Celebrity colorist and owner of the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City, Rita Hazan is one of the most sought after colorists in the world. Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Michelle Williams, Renee Zellweger, and Britney Spears are just a few of her many clients and she’s consistently featured in glossy publications like Allure and InStyle. We spoke with the master colorist about her background, her product line, and going from colorist to entrepreneur.
Did you always have a passion for hair color?
I went to beauty school right after high school when I was 17 because I decided that college wasn’t creative enough for me. This is the only thing I wanted to do and it felt really natural. After beauty school I went to work for Oribe as an assistant. I trained with Brad Johns and learned everything from him. When I got promoted my career started to take off and I eventually opened my own salon.
Can you go into more detail about how you made that transition from colorist to entrepreneur?
I worked for Oribe for 10 years before opening my own salon. I left on my own in 2004 and thought that if I could pay the rent, I could make something happen. I got some people to work with me in a small townhouse and we outgrew the space in two years, which is when I opened my current Fifth Avenue Salon in 2006.
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to running a salon?
Creating and maintaining a cool, open vibe, and finding and keeping good people. I want to work around good people and have their energy throughout the salon. On one side of the salon there is color, the other is styling, but we all work together. Everyone gets inspired by everyone and that’s important to me. I also want everyone to feel comfortable and have a good experience while here.
As someone so influential in the beauty industry, how do you stay ahead of trends?
It’s a combination of fashion, pop culture, and the streets of New York. I draw inspiration from my life, where I live, and where I travel. Celebrities are now more open to coloring their hair, so their projects help inspire me. Katy Perry came to me and wanted something dramatic so I made her hair pink, purple, and blue. It blew up. It’s a combination of what these artists are doing in their own careers and what fashion dictates. I don’t think there is one specific thing to look to for trends.
How did your product line come about?
The line launched in March 2011 and the first product was the Root Concealer. I really never wanted to do a product line, but everybody asked me about starting one over the years. I knew that something really had to inspire me in order to start my own line – I didn’t want to do it for the sake of having a product line. Every day my clients would ask me what to do to maintain color in-between salon visits and at the time there wasn’t a product on the market easy enough for people to use. I made it my mission to figure out a good delivery system with the right formula and shades. It took me four years to create this product because I wanted everything about it to be perfect. My Root Concealer, which covers gray hair or grow out in between salon visits, sprays easily, stays put and there are five shades to match any hair color. It’s made out of natural pigments and has a little bit of resin in it to adhere to the hair. It’s also great for men and women with thinning hair because it adds thickness and depth.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process from idea to finished product when it comes to launching a new product?
When I create a product, it’s always something that doesn’t exist so I have to find a lab that is willing to work with me. These are innovative products and they take time to develop and test. I try every product on a lot of people and do a lot of my research and development at the salon. I get to have the best of everything right at my salon.
It’s challenging and you can’t give up. I have a very strong vision and I have to follow through. Doing average work is not in my DNA – I always challenge myself to be a better colorist and develop better products. It’s fun, and when the finished product is done it is so rewarding. Especially when people say they can’t live without it.
What's your biggest beauty pet peeve?
From a hair colorist perspective, if you ping pong back and forth to different colorists you won’t get a balance of color that works every time. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s not about loyalty at all, it’s about balance. Your hair changes and you need to have the same person monitoring it and getting to know your hair so that you can keep the color perfect. Sometimes I’ll give clients a bottle of color to take with them if they’re traveling and tell them to bring it to a salon to have it applied. Otherwise nobody is happy, and it’s a circle of fixing.
What haircare products do you think every woman should own? Every man?
My new Weekly Remedy at-home conditioning treatment. Every color starts with a strong foundation, and this treatment repairs hair inside out. I’m all about instant gratification, and with this there’s no wait time and it’s not another cosmetic fix like a masque or oil – the technology actually repairs hair instantly.
My Ultimate Shine Color Gloss to maintain color between appointments and to help keep hair healthy and shiny and my Root Concealer. It’s good for men and women. You would be surprised how many men use this product because it covers grays while camouflaging thinning or receding hair.
Coconut oil, a shampoo and conditioner for colored hair, and SPF are also important.
Are there haircare ingredients we should make sure to stay away from?
If your hair is colored avoid a clarifying shampoo definitely because they strip the hair. Dandruff shampoos also have a stripping agent unless it says it is for color-treated hair. Also parabens and sulfates.