THE HOLDING SET : TRIED & TESTED

Lank locks are out and creative coiffures are coming back. Our panel pr obes hair products that promise glamour
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The Independent Culture
GLAMOUR, according to that expert source, Hair magazine, is the key-note for this year's hairstyles for women. Big hair is back, while the flat, lanky locks of grunge have been discarded into fashion's waste bin like so much crumpled tissue paper.

If you're planning to follow this trend towards more elaborate styles, re-viewing your collection of hair styling products could be a wise move. Mousses add volume to your hair and help control it; gels give body and hold it in place, while hairspray ho lds the hair together. Some products, such as gels and creams, can also give your hair gloss and shine.

We've taken a look at some examples of the innumerable products you will find in the shops. They range from a traditional hairspray to new all-in-one products which, following the trend set by the two-in-one shampoo and conditioner (now out of favour with the experts), combine the qualities of individual styling pro-ducts such as gels and sprays. Hair-dressing students at the College of North-East London tried the products out for us.

THE PANEL Maria Gambin, Sharon Bailey, Tau Nguyen and Yolanda Clarke, all students on a one-year course in hairdressing at the College of North-East London, Tottenham.

THE TEST The panel tried out the products on models. They gave them marks for how easy they were to use, how effective they were in styling the hair, how well the products dried on the hair and whether they washed out easily, their perfume, packaging andvalue for money.

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**L'OREAL STUDIO LINE STYLING CREAM £2.89 for 150ml

The panel thought that this product, which only achieved average ratings, was best used to create a textured rather than a smooth and silky look. "Not suitable for blow-drying, better for a stiffer look. Use only a minimum for the best effect - too much leaves the hair looking lank," said Tau Nguyen. "OK to use on short to medium hair, suitable for scrunch-drying, but a little sticky for blow-drying. Gives maximum volume to fine hair," said Maria Gambin. "Sweet-smelling," commented Sharon Bailey

.**BODY SHOP SLICK STYLING CREAM £l.85 for 100ml

This is ideal for the slicked-back, wet look style that never seems completely to have had its day. The panel voted it fairly easy to use and very good value for money. "It's similar to Brylcreem. You need only a small amount to create a sharp fashionable style, so it's a cost-effective product," said Yolanda Clarke. "Not good for a firm hold, but has a good light or medium holding-power," said Sharon Bailey. "A pump-action dispenser would be good for this product," commented Tau Nguyen. From its packaging, the product is probably aimed at men, too. If there are any guys out there who aspire to look like the luscious lead from Strictly Ballroom, this one's for you.

***ALBERTO V05 FLEXIHOLD 3 IN 1 MOUSSE, GEL AND STYLING SPRAY (NATURAL HOLD)

£2.69 for 200ml

This is the Swiss Army knife of hair- styling products - handy, the manufacturers say, for slipping into your handbag so that you don't have to carry three separate products around with you all the time. Flexihold is supposed to work equally well as a mousse to lift hair and give it body, as a gel to define it, and as a fixing spray. The panel rated its convenience highly: "It saves time and space", commented Sharon Bailey. However, the panellists gave mixed reports on its performance, warning that it tends to become sticky and difficult to brush out if applied with too heavy a hand. "When I used it as a mousse it made the hair too sticky, but when it was used as a gel on fine hair it stayed in wonderfully," said Yolanda Clarke.

***VIDAL SASSOON VOLUMISING MOUSSE FOR FIRM CONTROL £l.95 for 150ml

This was one of the most popular products, the panel finding it very easy to use and effective at styling hair. The panel particularly liked its perfume. "This mousse adds volume, bounce and lift to all hair types," said Yolanda Clarke. Maria Gambin found it a little soft, so she had to use extra for the hair to hold its style: "It's not suitable if you want a really firm hold, but it doesn't flake and it brushed out well," she said.

**WELLA SHOCK WAVES SOFT WAX £1.85 for 50ml

The students thought that this block of pink, pleasantly scented, wax would be most useful as a finishing product. "Good on curly or permed hair, or on texturised cuts," said Tau Nguyen. "Nice smell and good value for money. You must not use too much, orit will make the hair greasy," said Maria Gambin - a warning echoed by the others.

***BOOTS HAIRSPRAY 89p for 100ml

A basic, "no-frills" product that looks as if it has changed little since hairspray was invented in the Fifties. Nonetheless, the panel liked it: "It gives a strong hold and is very good value for money. It also brushes out easily, although it's a littlesticky," said Maria Gambin. According to Tau Nguyen: "The cap doesn't re-lease very easily, but the spray itself is good, lifting the roots of the hair well." (This gives body).

**DANIEL FIELD CACTUS STYLING GEL £2.85 for 240g

The panel thought this pale-green gel, which follows the well-worn trend for "natural" ingredients by including cactus syrup and myrrh in its formula, would be good for styles that need a firm hold, or for moulding and sculpting hair. "It's good for European hair that is flyaway and needs to be managed, and on coarse hair to reduce frizz," said Yolanda Clarke. But the panel did have a couple of criticisms: "It's too watery", said Tai Nguyen, while Sharon Bailey thought it became sticky very quickly

****SORBIE LIFT-IT BODIFIER MEDIUM HOLD SPRAY GEL £4.29 for 300ml

The panel's top-rated product, the pump sprays out a slightly viscous fluid, more liquid than an ordinary gel. "It gives a good `lift' to the hair," said Tau Nguyen. "A very nice product, expensive but looks as if it will last for many applications," said Maria Gambin. "It was very good for giving fine hair body, although you can use it on any hair type. The spray had a pleasant smell and wasn't sticky," commented Yolanda Clarke.

STOCKISTS: Daniel Field cactus styling gel is available from Daniel Field salons (phone 071-439 8223 for local salons) or from Boots. Body Shop and Boots products are available from branches of the respective chains. The other products are available fromBoots and other chemists, and from some supermarkets.

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