JF Lazartigue at pounds 21: hair care for the harebrained?
"J F lazartigue," Frank magazine's health and beauty editor Bronwyn Cosgrave gravely informs me, "is the sleeping giant of the beauty industry. It's been overshadowed by the boom in designer hair care and you don't hear a lot about it, but Lazartigue really is France's answer to Philip Kingsley." The company's prices are certainly giant; in fact top trichologist Kingsley's range is the only one in the country that comes with a stiffer price tag. At pounds 21 for 75ml, the Lazartigue Salmon Protein Hair Restorer is not the most expensive of the range (that honour goes to the Pre-Shampoo Cream with Shea Butter, pounds 29) but it is quite pricey enough to give one pause for thought, however bedraggled one's crowning glory. Can it really be worth it? There are limits to how ineffably soft and silky one's hair can be, after all.

I'll admit that I was expecting the answer to be no. To my irritation, however, Lazartigue got a ringing endorsement from health and beauty experts. Harpers & Queen's beauty editor Newby Hands pronounces it "excellent". "It is incredibly expensive," she admits, "but the hidden costs of beauty products aren't in the packaging or even the ingredients, but the testing. The more active ingredients there are, the more tests have to be carried out. Once the original research has been done, other companies can reproduce it at a lower price."

Jean-Francois Lazartigue opened a hair-straightening salon in 1972 and began to formulate his own products using beef-marrow. Twenty-five years on, he is a guru to flyaway hair sufferers and is patronised by film stars and royalty. "Bone marrow remains intrinsic to the hair treatments," explains George Christofi at the London salon. "The 10 per cent salmon protein in this particular treatment nourishes, binds and swells, the bladder algae remineralises and the wheat bran provides light fats rich in Vitamin E." And the oyster extract? Christofi doesn't know exactly, but thinks it has something to do with protein. (Note to J-F: include caviar in the ingredients and people really will feel they're getting their money's worth.)

But enough of technical detail. The salmon hair restorer is not a lovely object to behold. But duff packaging, argues Cosgrave, bespeaks serious content (and anyway, look at the reverse chic achieved by Kiel's no-nonsense styling). And, as you might expect, after application (30 minutes) my hair felt pretty good. But did it feel better than when I used Boots Salon System Hot Oil Treatment (pounds 1.79 for 45ml)? Not, frankly, so as you'd notice. "Boots are pretty good for basics," agrees Cosgrave. "They've got good labs and the products get the job done. But if you've got problem hair that need repairing, it's worth spending more. A little of that stuff goes a long way and the tube will probably last you a couple of years." Once again, therefore, we are forced to concede that Lazartigue is indeed worth it; but not for everyday and only if your hair needs extra help to look its best.