More than a decade ago, when life as we knew it seemed sweeter and simpler, a forgotten study suggested that personal debt was becoming so endemic that the definition of “a life-changing sum of money” had changed. At the time, it was thought that the sum required to permanently alter a person’s life – presumably for the better – was £100,000. The Guardian columnist Tim Dowling argued that any bonus sum of money has the potential to create the opportunities that change a life. The example that I have never forgotten was a delicious one. Dowling said, “depending on your age”, if you acquired £1,000, you’d have enough to upgrade your current brand of butter to the most expensive butter available for the rest of your life. Any kitchen becomes fit for a king if you simply upgrade what goes on your toast.
With that in mind, can I change my life by changing my hairspray? What will happen when I switch my current brand (Elnett, currently £6.69 for 400ml, lasting a good 10 months, unless it’s Christmas, when I average a can a week) to Ultimate Hairspray? Will I catch the eye of a sexy duke? Will I be offered a role in Made In Chelsea, as a background muncher of quail eggs? Will Prince Philip leave Queen Elizabeth for me? Is that question treasonous? Lovely Sisley have sent me a bottle of Le Spray Volume. When I google it to check the price, the first result that comes up is a link to buy it from Harrods. Harrods! This is not for people like me, who usually buy their hairspray from a branch of a well-known high-street pharmacy, opposite a Subway franchise. Le Spray Volume promises to “lend lifeless tresses lustrous texture” – a line alluring enough to give a girl a dizzying, Byronic contact high – and it costs £66. Arguably, that’s enough for an economic cook to feed a family of four every night for a week.
I go for a very windy walk along the beach, and bump into my pal Susie, who notices my hair unprompted
The bottle instructs me to spray it on my damp hair, in sections, “before blow-drying and styling”, as well as using it on dry hair for touch-ups, rather than doing what I usually do with hairspray, which is getting as bouffed as possible before spraying frantically in order to create an impenetrable thatched sarcophagus. I follow the instructions and fire up my Babyliss Big Hair. I adore the scent of Le Spray. I think it’s a very sophisticated riff on Elnett – the fragrance equivalent of going to a Heston Blumenthal restaurant and eating a deconstructed Findus Crispy Pancake filled with beluga caviar, floating up through a mist of dry ice. It’s very, very sweet, and I detect a little white petal creaminess, but it’s relatively fresh and French. It’s mostly gorgeous Gallic girl in a field of poppies, racking up her 50,000th Instagram like, with just a couple of drops of Dame Edna. But in my hair it feels just slightly sticky. Far less so than a traditional hairspray, but a little more than I’m comfortable with. The Big Hair seems to struggle with it slightly.
I’m due on Victoria Live to talk about this story, so I twist my hair into a bun for my Margate-to-London dash, shaking it out when I get to the studio. When I go into make-up, the stylist admires it and tells me she doesn’t need to touch it. This is not what usually happens. Typically, I sit down and the stylist says: “You have such a lot of hair,” with a slight tremor in her voice, before two colleagues are beckoned over and a Black & Decker kit is found. Later, under the studio lights, I’m sweaty with nerves. I emerge looking as though I’ve just done a Bikram yoga class, but the hair remains intact. Back home, I go for a very windy walk along the beach, and bump into my pal Susie, who notices my hair unprompted. “You look nice! I saw you from a distance, and thought ‘Who’s that girl? She’s looking very done up for a Wednesday afternoon.’”
Le Spray Volume is extremely effective. It’s part of Sisley’s Hair Rituel line, which is filled with products that stimulate the scalp and nourish hair fibre. For your money, you’re not just getting instant great hair in a bottle, but a long-term investment in your follicular health. A little goes a very long way – maybe not quite as far as 10 bottles of Elnett, but you wouldn’t need to regularly replenish your supply. Also, I suspect that I’d love it even more if I had finer hair and was looking for a significant volume boost. (I cannot stress this enough, my hair is about as fine and delicate as Brian Blessed’s laugh.)
However, no matter how good it is, I’m not quite sure that I could ever justify paying £66 for it – and I suspect I’m in the tiny target market of people who might. The average UK annual beauty spend is estimated at £482.51, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how much I think mine is, but sometimes I have to tell myself that it’s a legitimate hobby and no one would judge me if I was spending that much cash on, say, golf. However, I do think that if you suddenly won £100 on a scratch card, or acquired some unexpected John Lewis vouchers, or were given a cash reward for reuniting a wealthy neighbour with their lost cat, it might be worth the splurge. You can change your life in a tiny but thrilling way. You will still be you, but you’ll have the hair of a millionaire.