"Undone isn't just product range," celebrity hairstylist George Northwood tells me over the phone. "It's a philosophy in the salon. It doesn't mean 'I haven't bothered'. Instead, it's slightly imperfect and irregular, and I do think imperfection is perfection. If anything, when it comes to hair, the pandemic has cemented 'undone' as the new norm."
Northwood is right. From the tousled bob to the curly shag and messy bun, almost all of us have tried to recreate the accidentally perfect hair trend at some point this past year. Perhaps you pinpointed celebrities like Alexa Chung, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Meghan Markle as muses. It would make sense, as Northwood is almost always the brains behind their best looks (he even dreamed up Meghan's wedding hair). Now, it's a little easier to achieve those Instagram-worthy styles at home, as the hair pro has just launched his very own affordable haircare range onto the high street.
Available at Boots and georgenorthwood.com, the highly anticipated range boasts four shampoo and conditioner duos, a wave spray and a styling cream. Products are priced at an affordable £12 to £18, with heated styling tools making their way into the range in March. Unsurprisingly, the current collection is already flying off the shelves and has racked up countless glowing reviews online. What makes it different from all the other hairstylist-led brands we know and love?
"I've always wanted my own product range," Northwood tells R29, "but it had to be the right time for me to put my name to something so it was the absolute best it could be. I wanted to create something that was really good quality and used great ingredients but was at an accessible price point." Northwood was involved in every process, from the vegan formulations right down to the packaging; each product is housed in an aluminium bottle, which is recyclable on an infinite loop. "The feedback has been great," says Northwood, who counts Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as a big fan in particular. "I've had celebrity friends say it's the best shampoo they've ever used and a lot of my clients are very heavily invested in beauty!" The testing programme was rigorous, too, and included a mix of beauty journalists, friends and family of whom are hair fanatics, and staff members at Northwood's Fitzrovia salon. They compared each and every product with many others on the market to ensure stellar status.
I was lucky to receive the product range and have been putting it through its paces for a couple of weeks. I have to start with the two products that impressed me most: the Undamaged Shampoo and matching Conditioner, both £12 for 250ml. If, like me, your hair is in need of a chop, your split ends are starting to travel upwards and central heating is drying out your lengths, this range is something of a saviour. The shampoo lathers up very gently and expertly cleanses hair from root to tip without making it feel stripped but the conditioner is the star product. It made my hair incredibly soft and sleek and helped keep my winter frizz on lockdown. I love the subtle fragrance, too, which reminds me of Le Labo's Santal 33.
Next up, the Unpolluted Shampoo, £12, which is Northwood's favourite product. "This is a weekly detox shampoo," he explains. "In my experience, the biggest problem that my clients have is a build-up on their hair and so many people buy products thinking that their hair is a lot drier than it is," cue stocking up on oils and deep conditioning masks. Unlike the other shower products in the collection, this once-weekly shampoo doesn't have a matching conditioner but Northwood says that it sits alongside whichever conditioning or styling product you choose. "It also gives your hair a lot more body and vitality," he adds.
Lately I've been trying lots of new styling products, from The Inkey List's PCA Bond Repair to Elvive's Wonder Water, so my hair and scalp are in need of a deep clean. In just one wash, the Unpolluted Shampoo made my scalp feel refreshed and invigorated. My hair was so clean, it started to squeak when I rinsed away the bubbles. I did worry that my hair might feel dry or stripped as a result but a thorough weekly cleanse is a must if you use lots of products so I reached for the Unparched Conditioner, £12, to moisturise my strands post-wash. "Hair that has a natural texture to it tends to need moisture," says Northwood, "and Unparched would be great for curls or natural waves." My hair is naturally wavy and this worked a treat. It's especially good if your hair feels crunchy thanks to the cold weather and cranked up central heating.
My only issue (and it is a very small one) is the pump on each shampoo and conditioner, which dispenses a very small amount of product in one go. I'm impatient and I found myself unscrewing the lid to get the product out of the bottle faster. However, the sustainability aspect definitely outweighs this and I know that the aluminium bottle is much better than plastic in terms of recycling.
I can't rough-dry or style my hair without a little product combed through, so I followed the Unpolluted Shampoo and Unparched Conditioner with the Moisturising Cream, £15 for 250ml. It's excellent value for money but as I discovered, it's easy to go overboard. The product is quite rich so it pays to apply it gradually. "You can put a pea-sized amount through towel-dried hair and let it dry naturally," says Northwood, who champions a natural finish and suggests leaving off heated styling tools in lockdown. "It really encourages the hair's natural texture," he says. The product also works for all hair types. "If you have afro textured hair, which is thirstier, it's exactly the same process but I'd suggest using double or treble the amount," says Northwood. He recommends shingling (using your thumb and index finger to smooth each curl and twisting it around your index finger) for maximum curl definition.
My hair is thick and a little wavy, and as you can see in the 'after' picture (before any styling) it appears a lot more lustrous. The Moisturising Cream also made my hair much easier to straighten.
I rarely use tongs on my hair but I had to give Northwood's Wave Holding Spray, £15, a whirl, too. After all, undone waves are his forte. My hair is very heavy and any waves or curls tend to fall flat but this is meant to give body and hold so that styled hair keeps its shape. It's brilliant at taking the chore out of waving and gave my hair a serious volume boost. After some time, my waves did drop out, but I put this down to my hair type. If your hair is on the finer side, you'll want to give this a go for sure. The Undirty Shampoo and Conditioner, both £12 for 250ml, are also suited to lightweight hair types and have five-star reviews all round. "This is more of a daily wash," says Northwood, who would recommend the range to a client like Alexa Chung. "She likes body through her hair as it's a bit more fine."
In my honest opinion as a beauty editor, you can't go wrong with this collection. While it's a tad more expensive than your typical high street product range, you're pretty much putting your hair in the hands of the UK's most esteemed stylist. With salons closed for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to invest a little more in haircare. My advice? Stock up on the products that catch your eye before they sell out completely.
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