I guess YS Park deserves their cult following…

The elite in the hairdressing community have long praised YS Park, a Japanese company that makes legendarily awesome clips, combs, brushes and other such tools. I was not so convinced that one clip or comb could be that different from another. I has curious, but not enough to shell out for them. Clips are $6 for two and combs are $10+, and until Hairbrained reduced their shopping cost to slightly over $2, there was a hefty shipping charge on top of that. When Hairbrained lowered their shipping rates, I was hit by a moment of weakness and succumbed to my online shopping addiction.

When they arrived my first delight was how petite my clips and comb were. The comb was lighter than I was expecting, for allegedly being indestructible, and had some bend to it. It fit so perfectly into my hand, and that’s when it clicked that of course Asian brands will be more suited to my small, Asian stature. The first time I slid it through hair I was literally dumbfounded. I ordered one with fine teeth, and while the tension was still there, it slid through with such little friction. I didn’t even realize that every other comb I had ever used had been snagging and tugging hair out of poor design or teeth being out of place. I thought fine teeth just snagged more, which can be true, but this comb was so smooth and the tension was so even throughout the section. The clips were also light and unobtrusive, unlike the ones I normally use, which look more like a piece off of a transformer. Yet, they hold so much more hair than should be possible. They have a very unique design. Most clips bevel upwards, where these are indented down. I am amazed how well they work for both big and small sections. Also, the aluminum is colored rather than being painted metal, so don’t expect any chipping.

Incredible. Light. Durable.

I got their diffuser, too, but have not gotten to use it yet with anyone with super curly hair. But it is very nice and fits on any blow dryer.

Japan is the future.

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Tips for Entering the What’s Next Awards

Hello Folks!

I just went through to scope out the competition for the What’s Next Awards, and there are some great entries!  I really was expecting to see more, but I am sure they will start coming in faster as the deadline approaches.  Some of the entries I saw were great, but could’ve benefited by a few small tweaks to the photography, wardrobe, makeup, etc.  Below are some tips to keep in mind when you submit.  I am not a judge so take my words with a grain of salt, but I did win this competition last year and I intend to enter this year.  So why help others?  Because it pushes me to get even better and because I want to be happy for and proud of whoever gets chosen for the finals =)  It is a life changing competition, so style your heart out!

Tips

-Get a professional (or professional quality photographer)!  Having a nice camera is not enough, you need the eye, the lighting skills… you need someone who can effectively showcase your work.

-Get a professional makeup artist.  I do makeup for my own shoots but I don’t recommend this unless you have experience, even if you are quite good at doing your own makeup.  Hygiene, product knowledge and a specific kit designed for print work can make a big difference.  This year the makeup is very simple.  Less heroin/rocker chic and more natural, editorial styles.  There is more of a fashion feel to this collection.

-Get a model that fits your look.  To be in line with this collection, the styles show a little more wardrobe so you want a fashion-worthy model.  You want great bone structure so it doesn’t take away from your style.

-Wardrobe should be SIMPLE and probably black. Jewelry, if involved, should be understated and not distracting.

-This collection isn’t particularly colorful so you don’t need to highlight colors in the photography unless you are featuring creative cellophane placement.

-This collection is also less “busy” than other collections, there are no braids and if there were an unspoken word to define the collection I think it would be “movement.”  Your style shouldn’t be a copy of the styles, but it should look like it would fit in next to the others.

-Have fun.  Be fearless.  =)

And check THIS out for more info!  Pay attention to what you will be judged on and be sure you use Sebastian products in creating your style!

 

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Vidal Sassoon Scholarship Entry

This was my entry for the Vidal Sassoon/Beauty Changes Lives Scholarship Competition. The competition grants ten winners an opportunity to train at one of the Sassoon academies in North America, providing $5,000 of support for travel, expenses and tuition.

I was not selected as a winner, but this entry was still a labor of love and friends and family are still coming to me and remarking on ways it inspired them, so I wanted to share it today. Enjoy!

Looking Back; Two Year Anniversary

Wow. Wow. Wow. Two years in the beauty industry and I am just thrilled for the years to come.

When I entered beauty school in January of 2011, I knew that hair was my passion and my future, but my experience was still somewhat traumatic. I had been living on my own for some time. I had just graduated college a month earlier. I was planning my wedding and commuting by bus which was over an hour and a half each way (with about a half hour of walking in the snow). I didn’t particularly get along with most 18 year olds when I was 18, so I didn’t know what to do with myself as a 22 year old who looked 14. And it didn’t help that I was very serious. I have always been very serious with regards to my dreams. There were good people there but they were mostly stuck in webs of toxic drama.

