When people refer to veganism as simply a diet I tend to roll my eyes. Being vegan is a lifestyle. We don't just stop at what we eat, but veganism informs our daily choices and the way we consume fashion, travel, and of course beauty.
It can be tricky enough to find a shampoo or a mascara that's cruelty free, to navigate the endless list of ingredients used in beauty and makeup products, but in a shop, armed with a smartphone, it certainly can be done.
What I've always found much tricker is going to the hairdressers. Most of the time I don't even know what brand they are using to colour or wash my hair, and unfortunately hair products often aren't cruelty-free and use animal derivatives such as beeswax, honey and cochineal. I used to be a little shy about asking my hairdresser what products he was using on my hair, but now thankfully, I've gotten over that. After all, if I take all these precautions not to use any animal products, why should a trip to the salon be any different? Furthermore, the more we ask for vegan hair products, the more we create a demand.
So imagine my delight when I was invited to try Organic Colour Systems, an organic, cruelty-free and predominantly vegan brand, at Karine Jackson in London's Covent Garden.
I had had my hair done at Karine's before and I'd always been very happy with the results. Impossible not to really, this formidable lady is none other than the president of the Fellowship for British Hairdressing (and only the second woman in the history of the organisation to hold this title) and a few years ago even won the accolade of London Hairdresser of the Year. I knew I was in good hands.
Unlike most hair colours, with Organic Colour Systems your hair is washed before the dye is applied. This is to open up the follicles (remember that unlike other hair colours this one contains less harsh chemicals, so it needs a little helping hand from nature). Once applied, the colour develops with the help of a cap - which made me look a bit like a Cossack - that utilises the head's natural heat to help the colour develop faster. Colour developped, it's time to rinse it off, condition and blowdry.
As alas I have quite a few greys (found my first one at 13 - thanks genes), I'm always a little apprehensive when I use a new dye as I worry it may not cover all the white. But there was no reason to fret, because the product covered it all and the result was a rich shade with lots of gloss and shine.
Karine has used Organic Colour Systems in her salon for a number of years. At the beginning it wasn't vegans who'd ask for the brand, but rather clients who had had cancer and wanted a safer product with less chemicals. Later, after she employed a member of staff who happened to be vegan, Karine became more aware of the need for a cruelty free hair brand.
So does Organic Colour Systems colour last as long as a standard hair dye? "Yes it does", says Karine, "As long as you use products such as shampoos and conditioners that don't contain sulphates or harsh chemicals". She also confirms that the brand works very well for those who want to go blonde too, so it's not just for brunettes like me.
Unfortunately, when I quizzed Karine about the amount of vegan hair products and colour systems on the market, she said that whilst there are some, it's still not many. After seeing the excellent results of Organic Colour Systems I wonder why. The results are fantastic, it's better for your scalp and doesn't harm animals in the process. It's time for more hairdressers to adopt it and for more vegan hairdressing systems to come on the market.