Just some musings after a Elevate Hair (Austin)

It’s been a long time since I posted for a few simple reasons.  I mainly fell out of habit due to traveling a lot and dividing my time between salon life and my life as an educator.  A lot of people do a lot more and still have time for impeccable social media involvement, but for me I was starting to feel a phoniness about it and it’s just not how I wanted to spend my time.  Then as I quietly stepped down from my teaching position,  I didn’t feel like I had a voice anymore, or maybe I wanted to keep that voice to myself.

Tonight was a really incredible night at Austin’s Elevate Hair event, which is supported by the Hairbrained community.  It was a really nice opportunity for me to get a little taste of everything in the industry and for me to reflect on the choices I’ve made in my career.  In short, I am really, really happy with where I am right now.  I’ve had a really exciting career and I’ve seen this industry from a lot of angles.  But having a solid home base, with so many coworkers I adore and that inspire me and push me daily, that’s a really special thing.  I ran into a stylist from a salon I taught at a few years back in Houston, and it was really cool to have someone tell me how skills I taught had actually changed how they cut hair.  I really do appreciate the time I was able to spend teaching and the ability to pass on techniques that were passed down to me.  But I also know that stepping back was the right thing to do.  This past year has been about working my skill set, growing with my clientele and reconnecting with the things that inspired me to become a hairstylist.  And this next year will be about my (growing) family.  But it’s a pretty awesome feeling to be in a position where you can see many other paths that you could be on, and to still be satisfied with the road you’ve taken.

I have a lot of cool stuff I’ve been up to, but just never posted about: training with ZGAT this year, this event tonight and also a little video work. I wouldn’t expect any posts soon, but hopefully I can get some updates going in the near future.  And thanks, always, to Hairbrained for being an awesome community and keeping things real. 

On Baldness: Intro

I have several essays and articles and videos and pop culture events that I have been pouring through on the issue of baldness.  I wanted to write one long post about the topic but all the different avenues of it deserve too much space, from females in pop culture shaving their heads, to the different political affiliations and statements, to removing hair as a sign of ownership, to androgenetic alopecia and its affect on men and women who suffer from it.  Check back next Sunday for the next installation.

Here is a somewhat odd video clip from Hungary for your viewing pleasure:

Hair in London and Dublin

I didn’t get many great pictures, but when I think of hair in London, I think of softly diffused/almost faded colors that were still somehow very vibrant.  It almost had the feel that hair had light projected or reflected onto it, rather than being that color.  It was very cool, and had a very soft and intentional effect without seeming overly contrived.  London, like here, though, is in the midst of a return-of-the-grunge phase, so it was at times difficult to tell who was fashionable and who had just rolled out of bed.  Not that that isn’t one of my favorite styles 😉  The most striking thing to me, which I sadly didn’t get any pictures of, was the variations in reds there.  I believe you could trace this partly back to the fact that London has a higher rate of natural red heads and strawberry blondes.  Peeking through the color cabinet, there are a lot more shades in the red and warm brown families, but also red shades that are a bit more ashed out.  In the US I feel like most of the clients that go red go REEEED, but in London there were a loft of softened reds, some of which were quite natural, others that seemed matted down, but in a very cool and interesting way, and still quite vibrant.  In Camden, where I was staying, there were a lot of pinks, purples, blues, etc.

Dublin, unsurprisingly, felt a lot more raw, but also rough in places.  The city was much more outgoing and friendly.  Their alternative crowd felt much more authentically DIY between their dress and their overall style.  Some cool hair, some of which may have been bathroom haircuts, but I’m not one to judge.  We enjoyed catching some street music (picture below) and even had some Irish punk teenagers offer us some beer out of their back packs.


My Week in London with the Hob Academy Team

So, going into 2015 I’m looking at my career. I have had so many incredible opportunities and met/seen so many awesome stylists that, frankly, it’s hard to understand. Because at the end of the day I’m still just an OK hairdresser with loads of passion and a bit of potential.  I’m thinking this is the time where everything gets quiet for me and I just start working really hard so that one day, maybe I can be really awesome.

So what next?

