“Doing hair is just something that has always been in me, even when I was growing up in Utah and Hawaii. I loved giving my friends makeovers and transformations. I used to buy shaving razor packages because I didn’t have tools. So my friends would come over and we’d literally spend two hours razoring a haircut. It was like Edward Scissorhands!
When I told my parents I wanted to do hair, they said ‘No, you have to go to business school…you’re going to get married.’ But that’s not what I wanted, obviously. When I was still in high school, I got hired to be a PA on a movie set that my boyfriend’s mom was producing. Here I am, living in Salt Lake at the time, and I meet Dave Matthews there. He told me and my best friend ‘Yeah, if you want to do hair, you should move to LA or New York.’ So he basically talked us into leaving Salt Lake and coming to LA and pursuing our dreams. I owe it all to Dave Matthews.
I moved to LA, didn’t know anybody, and I just started cold-calling all the top salons. I wanted to learn the business side of it first, so I applied as a receptionist. I started working at Chris McMillan—he did the Rachel cut—and within six months, I went with Andy Lecompte on tour with Madonna and I got to do all the dancers, while he did Madonna’s hair. At the time, I was 25 and just traveling the world and it was the most unbelievable experience.
These days, I’m known for hair that looks effortless. It’s funny—I’ll even get comments on my Instagram saying ‘Why is this girl paid to do hair that looks like nothing was done to it?’ But that’s what women want! I think the time has passed where women are in the bathroom for 30 minutes to an hour, with grandma’s roller set in their hair. For me, it’s all about teaching my clients what I learned when I was assisting and doing fashion shows—it’s about making style that lasts, but doing it really quickly. I’ll tell them to watch and video me as I do their hair so then can then do it themselves.
I do hair in LA, New York, and Dubai, and I also run the site Mane Addicts, which started as just a hobby of mine. I’d been creating Instagram collages for my clients and pulling pictures from Fashion Gone Rogue and stuff like that. People really loved it and were inspired by it. So, I started thinking about creating a place where women could go and just talk about hair. I’m good friends with Katherine Powers and Hillary Kerr, the girls who started Who What Wear, and they would just tell me ‘Whenever you’re ready let us know.’ I helped them out with the hair in their book and then they helped my launch my site. It’s all about creating a place that can help women find their problem and then solve it in an easy way.
I have such an easy regimen with my own hair because I don’t really feel pressure as a hairstylist to have perfect hair. They say that the best makeup artist is the one that doesn’t wear makeup or the best hairstylist is the one that looks tattered and torn. I did recently have David von Cannon in New York cut off about nine inches though. I was preaching to my clients to cut their hair when it was wearing them and they weren’t wearing their hair—then I realized I needed to do it myself.
My regimen is that I will wash it and leave it naturally wavy for the first day. Second day I will do a little side part flip. Third day I will do a sleek center part bun. I like my hair styled better with the middle part. It makes my face look longer, whereas side part makes it look round. Fourth day I will do side part sleek, smooth it over, and another bun. Then fifth day if I’m really stressed for time, I will do my Sade look where it looks like I have product in my hair but I don’t. [Laughs] I slick it back and just do a really chic, sleek bun with a red lip and I’m out the door. I’m telling you—I don’t have time for anything else. It’s depressing really. After a while, it gets to the point where my husband will say, ‘You need to wash your hair.’ [Laughs] That’s the other great thing about short hair. Washing my hair and blowing it out before bed was the biggest nightmare and in the morning. But I still take Biosil every day, which is just a hair, skin, and nail vitamin.
When I do wash it, I use two different shampoos. I’m obsessed with Clear—I had a contract with them for three years and they have this Root Boost Shampoo that I use religiously on my roots and scalp to cleanse. Then I also use Clear Intense Hydration Shampoo or Leonor Greyl’s Bamboo Shampoo on my ends that are super dry. I tell clients all the time that they can just buy whatever cheap drugstore shampoo because you just need something that’s going to clean the scalp. Unless you have a chemical treatment, sulfates are fine. Spend your money on a deep conditioner instead. Davines Love Conditioner is a great one. Or Leonor Greyl’s Masque Quintessence. It’s expensive but it’ll last you a year. Put it on and go to SoulCycle or something and you’re good.
