Photo: Mike Rosenthal
If you’re a fan of Kardashian hairstylist Jen Atkin, you probably already know that her de facto guidance counselor was none other than Dave Matthews. A chance meeting with the rock star provided the “Just do it” impetus to pack up her car, leave her conservative small town in Utah, and follow her dreams of becoming a hairstylist in L.A.
Matthews aside, Atkin likely had the gumption inside her all along.
“I watched both my parents work really hard, opening new business where they saw opportunities, and that just carried into my own life,” she says, citing the babysitters club she started in middle school.
After arriving in L.A., Atkin learned the business side of salons as a receptionist, then was hired at the Chris McMillan Salon after getting her license. She eventually began assisting Andy Lecompte, who within six months absconded with her to do the dancers’ hair on his client Madonna’s 2006 “Confessions” tour.
When she returned to L.A., McMillan promoted her to her own chair, and she began acquiring a clientele, including Misha Barton, Lindsay Lohan, Minka Kelly and Sofia Vergara. One day, a friend introduced her to Kim Kardashian, then Kim introduced her to Khloé and Kourtney, and the rest is, well, Kistory.
Say what you want about that family, their work ethic is mighty impressive, and it matches Atkin’s. In 2014, clearly not busy enough, she launched the digital hair community website Mane Addicts. A year later, she launched Ouai hair care. And last year, Ouai launched fragrances.
“I’m a scent snob,” admits Atkin. “When we formulated Ouai, I said to my partners, ‘We have to save a budget for Givaudan [fragrance house]. I want the best of the best. I want the people who do Tom Ford. I want the scents to be perfect.’ Scent was something our followers wanted from Day One. I’m so proud of what we created.”
As to whether additions will be joining the scent line, the scent snob remains mum. But Atkin did speak with the Cut about in-flight flatulence (not hers), social media negativity (not ours) and her Hollywood doppelganger.
What’s your definition of beauty?
Feeling your best, whatever that means. Feeling really good so you feel confident and can go conquer the world.
What is the opposite of beauty?
This angry rage culture on social media.
What discontinued product do you mourn?
The original Fekkai wave spray from back in the day.
What is your morning beauty routine?
Always the same. I wash with Ayur-Medic Manjista Facial Cleanser for Oily Skin, Epione Restoration Serum, then African Botanics Marula Oil or Drunk Elephant’s.
What’s the last beauty product you use every night?
Either Joanna Vargas Super Nova Serum, Shani Darden Resurface or Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Sleeping Night Oil.
Got a regular facialist?
Not really. I actually just started getting facials a month ago, and I’ve been to Joanna Vargas, Shani Darden, Crystal Clear Skin in L.A. that everyone’s going nuts for right now. I’d always regarded facials like putting glaze on a donut, but I’m a believer! I actually have seen my skin get better and better.
Tomoko in Beverly Hills, The Now in L.A., and in New York, I love Flavia Lanini’s lymphatic massage, especially after coming off a long flight. She uses this caffeinated lotion concoction and, with the technique she uses, it just makes your skin tighter, and you feel less puffy. I took a Before and After of my body, and my jaw was on the floor. It’s crazy.
What aspect of your beauty routine tends to be neglected?
I used to be not great with haircuts, but now I’m a high maintenance client. I go to Anh Co Tran and Gregory Russell, and Nick Flores at Sally Hershberger in L.A. I don’t think there’s just one good person. I like to try out different things with everybody.
Candle of choice:
My three go-to’s are Byredo Mojave Ghost, Le Labo Santal 26, and Diptyque Baies.
What is usually on your lips?
I’ve been doing muted colors lately, like Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk, but for red lips, KKW Hot Sauce and Red No. 2 Creme Lip Liner.
Foundation of choice:
Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer. I have melasma, so it covers it the best.
Mascara of choice:
Chantecaille, plus IND by Kiss has a little trio of lashes that I use.
What is on your cheeks?
Tom Ford Contour, Kylie Highlighter and Nude Sticks in Sunset Strip or Charlotte Tilbury Chic to Cheek in Love is the Drug.
Daily carry-all of choice:
For years it was a Prada diaper bag, but I got the new Louis Vuitton men’s Cross body trunk bag for my birthday and I use every day. It’s my favorite thing.
Work shoe of choice:
Definitely a white Adidas sneaker. Wardrobe NYC just came out with an Adidas collab, it’s not an ugly dad shoe, but a working woman in the Eighties shoe and I wear them all the time. I’m so glad at that this stage of my life, sneakers are okay to wear.
Weekend shoe of choice:
I’m a Yeezy sneaker head.
What is your classic uniform?
Ksubi long denim shorts, a black Balenciaga tee, a long black blazer with shoulder pads. Rosetta Getty has my favorite blazers.
What do you scrimp on?
Everything in life! I’m such a cheapskate. I’d say furniture. I don’t think furniture is a good investment, whatsoever.
If you could have infinity anything, what would it be? Dogs. I’d rescue a million dogs. I have had so much joy rescuing our dogs.
What makes your skin crawl? People who pass gas on a plane. It happens on every flight. I don’t understand it and I never will.
Who in the beauty industry (other than yourself, of course) is crushing it, and why?
How much time do we have?? Emily, Kylie of Kylie Cosmetics, Anastasia, Huda, I love the women of Summer Fridays, I love what Nancy Twine of Briogio has done. And Kim! Duh. KKW Beauty, and Negin Mirsalehi of Gisou. It’s our time and we’re taking the mic. I’m excited for the next generation of budding female entrepreneurs. There’s going to be bigger brands, better brands, and I’m really excited about it.
I think about _______ a lot:
What was the biggest Yes you ever got and what did you learn from it?
Probably Sephora taking on Ouai. That was pretty life changing.
The biggest No?
The Wall Group said no to me two or three times before they called me back. I learned patience from that. I learned that things don’t always happen when you want them to.
What do you foresee as the top beauty trends for the remainder of 2019?
Inclusivity. Beauty speaking to everyone is not just a trend, but we’re going to see a lot more products and a lot more messaging about it. I was recently on a podcast where I was referencing celebs who were influential in beauty in the ’80s. As a brown girl with dark hair, I didn’t feel there were many I could relate to. Salma Hayak, Jessica Alba, Penelope Cruz, and it kind of stopped there. There are going to be a lot of conversations around beauty being more broadened, and I think everyone is going to feel they’re being spoken to, which is really exciting.
What product in your domain is misunderstood and should be a best seller?
I think the concept of a treatment mask is something that’s still really foreign to people. And that’s odd to me because we take care of our skin so well, why don’t we put that extra effort into our hair. That and our Anti Frizz sheets. I thought they were portable and easy to use, but I think people are still confused about how to use it in their routine.
What product is currently your favorite (understanding that this could change all the time)?
Probably our Scalp and Body Scrub. And fragrance! It’s not even hair related! But it was really fun for the team to work on.
What would the name of your autobiography be?
I always thought “Hair She Goes” would be a good name.
Who would star as you in the film adaptation?
Timothée Chalomet. We have the same vibe: skinny legs and a short, messy haircut.