How to Live Like a Scandi: Beauty and Grooming

How to Live Like a Scandi: Beauty and Grooming

Columnist Alexandra Pereira lets us in on how to achieve hygge, lagom and koselig both at home and on minibreaks across Scandinavia. This month she lets us in on the grooming know-how divulged by Danish hairstylist Cim Mahony.

you ever felt more adorable than when you leave the
hairdressers? From the throne of Danish hairstylist-to-the-stars
Cim Mahony – the man responsible for Jennifer Lawrence’s hit
fringe, numerous Vogue covers and fashion campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent – I let you
in on what I’ve learned about Scandinavian grooming.

Stay true to what you love (and brush your hair)

The story of how Studio Cim Mahony came to be is something of a
fairy tale. At the tender age of 15, he and long-term studio- and
life-partner Lotte Barnholdt met in a seaside town outside Copenhagen, where they reside
today. Inspired by his stylist mother, Cim had already begun his
formal apprenticeship and wooed Lotte, promising to one day be the
best hairdresser in the world.

“I grew up in Faaborg, in a big old house called Den Voigtske
Gaard that, back in 1830, was owned by a family whose son was a
student friend of Hans Christian Andersen. When visiting, Andersen
fell desperately in love with Riborg Voigt, his friend’s sister. He
dedicated letters, poems and stories to her, but she was betrothed
to a wealthy local man,” Mahony tells me.

When I visit Studio Cim Mahony one blustery autumn morning, I’m
rather tousled in the hair department thanks to a morning dip in
the sea. Cim looks at me curiously as we sip coffee and his
dachshund Elvis jumps onto my lap. He (Cim, not the dog) asks how
often I brush my hair. My silence and blushing might be down to the
brisk bike ride along the water, but it also speaks volumes of my
mess of a nest, in dire help of some TLC. “You don’t own a brush?”
he asks. “We’re gonna have a talk about that.”

This is my first lesson in grooming like a Scandinavian. I can’t
even remember the last time I used anything other than a wooden
hotel cosmetics comb. “The hair is nourished via the blood, and
when you brush your hair regularly – specifically with a Mason
Pearson hairbrush – you increase blood flow to the root, thereby
optimising hair strength and density.”

Mahony continues: “The natural oils from the scalp are absorbed
by the wild-boar bristles and carted into the length for maximum
shine and less weight at the roots, helping achieve full volume.
It’s a win-win situation.”

In pastel-painted rooms decorated with vases of freshly cut
flowers, stuccoed ceilings and parquet floors echo with Elvis’s
pitter-patter. While, Cim calmly deals with my knots and foils me
up, he tells me that Andersen was a friend of the family who owns
this very building, which lies on the historic Bredgade street,
just off Nyhavn. He would likely have hung out in this very room,
Cim speculates.

It’s said that Andersen’s letters to Riborg were
uncharacteristically emotional. What he believed was unrequited
love was simply a affection that could not be; his writings, a
bouquet and a photograph of the poet were found in a secret drawer
of his beloved’s when she died.

There was a brief time, I’m told, as I pet my new pal Elvis,
when Lotte broke things off with Cim when they were just shy of 20
years old. “I practically ate, slept and worked within the confines
of a London hair studio workplace at the time,” smiles Cim. “I
couldn’t think of anything else. I was a total, lovesick wreck.”
Fortuitously the youngsters’ separation, emphasised by an ocean
between them, was brief and Lotte hopped to London to be with her

Less is more

In typically Nordic style (the term “Nordic countries” being a
broad term for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, plus Svalbard,
Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands), everything is
at its most effective and beautiful when it’s in its most simple
form. Things here are untampered, unspoiled, devastatingly perfect
and design conscious.

Let this ethos be a guide for your minimalist mane (and let it
be known that Cim will have his way when it comes to radical
suggestions involving picture references from your 2015 home-dye
job). Soon after I arrive, Cim gently declines my request to go
dark blonde, instead mixing up the potions to tone and lift my dark
chestnut locks to something that suits me so hard I will now stay
forever true to my roots.