While I was in school I entered my first competition. Looking back I am thankful I didn’t win, knowing what I know now about that company and how forced it felt for me to try to style entries for them. The important thing about that shoot was the contacts I made. It was an incredible start to my portfolio and that shoot got me a lot of work in the coming months. I also learned a lot about planning a shoot from Brian Herman, the photographer, and about scheduling with models, communicating my vision, etc. etc.

Richard always talks about how worried he was, that I would always be in the midst of drama in the industry and we are both thankful that I found a place at Salon Vivace where I get along so well with my coworkers. When I started two years ago, though, it was very difficult. Assisting was hard. I was told that I should be able to read my boss’s mind and that was just never going to happen. I learned a lot but our styles were so divergent, I didn’t know how to be myself without taking over and often overcompensated, coming across as too passive.

It took me a long time to get into the swing of assisting, and in some ways I never really did become a great assistant. I remember this sinking feeling I would get, this fear that I would never make it. I remember having similar feelings regarding ballet in late elementary school. I would go every week and just be miserable and wonder why in the world I was doing it, why I was working so hard, but once I earned my pointe shoes in middle school I fell back in love with ballet. A deep love that still makes me sad/nostalgic when I see live ballet. But with hair, towards the end of my time assisting my boss would regularly sit me down and ask me if I was sure if this was the career for me, and at the time I really wasn’t sure, but I had been wanting it since sophomore year of college and I knew there must be a reason even though I couldn’t remember.

Once I hit the floor and fell into a style of my own, everything felt like it was my own again. I found clients I adore, and even though I still have weeks where I am sitting and waiting for new appointments more than I would like, I thrive on my time spent with my clients. I love being there for them and being a part of their lives.

My travels to Budapest and Berlin also changed my career for the better. I found different inspiration and new styles and techniques. I found a beauty that was rough and rugged, and I felt for the first time like I might fit in somewhere
in the beauty industry.

Of course, winning the What’s Next Awards fast forwarded my career both in the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have and on the amount I have learned. I can’t believe how much I have learned in the past six months. I have presented at Intercoiffure, I have taught classes at salons and beauty schools, I have traveled all over the place and it is incredible!

It’s been a great two years and I can’t wait for more!

Photos from my first photo shoot!

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The Importance of Using Products Effectively, Part I

We’ve all done it. We see someone’s makeup or hair and immediately have to know what they are using. We read reviews online, we ask people we trust and we buy, buy, buy. But no matter how great something looks on someone else, sometimes it is not right for us. However, if you are repeatedly trying new products that are highly endorsed by sources you trust and you are not seeing the results you want, sometimes the issue isn’t the product, it might be the application.

I can’t tell you that there is exactly one way to do anything, but I am going to go through some different product types and give some different tips and tricks!

Mousse, Gel and other Form-Building Products

Some products are more for detailing and others are more for structure. The most important thing for structure supporting products like mousse and gel is to make sure they are thoroughly dispersed through the hair, especially inside of the hair. In really dense hair, it can be difficult to get product throughout the interior of the hair. A lot of people will just take the product and plop it on the surface of their hair, which will cause the weight of the product to collapse the shape of the hair, and can even make it crispy in places. I always emulsify the product through my palms and fingertips and then start at the back hairline and massage the product through the root area and then pull it through the ends. That way the majority of product is on the interior and then the product is lighter through the ends. You can always go back in and put more product on the ends, but it is harder to get inside the hair once there is a lot of product on the ends.

Product will not create the maximum volume unless it gets to the roots. If you aren’t getting the root dry during your blowout, your hair will flatten as it continues to dry. So be sure that the root is going in the direction you want while you are pre-drying your hair before you pull out a round brush.

Pomades, Clays, Waxes and Putties

These are the detailing products.  If it comes in a tub, it probably fits in this category. For short hair styling it is important to start with small amounts of products and thoroughly emulsify the products in your hands before going into the hair. Also, like above, you need to really press the product into the interior of the hair. To get that tousled look you really want to give yourself a little scalp massage with the product. If you focus on the ends it will just be weighed down. Detail ends with the product left on your hands after you have already pressed the majority into the root area. For controlled looks you still want to press the product all throughout the hair, root to end, but make sure to continuously direct it in the direction you want it to go.

For medium or long hair, make sure not to use too much as it can weigh the hair down. Sometimes that is the goal, but you don’t want the hair to look droopy. Start small and emulsify into your hands. You can always go back for more product afterwards.

