Where Cindy, Gillian and Geena get a cut above

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Can Michael diCesare do for you what he does for some of the sexiest heads in Hollywood? Belinda Morris reports

It's a funny thing hair - so unpredictable. One day you wake up, run your fingers through it rather nonchalantly - brusquely even - and hey presto, you're beautiful suddenly (well, you're not Andy McDowell, but you'll pass).

The next day though, it's all gone horribly wrong. A whole can of super- dooper triple stick mousse later and you still look like that teacher from Grade Three, the one with the helmet of polyester hair. What happened to those cheeky little tendrils that flicked up obediently yesterday? Why does your scalp ache and your hairline look like it's been roughed up by a pan scourer? Who sold you that rubbish mousse?

So, it was with a sense of trepidation and misgiving that I set out last week to meet US celebrity hair stylist Michael diCesare. His picture, emblazoned across press blurb and packaging for his products was scary - in an oh-my-God-he's-very-LA-and his-best-friend's-Julia-Roberts sort of way. Masses of tumbling golden locks; very direct stare into the camera; bemused half smile; tanned - that sort of thing. The best that I could hope for was that he'd take one look at me and be constructively critical. I took some comfort (begrudgingly) from the knowledge that he has a "way" with women of a certain age - hopefully he'd be kind.

We met at QVC, the cable shopping channel, where Mr diCesare was being powdered and prepared for yet another two-hour session in front of the cameras. He's actually been busy selling his personal, celebrity-tested hair care range, off and on, for the past 24 hours, but it's all been worth it because QVC viewers are buying the stuff by the bucket-load. And it's not cheap.

If you are of the opinion that a shampoo is a shampoo is a shampoo, then half an hour with the formidable, but thankfully affable Michael diCesare could change your mind. There'll be no more making do with supermarket own brand jumbo sized bottles. Never mind that the Clarifying Oat Hair Wash is pounds 15 - you'll wonder how you could manage without it, to say nothing of the Defining Ice Humectant (pounds 12.25).

Apart from the fact that he is of the opinion that most people don't know how to wash their hair properly (they ignore the hairline and nape where goo and grubbiness gather, apparently) he's got a big thing about overload. There are too many products, proclaiming to do too many different things, on the market ("I've eliminated 19 shampoos from my range"). We pile on too much gel and damage our hair, and our life is too short for complicated, time-consuming haircare routines.

"People, particularly busy, professional people, don't want to spend hours trying to make their hair look as if they've just left a salon. But they do want fast and lasting results," he says. "I describe my products as professional for civilian use. They're natural, simple to use and the result is a better hair day."

So is it all worth it? Would we be better off sticking to something cheap and cheerful from Safeway? The answer, according to Philip Kingsley, a top London trichologist, is - sort of. "A designer name makes us feel better," he says, "a name behind a product gives the perception of better performance. It's mind over matter. But, a more expensive product contains finer, purer ingredients and a fragrance which is less likely to cause scalp irritation. The performance is almost certain to be better. You get what you pay for."

DiCesare products can be found at Harrods (where there's a trained consultant ready to dispense advice) and selected House of Fraser stores around the country. Other haircare lines that follow similar principles of simplicity, and/or naturalness, and/or elements to combat modern life (also at reassuringly high prices) are Aveda (the plant-based Hair Detoxifier removes pollutants, product build-up and chlorine while the Deep Penetrating Hair Revitalizer intensively conditions damaged hair); JF Lazartigue centres will analyse scalp, roots and hair before dispensing Deep Cleansing Shampoos and Smoothing Shining Balm (0171 629 2250) and Molton Brown can improve thinning hair and flaky scalps with its Active Nourishing Shampoo.

Hair today

If you'd like to try the diCesare haircare range, send a postcard, stating your hair type (curly, wavy or fine) to Variations PR, Independent Reader Offer, 11 Jew St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1UT. The first three names out of the hat after Thursday 12 February receive a complete set and video worth over pounds 50 each.