Why everything you thought you knew about washing your hair is wrong

Why everything you thought you knew about washing your hair is wrong: ‘Blow-dry Queen’ Zoe Irwin launches £55 classes to teach you how to do it!

  • The classic 1990s ‘big hair’ blow-dry is making a comeback, with tutorial videos on social media site TikTok racking up 300million views
  • Zoe Irwin, christened the ‘blow-dry queen’ by Vogue was inspired to start her new how-to-wash-your-hair classes
  • Her application tip is to massage the shampoo between your palms, over the backs of your hands and between your fingers, as if putting on hand cream

As I rub shampoo between my hands, I can’t help wondering why I’m here, at a remedial class in how to wash my own hair. After all, I’ve been managing perfectly fine for most of the past 51 years, haven’t I? 

The answer, according to hair legend Zoe Irwin, christened the ‘blow-dry queen’ by Vogue, is no. Not if I want that elusive, expensive, salon look — the style we’re all currently chasing, apparently. 

The classic 1990s ‘big hair’ blow-dry is making a comeback, with tutorial videos on social media site TikTok racking up 300million views. 

‘Expensive-looking hair starts with really clean hair,’ says Zoe. ‘It’s the key to a good blow-dry, just like a good skin cleanse is important to great make-up. 

The classic 1990s ‘big hair’ blow-dry is making a comeback, with tutorial videos on social media site TikTok racking up 300million views

‘Especially for midlife hair, keeping it clean is the ultimate smoothing, anti-ageing tweak. If your hair is glossy and moves well, you look younger.’ 

Zoe certainly knows what she’s talking about. My old boss, Net-a-Porter beauty director Newby Hands, described her as ‘invaluable to anyone who owns a hairbrush’. 

Zoe was inspired to start her new hair-washing classes when she r­ealised many of her clients at the John Frieda salon in London’s Mayfair had freshly washed, but not properly washed, hair. 

Her one-on-one class costs from £55 and lasts for an hour (it does include a blow-dry). The first thing I learn is that most of us use too much s­hampoo. Zoe suggests buying a bottle with a pump dispenser, because one pump is usually enough. 

Her application tip is to massage the shampoo between your palms, over the backs of your hands and between your fingers, as if putting on hand cream. 

‘This encourages a much better distribution of product — most of us tend to apply on the crown and forget the back of the head.’ 

It feels bizarre, but as I wipe my shampoo-covered hands over my wet hair I realise it is easier to spread the product this way. 

‘Pat shampoo on the front of the head first, then at the back just above the hairline,’ says Zoe. 

Zoe Irwin (pictured left next to Lucia Ferrari), christened the ‘blow-dry queen’ by Vogue was inspired to start her new how-to-wash-your-hair classes

‘Then do behind the ears. These areas are often forgotten and can be greasy. And finally the crown.’ 

Next, whatever you do, don’t rub in the shampoo. ‘Rubbing the hair will rough up the cuticle, making it extra frizzy, and it can encourage hair shedding,’ says Zoe. 

Instead, she shows me how to divide my hair into large sections and gently ‘glide’ the product down each one. The shampoo attracts dirt molecules a bit like a laundry detergent, so it doesn’t need to be rubbed in. You really do not need to lather it at all. 

When rinsing your hair, try to use tepid water — it’s gentler on the scalp and hair follicles.

Next up is conditioner, applied all over the mid-lengths and ends of the hair using the same patting and gliding technique as for s­hampoo. Unless you have very coarse hair, don’t apply it directly to the roots — it will make your hair look greasier and flatter. 

Zoe combs the conditioner in with a Manta hairbrush, one of the gentlest brushes available. 

She studied scalp massage in India and saw huge benefits when her own hair started thinning several years ago. It’s thought a scalp massage can stimulate follicles and help dilate blood vessels beneath the skin, which may encourage hair growth. 

‘Even a one-minute massage can make a difference,’ she insists, before showing me how to place my fingers firmly on my scalp and massage my head, not my hair, to avoid roughing up the cuticle. 

Rinsing out conditioner is also something we all get wrong. When you think you’re done, stay under the water for an extra minute. 

