Beauty

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

Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

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I’ve heard the last few weeks described, quite lyrically, as ‘The Great Pause’. Now, like everyone else, I hope that this experience of lockdown is something we never have to go through again in our lifetimes. And it is certainly true that the world will never be the same. Our workplaces will be altered. (If they still exist – I mean, you know the world’s shifted on its axis when Twitter tells its entire workforce that they can ‘work from home, forever.’) Our wings will be clipped, at least for a while: very few people in my circle fancy getting on a plane with their former nonchalance. But perhaps even more momentously, with the very real fear of a deadly illness (literally) in the air, Covid-19 has, I think, brought into sharp focus thoughts of how we want to live the rest of our lives. Because that feeling of immortality and invincibility that many of us cloaked ourselves in has been taken from us. And you know what?

I think that’s a great thing. Read More…

Nobody’s Perfect

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Every cloud has a silver lining, they say – and for those of us at Beauty Bible, it is seeing how everyone’s gone au naturel, in the past few weeks. Google ‘bare-faced celebrity’ and you can marvel at an unrecognisable Drew Barrymore (we spot a grey hair at that parting, along with the manicure-free nails), an equally low-key (yet so pretty) Kate Hudson, and – our favourite – Jessica Chastain, without a single swipe of make-up and looking more beautiful (and definitely more relaxed) than we’ve ever seen her. Away from the red carpet, in the comfort of their own bedrooms or living rooms or kitchens, they’ve been free to let their hair down. (Roots ‘n’ all.)

Part of that, of course, is simply that actresses can’t rock up to their derms for Botox jabs, models are suddenly required do their own make-up/hair (and probably don’t know how), and everyone (including us) is mourning regular hairdressing appointments. But we think it goes deeper than that: an actual seismic shift which comes down to: ‘I’m happy to be alive. That’s more important than looking flawless.’ Read More…

Timewasters Inc

3d model of an hour glass icon with a nearly complete ring around it in pink on blue background

Apparently Shakespeare banged out Macbeth, King Lear and Anthony and Cleopatra during a bubonic plague lockdown. Well bully for him. Since I self-isolated, I’ve managed a few cursory paragraphs of the book I’d apparently been waiting for this opportunity not to write, a couple of short articles and made a feeble, unsatisfactory attempt at finishing Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light on Audible for God’s sake!

Is it just me or has this pandemic radically shortened our attention spans? I’d like to blame the news, but I have imposed a black-out, because it made me too angry.  I’d blame box-set bingeing if I could find anything I liked enough to devote more than about 30 minutes to. And what about the menopause and mental health?  Candidly, I had made inroads into both of those afflictions in one way or another before this whole thing began, and I’ll still have them when it ends. So I guess I’m going to have to go with the trite: unprecedented times.

In light of the aforementioned, I have developed a range of displacement and time wasting activities, so honed that they would surely qualify as an art form. And so my fellow time fritterers and challenged attention spanners, I present them to you, in the hope that they might reinforce VH’s sentiment that we are all in this together. I should add that that management and I take no responsibility for you damaging yourselves or your furniture in any way.

