During these fun-in-the-sun days, salt and chlorine can take their toll on hair, causing it to become unruly. But who wants to fuss with a blow dryer or electric rollers and sticky hair spray in a heat wave? When the humidity mounts, and you just can't take another bad hair day, it's time to toss that tired old baseball cap you've been hiding under, and keep a cool head by trying different hair techniques.
Start with hair accessories. The freshest way to wear them is in multiples -- even for short hair. Instead of just one headband or ponytail holder, try sliding on a few at a time in an assortment of styles and colors. The same goes for barrettes or jeweled bobby pins that make for a glamorous statement when stacked one on top of the other and worn close to the face.
The back-to-elementary-school look was seen on the designer runways in multicolored, jeweled versions. Even trusty butterfly clips have taken flight -- look for them with fabric coverings or jewels and be sure to clamp on more than one.
Decorative hair sticks add the quintessential finishing touch to the latest twists and top knots. The June Critchfield boutique in the Gallery at Harbor Place offers a wide selection of wood sticks embellished with antique beads, sculptured metals or semi-precious stones. And because two are better than one, they're sold in sets for around $30, but Ms. Critchfield lets you mix and match them, and they come with an illustrated styling booklet as well.
For a departure from the everyday braid, weave something textural through it like a few colorful leather thongs (again in clusters), shoelaces, raffia or twine. Ribbons or a pretty, lightweight, oblong scarf will also do the trick -- just be sure to leave enough at the top to wrap around the ponytail holder so it won't extend too far past the length of your hair.
If your hair isn't too short, you can still make a few little braids around your face and stack on decorative beads. A wide assortment of novelty beads can be found at specialty shops like Beadworks or Beadazzled. And, says Tabia-Kamau-Nataki, co-owner of Everyone's Place, the downtown African cultural center, "cowrie shells on leather bands, amber, malachite and seed beads are more in demand now than ever."
The hippest new unisex headgear around is called the Zandanna, which looks like a bandanna but is neater looking because it is custom-made to fit snugly onto the head with a secure tie in the back.
On a tight budget or just want to exercise a little creativity? Use your imagination and take a look around the house. Try a departure from the norm -- either improvise from your own jewelry box or borrow from the kitchen. Add some spin to ordinary ponytails by digging out last year's charmed chokers to transform into hair jewelry that wraps around a ponytail holder and is secured with a bobby pin.
"You don't have to spend a lot of money on fancy gadgets to keep your hair off your face and looking good at the same time," says Jill Turnbull of Etches Salon in Pikesville, who suggests using everyday items in your hair like "actual Chinese take-out chopsticks [unused, of course], unsharpened pencils, aluminum foil to twist at the ends of braids, even colorful pipe cleaners.
"Perfect-looking hair is out, while messier, no-nonsense styles are in," according to Denise Christenson of her namesake downtown salon. "The easiest way to achieve an uncontrived look is simply by pulling out a few dangling strands to let hang loose around the face no matter what style you have or what you have in it," she says.
ON THE COVER
Styling: Suzin Boddiford
Hair and makeup: Denise Christenson
Fashions: Clothing from Contempo Casuals. Wood hairsticks, $2.25 each at Beadworks. Bandanna, $6, at Kit's Millinery. Yin and Yang beads, $1.35 and $1.50 at Beadworks.