products, and we source these botanical wonder ingredients literally from all over the world.

How involved are you in the creation of the products?

I am very appreciative of the experts, I partake in their knowledge, but to me it’s like building a house: you want your dream house, and nobody understands what you want like you do. All my years behind the chair made It’s A 10 what it is. I am totally hands-on; I develop each and every product, pick every fragrance, every Pantone colour for the bottles – and incidentally, it’s no coincidence that the bottles are colour-coded, because I wanted to stand out from the other products out there.

You live in Florida now, but where did it all begin for Carolyn?

I grew up in Michigan, with lots of snow – and let me tell you, I prefer the Florida sunshine. But Michigan was a very diversified area, which meant I was working with many, many different types of hair. There are many, many different types of hair even within my own family, my own kids; I am Puerto Rican so I have brothers with Afros, and my blended family of kids have different hairtypes; my biological daughter is half-Nigerian and half-Puerto Rican, so they’re great for trialling products on a range of hairtypes, outside our own team.

Why IS our hair so bound up with our confidence?

It’s part of our identity. When we feel pulled-together and groomed, we just beam. It’s totally an expression of who we are. I got into hairdressing, to make people feel and look beautiful. And it just doesn’t matter who you are. I have several brothers, and during lockdown one of them drove across the border to Ohio, an hour south of Michigan, to get a haircut, because he didn’t want to have an Afro again. So this isn’t just something that impacts on women!

You’re a female founder and a mother of four, though. How do you keep healthy, so that you’re not running on empty while running your business?

It’s so crucial to stay at the top of your game when you have your own company, because so many people rely on you. Diet is very important to me. I’m not perfect, but I try to eat lots of protein and lots of veg, and stay away from sugar. If I drink, it’s limited amounts otherwise I really suffer the next day. I go through workout phases; sometimes I get busy and can’t work out but when I do, I like to build muscle. I watch my weight, but it’s more important to keep my body strong. My grooming routine is also a huge part of my mental wellbeing. So I get up every morning, wash my hair, do it properly, put oils on my skin, use body scrubs, style my hair and do my make-up. I am not very good at relaxing but I can relax in a bathtub in an oil bath, and breathe. I’m out of whack if I don’t do this stuff. My other solace is to float on the ocean in a boat. I love the outdoors, and I love the ocean.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I like to make people not only feel and look better, but feel empowered. Because it may be a cliché but when you have a Good Hair Day, it’s a good day, full-stop. And if it’s a Bad Hair Day, it puts a little cloud over you…

It’s A 10

Weekend Read

Yellow background with cross bandages

Hello. So Shabir said to me a few days ago that I was going to burn myself out.  I thought that might be interesting for each of you to watch, not least my children, as I began to muse about turning into a firework (a Roman Candle perhaps).  And the reason.  Basically because I overload these missives with gifts and treats, and he said I couldn’t possibly keep it up on an ongoing basis.  Loving a challenge, as I do, I have every intention of keeping it up as long as I can, so let’s do it.  Again.

I am so excited.  Actually beyond excited if that’s possible.  And the reason is because I am just about to launch another new product from Ross J. Barr.  As most you will have read, we launched his Fertility and Pregnancy formulations a couple of weeks ago.  At that time, I told you there was something else coming.  And they have arrived.  And they are a dream.  And there is a story.  Of course.

I’m not going to dwell, but about a year ago my back went into spasm and I couldn’t walk.  At one point I was flat-out on the floor writhing in agony and if you suffer with back pain, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.  At the first opportunity I got myself an emergency appointment with Ross where somehow or other I crawled onto his bed and he worked his magic with his acupuncture needles.  At the end of the session he slapped two patches on my back, one each side and the relief was almost immediate.  He told me that they would give pain relief for up to six hours.  Which they did, but I wanted more.  Except he only had one left, so I stole it. Read More…