All of my previous European training and quite a bit of my research into the dawn of haircutting pointed me towards London. I set my sights on the Hob Academy because of a recommendation from someone I admire greatly and then everything else just seemed to fall into place, as the name of the salon and their creative director, Akin Konizi, kept popping up all over the hair world’s social media.  The team boasts multiple International Trend Vision winners as well as British Hairdresser of the Year winners and many other accomplishments.

I learned a great deal on this trip, but the most important thing I learned is that after four years, six countries and hundreds of heads of hair, I think I am just beginning to understand what it will take for me to become a great hairdresser.

The Hob Academy is nestled near Camden Lock in a bustling, creative neighborhood, but also quite accessible to the rest of London. The interior of the salon is gorgeous and also quite minimalistic, in a way that suggests that it really is all about the hair. My first day was quite intimidating, made worse by jet lag and an unreasonable and unexplainable embarassment of my accent. But I was slotted for two days of Advanced Creative cutting and coloring and two days of Men’s Cutting and despite being a bit nervous, I was very excited to learn from some of the very best in the industry.

Now although we were focusing on Advanced Cutting, this was a great opportunity to work on my basics. I easily fall into a very loose style of cutting, which I partially attribute to my initial training…. which was me in the bathroom with old barber shears, just messing around until the end result was good (enough). Seeing the crispness of all of their lines and sections was inspiring to me, and though I always see it in classes, it meant more to me this time because I am so familiar with their work, so I know they aren’t just saying what they were told to say as educators… I know they live and breath clean part lines and perfected shapes.  And in the back of my mind I keep thinking, well, if that’s what it takes to get that result, then I suppose there’s something to it.

I received a lot of little tips to get my tension more consistent and to simply hold a direct the hair better. A lot of what I learned is in the muscles of my hands, so it is difficult to explain, but I feel like I can hold hair better now.

One of the coolest features of the class was that we had different educators every day, all of which had their own style, but they were also quite cohesive and consistent. On our second day, we were lucky enough to have Akin Konizi himself for the entire morning. His passion and knowledge of the craft was not surprising, but still quite astounding.  Darren Bain, our main teacher, had a very relaxing style of teaching, made better by his dry, meandering humor.  My other instructors included Peter Burkill, Jake Unger, Sean Nolan and Nestor Sanchez (who just happened to win International Trend Vision last year).  I was lucky to get time with each of them, and although they each had quite a different style, they also were very consistent in their approach.

Our two days of Men’s Cutting was more relaxing to me. Out of everything in the world of hair, men’s cuts are one of the most comforting to me. But don’t worry, I certainly got out of my comfort zone on the second day, when I got to do a flat top on ethnic hair. Men’s cutting is simple, but they went over many different length families and textures and watching their various sectionings really helped me out. It was also reassuring to see that a lot of their methods were similar to my own.

Below are just a few pictures including Akin in action, me with Darren and Nestor, my models from the week and Darren polishing a men’s cut.







Let’s Talk About Batch Codes.

Look.  I buy a lot on line.  Most of my clothing and many of my cosmetics.  Generally, when I buy makeup I buy directly from the sellers website, from a pro site like Camera Ready Cosmetics, or from a place that has convenient return locations like Sephora.com.  But sometimes for my more basic skincare needs I just opt to use my Amazon Prime account.

Now, I love my Amazon, and I love getting things in two days, but I feel taken advantage of after my last order came.  Now, I do have faith that Amazon customer service will be good to me, and I understand that Amazon is a complicated world where sometimes it is easy to have your products coming from places you didn’t expect, but that is why it is important to be proactive and look out for yourself.

When I got my package there was an immediate red flag.  The package looked a little beat up and said “New” on it, when I knew the product had been around for a decent while… DIVERSION!, my heart yelled!  And as all the horror stories beauty professionals hear about people dumpster diving to obtain and sell old product, sometimes changing the products composition by adding water or even more questionable substances.  But I kept it cool, because I knew the logical next step which is…

Checking the batch code

I highly recommend checking batch codes on products you buy, especially if you feel like you really scored a deal at one of those stores that buys last seasons clothes and sells them at a super cheap price.  And you know what, some of the products under your sink that you’ve had for awhile, it really wouldn’t hurt to see how old they are.  I’m not saying you need to throw out everything that’s expired… but wouldn’t you rather know?