I loved the results, and found Cim’s gentle but cool assurance
and confidence the exact opposite of over-enthusiastic, buoyant,
experimental hairdressers I’d woefully trusted in the past.
Notably, they were not Scandinavian and the vibe here is far and
away from mundane hairdresser chit-chat: “Been anywhere nice on yer

This man doesn’t succumb to trends; he creates them. We talk
about Talk Talk and Prince as he blow dries me.

Avoid greenwashing

While London and beyond is still somewhat in the clutches of the
kaleidoscopic hues of that Bleach brand hype, such colour play
never really made it to Scandinavia. What I’m talking about here
isn’t an aversion to seafoam-green mermaid tresses (each to their
own), however, but actual greenwashing – spreading misleading
environmental claims – something unfortunately and unsurprisingly
rifer than ever within the grooming and cosmetics industry.

Around 15 years ago, when running a successful studio in
London, Cim noticed a shift in
the product market and began researching the organic possibilities
in the stuff he was stocking and using on clients. By 2007, more
than 80 per cent of his kit was clean. Naming no names, Cim tells
me about big companies who greenwash and have made their names as
organic suppliers, but who run off the power of dubious loopholes
and financial get-outs.

What makes something truly organic and sustainable, and not just
de rigeur? I ask Cim. “It needs to be common practice, it needs to
be lawful,” he replies. “Products should contain no PPD [a
potential irritant and allergen often found in hair dye] and
strictly no ammonia, which poses an airborne risk.”

One of the palatial reception rooms in Cim’s studio displays an
entire wall that looks like a Victorian-meets-New Age apothecary,
stacked neatly with Mason Pierce brushes and organic products from
all over the globe. Some are from the Vienna-based company Less Is
More, described as”‘biologically exquisite, naturally pure,
completely native, socially fair, future-oriented, clean and
consistently transparent”.

Scandinavia is, of course, teeming with organic cosmetics
brands. Among my favourite items is the herbal shampoo and acai
body balm (used all over, including the scalp) by Copenhagen
company Rudolph Care. When creator Andrea’s body (including her
blood) was tested by Greenpeace for harmful substances as part of a
chemical footprint campaign, the results were shocking enough for
her to create her own line, produced exclusively in Denmark and
certified with both the Nordic Swan Ecolabel (the official ecolabel
of the Nordic countries) and the European-wide organic
certification COSMOS.

Keep clean

Together with Lotte, we enjoy a vegan salad for lunch – while,
mid-treatment, I’m covered in film and looking like a tadpole. It’s
such a comfortable and warm ambience, like lounging with your
chicest, city-centre friends among their coffee table books and
insane light fixtures. We get to talking about London, music, love
and ambition. This is practically a night out – but with better

While the rest of 90s London was busy getting wasted, sleeping
in and missing shoots for i-D, The Face, Vogue et al, Cim – then 19
– kept on the straight and narrow, and filled in for some of the
major hair players at the time when they were a no-show. He quickly
garnered major attention and scooped the prize for World Champion
in Ladies’ Evening Style at Wembley arena.

Fast forward five years and Cim ran his own London studio,
travelled the world styling A-listers’ barnets for coveted magazine
covers, prestigious red carpets, lauded campaigns and more. A few
years ago, he and Lotte returned to Scandinavia, setting up a new
life in Copenhagen where today the studio draws the city’s
glitterati and hosts fashion shows and campaigns for the likes of
Saks Potts, Ganni, Helmstedt and other white-hot labels.

Many of my personal idols – Michael Pitt, Charlotte Gainsbourg,
Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark – have had their crowns
tended to by Cim. Now I have too, I feel as if there’s nothing
standing between me and stardom/ royalty /looking my best every
day. Should you be visiting Copenhagen, be
sure to make an appointment.

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