Hairspray

First of all, use the correct spray for your needs! A common mistake is to reach for the most intense spray possible, but sometimes stronger sprays will collapse the hair instead of keeping the volume.

For use with hot tools, use a light to medium hold working spray and don’t hold the can too close to your head. Make sure it is evenly distributed and try not to overdo it. You don’t want your hair crunchy! Too much spray while working can just cause the flyaways to be stickier and crispier. I prefer Shaper Zero Gravity for curling iron sets.

The really tacky firm sprays are more for flyaways on slicked back hair. Mist hair with spray then smooth flyaways with tail comb.

For volume at root you can spray a medium-firm spray on partings (like where you would tease) and even hit it with the blow dryer to dry spray into the hair. I do this when I tease but it can be done without teasing, too.

Finish with a mist of spray that is suited to your hair type. Lighter sprays for fine hair and firmer sprays as needed for thicker hair. Remember that spraying hair at the end will help seal a look, but to really help it hold it is important to use other products to create the form before that last step. Without the structural support of mousse or gel, it will fall. A firm structure will keep it from collapsing.

Oils and Shine Serums

Know the weight of the product you are using. A lot of these products are easy to get carried away with. Don’t for a second think that since you have used one oil or shine serum that others will react to your hair the same way. Some are very heavy and it is important to use small amounts. Some are better put in wet, others dry, and still others can be used both ways. Some oils will feel like they aren’t there at all until all of a sudden there is way too much. Always start with the manufacturers’ instructions and then go from there.

When in Doubt, Read

Some products are activated when they are shaken. Others look like they would go in wet but go in dry and vice versa. Some are focused at the root (although, you should always pay attention to the root). Some look like one type of product but they are something else. A lot of times the directions will hint at the amount you should use, which can be crucial. Don’t say a product is too heavy until you have tried using less and really focusing where you are putting it, and don’t say something is too light until you have tried using more.  Products are your friends.  Be patient with them and pay attention to the feedback you are getting.  And when in doubt, ask your hairstylist.

Stay tuned for Part II, with makeup application tips.

My Most Memorable Haircuts I

Yesterday I asked my Facebook friends about their most memorable haircuts, either given or received, and I heard back a lot of beautiful, inspiring stories. Big hearts and so much passion. Because I tend to be long winded I thought I would jot down my own response here rather than on my own status.

I follow my gut, and a lot of times it leads me to strange places that I never would’ve imagined. A prime example is probably my most memorable haircut to date, because it was so odd and made me think a lot about hair in the populations that don’t make it to the salon regularly.

A Palestinian businessman came into the salon once at the end of my shift and I stayed to cut his hair. He had tight curls and a thick accent (I think he understood me quite well, but I had some difficulty understanding certain words from him) and just wanted his hair cut in some common American style. For men, especially curly hair, I can’t say there is one style that is suited for everyone, and while in the US a businessman with curly hair would probably cut his hair quite short, but I hate getting rid of the curl if it isn’t socially mandated.

We talked a lot about Palestine and where he currently was living, Qatar, and all the sorts of ethnic food we both like and the places we have both traveled to. He talked about how in the Middle East a man would never get his hair cut by a woman. He talked about his wife back home and what a wonderful mother she was and about his children… Which brought me to why he was in Pittsburgh. One of his sons was very ill, an illness I did not fully understand, but had multiple organs failing. They had flown 16 hours with a nurse and doctor to get to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. His wife was home with the rest of the children and pregnant with another.

At the end of his haircut he asked me if I could cut his son’s hair. He gave me the hospital phone number and I said I could see what I could do. Long story short, a few days later, shortly before he was due to fly back to a hospital in the Middle East, I went to the Children’s Hospital and the man game down to the lobby to check me into the floor his son was on. When I got in I was a little shocked to see the five year old with a bandage wrapped completely around his abdomen. He could not talk. The father said he had been quite a talker before the illness. But he was a beautiful child… there’s just something incredible about a kid with enormous brown eyes and thick, black lashes. Gorgeous skin and rich brown hair that brushed his shoulders in the back and obscured his eyes in the front. He was watching Cars dubbed over in Arabic and rocking back and forth during the entire haircut. I reached over the bars of his bed and his father held his head still so I could cut his hair.