So when you look at the bottle there is usually a barcode somewhere and then an area where the company lists all the company information (address, website, etc.) with some random numbers.  Neither of these are the batch code.

The batch code is between 3 and 11 numbers (sometimes letters) and is usually either located near the barcode, near the company information, or on the bottom.  The way you can tell it is the batch code is that it looks like it was stamped on after the packaging was made.  The other numbers are part of the packaging.

They look like this:

or this:

or sometimes this:

All these pictures are from CheckFresh.com, which brings me to the next point: what to do with batch numbers.  Go to Check Fresh, or other sites (Google “Check Batch Code” and you will find some).  Check Fresh will have more examples of what to look like if you aren’t sure where the code is, and then you can select the manufacturer from the drop down menu and it will tell you what the batch code means.

Don’t try to figure it out yourself unless you know first hand about how batch codes work for that specific company.  It’s really complicated and convoluted, and every company does it in a very strange and different way.

In some cases you may need to find the “parent company.”  For example, when I was checking my Philosophy products, I couldn’t select “Philosophy” from the drop down menu, so I looked up who they are owned by and sure enough, “Coty” was on the drop down menu.

Looked REALLY hard and can’t find a batch code?  Run!  In some cases of diversion, batch codes are scratched off.  To me, if the product is trying that hard to conceal its age, it is probably much, much older than it looks.  And probably smells funny too.

So now you have the date the product was made, so what?

Different types of products have different shelf lives.  Some will have a label for how long they last after opening, which is called the PAO (period after opening).  It looks like this:

The FDA doesn’t have any specific requirements for how old is too old.  They leave it up to the manufacturers.

Generally cosmetic companies print an expiration date if the product is expected to expire within 30 months (2.5 years), so if the batch code is within a couple years you are probably good.  You can always contact customer care if you want to know about your specific product’s shelf life or PAO.  (But who has time for that?)

If you ask CheckCosmetic.net, another good batch code site, about PAO, they say that generally:

Perfumes, perfume, edp – up to 3 years;
Powders (including blush, eyeshadows powdery texture) – 1 to 3 years;
Foundation in a jar or a cream powder – 1 to 3 years;
Liquid tone means (in tubes or jars with dispenser) – 1 year;
Nail polish – 1 year;
Sun cosmetics – 1 year (but no more than one season);
Lipstick, lip gloss – 1 year;
Pencil (Eye, Lip) – about 1 year;
Skin care products (hydrating cosmetics, wrinkle, eye contour) in a sealed packet with the pump – about a year, in a jar – from 6 to 10 months;
Solid eyeliner and eyebrow pencil – from 6 to 8 months;
Bronzing – 6 months;
Mascara – 3-6 months;
Liquid eyeliner – from 3 to 4 months;
Natural/Organic products – up to 6 months.

This is fairly standard but some will say that powders can last longer.  General rule is once you notice a change in the product it is probably bad.  For example, the texture of a foundation getting really clumpy or a funky smell in your skin cream.

But this is for how long after opening.  If it is a new product that you’ve never tried before and so you don’t really know the texture it is supposed to be… use your judgement.  I mean no matter what use your judgement.  Don’t listen to me!  Use your senses and see if it feels ok.  But if you ask me, buying something new that was made five years ago, it probably isn’t going to work as well and may be full of bacteria and other nasty stuff, so watch out!  I think 3-4 years for skin care is grey area but a lot of cautious people would say to throw it out!

Also think about the type of product.  Some say powders can be relatively fresh for 5+ years, where foundations and skin creams would ideally have been made within 2-3 years.  Mascara?  I probably wouldn’t touch it if it was made over 2 years ago.  It’s in your EYES every day!  Gross.

Too lazy to check batch codes, but don’t want to use rancid products?

I’ve probably made all this sound like a lot of work.  Too much hassle?  That’s fine.  Buy from trustworthy sources and you don’t have to worry about it.  For hair (and usually makeup and skin care), buy from local salons and beauty stores you trust.  Places that specialize in beauty and take pride in their reputation.  Target is great for a lot of things, but I have seen diverted haircare there.  CVS or other pharmacies?  Some are probably squeaky clean on this, but I have seen some pretty old looking product at some of these places.Everything I’ve said should be combined with your own common sense.  Don’t just trust random online suppliers.  Use old product if you want to (yes, I’m talking to YOU middle-aged woman who stockpiled 10 years worth of foundation and/or lipstick when you found that your shade would be discontinued).  Just understand that old product will, best case scenario, not perform as well as intended, and worst case scenario, be full of bacteria or even be toxic to the skin.