  1. Hair cutting. Number one on the list of top time wasters:  A hairdresser would tell you not to, but unless you are trying to cut yourself an entirely new style, or a plumb line straight fringe, I say go ahead. There’s serious satisfaction to be had from snipping away at irritating layers and split ends. Make sure your scissors are sharp. On short hair or fringes, take a piece and pull upwards above your scalp and then snip down into it, rather than straight across. Pull long hair in towards your nose, chin or chest before you snip and constantly check each side as you go, measuring against where the other side falls. Position a hand mirror if you can so that you can see the back view too.   Snip gradually. Or you could do what I did last week during my brief 10 minute yoga session, keep your scissors close and chop away at the ends as your hair falls over your head towards your feet. Very satisfying.
  2. Oiling. Not the car, you. A friend who sailed around the world endorses the use of any form of domestic oil before or after a shower to keep things in good order. Try it. It’s inexpensive – I like Olive or Almond but you can as she says use literally anything – canola anyone? Don’t forget nails and hair, both benefit from an oiling up before showering or bathing. You can of course go the whole hog with your hair and crack an egg on the top and massage in (or whisk it up beforehand for less dramatic effect). It works.
  3. Makeup kit clearance. Top displacement therapy. I don’t wear much makeup, but I have recently discovered that much of what I do possess is ancient. Surely you too have a few dried mascara brushes, hollowed out blushers and crumbling lipsticks to attend to? The key is their appearance and their smell. If your mascara pongs then chuck it out immediately, if your eyeshadows are crumbly like old Christmas cake icing then do the same. Wash your brushes, sponges and that makeup bag in warm water with a drop of washing up liquid. If you’ve got stuff you have never used then try it out (see 15 minute attention span) but be prepared to jettison.  Just because Beyonce can wear gold eye shimmer, doesn’t mean you can.
  4. Un-Kondo. I’ve read the book. I’ve sorted through and given away. And I regret it bitterly. Nostalgia is sometimes the thing that ‘gives me joy’ . This has led to my buying back items I’ve given to charity shops and lamenting the things that have already been sold by the time I’ve rushed there. If you have passionately loved something, but haven’t worn it in years , now’s the moment to  get it out again and flaunt it (who’s going to see you in those sequinned hot pants?) or pack it up and store it – under the bed, in the garden shed (damp proof box naturally) or if you are fortunate in ‘the spare’ wardrobe. Do not under any circumstances waste time by putting it into your ‘charity bag’. That’s for things that you never want to see again, either because they bring back bad memories, or they don’t fit. These are, I believe, the only reasons for you to cleanse yourself of your clothes. Now and in the future.
  5. Exercise Ambush. I used to be a manic exerciser. These days not so much, in fact these days often not at all. To keep myself somewhat fit I’ve had to develop a kind of exercise via stealth approach. This means that I spring exercise upon myself when I least expect it: star jumps whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, toe touching and sit ups whilst waiting for the washing machine to finish, I’ll often seize my weights whilst on hold via speakerphone, something I seem to do endlessly these days. My neighbour does the same thing with his daughter, suddenly breaking into a jog or sit ups with her, making a competition out of it. What I’m saying here is that if exercise has become a chore (and I know that for some people it’s still the saving grace it used to be for me) then you need to go full Cato. If you don’t know who Cato is, then watching the Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellars and Herbert Tsangtse Kwouk, will most certainly be a valuable waste of your time.
  6. Housework. Don’t do it. Kidding, sort of. When the world is falling apart do we really need to care about the dust and debris of everyday living? Far better to develop one particular time wasting mania, on the basis that doing one thing is better (marginally) than doing nothing. My own current fascination is for taps and how best to shine them. Next week it might be for wooden floors and how to clean them. This is what the internet is for people – my taps will never go grubby again. I’m adding that to my CV.
  7. Children’s TV shows. The stuff of your youth, not your youth’s youth. Think back to what you loved and look it up on what my gran calls ‘The YouTube’. This is also a valuable displacement activity, the satisfaction for which is not to be underestimated – I’ve been humming the theme tune to Flambards for weeks and Pogles’ Wood- well, I want to move there. Speaking of which…
  8. Property porn.  Both you and I know that we are not going anywhere, well certainly not for the foreseeable. But why let that stop us?  Think of the place you most fantasise about living, plug it into a property portal and pore over the delicious results. There are still lots of houses out there to fritter away time salivating over. I know this because I check daily. Sometimes twice daily…..

Love Of Letters

Reg envelope open with white card, love heart fasteners and on red background

I’ve long championed the art of the letter. I have boxes of stationery and stacks of postcards, being incapable of exiting a museum via anything except the gift shop, picking up a few on the way. I actually order stamps from Royal Mail, because that’s the only way to get the non-boring type – most recently, a large consignment of James Bond commemorative stamps. (And let’s face it, this is alas the closest I’m ever going to get to Daniel Craig.)

But unquestionably the most important hour of my day right now is first thing in the morning – not reading newspapers, not listening to the news (about which I can do nothing), not even meditating, but sitting in bed writing cards and letters. Because they seem to make all the difference to people’s days – and anything that I can do to brighten the lives of people I love or even just like a lot right now is what I want to spend my time on, in lockdown.

It began with dropping a little handwritten card to a couple of neighbours who I thought might need comfort, in enforced isolation. And then a friend who’s had some health challenges and definitely seemed in need of cheering up, from her Facebook posts. And then the floodgates opened. What harm would it do, I wondered, to write to all my nearest and dearest and actually tell them – in a card or a letter – how special they are? Answer: no harm. On the contrary, its been amazing. And, like some kind of chain letter, many of them have used it as a trigger, taken up letter-writing and are using their time to jot a note to other people.