Kid’s cuts can be difficult, especially if the kid is strong and busy bodied like this boy. The cut was not perfect but it didn’t need to be. The fact is, five inches off and a shape cut in and the difference was remarkable. He was a beautiful boy before but after the haircut he was beginning to look healthy again. To see him play without needing to swat hair out of his face and to look at those big brown eyes without a curtain of hair in the way… It was a very profound moment for me.

“But I don’t DO anything to my hair! Why is it so damaged?”

I hear exactly this sentiment from about a third of my long haired clients. So let me explain how hair can get damaged even if you don’t use heat tools or color it. Some of these are big shockers to my clients!

1. Putting your hair up into one of those towel turbans after the shower. Towels are very heavy, especially when wet, and that is a ton of weight to put on your hairline, where the hair is already the most fragile.

2. Never brushing or combing your hair. A lot of long hair clients will put their hair back in a messy bun when it is still dripping wet and just leave it up until their next shower, where they rip through the knots while shampooing. Except for some of the curliest of curly haired folks, you need to get that brush though those strands. Brushing is great for hair!

3. ALWAYS having hair up in a bun/pony tail. Elastic bands are not great for hair for continuous usage. If you always have your hair back get a butterfly clip or something that won’t pull it as tightly. Braids are also wonderful. Styling hair (yes, even blow drying and flat ironing) can be great for your hair as long as you are using heat protectant, since you are thoroughly distributing the oil though your hair and stimulating the scalp from continuously brushing/combing.  And let’s be real, the scalp can get really weird really quickly if it is always wet… I’m talking fungus weird!

4. NEVER using product. I’m not sure where the rumor went out that product is bad for your hair…? If you use a product suitable for your hair it will not only look better right away, it will also protect your hair from the elements.

5. Never getting it cut. This one should be obvious, but doesn’t seem to be.  As hair travels through the world, the ends get battered by wind, water, changing clothes… everything!  The ends fray and if those ends aren’t cut, they travel up and up and cause tangles and the tangles cause more damage.  It’s a vicious cycle.

6. Not getting color. This is a strange one because, yes, some colors can cause damage, especially if poorly formulated, but a demi or semi permanent color can work wonders for the hair, adding shine, improving texture and sealing down the cuticle. Consider a clear gloss!  Even gray coverage goes a long way toward evening out the texture of salt and pepper hair.

7. Not conditioning enough. Many of my long hair clients should be getting a conditioning treatment at least once a month, either in salon or with a quality at home mask. Just conditioning in the shower a few minutes is probably not enough. The bottoms of your hair may have been with you two, maybe even three or four years! Give ’em some love. Leave-in conditioners and styling conditioners can work wonders for smoothing, silkening and protecting! Check out Potion 9 from Sebastian.

ADDITIONALLY, a leave-in conditioner is wonderful for protecting hair against sun, chlorine and saltwater!

Don’t we all just want beautiful, healthy hair?

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Sydney Perez of Taxi Talent, Photo by Megan Gardner Photography, Hair and Makeup by Rachel Lynn Carr (me)

What Men Like

When it comes to my hair, I have always done what I want, when I want. Maybe it is because I never had a crazy (about hair) boyfriend or because my parents were fairly open minded about hair, or maybe because everyone always complimented my hair. I always felt like my hair was an extension of myself.

So it shocks me to hear women say they are afraid to do something because of their significant other. Like cutting two inches off the length or going from blonde to light brown. And I think, what man would even notice?

I have also had a lot of women in love with their cut or color after a change but with fear in their eyes about going home and showing their husband/boyfriend. They usually come back the next time beaming and delighted that the men in their life actually like what I have done. I see it again and again.

I think in many relationships, men don’t realize the weight of their comments. And in many relationships, women blow what men say completely out of proportion. First off, when I see women and men together and I am talking to the woman about her hair, a lot of times she will say he has said X about her hair and he will deny it or say he didn’t mean it “like that,” etc.

Of course, these are all generalizations so take it with a grain of salt.

Most men don’t really care what their lady looks like as long as she looks good. If he has said he doesn’t like redheads, that doesn’t mean that he will hate an auburn lowlight in his lady’s hair. And even if they don’t care for that particular aspect, they probably won’t care that much and they probably would never notice if it wasn’t pointed out to them.

Some men do have strong preferences. Sometimes a fictional character or girl/woman next door could have made a huge impact on them as kids/adolescents. A lot of times these don’t necessarily translate to what they want in a woman. Maybe Catwoman is the sexiest character alive for a man, it doesn’t mean he wants his girlfriend to wear a spandex jumpsuit everywhere. A lot of times he might even want the opposite in real life. Some things are meant to live in fantasy.