Some brushes worth buying from Denman

Denman is a well known company in the hairdressing community, specificly in reference to the classic 7-row and 9-row rubber Denman brushes.  I actually don’t prefer the classic Denman brushes, there are some others I like a little bit better.  But some of their grooming brushes are worth checking out.  I think of the Denman brand to be of consistent good quality but more reasonably priced.  These aren’t super high end brushes, but always work well and do what they say.

For me, at four years into my career, can’t justify shelling out for a Mason Pearson when my Denman cusion brushes work well.  I use the small boar bristle for almost every updo.  Perfect for a soft tease or to smooth.  The small size makes it perfect for getting close to the root.  I also use the large boar bristle a lot on my thick haired clients before a dry cut or braiding.  Love them!

large cushion

Also, this straightening brush is pretty cool.  It has the perfect amount of tension (I was worried it would be too much), does a great job polishing the hair and also smooths and shines the hair quite a bit.  You can get a little bit of a bevel with it, if you need.  Also, easy on the wrist compared to smoothing someone with a round brush.

straightening brush

Anyway, most of their brushes range from $15-30, which is pretty good for professional quality.  Check them out on their official US site.

New blow dryer: X:Q onyx by Velecta Paramount Paris (envy+ onyx)

A few years ago I reviewed the Velecta Paramount Paris 4000i blow dryer.  I have to say, I was not easy on that dryer.  It had travelled extensively with me and had been dropped on a couple occasions.  It lasted over two years, which was past the warranty, but I had a great experience with GroomIt Industries, who repaired it for $50 (which included shipping back to me, but not the shipping that it took to get it there).  So now I am happy to have two Velecta Paramount Paris blow dryers and a quick and inexpensive contact for fixing them.

Before my 4000i went out, I had started eyeing the X:Q onyx.  The specs are similar to the 4000i, but only 80mph windspeed instead of 81mph.  So… not a big deal.  The main difference is the silencer on the back of the blow dryer.  My main love on the 4000i was the small body, but due to the extremely ergonomic placement of the handle, all of the extra bulk doesn’t really impact my grip.  Weight-wise, it is an extremely balanced blow dryer.

Below is the European version.  Mine looks the same, just with a different name.  Check out the specs on the official website.

This blow dryer is relatively expensive, but due to the ease and cheapness of fixing it, I think it is worth it.  And two years seems to be on the long end of average for professional blow dryers that are used all day, every day.  With my pro discount, it was $200 plus tax, about $50 more than the last one, but I would say it is worth it for how quiet this dryer is.  I also think the cold shot is less stiff on this one, but perhaps that was just because the other one was old.

Another tip I’ve gotten through this process was not to put the blow dryer nozzle directly on the hair.  When I spoke on the phone with GroomIt Industries, I asked the (very nice) man for advice on helping my blow dryer last as long as possible.  He mentioned how platform artists always put the nozzle directly onto the hair and brush and how that is very bad for the blow dryer, and allowing a small amount of space can help the blow dryer a lot.  And obviously, he said blow dryers don’t like being dropped 😉

Why a Haircut Can’t Change Your Life (Unless You Make It)

As a hairstylist, I have a lot of power to relax, de-stress and, when I’m lucky, empower my clients.  I say, “when I’m lucky,” simply because if I could do this every day, I would be the happiest hairstylist around.  But the fact is, I just cut the hair.  And sometimes color it.  At the end of the day, I am paid to do the very odd job of changing the appearance of protein filaments protruding from the head.  And all the personal, cultural and social entanglements of these protein filaments is baggage that I just don’t have control over.

At times this is a really distressing reality.  Clients come in with all sorts of problems: break ups, social anxiety, work stress, family drama and everything else that comes with living life.  I have always been the type to want to help everyone.  And in the short term, I can help.  I give a good head massage and I am a pro at comfortable silences when they are needed… or distracting with light conversation when that is needed.  I love people.  One on one time with anyone and I can find something to like about them.  But I can’t save people.  I am not a doctor or a therapist or a firefighter or a member of the coast guard…. I’m just a hairdresser.