Because as I mentioned in my ‘Small Pleasures’ editorial for Gill recently, the appearance of a postman is really quite thrilling right now. We all feel cut off. Nobody loves not being able to reach out and hug people (well, nobody but an actual sociopath) – so I’ve basically decided to put those hugs in an envelope, stick a stamp on, seal it with a kiss, and pop it through the wonderful, battered old postbox on our street.

It all feels a bit melodramatic and highly unfamiliar, sometimes, telling people the things you think but don’t usually say: ‘I just wanted to let you know how I’ve always admired X, Y or Z about you.’ ‘I love having you as my friend because – dot, dot, dot.’ Americans are so much better at this than the Brits; these are the sort of things we only generally say to people in extremis – when someone’s very ill (us or them), and we somehow find a way to overcome our British stiff upper lip-ishness, and tell it like it is. Well, this is an altogether, global in extremis situation – and the gift it has given us (because there has to be a silver lining to this cloud SOMEWHERE) is that its put everything into sharp focus. Made us appreciate what we have, while we have it. In particular, people.

Zoom calls can be fun. (I’ve got a group of cousins I check in with each Sunday, and a couple of girlfriends who I have a virtual tea party with on Saturday afternoons.) E-mails from friends are OK, but actually still feel a bit too like work. Receiving silly videos on WhatsApp certainly makes me snort my tea out of my nose, at times. But is there anything lovelier than someone’s handwriting? I sometimes come across letters and postcards my late parents wrote to me, maybe four decades ago, slipped into a book or a box – and a glimpse of their handwriting is unbelievably moving. No typeface can do that.

So I am working my way through those stacks of museum postcards that I’ve accumulated, over the years – a handful at a time, each morning. Some of my cards go through neighbours’ doors, like the eighty-something widower poet who lives down the road, with a poorly cancer patient daughter just a few hundred yards away who he can’t visit. He gets a card from me every couple of days, and his e-mails back are wonderful and smile-making (and sometimes, in French, because he’s a linguist). And there’s the old lady I know, who would formerly be seen bustling around all day long, working off large amounts of what is clearly nervous energy, and who is presumably now pacing her hallway, waiting for her confinement to be over. (I do appreciate how lucky I am to live in a community where I know my neighbours, incidentally – but hopefully those bonds are being forged now even in large cities, as we realise how interconnected we really are.)

I certainly don’t do it because I want letters and cards back – though its been completely thrilling to get some ‘replies’, as well as some unsolicited snail mail. (I shan’t throw a single one away, but have tucked them inside recipe and gardening books, and in years to come I’ll come across them and remember the extraordinary time the world changed forever – for the better, one can only hope.) I do it because life is short, and precious, and most of us are only just waking up to how short and how precious – and that it’s definitely too short not to tell people we love them and are thinking of them.

So: I really can’t do anything about the current global corona-situation. (Other than look after my own health, stay home, socially distance when I’m going out for essential supplies or daily exercise, and wash my hands endlessly.)

But I can do something that might just make someone’s day, as they open an envelope or find a postcard of a Dante Gabriel Rosetti beauty or a Hockney sketch, sitting on the doormat.

And might I invite you to do the same…?

TLC for Hands

Pink background with thumbs up hand with pink rubber glove on

Poor, poor hands. Have they ever taken such a battering? Assaulted by the alcohol in most sanitisers, washed for a total of minutes a day while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice over, under our breaths. (Personally, we really wish someone would come up with an alternative to that which is the requisite 20 seconds long, or forever more when we wish someone Many Happy Returns as we head in their direction carrying a large cake, we’re going to be thinking of the corona-nightmare.)

Handcare might seem pretty low down the list of priorities right now, when we’re fretting about so many other ‘bigger’ issues. But with hands at risk of becoming so dry that they get papery and even cracked, that’s really not good news, either. Cracked skin can become infected skin – red, sore (and as we all know from a mere paper cut) the number of nerve endings in our wonderfully dextrous, gloriously sensitive hands means that the pain of any cut or hand injury seems way out of proportion to its size. (And besides, aesthetically, does anyone really want hands that feel like sandpaper…?) Read More…