But the old tip of rinsing hair in cold water at the end of a wash to help with shine really does work. Some people even use bottled water to give hair a glossy boost. 

A shampoo and blow-dry class with Zoe Irwin costs from £55 at John Frieda, Aldford Street, London.

Zoe explains: ‘Bottled water is much softer than tap water, and makes the hair much shinier. We’ll often do it on models on shoots.’ 

At last, we come to drying. Rather than immediately whip out her hairdryer, she puts off blow-drying for as long as possible. 

‘You’re looking to take about 85 per cent of the water out of your hair before you begin to style it,’ says Zoe. ‘It’s only this last bit that actually sets the hair into the look you want.’ 

Start with a soft microfibre towel, then use the hairdryer loosely to remove more water before you start styling. Don’t call this p­rocess ‘rough drying’ — nothing should be rough when it comes to hair. 

Instead, Zoe lifts up large sections of hair and circles the hairdryer underneath. This helps the air to go all the way through to the crown, adding volume without causing friction. 

To add further volume, try her Parisian blow-dry trick. ‘French women really focus on the back of the crown — a bit further back than you’d think. The more the back of the crown is lifted, the more flattering it is on the jawline.’ 

Think Brigitte Bardot or Charlotte Gainsbourg. To get this look, take a triangle-shaped s­ection of hair at the bottom of the crown and wrap it around a large, round brush. 

‘Apply heat to the roots, then do a blast with the all-important “cool shot” on your dryer to set it,’ says Zoe. ‘The quicker the hair goes from hot to cold, the stronger the set will be.’ 

So if you’re buying a new hairdryer, look for one with an easy-to-use cool button.

For another clever volume trick, take inspiration from the supermodels of the 1990s (or Gisele, who shows off serious Big Hair on the cover of this month’s Vogue). 

Her application tip is to massage the shampoo between your palms, over the backs of your hands and between your fingers, as if putting on hand cream

‘You take the first section of hair from each side at the temples — about the same amount as a fringe,’ says Zoe. ‘Hold a large round brush vertically and wrap the hair around it. Then apply heat to the roots and pull the hair gently outward. Finish with a quick blast of cold air.’ 

For extra va-va-voom, you can gently backcomb this bit, too. 

It’s a lot to take in, but I must say I love how voluminous and glossy my hair looks at the end of the session. It feels like I’ve got masses more hair. 

Of course, the real test is whether the tips will make a difference to my haphazard home blow-dry. My heart sinks when it’s time to repeat the new shampoo technique by myself in the shower. 

I know there won’t be time for a head massage, but gliding the shampoo on in sections isn’t as tricky as I thought it would be. 

When it’s time to blow-dry, I find lifting up sections of hair and drying underneath in circular motions is brilliant for creating volume. 

But I have to say the French Girl Hair Trick was easier than the 1990s Supermodel Volume Tip, which leaves me with a tangle on one side until I fix it with a brush. 

Overall, however, it’s definitely one of my best-ever home blow-dries — my teenage daughter walked in and actually said: ‘Wow.’ 

And with that, I’m a blow-dry bootcamp convert. 

  • A shampoo and blow-dry class with Zoe Irwin costs from £55 at John Frieda, Aldford Street, London. 

THE 6 PRODUCTS YOU REALLY NEED

Sulphate-free products like these (£28) are good if your hair is coloured or frizzy as they are more moisturising. 

For a cheaper option, Arkive The All Day Everyday Shampoo and Conditioner, £12, is also good. 

Brilliant for fine, fragile or shedding hair (£25).

feelunique.com 

This heat protection spray for use before blow-drying is a must (£18.95). 

lookfantastic.com 

This is so fine, it can be used on all hair types without looking stiff (£22). 

cultbeauty.co.uk 

Zoe’s clever tip is to use a little of this (£27) on wet hair before your blow-dry, to make it glossy but not flat. Brilliant for anyone with frizz. 

lookfantastic.com 

The cool button is quick and efficient for the all-important ‘flash-cooling’ after heat styling (from £145). 

Or if you have thick hair and want to splash out, try the Zuvi Halo, £329, which uses light as well as hot air to cut drying time in half.

ghdhair.com 

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