I make sure that whatever I am washing with will make it easy for me to style because I like to just air-dry my hair with a little Moroccanoil Hydrating Styling Cream. If I’m blow-drying, I’ll spray with Sachajuan Ocean Mist Spray because it makes your hair like cotton candy—it’s just easier to work with. When you hair is really dry and you want it to have a little bit more oomph, I love the Kardashian Beauty Dry Conditioner. It’s what I use when I want to cheat on my Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray—it’s got a bit more oil to give some shine.
In terms of tools, I use T3 on clients and then I use GHD tools on my own hair. They have a line called the Eclipse line and it’s really sleek and sophisticated. I also use Harry Josh’s blow dryer because it’s cute and easy to travel with. But there are so many girls getting their hair done every day and it’s so damaging. Nobody’s hair can withstand that. That’s why I think extensions are a really great alternative. They let you have everything you want. You can have short hair one day and long hair within a week. Also the quality of extensions is getting better and they are easily available. So why not?
If I do need to get it together, for a shoot where there will be b-roll or something, I’ll use the Rita Hazan Root Concealer. If you have dark hair and you have a really white scalp and you fill in your scalp and around your hairline, your hair will photograph so much thicker. Even a little bit of eye shadow that’s close to your root color will work and won’t look obvious if you blend it. MAC has an amazing eye shadow palette, Tom Ford has an amazing one. You just have to ask your hairstylist what would work with your roots.
I don’t really care for the skin stuff, but I recently started washing my face with fancy products because as I’m getting older so I feel like I should pay attention. As I’m now getting into my mid-30s, I work with Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley and Sofia Vergara, and I’m like ‘Tell me what I should do because you got 10, 15 years on me,’ and they all say sunscreen. And water. And not drinking.
I go to Raj Kanodia for Botox. He’s huge and amazing, and he also has a skincare line, so I use Ayur Medic. He gave me an Orange Blossom Exfoliating Cleansing Milk that I use every morning and night. I have extremely oily skin—which is good because it’s going to help me not age—but it’s not cute when I’m taking selfies and my face looks like a greasy, ice skating rink. So I use that face wash, and then Innovative Skinare Pro Heal Serum in the morning, and then I follow up with SPF. In the evening, I do the Ayur Medic wash, and I do what’s called Active Serum and a Hydra-Cool Serum, also by Innovative Skincare. And then, every other day, I use retinol, which is so good. I also use the Dennis Grossman pads once a week. It's a routine I got from my facialist, Shani Darden. She’s a good friend and I met her through Jessica Alba and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Whoever I’m working with, I say ‘You have great skin. What do you do?’ and that’s how I get most of my tips.
My makeup takes me five minutes because I use the same stuff all the time. Troy Surratt is a good friend of mine and I’m obsessed with his stuff. I always curl my lashes with his lash curler and fill in my brows with his really detailed and amazing pencil. But the actual brush I use for my brows is from the Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil in Soft Brunette—I just use it to comb. Sometimes I will put some hairspray on it to hold the hairs in place. Jessica Alba taught me to not shade in the color of your eyebrow but to use one shade lighter so that your eyebrows don’t look crazy dark. If I’ve got a photoshoot, I’ll use the Surratt Brow Pomade.
I use Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer when I have spots. Then for powder I use YSL. All my brushes are Sonia Kashuk. I love her and I think she makes a really great product at a reasonable price. All of my blushes and my contour stuff is all Lorac. My husband just shot their campaign they were so sweet and sent me a bunch of their stuff. I like their Lorac Pro To Go Eye/Cheek Palette because I’m the kind of girl that needs it all in one place. If I have time, I might use the Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate in Intensity Two.
It’s so cheesy but the Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner in Black is my favorite thing ever. I use that on the corners and a Sue Devitt Eyeliner for the middle part of my eye. The mascara I use is Lorac Pro. It’s a fat brush so I feel like I don’t have to do it twenty million times. My favorite Sephora Rouge Lipstick is called It Girl.
I’m such a tomboy in certain ways. I haven’t had a manicure in maybe 11 years…I’m kind of like Charlotte Tilbury. She said something about how she sleeps in her makeup. I need to have my eyeliner and my lip color—I feel dead without it. You can look sloppy, but if you have a red lip, you’re good. So I always have a mascara, eyeliner, and red lip in my bag. But that’s it.”
—as told to ITG
Jen Atkin photographed by Emily Weiss in Los Angeles. For more of The Top Shelf, click here.