Category Archives: hairstyling

To gray or not to gray: that is the question.

I’ve been coloring my brown hair since I could drive myself to the drugstore. When I decided to grow out my ombre highlights last year — still a work in progress — I thought I’d give my hair a rest from the chemicals and go au naturale for while.

It turns out, I like my natural color… and now my head is being slowly colonized by grays.

Ironic, dontcha’ think?

It started in my late 20s with a silvery strand or two — which I yanked and forgot — but when I tried a deep side part a few Sundays ago, I found a sneaky streak hiding near my left temple that I hadn’t noticed before. (I’m sure I sprouted several more over Valentine’s week.)

When women start to gray, we find ourselves at a fork in the road: one path leads to years in our colorist’s chair waging a war against our roots, and the other embraces it. There’s even an #embracethegray hashtag, which I discovered while scouring Pinterest and Instagram for fierce ladies who let their silver shine; see: Sarah Harris.

Considering my aversion to maintenance, I think I’ll join the latter camp and let it go. For now. ;)

To blend everything in, I want to add some hand-painted balayage highlights to the crown and around my face. They’re more subtle and grow-out friendly than foils, and will hopefully camouflage the gray without the need for regular root touchups.

Best case scenario, I end up with some awesome natural highlights like this gorgeous model from Cisthene.

{Image sources: Refinery29, Cisthene, Constanza Arena, British Vogue.}

The #ClearTheShoulders Movement

Kristin Ess, co-founder of and hairstylist to the stars, sparked a revolution when she snipped Lauren Conrad’s signature long locks into an above-the-shoulders textured bob last season. Then she cropped Lucy Hale. Now Instagram is blowing up with a hashtag devoted to all the brave ladies doing the chop: #cleartheshoulders.

They all look effortlessly cool and perfectly tousled… And I’m over here like, “I’ma do it!

But I’m not gonna do it. Not just yet.

I had short hair through most of my teens and twenties, and loved it; but it was a lot of work. That effortless look actually takes, um, effort: daily washing and styling, regular salon visits for trims (think every 4-6 weeks in your stylist’s chair) and really good product.

If you want something fresh and don’t mind the maintenance, chop away! But here are a few things to keep in mind before you do:

1. Remember that you won’t have a ponytail or topknot as a crutch on mornings you don’t feel like doing your hair. You’re fully committed.

2. Find a stylist you trust who’s up on the latest styles and techniques and understands your hair texture. Otherwise you may end up with a super conservative mom bob or a hacked up haircut you can’t style to save your life. I’m speaking from past experience, on both counts.

3. Consider a progressive chop. Try a long bob (lob) and see how you like the change before you #cleartheshoulders. Lobs are much easier to grow out than bobs (the awkward grow-out struggle is real) and you’ll still have some length to pull back into ponies and up-dos.

A Tip for Your Topknot

I like big buns and I cannot lie.

But for a style that looks so effortless, it can be awfully tricky to master the just-messy-enough topknot. Or maybe it’s just me. Anyone else get a cockatoo crest on the majority of attempts?

{Yeah, it’s probably just me.}

In last month’s issue of Allure, there was a feature on How to Get Surfer-Girl Hair. It shared a tip that totally changed my topknot game: Start by working two big handfuls of mousse into your dry hair from roots to ends. The mousse gives your hair some volume and grip, making it much easier to twist into a bun without any weird pieces jutting out.

When you’re sufficiently moussed — don’t be shy; handfuls, ladies —  flip your head and roughly dry your hair with a blowdryer and your fingers. While you’re still upside down, gather all your hair into a super-high pony and secure it to the top of your head with an elastic. Give that pony a good backcombing with a teasing brush, then twist it around the base and secure with bobby pins.

Spritz it with a salt spray or hairspray for extra hold, and you’re done!

And now a confession (judge me if you will):

I used this trick to put my hair into a topknot on Monday evening, when I realized I wouldn’t have time to wash and dry before heading to a friend’s house for her birthday dinner. I slept on it for two nights, only adding a bobby pin here and there each morning to fix any loose pieces.

