Celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin on hair hydration, her A-list clientele’s hair secrets and why you should really be defending your hair from damage
What feels like about a million years BC (before corona), we spoke to celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin on all things hair repair. With a client list that includes Kardashians, Jenners, Hadids and Biebers, and covers with every magazine from Vogue to Elle, she somehow also finds time to work on her haircare brand Ouai.
Jen Atkin and Kendall Jenner
Here she shares everything to know about hair repair, the secrets to her signature glass hair and her go-to hair tools.
What’s the key to finding the right hairstyle for you?
When it comes to finding the right length, for my clients, I look at their lifestyle. The first thing I talk about is how much time they have to spend on styling their hair. I talk about what their profession is, what their personal style is like. I like to give somebody a hairstyle that is really low maintenance and I care a lot about hair health. The most life-changing quick fix for boring, dull hair is a haircut. The styles that I really like and the style that my clients request the most on set and in-salon is for the hair to look healthy. I like the hair to look really shiny and healthy and reflect light so it looks good in photos. Balayage is still very popular because it’s low maintenance, and with the everyday woman’s lifestyle, Balayage is something you don’t have to go and get touched up every two to four weeks. The lob is here to stay too — I have clients still requesting a blunt lob, and low maintenance hair is very in style.
Jen Atkin styling Hailey Bieber’s hair for her wedding
How can you repair dull or damaged hair?
It really starts in the shower. With dull hair or hair that is ageing, it’s best to use products that are hydrating, it’ll help give it a little bit of life. Make sure that you’re protecting the hair and not creating more damage with extreme heat. Alongside hydration in the shower with the shampoo, conditioner or mask that you use, on top of that, getting fish oil vitamins or biotin from a vitamin store is also really key in helping to keep your hair healthy. For really damaged hair, take a look at the colour you’re doing. If you’re going a lot lighter and stripping the hair with bleach, try to find a colour alternative that can help get the moisture back into your hair. If you’re out in the sun for hours at a time during the summer, put a treatment mask in your hair and leave it in, in a bun or a ponytail or a braid, or if you’re going to the spa and getting a massage, put a treatment mask in your hair. Just find those moments in the week to really focus on hydrating your hair and putting moisture back into it.
How often should you wash your hair?
It depends on how much oil you produce. I like to go at least three days, but that would be because my hair doesn’t get super oily and I use dry shampoo. I’m a dry shampoo addict. Some people need to wash every other day, but I don’t recommend washing every day. It’s good to let your hair get its natural oils and brush that through with a boar bristle brush to distribute the oil. If you’re really lucky you can go three to four days without washing, but I wouldn’t suggest more than that.
How can you salvage a bad hair day?
Play with hair accessories — put your hair up in a ponytail or a bun and add a few statements pieces and clip-in accessories, that’s my quick fix. I’m always a sucker for a really nice chic chignon, and just having the hair off your face.
What’s your favourite styling tool at the moment?
I’ve been working with Dyson since the Supersonic launch, so it’s been over four years now. It’s been incredible for me, especially because I’m a college dropout. They are such experts in their field. I’ve been working for eight or nine months with the engineers on the new Dyson Corrale and for me, it’s going to be really amazing because the 50% less heat damage is something that is really something that is a concern for all my clients. The way that our hair gets beat up over time from heat damage, it’s going to be a game-changer for everybody. In the past with most straightening irons that I’ve used professionally, damage has always been a problem. We’ve all seem the smoke that comes off of conventional irons, that essentially is taking hydration and moisture out of your hair, and it’s really hard to get that back. The Corrale has incredible control intention and less heat and we’re going to really appreciate that, because it’s going to help protect your hair from extreme heat damage. Some irons don’t even show you the temperature that it’s at. We have now three different settings. For very coily hair, in the past, you’ve had to go, you know, 450 degrees Fahrenheit and now we can actually go to 365 or 410.
How do you use it?
I really enjoy getting a loose beach wave with it, and because of the flex in the copper plates, you’re not going to get annoying indentations that conventional straightening irons can give you. What’s great about it, is it has a really beautiful glide, whether you’re going for silky straight hair, if you want to try to get a really bouncy barrel curl, and you can also get a relaxed beach wave. I use my Airwrap, with the Freestyling dryer and I rough dry it, then I use the Firm brush and go over it, then the Corrale and it makes it so much easier to get my hair nice and straight. If you have curly or coily hair, the Dyson Supersonic has a Wide Tooth Comb attachment that’s really incredible because it glides through the hair and doesn’t have sharp edges so it really stretches and smooths out your curls and coils, before you use the Corrale. Now you can do your hair everywhere, because it’s cordless. I imagine getting fresh off the treadmill at the gym and having it in my bag and being able to get ready wherever I am.
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How do you achieve your signature glassy hair?
Use something really hydrating first. I just launched our Ouai shampoo and conditioner and we just redid our formulas and they’re really, really hydrating. We have it for fine, medium and thick care and we have a treatment mask that is incredible. Then I would use my Dyson AirWrap or Supersonic to rough dry it, then use the Firm Smoothing Brush to get it nice and smooth and then go over it with the Corrale, and that’s the best way to get glossy hair. If your hair is really dry you can also follow up at the very end with maybe a pump or two of hair oil, something that’s not too heavy, and go over the very top of the hair to get it really shiny and glossy.
Photography by @jenatkinhair.