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:

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.

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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.

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 😉

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.

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.