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.

http://instagram.com/p/jcRu2tjUV-/ 

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

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#devotedhusband

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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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#madrid

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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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Quick at Home Tips for Blow Drying Fine, Limp Hair

Hey all!  Just wanted to share a few tips that I often share with clients in the salon, as well as stylists that attend my Nioxin classes =)

First of all, when I am talking about fine hair, I am talking about hair that has a very small diameter.  A lot of clients who have dense, fine hair—a ton of hair but the hairs are all small (and usually limp)—have to deal with a lot of the same concerns as people with sparse, fine hair.

1)  Use light product!  I love Nioxin products, especially the Diamax at the root, followed by either Bodifying Foam or Thickening Gel roots to ends, but this post isn’t about product, it’s about technique.  Whatever you use make sure it has been formulated for fine hair, even if you have dense, fine hair.  Many with fine hair try to go without product due to their hair being weighed down, but I recommend using something.  Fine hair is generally more delicate because there are fewer layers of the cuticle.  The cuticle is made up of the protective, outer layers of the hair.  When hair looks fuzzy or feels rough, it is from the cuticle being popped open, dried out or damaged.  Nioxin’s Therm Activ Spray is also incredible as very light weight, yet silkening, thermal protection.

2)  Assess the root area.  Some hair grows out of the head like this:   |  ;  other hair grows out of the head like this: \  ; and other hair grows out of the head like this:  — .  If the hair is growing out of the follicle very flat in one direction, the hair will tend to lie more flat.  This is also where you see the cause of cowlicks.  Since fine hair usually dries quickly (unless it is extremely dense), it is important to dry the root area first.  Making sure the root is lifted off the head and any strong growth directions are neutralized is the key to a great blow dry!  If you don’t want to dry your hair thoroughly, just focus on the root.  Flipping your head upside down will add temporary volume but if the root is not dry then as it dries, it will fall down.  Use medium or low heat at the root area if you have delicate hair.

3)  Remember that hair is pliable when it is wet or hot.  When I blow dry the root area, I generally do so with my hand.  I start at one side of the head and blow the hair in different directions so it lifts off the head and doesn’t stick together too much and then I let the section cool in the opposite direction of where I will want it to lay.  That way it is cooling down and setting while I work on the next section.  Moving the hair back and forth in different directions will add volume and smoothness.  The technique is called wrap drying.  If you have a lot of breakage near the front hairline you may not want to wrap dry that part.  Just blow those pieces where you want them to go if they are short and pokey.  If they are longer it is usually fine to wrap dry.

4)  When working with a round brush, make sure the nozzle is going in the same direction as the hair.  The cuticle is like a bunch of scales that fold over each other, so if the nozzle is directing air down the hair shaft it will smooth the cuticle.  Roll the hair on the brush and as the hair is cooling gently spin it off of the brush, if you can.

5)  Be realistic and appreciate what you have!  Focus on width, rather than height, when working with a brush because it is a more attainable way to get fullness into the hair.  Not only is it more doable, it also creates a more modern look.

Questions?  Comment below or come visit me at Jose Luis in Austin, TX.

Living in the moment

People ask me all the time what it’s like to move far away from everything you know, and the truth is, I don’t think about it much. I love my family and friends all over the place but it is pretty easy for me to “be” wherever I am. The downside is that it’s easy for me to be sort of disoriented when I try to think about everything I have done or every place I have been, even if it was just the past year (or week, or month).

Although it’s pretty out of my comfort zone, I have been trying to capture more of these moments since getting a smart phone at the beginning of the year. It really is a treat to now have these videos to commemorate this year, even if it’s still leaving out a few memories. Check out my videos from this year!

And of course I am very grateful to Neil (cornelius3) for helping me commemorate my passion for hairdressing for the Beauty Changes Lives competition!

Update: First month in Austin!

Ok, so it has been insanely long since I last posted.  We’ve driven probably close to 2,000 miles in that time, moved, and I can count on one hand the free days I’ve had in the last few months.  But don’t take the silence as a bad thing.  Richard and I have been enjoying this grand adventure.  Here’s the sunset we encountered as we were crossing the Texas border.

TexasSunset

I admit, once we got here I started to get a little nervous and even fearful that I may have ruined our lives…. Richard was quite homesick in the beginning, which didn’t help the feeling.  As soon as we got to Austin we had a few days to move, then Austin City Limits Music Festival, which was incredible but oh so crowded for my already jumbled brain.ACL

Lots of great acts and lots of great festival fashion, although it was really, really hot the first day and then rainy and really, really muddy the second two days.  Still, I’d say everyone was a pretty good sport about it.  My brother was in town visiting and I have to assume he was just bringing the Pacific North West weather with him.  There was one girl with gorgeous orange hair that I wanted to snap a picture of but I kept losing her in the crowd.  Ah well, failing at being creepy isn’t the worst thing to fail at.

