Words by Michael Canalé, owner of Canalé Hair Salon and Jennifer Aniston’s colourist.
Over the 30 years I’ve been in this business, I have often been asked what makes a great colourist versus merely a good one, and even more important, how great colourists stay great over time.
As it has been said, excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude.
So throughout my career, I’ve always not only had the attitude that I would be the best, but the innate knowledge that it would happen.
So, whether I’m advising someone new to the business, or advising a client sitting in my chair for the first time – the advice I have is the same: never settle for anything less than having the attitude to be, look, and feel excellent.
So, with that in mind, there are three things that I think are key to getting the best from your stylist: research, reputation, and truth.
First, do your research. Who is the best in the business? Which stylists are near you, what do they charge for their services, and what can you afford? Look at their online profiles and reviews and see what others are saying about them. A bonus is if they are covered in the media – then you’ve got third-party validation. For me, I have spent my career going to cities where the demand is greatest and then building my brand and clientele out over three decades.
Today, I travel between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Rancho Santa Fe to Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and Dallas – and I am about to open a third salon in LA. If you were to research me, for example, you will see that my press, social media profile, and customer testimonials all add up to a stylist not only with deep and proven experience – but yes, also the right attitude – to have staying power in this very competitive environment.
But of course, I couldn’t do any of this without my second guidepost: reputation.
When looking for a good stylist, look at their reputation. Are they good? Do they listen to their clients, or just turn out cookie cutter blonde? Are they kind?
Ask your friends, too. There are a lot of cool stylists and colourists out there – and there are some who are really great at PR – and great PR doesn’t make up for bad stylists. Reputation in this business is everything. Sure, having some beautiful women from Hollywood help with that, but hard work – every day – is everything.
Chris McMillan, one of the best stylists in the business, said that I’m the only colourist he would trust on the day of the Academy Awards. I love that – and I feel the same way about him. Together, we’ve created some pretty awesome looks for some pretty amazing women – both celebrities and not – and we’ve kept our reputations sound – honestly, a solid reputation is more important to me than earning a living.
Which leads me to the third piece of advice: truth. What this means is, be true to yourself.
Ask your colourist to start at the beginning – what were you born with? If you can, bring in pictures from when you were a teen – before you started to change what God gave you. Is your base naturally darker? Then start with that and make it richer. If you have a mousier, lighter brown base, then punch it up a bit and make it warmer. Do you have a redder base? Then use that and make it deeper – even adding coloured glosses if you’d like.
I always start with the shape of the face, one’s skin tone, and eye color. What I don’t do is pull something generic out of a magazine or copy another stylist. I always start with a woman’s natural color while bringing out her features; it’s almost like a painting – if you add in a color that doesn’t “match” or fit well with the other natural colors already there, then the color will be jarring and won’t look right. So, while you might want to look like a certain celebrity, but ask yourself if that really is true to who you are.
Finally, my signature is to maintain colour, build up shine and shimmer – which is why I developed my own hair care line available at canaléproducts.com. Since you’re making an investment in your hair when you sit in a salon chair, you should absolutely invest in the upkeep, too! Strong, shiny, healthy hair is always the best for me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “the creation of beauty is art”. I live that, every day – creating beauty through my art – and anyone sitting in a stylist’s chair should demand no less.
Make sure to follow Michael on Instagram at @canalehair.
Image credit at the very top of the article: DFree/Bigstock.com