Interview with Philip Kingsley

Philip Kingsley is my Man of Substance for the month of November and is one of the world’s experts on hair and scalp care. Born in London’s East End, through his immense passion, perseverance, and continuous study and research, Philip has worked his way to be referred to as the ‘Hair Guru’ by the New York Times, the ‘Hair Wizard’ by Vogue and the ‘Hair Doctor’ by the Sunday Time. His products bridge the gap between science and hairdressing.

Philip has had a weekly column in The Sunday Times for nine years, been interviewed on ‘Oprah’ three times, makes frequent radio and television appearances and has consulted to royalty and celebrities alike.

Philip, what an introduction to the world of women’s hair! Do tell me about your iconic product, Elasticizer, which I understand you created specially for Audrey Hepburn. Please tell us more about Audrey and how you helped her.

The first time I met Audrey Hepburn I did not know it was her who had booked into see me. She made her consultation appointment under her married name ‘Mrs. Dotti’. After five minutes of talking to her I noted how she looked a great deal like Audrey Hepburn and she replied “That is because I am!” We both burst out laughing and remained friends ever since. She was one of the most kind and wonderful women I have met. She even went and bought custom-made shoes for all of my treatment girls as they were on their feet all day.

Audrey initially came to see me for consultation, as her hair was quite dry and brittle from constant styling while filming. The intensive conditioners she has been using to restore moisture weighed her hair down and made it look flat on set. Understandably frustrated, she asked me if I could formulate her a product that would both be intensely hydrating and add body as well. I went into my laboratory that very day and started working on the formulation for Elasticizer – the world’s first pre-shampoo conditioner. She absolutely loved it and would have pots sent to her in Switzerland.

Women in particular find that how we look directly affects our mood and confidence. Clothes can make or ruin one’s day. Whatever age we are, when our hair looks thick, glossy and bouncy we tend to feel upbeat and confident. Limp, thin and lifeless hair is naturally rather depressing. How have you helped women over the years and what is your most valuable piece of advice for us?

Hair has incredible psychological importance, especially for women. It is this that makes what I do so fulfilling; being able to boost a woman’s self-esteem and confidence in herself. This is why I love what you are doing with Winser London - we have a similar mind-set. I remember first reading one of your articles in Forbes, Kim. You spoke of your passion to give every woman confidence by creating beautifully crafted, high quality clothing that enhances a woman’s individual style. Through your brand, you strive to help women feel great about themselves. This is something I can very much relate to. And for you, like me, this isn’t just about the tangible products you provide, but the information, advice and knowledge you share.

I have seen and treated women with all types of hair and scalp disorders; from genetic thinning, hair loss from chemotherapy and alopecia areata, to psoriasis, dandruff and scarring scalp disorders. I think it is my passion for trichology that has enabled me to help as many women as I have over the years. And also the experience that I have accumulated from over 50 years of research, consulting and working with hair and scalp on a daily basis. I started from the bottom-up, at first formulating products in my garage and practicing from a tiny office to now having a wonderful team working with me in the heart of Mayfair and New York City.

My most valuable piece of advice would be to shampoo frequently – daily, if possible, and particularly if you have fine hair or dandruff. Hair certainly grows its best from a clean and healthy scalp. You take your strands and scalp to the same places you take your face, and they get just as dirty.

I have read about how lifestyle and health can impact the quality of our hair. Many of us have experienced stress, shock, operations, pregnancy and childbirth, extreme weight loss and dieting, all of which have a delayed negative reaction on our hair. What do you recommend to combat the effects of these life events?

Certain events that can affect the hair are unavoidable. Some amount of stress in life is inevitable, shock from bereavement or an accident cannot be helped, operations are often vital and extreme weight loss can be a symptom of an underlying disorder. Pregnancy, too, can cause significant hair shedding 6-12 weeks after giving birth. Crash dieting almost always causes hair shedding. In these instances, unfortunately nothing can be done to avoid the subsequent hair loss. What can be done, however, is to take action to make sure the loss does not continue for longer than it should – or, in terms of crash dieting, occur again. One of the best ways to help ensure hair grows back as quickly as possible is to eat a healthy diet containing sufficient calories and vitamins and minerals. This will help keep the immune system as robust as possible and will also provide hair cells with the nutrients and energy they need to grow. Protein at breakfast and lunch is key, as this is what your hair is made of. Iron is similarly essential as it helps the body to produce hair cell protein. If you have been unwell, follow your doctor’s orders and rest. And if you are experiencing severe stress, take holistic measures to manage levels, such as doing yoga, Pilates, meditation or mindfulness a few times a week.

Does exercise affect our hair and if so, which types of exercise are the most beneficial?

Anything that improves the health of the body will improve the health of the hair. Mild to moderate exercise can help manage stress levels, bolster the immune system, maintain a healthy weight and also create feelings of wellbeing. However, over-exercising can have a negative impact on the hair as it raises male hormone levels and puts stress on the body. My favourite exercises for hair health are yoga, Pilates and swimming – provided you protect your hair from the chlorine.

Philip, you have kindly shared your nutritional must do’s with us below – if there’s one change we make to our diet, what should that be?

To eat more protein at breakfast and lunch, when hair cells are at their most active. Hair is composed primarily of protein, so adequate intake is essential to optimal growth.


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your body, and also for your hair. Energy to form hair cells is lowest first thing in the morning (or when you wake up!) Eat a balanced and nutritious breakfast of proteins and complex carbohydrates to give your hair a nutritional boost.

Drink approximately 1.5-2 litres of water a day depending on your activity level and climate. Your scalp, just like your skin, can become dehydrated.

Research has shown that drinking black tea can increase the likelihood of anaemia. This is because the tannin in tea is left free to bind with iron in your body and can therefore reduce your iron stores. The solution: Add a splash of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

Try not to eat too much salt. It can cause water retention, especially in your scalp.

The energy to form hair cells drops 4 hours after eating a meal. Snack on a complex carbohydrate, such as wholemeal bread, wholemeal crackers, fruit or vegetables, between meals to sustain energy levels to your follicles.

Your hair is composed primarily of protein, so including adequate amounts in your diet is vital to hair growth. We suggest having at least 120g of a lean animal protein with breakfast and lunch. If you are vegan/vegetarian, more than 120g of plant protein should to be included with these meals. Examples of plant based sources of protein are beans, quinoa, tofu, seitan, legumes and nuts.

Ferritin (stored iron) levels are extremely important in terms of hair growth. To help promote healthy iron levels, try to eat red meat at least twice a week, especially if you are menstruating.

Iron can only be absorbed effectively if you are eating it alongside vitamin C! Have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or one of your favourite fruits/vegetables to help with iron uptake.

Dairy products are a great source of Calcium. However, if you are prone to dandruff, eczema or psoriasis, dairy can exacerbate or trigger the condition. Try drinking skimmed milk or substituting with soy or almond milk if necessary.

Try not to choose the same meals/foods every day. Eating a varied diet will help ensure you are getting a wide-range of essential vitamins and minerals.

Always speak with you doctor before making changes to your diet.