Use This Trick from Celebrity Hairstylist Jen Atkin, and You’ll Never Deal with Flyaways Again

BAW Jen Atkin
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Angelique Serrano

Mar 20, 2018 @ 9:00 am

“Instagram changed my life,” says hairstylist Jen Atkin. “I was one of the first [pros] on set to bother everyone and ask for a selfie [to show] my work. I was never shy about it.”

Thank goodness for that: Now, more than 5,000 snaps and 2.2 million Instagram followers later, Atkin has a fan club that includes Bella Hadid, Chrissy Teigen, and more than one Kardashian, plus a wildly successful product line called Ouai (pronounced “way”), ideas for which she crowd-sourced on social media. “The No. 1 thing for me was always having that dialogue with my followers.”

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A few years ago, riding those effortless-looking waves she was known for creating, “I was getting offers from brands I would have [previously] died to talk to,” she says. But the executives “were mostly guys saying, ‘We want to turn your 15 minutes into a career.’ It was so condescending. That’s what pushed me to create a female-led brand.” So in 2016 Ouai débuted at Sephora with floral-scented stylers that became immediate cool-girl hair bait.

But this wasn’t always the plan. “I grew up as the odd man out in a conservative Mormon household. I loved pop culture, MTV, and any ’80s movie with a makeover scene.” By high school Atkin was going through “packs of shaving razors” slicing her friends’ hair. She thought she would marry her high-school sweetheart; instead, she broke up with him after graduation and left Utah with her best friend. “We got in our Honda Civic hatchback with $300 and moved to L.A.”

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Atkin worked entry-level jobs while cold-calling salons until she got hired as a receptionist at Estilo. “I fed the meter for Bette Midler and Winona Ryder. That’s where I met Jessica Alba—she loves to remind me about that.”

Atkin learned the hustle, working her way up, getting into an apprenticeship program and earning her license. It was at Estilo where she met stylist Chris McMillan (of Rachel-cut fame), and she later worked at his namesake salon. In those pre-Instagram days, “the only way to get celebrity clients was by word of mouth—or pray that a great publicist came in for a blowout.”

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For Atkin, assisting stylist Andy Lecompte led her to a string of star encounters. “He was doing Madonna’s hair and asked me to go on tour with them.” Soon afterward Atkin was doing extensions for Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie and working Paris and Milan fashion weeks with legends like Guido Palau and Orlando Pita. “It was like hair university, learning how to correctly do a ponytail.”

Today, Atkin oversees a hair university of sorts: Mane Addicts is a website for stylists to share their work and host tutorials. “A lot of times in this industry women have been made to feel they need a stern growl to get ahead. But I was always about killing with kindness. I like to show my journey and say this could honestly happen to someone else.”

Jen’s Must-Haves

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