The new black

Does anyone ever actually like their hair as soon as they leave a salon? During the five years in which I shaved my head, I totally forgot (blanked out?) the ritual that comes with a trip to the hairdresser. Every woman I know, black or white, goes to the hairdresser, then rushes home to style it themselves. Having finally found a hairdresser I trust, I thought I'd be spared salon rage, but alas, no matter what Ihave done, it takes about a week for me to appreciate the new style. Maybe it's the inevitable result of staring at my own reflection for so long, but no matter how great my hair may look, no matter how dementedly I tell my stylist "I love it", I'm itching to get home and redo it.

Black women tend to go to the hairdresser's more often than white women - that's not a diss, it's fact. Black hair, and many of the styles it's worn in, takes a lot of maintenance. Braids need attention after about six weeks, cane rows every four. Some friends who have their hair relaxed go for a treatment once a week, while others have the regrowth done every four weeks. That's a hell of a lot more mirror time than the average white woman. Even so, I'd still advise anyone in need of a pick-me-up to get to the hairdresser's as soon as possible. A trim will do the trick, but winter is when colouring your hair comes into its own. "January and February are so depressing," says Catherine Milligan, senior colourist at Errol Douglas. "It's a great time to change your hair colour. People need warming up, as well as cheering up."

This season, go for natural shades. And change the tone of your hair, rather than adding blocks of colour. The idea is to have subtle shimmers of light, rather than bold streaks; it's a soft look, not a dyed one. "We're seeing a lot of rich tones," says Milligan. "For Afro hair, this means more mahoganies, rusty colours, chestnut browns, coffee or caramels, rather than an ashy look." A word of warning, however - different hair colour means you'll need a wardrobe update, so it's not a move to be taken lightly.

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