As soon as ACL ended I was off to Houston to teach some Sebastian classes.  It felt pretty great to be spreading the love for some of my favorite products and explaining all the different ways to use them.  I will say, though, I got called “Mama” and “Ma’am” more times in those three days than in the first 25 years of my life combined.  But I found it mostly endearing.

After three days, we drove back at night and I was starting at my new salon, Jose Luis, the next day.  I even had clients on my book that first day, which was pretty incredible to me.  There were around 20 people that worked there for me to meet but it was a lot easier than I expected.  The team work at Jose Luis is really incredible.  It’s amazing to see a group of people who all have each other’s back and are eager to help and give advice whenever asked.  My second week there, we had Halloween, which was a blast because almost everyone got pretty into it.

halloweenatjoseluis2014

I even got to do a Mad Men inspired updo that day which was pretty darn fun!

JoanMadMenJoseLuis

I’ve had a fair share of updos during my month at Jose Luis and I have to say, I definitely want to work towards building my updo clientele more and more in the future, because I really feeling like I am thriving when an updo client comes in.

We also got to celebrate the salon’s 26th year that week.  Jose and Bill (the owners) hooked us up with a food truck for lunch, which was pretty magical.P.Terry's

In short, I’ve been busy (for just beginning) and happy and very much enjoying my new coworkers!  I definitely am missing some people from Pittsburgh, but as a whole I feel like everything just makes more sense here for me.  The clients I’ve had have been wonderful, and most of them seem like they’ve either lived on the west coast or in the north east before, so we already have that in common.  Y’know, they say the sky is the limit and I don’t know if that’s true or really what that’s supposed to mean at all.  But what I do know is that the sky is a hell of a lot bigger here compared to anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

Inspiration: For Hair, From Lives

To break up all these “this is what I’ve been up to” posts, I just wanted to take the time to type up something a little more introspective.  Sometimes it feels like one topic keeps popping up or like I keep talking (maybe too much?) about a given issue and I get really pumped about it!  Lately, I have had a TON of educational opportunities which I have taken advantage of from many different lines, including: Sebastian, Nioxin, Sassoon, R+Co and Oribe.  Now for me, classes are not about inspiration, they are about technique.  As I said recently on the Hairbrained forums, I see so many incredible hair pictures everyday from all of my different sources that I am almost immune to their charm.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the imagery and believe it pushes me to get better and better technically, but it doesn’t usually generate a true feeling of inspiration.  At least, it’s pretty rare.

See, I have always had two competing drives within me.  I have always been a sort of creative free spirit on the one hand and then a total nerd on the other hand.  Classes and hair photos mostly appeal to the nerd in me and I am prone to breaking things down into very formulaic and almost mechanical functions.  This is the part of me that takes comfort in order, in things making sense.  I look at a photo and I see where if the hair were one centimeter higher it would change the proportions of the image, how the shapes could maximize their impact.  In classes I am always wondering, “Why?” and “Could this be done in a better, more efficient way?” and “How would a small change in technique change the final outcome?”

But the other side, that is the side that makes me really love my job.  Yet it is the part of me that is easier to ignore, since it is often hard to know what it needs to thrive.  Throughout my travels it has been the people, the architecture, the art, the subway stations, the weather, the trees of every shape and color, the rivers and lakes and harbors.  It is the people I meet who are very nice, and the ones who can be quite nasty, too.  It’s the artsy youth of Toronto that somehow look so much more British than the alternative kids in the US (they seem to have a better sense of balance and aesthetics).  It’s the way people from the UK say “cool” like it means something.  It almost gives me chills.  It’s the way the vibe of the bar changes when the woman in the corner stops screaming at the pinball machine.  Or when a different song comes on.  It’s how when driving for 8 hours straight you feel a difference in the steering wheel from one CD to the next.  It’s how you go so long between showers you see what your hair really looks like.  It’s seeing a four year old tumbling in the grass near Boston Harbor, trying to compete with the street performers.  It’s stopping at rest stops in Central PA in black denim and black leather and black shades while everyone else is wearing sweatshirts from wherever they came from.  It’s going to shows and seeing the swing of the hair while everyone is dancing in their own little worlds. It’s those friends you have who always twist the same section of hair around a finger when they’re nervous.   It’s seeing a friend in the hospital and her hair is  cascading so perfectly it’s hard to remember she’s so sick.