2.5 days of wear from five minutes of styling? I’ll take it all day and twice on Sunday.

freshly cropped

clavicut with highlights

Chopping your hair is such a thing right now, isn’t it? I jumped on the bandwagon late last week, after I realized all those topknots and tortured ponytails weren’t a fashion statement; they were a rut. I needed a makeover.

So I waltzed in to my hair appointment Thursday afternoon and declared to my stylist that it was time to freshen things up with a good old fashioned chop, “up to here.” [Insert dramatic hand-gestures to communicate desired length, somewhere between chin and shoulders.] 

We agreed to compromise with a healthy three-inch snip. “We can always take more off later,” she reasoned. But when she finished, I asked her to lop off one more inch, which removed the last of my layers and left me with a long, one-length bob that falls to my collarbone. Hash tag: clavicut.

crowning glory

crowning glory | 01


I have two go-to hairstyles: loose and wavy, and messy top knot. I pin hair tutorials like it’s my job, but I never make an effort to try anything new. Like, ever.

So let’s not get crazy and call this a resolution, but I’m hoping to mix up my mane now and then, master a few [easy] styles, and maybe share them on the blog in a completely random and noncommittal series, aptly named after the Pinterest board that houses all my good hair inspiration.

Kicking things of with the easiest of ‘dos: the throwback topsy tail, made modern with a little mess.

You can find simple instructions for this classic pony on Gal Meets Glam.  I sprayed mine with Lush Sea Spray for texture, then teased the pony a bit with a boar bristle round brush for extra volume. To finish the front, I quickly curled any fallen pieces away from my face with a 1.5″ curling iron, and gave it all a good spray with Elnett satin hairspray for all-day hold.

Next time, I’ll give the crown a good back combing for an extra boost before I pull my hair into the pony.

my favorite haircare products for highlighted hair

hair favorites

Drastic changes can be tough on your mane. In my case, I’m fortunate to have healthy hair and a stylist who knows what she’s doing with color, so even after three rounds of highlights — both foils and balayage — it’s still in good shape. But my lightened locks definitely require more TLC than before my hair was processed, and my haircare arsenal got an overhaul.

Someone once told me that professional hair color is an investment, and you want to protect that investment with quality products. Your stylist is your best resource for letting you know which shampoos, treatments, and styling products are ideal for your hair type, but here are the products that have worked best for me, post-peroxide.

I usually shampoo twice a week, and alternate between Moroccanoil Hydrating Shampoo and Lush Daddy-O.  The Moroccanoil is extra hydrating, and the Daddy-O keeps my highlights bright and blonde instead of brassy. Both clean my hair as well as a clarifying shampoo (no rinse and repeats necessary) without stripping it of moisture, and both smell incredible. After lathering up, I always condition with a handful of Moroccanoil Hydrating Conditioner, and leave it in for as long as I can in the shower.

After gently towel-drying, I generously spritz It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product throughout my hair and carefully comb out any tangles with a wide-tooth comb. I try to let it air dry as often as possible, but when I have to blow it out I swear by my Hanaair Professional Hair Dryer from Misikko. It’s a splurge, but it cuts my drying time by at least 70% (you can find an old review here). 

For styling, I stick to two products every day: Lush Sea Spray and Tigi Catwalk Your Highness Root Boost. The sea spray is awesome for creating and holding soft, beachy waves without feeling greasy or dirty. Your Highness gives volume right at the root where you need it, and doesn’t weigh your hair down or leave it sticky like some mousses.

Finally, every few weeks I deep condition with Lush Marilyn. It’s a pre-wash treatment that brightens blonde tones with chamomile, saffron and lemon, and moisturizes with linseed. I coat my dry hair with it from root to ends, pile it on top of my head, and leave it on for 20-30 minutes before shampooing. It leaves my hair super soft and shiny, and like most Lush products, also smells divine.

Now if I could just stop the nagging voice in my head that keeps telling me to go lighter

Do you have processed hair? What are your favorite tricks and products for maintaining it and keeping it healthy?

new lengths


I’ve spent the last three weeks pinning hairstyles. Asymmetrical bobs, long layers, bangs, color and tutorials I’ll probably never try. I’ve waged a war with myself over that age-old question: To chop, or not to chopI dragged Chad into the fray, showing him picture after picture of blown-out coifs and asking, “What do you think about this one? Too short? Bangs or no?” Patient and loving husband that he is, he humored me each time but ultimately gave me the same answer: “Babe, your hair looks great however you wear it. I’m down with whatever.” Code for: “I’m in way over my head here, just pick one already and let’s go have a beer.


