Beauty Spirit: The new black

Nominated three times for hairdresser of the year (the only black hairdresser ever to be nominated) and two times winner of afro hairdresser of the year, Errol Douglas hates labels. "I don't want to be known as Errol Douglas, black hairdresser," he says adamantly. "I want to be known as Errol Douglas, who does hair, all kinds of hair."

Douglas' client list reads like the Met Bar guest-list: All Saints, Cat Deeley and Victoria Hervey, to name just a few. His salubrious Belgravia salon is all beechwood and silver - and should the likes of Lady V not wish the paparazzi to know they need their roots done, they can enter via a secret tunnel.

Whether he likes it or not, however, the thing that makes Douglas more interesting than your average celebrity hairdresser is that he is black. Or, rather, that he specialises in black hair. Douglas is up there with Nicky Clarke and Charles Worthington, but he specialises in afro hair. "Afro hair is the most fragile hair type, as it is naturally dry and lacking in moisture. The hair breaks easily, and as a result demands extra maintenance."

The most common mistake black women make with their hair, he says, is washing it too often: "Wash the hair roughly every five days - any more is too much, and strips it of essential oils." Douglas also suggests that you moisturise your hair as often as you would your skin - ie, after every wash (shea butter is a great moisturiser for natural and treated hair).

"Afro hair travels out of the head at a different angle, it curls at the root," adds Douglas. So, he says, use only products that are specifically designed for afro hair, as others will simply coat the hair, making it heavy.

"Too much is read into black women's hairstyles," he says, refusing to be drawn into a debate on the politics of black hair. "If a black woman wants her hair straight, or blonde highlights, that's not because she wants to look white; it's because she wants to look fashionable. It's just hair."

• Errol Douglas, 18 Motcomb Street, London SW1, 020-7235 0110.

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