You might not know colourist Christophe Robin (yet) but you certainly know his handiwork.
Christophe has been perfecting French screen and style legend Catherine Deneuve’s honeyed hue for two decades, in which time he has also coloured the hair of the super-est of super models (think Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson). Another beautiful blonde, Kylie Minogue, is also a devoted fan.
While not all of us are lucky enough to have a standing appointment at Christophe’s bijou Parisian salon (at the exquisite Le Meurice hotel, no less), it’s easy enough to enjoy some of his star treatment – thanks to his work with L’Oréal (he’s their Expert Colourist, in charge of creating and continually updating their at-home colours) and his eponymous line of haircare products.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Christophe recently. Here are my highlights (ha!) …
Hair Philosophy: “You have to have a beautiful texture to your hair to have a good colour … just as you can’t have the best foundation if your skin is not in good shape.”
How it all Began: “I grew up on a farm, I’m a real farmer boy! I’ve been colouring hair since I was 14 years old … I was working as a colourist for Jean Louis David at the age of 17 … one day, a stylist was on a shoot with Stephanie Seymour and called me – Stephanie’s hair wasn’t shiny enough so I went in to help … She loved what I did and told Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista about me … this was the time of the top models and bold, intense hair looks. They showed women that hair colour could be fun, something you could play with.”
Product Development: “At first my haircare products were for my own usage. At the time there were no products I liked for coloured hair. There were also too many silicone formulations. Silicone coats hair – it’s good for detangling and making hair shiny but it doesn’t feed hair … My Lavender Oil ($53, Que Colour) and Cleansing Mask with Lemon ($56, Que Colour) were my first products and are still the best-sellers. The Cleansing Mask was one of the first non-lathering shampoos … shampoo shouldn’t lather, forget what marketing people tell you … Would you wash your silk shirt with detergent?”
Going Balmy: “One of my new products is the Intense Regenerating Balm with Rare Prickly Pear Oil ($71). This ingredient is ten times stronger in antioxidants than argan oil … antioxidants are very good for hair because the sun oxidises hair colour … I added shea and cocoa butter – and a little beeswax – as I believe butters mixed with oils are the new oils … the problem with most oils out there are that they’re mineral, made from petroleum … they’re fine for stopping frizz but they’re not a real treatment … A real vegetable oil, however, will restore elasticity of hair … This balm is a treatment but it can also be used to style and groom hair, and even nourish skin.”
Scrub your Scalp … Seriously! “Another new product is the Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt ($59). I garden a lot, so I know how important the roots are! Women who colour their hair for many years can suffer from itchiness … this treatment removes chemical residues and so helps with that … It also detoxes an oily scalp, and stops dandruff.”
More Top Tips: “My ultimate tip is to rinse like crazy. If product stays on your scalp it won’t breathe and you’ll soon have to wash again. Of course, use shampoo for coloured or highlighted hair – if you use the right haircare you should only need to wash every four or five days. I like masks instead of conditioners – just make sure you know where to apply it, whether it should be all over or ends only. Always be gentle – never rub hair! And don’t use a comb in the shower, as this is very stressing to hair… it’s best to detangle hair by applying a good vegetable oil on dry hair before you wash it. And avoid too much heat-styling … instead, rough-dry hair or else use tools on a lower setting, even if this takes a little longer.”
French Women Don’t … Have Bad Hair: “What I love about French women is that they invest in looking good … they spend time doing their hair masks … they go to a nail salon for an hour and a half but that manicure lasts a week or more … In many countries women play around too much with their look … their nail colour and hair colour too … But French women tend to not make major changes … but even though they look carefree, they put a lot of effort in!”
Au Naturel Highlights: “I’ve been hand-painting highlights from the very beginning – I haven’t used foils in 25 years! Balayage has been popular for a long time in France because it looks more real … and it’s popular everywhere now because women are wanting to go more low-maintenance … you only need to do this style of highlights every four months … I called up L’Oréal a while ago and said, you have to start doing this! Sales [of the Préférence Wild Ombré Colour Collection] have gone crazy all over the world.”
How to Get Kylie’s Colour: “I love Kylie Minogue’s caramel blonde. It catches the light and is great for her skin and features. We do a base colour on her, which she often does herself with a product I made with L’Oréal – Préférence 9 – which is the perfect base as it never goes too blonde and it’s not too brassy because there’s a teeny bit of beige in it. Then she comes to us for highlights three times a year.”
The Catherine Deneuve-Approved Secret to Ageing Beautifully: “When some women age they get dark circles. Also, of course, you get wrinkles and dark spots. If you have a very blonde frame of hair, it can make all of these dark areas look more obvious … so it’s actually better to have a darker blonde base, and then you go in and add highlights around to create dimension. That’s what we do for Catherine Deneuve, who is 70 and is such a beautiful woman.”
Final Words of Wisdom: “I don’t actually have a favourite hair colour. I love it when people say to my clients, you look good, not you have a good hair colour. I only care about what makes my client look good. When you do this job you have to love women.”
Have you tried any of Christophe Robin’s tips for beautiful hair? Let us know in the comments below!