Health & Grooming | The Reconnoisseur

How a dried-out bird’s nest of hair was transformed

A wiry-haired girl reveals her route to hair-care Nirvana

How a dried-out bird’s nest of hair was transformed

July 09 2010
Catherine Moye

It is a slightly embarrassingly indictment of my own sex, that the closest some of us have got to a Nirvana moment by the age of 40 is in finding the right hair product. But if you’re a wiry-haired, fuzzed-up, curly girl as I am, then that Nirvana moment can be especially beatific.

The hair-product fates have teased me in the past. After I had spent years trying to improve on the dried-out bird’s nest that I awoke to each morning, my friend Marianne came back from France with a little tube of something called Phyto 9. At that time – around 1990 – it was available only in France. As modestly packaged as it was idiotic sounding, Phyto 9 worked wonders. A daily moisturiser for the hair, Phyto Number 9 sinks into the shaft of the hair, making it softer and more pliable, much like a facial moisturiser does for the skin.

The French hair stylist Patrick Ales founded and first registered the Phytotherathrie trademark back in 1967, and Phyto Number 9 is only one of a much bigger range, although it’s the only one I use.

Alas, as his Phyto botanical mixtures and concoctions were not available in London, I was forced to stock up – and big time – whenever I went to France. Some went to Paris for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower; I went to track down the pharmacy that sold the cheapest Phyto 9. When it was finally introduced to the UK, stocked in Selfridges and John Lewis, it was nevertheless exorbitantly expensive, so I still went to France for mine as it could by then be picked up in hypermarkets close to the Channel Tunnel. Good French cheese and wine? Why fuss with that when you can fill the boot of your car with heaps of Phyto 9?

Then last month, two decades down the line, I nearly fell to the floor when I saw that it was being stocked in, of all places, Boots on the Kilburn High Road in north-west London. At £13 a pop, it’s probably among the most expensive hairdressing products that Boots has ever had on its shelves, but at least I’ll finally have time to visit the Louvre next time I’m in the French capital.

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