18 Oct 15 Minutes With: Jen Atkin
My friends and my team all know I’m all-things-Kardashian crazy, so when Sephora Singapore presented me with the opportunity to meet and interview hairstylist-to-the-stars-and-Kardashians Jen Atkin, I immediately said yes. She visited Singapore for a couple of days after a whirlwind fashion-week month to promote her haircare label, OUAI, which is stocked in all Sephora Singapore stores, and on sephora.sg. What I love about OUAI, is that it is a haircare brand that has a lot of thought and care behind it – all their products are not animal-tested, and are sulphate and paraben-free to protect your hair from harmful chemicals.
We sat down at Plentyfull at Millenia Walk with Jen and asked her some questions about OUAI, hairstyling techniques, and what she envisions OUAI to be in the future:
A: Singaporeans, and my readers who live in South-East Asia, live in a tropical, humid climate. Because of the weather, it is impossible for any hairstyle to stay throughout the day. What OUAI products do you recommend in this instance?
J: One of the first products that we’re launched for humidity was something that a lot of clients in the Middle East requested for. They have all been begging for something that will fight humidity. In February, we are going to launch the Memory Mist, a heat protectant that is heat-activated. It’s essentially a product that will give you the hair that you were never born with: Curly girls always want straight hair, straight hair girls always want curls. It’s going to be a product that can hold whichever hairstyle you want in this temperature. What you do is after you blow dry your hair, you spray the mist on your hair section by section, and your curls will stay on for Day 2, 3, or even 4.
A: The thing is though, many Singaporean girls wash their hair every day. I know most girls in the states wash their hair once every few days!
J: Yea, everyone’s telling me this, which is crazy! I don’t how you guys have the time! Here’s the thing, we have so many amazing products that can help girls fight oily scalp: we have supplements that can help with internal health, we also have dry shampoo foam that has just launched in Singapore and is doing so well everywhere. The dry shampoo foam is one of our first crowd-sourced products, one of my followers is a nurse, and she said in hospitals, when patients can’t wash their hair, they use this thing called Diatamaceous Earth, and so we went and made it into a foam, so you can work in into your roots, and it cleans your hair. So whenever I want to sleep in, or when I’m too tired at night, I spray dry shampoo!
A: If you could pick three introductory OUAI products for anyone to try, what would they be?
J: I’d say the universal products that work for everyone are the ones we first came out with: Wave spray, which is basically a body-builder, so if you want more volume before a blowout, use this. It is great for every single hair type (i.e. Fine hair, medium hair, thick hair), and you can use it with a diffuser to get your natural waves out in a really nice way.
The second product I would recommend would be the hair oil. I always tell clients who colour their hair, the night before you go in for colour, sleep with hair oil in your hair, or a treatment mask, which is the third product that every girl is obsessed with.
The treatment mask basically gives you virgin hair again. It comes in individual sachets that you can take with you when you hit the gym for a class, or the spa when you are getting a massage, or when you’re sitting by the pool – any moment that you can find to do a mask for at least once a week!
A: What are some of the haircare trends we should get into right now?
J: Right now, I’m really loving shorter hair. I just did 70 haircuts in Dubai, and over 50% of girls were coming in with pictures of shorter hair. It’s just easier to do your hair if its shorter. I do love your fringe (why thank you!), I love a Jane Birkin bang. You have the right face shape – if you have a heart, oval or diamond-shaped face, it’s perfect for doing a really pretty flirty bang. Another “trend” I’m into is healthy hair: silky, smooth long hair is really pretty too.
A: What is your go-to hairstyle if you have less than 5 minutes to get ready.
J: 100% is wave spray, and I take a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer with the diffuser attachment. I do this thing where I take the ends of my hair section by section, I fold it back and forth and set it in the diffuser, and I just let it go!
A: Any favourite celebrity hair icons?
J: I personally love Bianca Jagger and Patti Hansen in the 1970s. Sharday I die for, I love her sleek buns and ponytails. I love Cindy Crawford for the 90s, I think we can all agree her hair is like, the best.
A: How did you become a hairstylist?
J: I became a hairstylist by a fluke. I was obsessed with this certain hairstyle in high school and nobody would cut my hair the way I wanted it. I wanted it choppy and razored and kinda disconnected. I kept going into hair salons and everyone just gave me a bob. So I literally went to the grocery store and bought shaving razors, and I would sit down and razor my own hair. My girlfriends loved the cut, they would ask for that, so I’d be in my house, three hours later with like 7 packets of razors doing haircuts. That’s how I knew the creative side of me came out.
When I moved to LA, I was 19 years old, I moved with my best friend, we didn’t know anybody, and I started cold-calling salons, and I got a job as a receptionist. Eventually I got promoted to salon manager, and I saved up enough money to go to hair school! I really studied who was doing what, and I really tried hard and was persistent in approaching the right people to learn their craft. I kinda took things from runway stylists, salon stylists, editorial stylists, and made up my own style!
A: When was the exact moment you realized you need OUAI to happen?
My friends were the best guinea pigs, and I had them sample things for a year and a half. I use this company that does the Tom Ford scents, we spent the most money – in fact, most of the money went to creating the scents. With dry shampoo especially, when you’re trying to cover up gym smell, a dirty scalp, or cigarette smell from the night before, I just wanted to create products for girls on-the-go. For me I wanted to cover up those scents, and make your hair smell super nice.
Another thing I was really tired of was the messaging, brands would get celebrities and models with 7 wigs on their hair, it just wasn’t relatable. I just felt like, no one ever has that hair! Even our name OUAI came from Paris, I would see all these French girls and models off-duty, and their looks would never look to try-hard, they were dressed really cool but their beauty was never trying to hard, they just looked like themselves, and I really want women to embrace their natural self and enhance it a little bit. Hair should be something you feel like you can do on your own!