My husband likes naturally long, wavy hair. He has admitted this after a lot of prodding. That said, he doesn’t care that much and he thinks short hair is flattering for me. What’s more, he LOVES how little time it takes for me to do my hair and he loves how much I love it short. He also loves that he can run his hands through it without messing it up. Ultimately, I think it is hard for a man to truly hate a hairstyle, within reason, if it makes his wife/girlfriend happy.

Men like confidence. They like femininity but that doesn’t necessarily mean long, flowing hair anymore. They just want their wife/girlfriend as they are. They want to see her, understand her. The goal is not to match up to a man’s image of female perfection, but to be so awesome that he loves her even more than Lara Croft, Catwoman, Jessica Rabbit, whoever. Because they aren’t real and they can’t hold a conversation.

Berlin Changed my Life

[Written originally on a napkin on my derailed flight home from Connect]

There are always certain things that we don’t know that we know, things which can only be fully discovered when we attempt to explain ourselves to someone else. I discovered something about myself last week, which should have been obvious, allowing myself to place the appropriate due nostalgia on a truly transformative trip.

A little over a year ago I spent three days in Berlin. I had just finished hair classes in Budapest, where I had received a lot of flattering comments from the teachers. It was the first time that hairdressers I deeply respected pulled me aside to tell me that I had talent and potential. I transitioned into visiting friends in Berlin who were feeling a little gloomy. This was lightened by the fact that the sun was making an appearance for the first time in many, many months. The first day or spring is the best day to visit any country. There was so much happiness in the streets, the parks, the fields.

Immediately, Berlin left a significant mark on me. Which isn’t to say enough: Berlin truly changed my life and forever altered my conception of myself as a beauty professional. I saw a distinct and aggressive fashion sense. It was rebellious. It was free, it cared just the right amount. Prior to the trip I had tried to conform to the successful girly-girl stylists I knew. But it was never quite right. It was impossible to make me want the things they wanted, to have passion for dressing, acting, speaking the way they did. For the first time, I saw a fashion I could own. One I could contribute to and belong within. There was a defiant confidence in the culture, a cold coolness that was contagious. It was raw, gritty, undone. It was everything that I had tried to suppress in hopes of finding success as a hair stylist.

Additionally, the art: the graffiti, the murals, the installations. It was a city in adolescence and it renewed within me a certain youthfulness. The art fit so neatly within my own style, invigorating and validating. There was so much I had left behind in order to “grow up,” in order to make it out of adolescence alive. This trip came just in time to reawaken those creatively rebellious impulses and I was ready, mature enough to focus and refine those impulses into a style I could call my own.

Picture below: My shadow interacting with an installation at the Hamburger Bahnhof. Kick ass installation art museum, and I am picky!

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Connect 2013 Part III: Social Ponderings

In my first post about Connect, I spoke a little about feeling refreshed creatively, but almost as dramatically, I felt refreshed socially and emotionally. I remembered a lot about what makes me who I am and why I got into this industry in the first place.

Growing up, I saw myself as a healer, a source of comfort for those around me. To me, that was the most important quality I held. I thrived in hospitals, homeless shelters, funeral homes. I wanted to work in social justice or the mental health field. I went to college thinking I would work with victims of substance abuse. Much too much for someone so tender hearted. Fields that require tough love, when I was always more into the soft sorts.

At Connect I felt very hyper aware of the people around me and their energy was contagious. I am naturally fairly quiet but I love quality nonverbal communication. A touch on the arm, the right look in the eye, the correct degree of smile for any given moment. People always harp on remembering people’s name and I am almost decent at it, but what is never mentioned is how you can look someone in the eye and have them know that you know exactly who they are, and I think that is far more important than eye contact. I have known a lot of names for people I didn’t really know, and I think that is something people can feel.

Anyway, Connect gave me so much joy it just reminded me that that is what I want to give to my clients. I want to make them comfortable, excited. I want them to feel apart of something. I want them to feel alive and welcome and eager for change. I want them to be fearless.

One thing I thought a lot about this week is how small a percentage of someone’s personality is actually that person, mostly it is how they are reacting to their surroundings, which could result in actions that are quite contrary to how they normally are. I was keenly aware of how my actions could help people have a better day, a better experience, especially the first day of training when there was a lot of nervous energy lingering in the room. I remembered that paying attention to and helping others is one of the most important parts of my job, and that it is one of the reasons that I chose this line of work. It unlocks a part of myself and a part in others that can really change… Everything.