Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Hair Styling Tools Edition

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that all of us – women, at least, but perhaps men too – have some sort of underlying hair trauma. By that I mean that we all have some sort of issue with our hair: maybe we had the Dorothy Hamill look back in the day, maybe a bad perm, maybe an ingrained belief that we have uniquely bad hair and nothing can be done about it, maybe all of the above. Maybe that’s just me? But I don’t think so.

The home perm.

This past week I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law, who was a very nifty number back in the day, about aging, and how it can be hard to reconcile what you see in the mirror with what you think you look like, as you age. Some days it is startling, to see the marionette lines and forehead lines and other signs of aging. My mother-in-law said that when she looks at me – or anyone else she loves, for that matter – she doesn’t see how the years have changed our faces, she doesn’t see wrinkles or age, she only sees the same person she’s always known and loved. She just sees ME.

Isn’t that a beautiful testament to the power of love and friendship? If only we could all see ourselves as others do. It would be the best Instagram filter ever, to view our faces and bodies through the kind and loving eyes of a friend. What my mother-in-law said is true; when I look at my friends I see how beautiful they are, and I see none of the so-called flaws that they themselves see when they look in the mirror. We are, always, our own worst critics.

The conversation was sparked by her making an appointment to get a perm, and segued into the customary grass-is-always-greener discussion about hair. Isn’t it the truth that no one is happy with their hair? Curly girls straighten their hair, straight-haired girls curl theirs, girls with thick hair get it thinned out, girls with thin hair are volumizing like crazy. Me? I have fine, semi-wavy hair that has been processed within an inch of its life.

Angela (HI ANGELA) asked me about my own hair texture and how I style it. Well, Angela, I live but to serve.

Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Hair Styling Tools Edition

Before we get started, I would like to point out that it has been over three months since I last had my hair cut, although I have coloured it myself since then. These photos were taken yesterday, which would be halfway through my hair colour cycle, so I think it’s a good indication of a typical hair day. I have noticed that since the Pandemic started, my hair has gone from above-the-shoulders to shoulder-length, and I will say that having longer hair again is wonderful for putting up in a bun; a bun is my go-to style at least 50% of the time, for days that I don’t wash my hair, or days that I’m teaching, or if I am going to be outside gardening, or if I’m going to be outside and there is inclement weather. I am going to keep growing it out for that reason alone.

But on days I do wash my hair, this is my regime, such as it is.

The Tools:

It’s a 3/4 inch barrel Conair curling iron – not expensive. Clearly aged.
The Loma is added before blow drying, the Senscience – which has, I think, been discontinued, why do they do that – is a thermal styling spray, and the Pantene is just regular hairspray. I have had those combs for SOME time.

The Process

As you can see, pre-blow-drying, my hair is neither curly nor straight, it’s not thick but – according to my hair therapist – not thin either. I’m everywoman. After my shower I usually let it air dry for ten or fifteen minutes; I putter around the house, I make a smoothie, I contemplate my existence while listening to the boys talk about WWE.

I blow dry my hair upside down for added volume and this is what I look like. I feel pretty.

The light is terrible in this bathroom. That must be it. Anyway, I use the small comb to backcomb a little as my hair has a tendency to go limp, I spray the backcombed part with Pantene, and I admire my look.

After the backcomb extravaganza, I smooth things out, such as they are. It still looks weirdly voluminous, but just wait.

This is the Nellie Olsen stage of my hair. I use the curling iron to achieve the goal of looking like Laura’s nemesis, first spraying with Senscience. This part takes about five minutes.

I comb it out with the wide tooth comb, spray with Pantene, and leave the bad-lighting bathroom to put on lipgloss and jewelry, very important steps in the selfie process.

And that’s it! The whole process – from blow-drying to the final hairspray – takes about 15 minutes, give or take a minute or two. In contrast, putting my hair in a bun takes less than five, so my get-ready routine depends on the day.

Time to get on with my day. Have a great weekend, everyone. xo


  1. Thinking about the friends and relative filter… I often don’t like how I look in photographs, but I don’t avoid being photographed because I once read about a woman who didn’t like to be in pictures and how after she died her kids really wished they had more photos of her. So when I see photos of myself I try to see them through my kids’ eyes.

  2. This was so fun.

    And YES: when I look at my dear friends, I don’t think “Wow, they’ve added a lot more wrinkles in the last ten years,” I just see THEM. What a good way to put it.

  3. Awww, that sentiment from your mom is SO LOVELY. When I look at my husband, I just see the college kid I met twenty years ago. Man, I sure hope he sees the same thing when he looks at me.

    You are adorable, by the way. This was so fun to read. I did keep getting caught up in how to pronounce Senscience. Senn-sy-ence? (Like science?) Or… Senn-see-ence? (Like sentience?) (Is that even a word?) It’s a very confusing name, if you ask me. Although I am sorry that they discontinued it. So annoying.

  4. I loved this. And the result is perfect. But I almost think with the right products, drying technique your hair might be a bit more curly than you think. But the fact that you can achieve that in about 15 minutes? I wouldn’t mess with that formula. For me the drying and straightening and re-curling with an iron takes a LOT more time – which is why I gave it up several years ago.

    I can’t remember the last time I got a haircut but I do remember telling her that I was happy with the length. Now? Not so happy but it IS way easier to pull up.

    Your mother-in-law is spot on. I can look in the mirror and see ALL my flaws but when I look at others I don’t see their perceived flaws. The take away? We all need to be kinder to ourselves.

  5. I am late to the party, but so enjoyed this. I could talk endlessly about my various hair traumas. You hit on most of them. I had the Dorothy Hamel, but then my mom cut it after that with a straight edge razor blade and I looked like my brothers. I had that same tight perm at 14, but I got it at a local department store. What was I thinking? I actually had curly hair but no one to introduce me to product. Sigh. My latest hair trauma is actually my worst: majorly thinning hair due to the impact of celiac disease. (doesn’t seem to be getting worse because I don’t eat gluten anymore, but not sure I will be able to get new hair growth. Trying something called Nutrafol Jury still out).

    My hair has not been this long since I don’t know when. I do so enjoy putting my hair up, but my scalp shows through so much because of the thinness that I really only do that when I work out. Oh how I hate discontinued hair products. Seems like I have just found something that works and poof it is gone. My hair is so long that I have been letting it air dry sort of curly, then I brush through it and then I spritz it with my favorite hair product called Botanical Boost. The bomb. Leaves it looking full of body and somewhat holds the style.

    Thanks for sharing. You look great – love the Nelly references.

  6. Angela Kelley says

    I’m so glad you wrote this, thank you! I’ve worn my curly red hair long (mid-back) for twenty years. Thinning due to menopause combined with the desperate need for a trim has my locks looking ragged. Maybe it’s time for a shoulder-length cut? I think I am now inspired and ready!

  7. I love your Mother in law. I too don’t see my friends’ aging parts, but love them so much so, I use the LOVE filter.
    You are so right, we are never fully happy with our hair….it must be in our girly DNA.
    You do have nice hair and I love how you do it. Thanks for sharing and making me giggle in the process.

Leave a Reply