Why do I agonize so much over every hair appointment, like it’s going to be my last? I used to do this in nail salons, too; standing in front of that wall of color with a blank stare for several minutes trying to choose which shade to paint my toes, as if I’d have to live with the decision forever. Tell me I’m not the only one who does this. Please?


I’d never been particularly attached to my hair, until it was long. When you’ve dealt with the awkward grow-outs and months {years!} of waiting to reach that target length, you don’t want to go back and do it all over again. But you also start to get the itch for something new; and if you wake up in the middle of the night with your hair wrapped around your arm just one more time you swear you’re going to lose. your. mind!

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By the time I sat in my longtime stylist’s chair yesterday afternoon, I still didn’t know what to do. I gave her a rundown of all my manic ideas, and a free pass to just do whatever she wanted. She took off about 4 inches (thankfully removing some over-dyed ends from my home haircolor fail) and added layers around the front to remove some bulk. I’m going back next week for some subtle ombre foils!


Sonoma chambray shirt dress (Kohl’s, now on sale for $16.00!) | Seychelles sandals (Hautelook) | Duro Olowu for jcpenney clutch (now on sale for $24!)

video how-to: scarf wrapped side ponytail

One of my goals for 2013 was to add more videos to the blog. Nearly six months into the “new year,” I’m finally posting my first one! Better late than never?

I filmed a how-to for this scarf-wrapped ponytail weeks ago, after a few of you requested a tutorial. Then I forgot about it. The clips sat untouched in iMovie for nearly a month before I stumbled across them, and pulled it all together to [finally] share it!

Have requests or ideas for other how-to videos? Please share them in the comments! {And have mercy, I’m still new to this “vlogging” business.}

dirty little secret




See that cute little scarf trick I did there? It’s hiding my hasn’t-been-washed-in-9-days hair. Are you judging? Hang on, lemme explain…

First, I should probably tell you that I’m totally skeeved out by all of the crazy chemicals found in cosmetics and body care products; things like formaldehyde, lead, and mercury, oh my!! While I’ve always tried to be conscientious about the things I eat, I never paid much attention to what I slathered on my skin. That is, until my mom-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2008. During her treatment, she spent a lot of time researching the possible links between these chemicals and our health, and some of the facts are pretty scary. Since then, I’ve done my best to stock our medicine cabinet and shower caddy with all-natural and organic products, including aluminum-free deodorant, handmade goats milk soaps from a local farm, and olive oil moisturizers, to name a few.

But hair is tricky! I’ve yet to find a line of {affordable} natural haircare products that keep my thick hair shiny and manageable, so I try to compensate by only lathering up every 7-10 days. And it turns out shampooing less has made my hair and scalp so much healthier. I get through the week with dry shampoo; but by day 7, hats and scarves are a girl’s best friend.

Does anyone remember the big “no-poo” craze that went around a few years ago? Girls were forgoing shampoo for up to 8 weeks at a time, and claiming it gave them magical unicorn tresses. My girlfriends and I were fascinated — but too chicken to try it out. What’s the longest you’ve gone without sudsing up?

And natural haircare recommendations welcome!

new ‘do.


It’s been about six months since I sat in a salon chair. I’m so grateful to have an amazing stylist* who’s incredibly patient with my crazy schedule, and hasn’t fired me as a client after all my last-minute cancellations because of unexpected things popping up at the shop. Today the stars finally aligned, and I got a loooong overdue shape-up.

He cut some new layers to remove all the bulk — I have a head full of hair, ya’ll — and gave me a tiny trim on the ends. We skipped the blow-out, and opted for some Moroccan Oil through the ends and an air dry instead. I rubbed in a little Dirt Texturizing Paste when I got back to the shop (I love that stuff, and keep it in my bag for quick touch-ups).

A lot of you have asked about my hair routine, and I’m hoping to share it soon, along with my current makeup favorites. They’re both pretty simple. I’m all about low-maintenance these days!