In my perfect world, people would feel less tied down to societal norms regarding their hair.  And I don’t mean I want people more comfortable with rocking pink mowhawks in the work place, I just mean that hair wouldn’t be a source of extreme stress for anyone.  I wish women didn’t feel like their sexuality were tied to the length of their hair and that men didn’t feel like their virility were tied to the thickness of theirs.  I wish people could be celebratory of whatever they have and enjoy their hair and not have to fight with it so much.  I wish hair didn’t have to be so damn symbolic.

But it is.  And all the time people come in expecting a cure for a breakup.  Or use a haircut as a motivation to get something else right in their life.  And by all means, a haircut can help.  It can help quite a bit!  But it can’t do all the work.  I can’t do all the work.

A haircut can be the catalyst for HUGE changes in a person’s life and for how they and the world view themselves.  But without confidence and purpose, a haircut is nothing.  Hair cannot work alone.  Sometimes it is as simple as a few new wardrobe items, a pair of shoes, a different blush or lipstick.  Sometimes it is much, much more complicated.  If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I look good,” it doesn’t matter what the hair is doing.  Someone who goes out into the world after a big hair change without confidence is going to get much more mixed reactions.  Dying your hair a different color will not bring back your boyfriend.  Cutting all of your hair off will not make you a suddenly independent and free thinking woman.  I do, personally, believe that women should experience their hair at different lengths throughout their lifetime.  But when you wake up the day after a haircut or color, you’re still the same person, except a day older and with different hair.

I love change and I love being a part of changes in the lives of clients!  I love to watch people grow and adapt and evolve, and to make them look good while they do it.  But, honey, if you think I can make it happen by myself… well, I wish I could.

2014 Retrospective via Instagram

Here’s what I looked like this time last year.  I know, I know, my hair has been longer and then shorter again and now I look pretty much the same.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh by now, but then I wasn’t completely sure where I’d be.

Then the polar vortex tried to keep me from getting to LA for training. But I had just upgraded to a smart phone and a leather jacket.  So I was pretty much above it all.   

I had some leisure time in LA and it made me wonder why people live in such cold, miserable places.  And it took me pretty much all of my travels in 2014 to finish.    

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Breakfast date with #murakami & #redvelvetpancakes

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And of course, got to hang with some of my favorites at training AND the NAHA shoot for the Wella team.  

And my face was still in the hair mags.

And I got my fair share of travels in with the sweetie.

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Including Spain & Portugal where we split our time between me doing hair and the both of us chilling hard. Best week of the year, for sure.  

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Last day of our Iberian adventure… For now.

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The bonus was having friends to come back to.

 I did some cool hair and some cool photo shoots:     

^Including my Trend Vision entry, which only made it to the Semi-Finals, but I was still very proud of it and had a great time at the competition!   

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@hrae_hrae and me on the bus back from #natva ❤

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Said goodbye to my Pittsburgh salon.  

Then we moved to Ohio for a few months and hung out with these guys. 

Worked a bunch of weddings.  

Had the time of my life in NY with the Sebastian Team. 

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Hello NY

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INCLUDING, my dream of working NYFW.  

Then Richard lost his passport and found it again right before we left for Canada.  

Then I fulfilled another dream and took classes at the Sassoon Academy in Toronto. 

We drove around more and did more hair stuff.  

I did my last cut and color in Pittsburgh.

And said one of my saddest goodbyes… my partner in crime Megan Gardner. 

Then we packed up, made some videos and moved to Texas.   

Then I started work at my dream job. And it’s truly been amazing. 

And last but not least, we got to see my family one more time in 2014. Despite SFOI trying to keep us from them, we made it home for Christmas.  

Overall, we’ve had so many crazy adventures this year.  We both feel so lucky to have each other and to have this crazy life of ours.  I love my job now as much as ever and it is an amazing feeling… to love what you do all day and then love the person you come home to.  Can’t wait for more competitions and more challenges and of course more travels.   Oh yeah, and karaoke…. 

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Happy Holidays from #karaokeunderground 😝 #atx

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