Jen Atkin’s celebrity hair resume is wild. Her clients include women like Kendall Jenner, Chrissy Teigen, Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid… This list goes on for as long as you’re willing to scroll. In addition to her day job (or night job, depending on what time the red carpet call time is set; and speaking of red carpet, she sewed a veil to client Bella Hadid’s “head” for The 2018 Met Gala), she’s the creative director of Mane Addicts and has her own product line, Ouai. This is all well and good and amazing, but what about her hair? Below, she answers that very question.
How did you get into hair styling? And how did that transition into working with a celebrity clientele?
I’ve always loved doing hair. I was obsessed with Natalie Imbruglia’s short haircut in her “Torn” music video when I was a teenager in Utah, but no one could give me the cut I wanted. So I went to the store, bought a pack of shaving razors, and starting cutting my own hair. Soon I was cutting all my friends’ hair in my parent’s garage. After high school, I drove to California with only $300 and my Honda Civic hatchback. I called all the salons in Allure’s beauty directory until finally someone returned my call and I started working as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills. I remember running out to feed meters for Bette Midler and I was so excited. After a while, I met Andy Lecompte and started assisting him right before he went on tour with Madonna, so I ended up styling all the dancer’s hair and traveled the world!
What about your profession do you think people might find surprising?
How much prep time is required for certain looks and how, as a result, we have to be quick on our feet. Lots of times we are rushed.
If you weren’t a hair stylist, you would be…
A deejay! Or a lounge singer.
What is it about doing hair/having your hair done that builds such a bond and allows for so much trust?
Being a hairstylist is like being a therapist. We’re in people’s homes, in their faces, starting the day off with them. We’re in such an intimate position. We know everyone’s secrets. If I were in their shoes, I’d want somebody who was trustworthy and somebody who had my back.
Who did your current hairstyle?
What’s your daily hair routine and how long does it take? Do you do something different for special occasions?
The key to low-maintenance styling starts with your tools. I hate the misconception that beautiful hair takes all day to achieve. It’s not true! You don’t need a glam squad to look your best. I tell all my clients and followers that the Dyson Supersonic is key for quick-styling because it’s so smart. [Ed note: Jen Atkin is US Ambassador for the Dyson brand.] The focused airflow cuts down on styling time, the nozzles are easy to change and it’s temperature self-monitors so that it never causes heat damage.
In the same way, every single OUAI product is created specifically for the “girl-on-the-go.” I usually spray OUAI Leave In before I blow dry. If my hair is oily I use OUAI Dry Shampoo Foam and if I need texture I add OUAI Dry Texture Foam to my ends and work my way up. I swear you’ll have the best hair of your life, smell amazing and be out in five minutes or less.
If you had to select ONE item from your line — your desert island product — what would it be?
My one desert island hair product is probably the OUAI Wave Spray. Sea salt can dry out your strands, but OUAI Wave Spray actually uses rice protein to create texture in the hair instead of salt. Your strands will love it.
Before you started OUAI what was your go-to hair product?
I’m still a pro hairstylist and use everything! I currently love and use Christophe Robin Prickly Pear Balm, Balmain Session Strong Hairspray, BLEACH hard AF Hairspray and Rita Hazan’s Root Concealer.
Favorite drugstore hair product?
A toothbrush! I use one to tame fly-aways. All you need to do is spray a little hairspray on the toothbrush and brush down any stray hairs along the part and hairline.
I also like DIY masks to hydrate hair. My favorite natural/household items for DIY masks: egg yolk, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, beer — all to be used individually, not mixed.
Have you gone through a bunch of hair phases or had the same hair your whole life?
I have always loved changing my hair, but I went through a long hair phase for quite some time. It’s so fun to play with different short styles on myself now — when I have time to fit in a haircut.
When do you hate your hair?
When I haven’t washed it in days.
When do you love it?
On the second day.
Who has your favorite hair in the world and what’s your personal dream hair?
Sade. My dream hair would be healthy and effortless.
When people come to you to get their hair done, how do you prefer they show up to the chair?
With their hair styled as they normally wear it is best; that way they’re able to have a better consultation and customize the cut according to how they wear it every day.
What type of hairstyle is most frequently requested?
Textured lobs, and I’ve been seeing a lot of girls request bobs, too!
What’s your stance on bangs?
I’m currently loving bangs with a shaggy cut. Bangs are so versatile and frame the face so well!
Tell me about a standout hair-related memory (weirdest, funniest, most memorable)…
Bella [Hadid] walking down the Spanish Steps at the Bulgari Goldea Roman Night launch was one of my favorite moments. I also loved Kendall [Jenner] last year at the Cannes Film Festival and Chrissy [Teigen] from the Met Ball a few years ago… Kim [Kardashian] in Cannes a couple of years ago. So many memorable moments, I can’t choose just one!
If you’ve caught the hair bug, not to be confused with a hairball, you can read about Tiffany’s hair, Solange’s hair, Sarah’s hair, Amelia’s hair, Erica’s hair, Nell’s hair, Shiona’s hair, Simone’s hair, Arabelle’s hair and Megan’s hair after that.
Photos by Maggie Shannon.