* For the locals: I go to Spectrum Hair Studio downtown, and work with Bill or April (the husband and wife team that own the salon). Between the two of them, they’ve shaped my coif from super-short bobs to long locks and everything in between for more than six years.

from the archives


{top: Banana Republic (SIMILAR); jeans: Gap; wedges: Juicy Couture; bag: Dooney & Bourke} 

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Between relentless rain and “appropriate moving attire,” my day-to-day look this week isn’t exactly blog worthy (and barely fit for the public, quite frankly). So I’m digging through the backlogs to find shots from sunnier days that, for one reason or another, never made it to posting. It’s a reminder that one day soon I’ll be able to dress myself again without worrying about whether an outfit is suitable for bending and lifting, and that maybe the sun will shine again around here. It’s still awfully soggy!

On this particular day a week or so ago, I tried a simple braided updo from one of my new favorite blogs, Wendy’s Lookbook. You can check out a video tutorial here. While you’re there, go ahead and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Then watch 25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 MinutesYou’ll be glad you did.

summer lovin' kris atomic

beauty on a budget: make-it-yourself beach spray

As my hair gets longer and longer, I’m really into texture and wave and curl. It’s mostly because I’m lazy, and when faced with the decision of an hour of blow-out/flat iron vs. quick easy waves, the latter wins every time.

Until recently, beachy tousled waves eluded me. All the magazines say I need to drop about $30 on a little bottle of surf spray from a-famous-brand-that-shall-go-unnamed to get the look I want, and they’ve almost convinced me to make the splurge…


I hit The Internets to look for some kitchen beautician alternatives. My fellow bloggers never disappoint. There were several variations, but the basic recipe is super simple. You probably have all the ingredients right under your nose…


Search your bathroom cabinets and find a spray bottle with a fine mist {I used an old body spray bottle}. Clean it really well to remove any traces of its former inhabitant. Fill the bottle about 3/4 full with warm water, and add a couple healthy spoonfuls of sea salt. [Note: some bloggers suggest epsom salt, but I felt like this could leave a yucky film on your hair, and sea salt is probably as close as your going to get to er, the sea.]. Shake things up to dissolve the salt. Then fill the remaining space in the bottle with a water-based hair gel. Shake it again. Done and done

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Since mixing up my first batch last week, I’m a woman obsessed.

There are a couple of ways to use it. In the photo on the left, I washed my hair in the evening and towel-dried, then rubbed a nourishing oil into the ends — I love Shu Uemura Essence Absolue — and sprayed the beach spray generously throughout my damp tresses (avoiding the roots). I slept on it, woke up, and sprayed a little more through the ends. In the photo on the right, I did the same thing at night, but curled my hair with a large barreled curling iron and re-misted.

I haven’t tried the original, so I can’t give you an apples-to-apples comparison to the DIY version. But I will say that this is the closest thing I’ve found to spending a day at the beach to achieve easy surf hair. So it’s a win.

Cover photo: Summer lovin – Kris Atomic

there’s a sock in my hair!


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Jones New York floral button-up (a pretty penny, available online) | Simply Vera Vera Wang paneled leggings | Seychelles Gypsy sandals

A trouser sock, that is. One that long ago lost its mate to an unfortunate mauling by a Goldendoodle. I don’t know why I kept it in my sock drawer for all this time, but I’m glad I did…

If you follow the facebook page, you know that I recently discovered the “sock bun” — an easy breezy updo that takes about two minutes and zero bobby pins to create. Spurred by this pin, I scoured the Internet for a how-to. I’ll save you the work:  Check out this video to see how to rock the sock yourself! {Keep it in overnight for curls!}

How-To Video: Easy Breezy Curls Tutorial

Think you have hopelessly un-curlable hair? I did, too. Until my stylist showed me what I was doing wrong. I made this video to share a few tips and tricks so you can create your own beachy waves, sans frustration and fall-out.

Have ideas or suggestions for other tutorials and how-tos? Let me know in the comments!

Products used in this video: got2b Rockin’ it Dry Shampoo | Shu Uemura Essence Absolue | 1.75″ ceramic curling iron purchased at Sally Beauty Supply several years ago (similar one here) | Silky Dirt | L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hold Hairspray | Redken Shine Flash