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NEW HAIR COLOURINGS THAT JUST FADE AWAY

ASK ANYONE if they've ever dyed their hair and chances are that they'll deny it. Should the visual evidence prove otherwise, the usual excuses are applied: "It was for the school play"; "I only did it for a dare"; or "The packet said honey blonde but it came out orange". The truth is that, having had a bad hair-colouring experience (and they seem to happen at the most embarrassing times), most people would only consider changing their hair colour in a professional salon.

There's nothing better for the ego than a snazzy new hairstyle, however, and there's probably been a moment when you've thought "I'd love to go blonde" or "Wouldn't it be fun to be a redhead for the day". If you want the rewards without the commitment to months of desperately trying to grow your hair if it all goes horribly wrong, there are plenty of temporary tinting products to play with.

Popular temporary dyes include Clairol's 14 shades of Loving Care (pounds 3.59, from Boots and Superdrug branches nationwide), which takes 20 minutes to apply and lasts for around six washes, and ammonia-free Movida by Laboratoires Garnier, a range of 15 creme colourants that take 15 minutes to apply and cost pounds 5.25 each (available from all major chemists nationwide). It lasts for about six weeks. Our tester was not impressed by Movida. After following the complicated instructions, the shade was darker than expected and left her hair feeling as though each strand had been separately and noticeably coated. "It felt like I was wearing a wig," she complained.

In the Nineties, people are more willing to experiment with "alternative" products and often prefer more traditional - and more natural - colourants. One of the most popular of these is the Body Shop's Henna Hair Colours (enquiries: 01903 731 500). These cost pounds 2.60 per sachet and come in a range of four colours from Rich Red Brown to Blonde, although shops currently only supply Brown. The sachets do work (although the colours can be quite subtle) and are inexpensive, but they are very messy and time-consuming (taking up to five hours) to use, while the off-putting smell lasts for a few days afterwards.

The new hand-made Hot Hair Colours from Lush (01202 667 830 for nearest shop, 01202 668 545 ) are also based on henna and give a lovely softness and shine. They are messy, but only take about an hour to work and smell deliciously of spicy clove buds. The three colours - Al Khanna (fiery red), Capella File d'Oro (rich red-brown), and Solanna (strawberry blonde) are sold in deli-style tubs and cost pounds 5.75 each.

By far the most impressive and simple-to-use colourant, though, is by JF Lazartigue (0171-629 2250 ). The 10 colour-reflecting conditioners are hi-tech but they are gentle on your hair being ammonia- and peroxide- free. They fade out after four to six washes. Designed to work like make- up for the hair, you leave the conditioner on for up to 30 minutes to give the subtlest of shiny highlights and soft, springy hair. A tube of six applications costs pounds 9.75 and a pair of protective gloves is included.

If your attempts to go naturally blonde go horribly wrong and you end up with a straw-like barnet, splash out on John Freida's Sheer Blonde products. The shampoos, conditioners and styling products (from pounds 3.95 at Boots stores nationwide) are suitable for dyed and natural blondes, smell fresh and botanical, and really do tone down brassiness. The downside is that you need to keep using them to enjoy the effects and, at these prices, it could become an expensive habit.

Rhiannon Batten

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