My Bag

Celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin cut her own hair in high school

Jen Atkin is not only a hairstylist, she also helms digital hair magazine Mane Addicts and haircare brand Ouai.
Jen Atkin is not only a hairstylist, she also helms digital hair magazine Mane Addicts and haircare brand Ouai. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Jen Atkin counts celebrities such as the Kardashians, singer Katy Perry and model Bella Hadid as her clients

Growing up in a small community in Utah, United States, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin's dream of making a career out of working with hair started with her love for makeover montages.

Speaking to The Straits Times earlier this month when she was in town to promote her haircare brand, Atkin says: "As a kid, I always loved makeover scenes and transformation montages in pop culture and music videos. I just loved the idea that women could transform themselves."

The 37-year-old founder of haircare label Ouai (pronounced way) says the transition to cutting and styling hair progressed naturally from there.

"In high school, I started cutting my own hair with shaving razors from the grocery store. Then I also started to cut my friend's hair."

At 19, after deciding to pursue a career in hairstyling, Atkin moved to Los Angeles. "I just started visiting and cold-calling salons and asking if anyone was hiring. I managed to get a job at Estilo salon as a receptionist."

The road to success was not an easy one. She worked her way up to salon manager, learning about the business along the way.

In 2005, she attended beauty school at Abram Friedman Occupational Center. While studying, she worked as an assistant to the hairstylists at the salon, putting in the hours to get her cosmetology licence.


  • This envelope clutch is from Ouai. It's my favourite item from the merchandise collection. I like creating other merchandise for the brand apart from hair products to create a sense of community among customers.

She then worked as an assistant at Hollywood hairstylist Chris McMillan's salon in Beverly Hills.

"I worked with Andy LeCompte, who was Madonna's stylist, and he asked me to go on her Confessions tour with him in 2006. I worked on all the dancers' hair."

After the tour, McMillan offered Atkin a hairstylist position and she started building her own list of well-known clients.

Famous names she has worked with include American reality television stars and sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, singer Katy Perry, actress Jessica Alba, and models Chrissy Teigen and Bella Hadid.

When she is not styling hair at a celebrity's home or on the set of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, she works at a couple of salons in New York and Los Angeles, including the Andy LeCompte Salon.

But the savvy businesswoman is not only a hairstylist. She also started digital hair magazine Mane Addicts in 2014 and Ouai last year.

The haircare brand, which is available in Singapore at Sephora outlets, includes products such as the Rose Hair & Body Oil ($48), Texturizing Hair Spray ($39) and Hair Supplements ($42).

Asked if she could offer a tip on managing hair in Singapore's humid weather, Atkin says: "For those with long hair, they should use two types of shampoo. The hair at the root is different from the hair at the ends. Use a cleansing or volumising shampoo at the roots and a repairing and more hydrating shampoo near the ends because the ends are older and dryer."

Atkin, who rocks dark brunette bangs with a bouncy long bob, adds: "It starts in the shower. You have to find the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair."

Things in her bag


I have about 30 pairs of sunglasses from this label. They have all types of styles, so it is always easy to pick something to match whatever mood I am in. I love the retro vibe and olive tone of this pair.


It is really important to always protect your skin and I love that this is light on the skin and you can't feel it at all.


I wear a lot of bracelets. Since I officially started my hair dressing career in 2006, I've bought a bracelet for myself every year. I got this in 2012. It's an evil eye bracelet and is for protection.


I am obsessed with this. The formula is really great. It doesn't get cakey or make your lips dry. I wear this every day.


I never really have time to stop and eat full meals so I usually have food with me that is easy to eat on the go. This comes in individual packets, which is so convenient, and it is also really yummy.


The pins are a part of a social campaign we launched in August called Live Life Your Ouai. We wanted to talk about the strength and power of women and the political climate, and reflect all these things that modern women are doing in a fun way. I give these to people and I also wear them on T-shirts or put them on purses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'Hairstylist to the stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe