Pick up a copy of June’s ‘The Beauty Issue’ or download it here

Hair guru Jen Atkin has tried every hair product on the market. Launching OUAI in 2016, she wanted to give a “breath of fresh hair” for women everywhere. Discussing everything from her career to founding OUAI to her love for the UAE, Atkin also tells Emirates Woman about the hurdles she’s had to overcome to get to where she is, as well as the milestones she’s reached.

With the empire celebrity hairstylist and businesswoman Jen Atkin has built, it’s hard to believe she began her career in her parents’ garage. Nonetheless, that’s where her journey started. She’s now one of the most influential figures in the hair and beauty space around the globe, with a clientele full of A-listers including Chrissy Teigen, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry and the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan – Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie. After being in the business for over a decade, Atkin wanted to share her expertise with the world. The hair mogul launched Mane Addicts – the leading digital hair community educating hairstylists and consumers alike – and then expanded into Mane University, a platform to teach and inspire a new generation of hairstylists. Two years later, Atkin launched her pioneering haircare brand OUAI with game-changing products to improve the hair health of the masses.

 

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It all started with an obsession with singer Natalie Imbruglia’s short haircut in her Torn music video when she was a teenager living in Utah. “No one could give me the cut I wanted, so I went to the store, bought a pack of shaving razors and started cutting my own hair,” she tells Emirates Woman. From there it was a snowball effect – she began cutting all of her friends’ hair in her parents’ garage until she finished high school. It was after graduating, she packed up her entire life and headed to the bright lights of Hollywood. “After high school, I drove to California with literally only $300 and my Honda Civic hatchback,” she says. With no job set up, Atkin began her hunt call every salon Allure’s beauty directory had to offer. “Finally someone returned my call and I started working as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills in 2002,” Atkin recalls. After establishing herself in the salon space in Los Angeles, Atkin began working in the fashion space, eventually working as a personal hairstylist for John Galliano, which led to opportunities working at fashion shows in Paris. The hairstylist’s hustle and determination is something that comes naturally to her because she’s doing something she loves, she reveals. “I don’t really feel as though I dig deep for motivation, I just love what I do so it feels to me as though my work ethic or motivation comes easily because I’m fortunate enough to wake up and be excited about the ‘work’ day ahead,” Atkin explains. It’s something she feels “extremely lucky” to be able to do. “Where I get to meet the most amazing people and have so many incredible experiences, so each day is like a new adventure and I’m always excited to see how it unfolds,” she adds. “I fully believe in trying to find a way to make a living from something you’re passionate about.”

While she was busy carving out her space in the hairstyling world, she began thinking about her next steps, having an itch to do something more in the industry, which is when OUAI came about. “I had known for a while that I wanted to take my love of all things hair care and turn it into something more than just styling,” she says. That was where OUAI came into the picture – being able to combine both hair care and styling, two of her main passions. “I absolutely love styling and have always had an innate passion for it, but I started getting hungry for that next step to really share with the world that hair – both care and styling – can be seamless and fun and really doable if you just pay attention and have access to high-quality products,” Atkin reveals.

 

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The inspiration for the brand was simple: to make styling and care accessible to everyone without skimping on quality ingredients. Finding that many brands were “confusing and elusive” when discussing hairstyling tips, Atkin wanted to launch an intuitive brand for consumers “looking to invest more in their hair day-to-day”. “Luxury but relatable and still affordable, and a highly curated range of the must-haves for everyone’s bathroom,” she explains. “I also wanted to create packaging that looked chic, clean, simple and took your bathroom aesthetic up a notch.”

However, despite the success Atkin has had, there have been some hurdles she’s had to overcome. One major one being those who doubted that she would be able to build a successful brand. Similarly, another obstacle she has had to jump over is being a female brand founder and hairstylist in a male-driven industry. However, despite the hurdles, she’s built OUAI from the ground-up and now has a team of 40 people.

Not only that, but she’s also expanded her brand and her hairstyling skills to global heights, particularly here in the Middle East. Through her connections, she now has a partnership with STYLED – an agency which directly connects her with clients in the region. So, what exactly is it she loves so much about the Middle East? “I love how glamorous the women are in the Middle East,” she admits. “Everyone does their research and knows about the best beauty regimens for gorgeous hair and skin. I’m always getting tips from all my clients here and listening to their feedback on my line. They are so inspiring.

As for what the future holds, Atkin is keen to further grow OUAI in the sustainability space “slowly but surely” by using increase post-consumer resin in their packaging. “We are always trying to consider where we can affiliate ourselves with charitable efforts,” she says. In terms of expansion for the business, there are lots of exciting things in the works for Atkin and OUAI this year and in 2021 which she can’t reveal just yet, so we’ll just be patiently waiting in the wings to see what hair magic she can bring to us next.

Jen Atkin’s must-have products

“It’s a game-changer and offers the perfect beachy texture.”

The OUAI Wave Spray, Dhs95.50

“Literally gives you ‘rich girl hair’ and offers the perfect piecey-ness or oomph.”

jen atkins

The OUAI Texturizing Hairspray, Dhs60

“Literally gives you ‘rich girl hair’ and offers the perfect piecey-ness or oomph.”

jen atkins

“It’s a must-have when you’re giving yourself a blowout, it was sold out for a year and by far the most requested product.”

The OUAI Volume Spray, Dhs86.32

“I can’t live without my Dyson Supersonic, you can easily cut down on styling time. I am a big advocate for using Dyson hair tools as they will cut down any heat damage to your hair by 50 per cent.”

The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, Dhs1,579

For more on all things beauty, pick up a copy of June’s ‘The Beauty Issue’ or download it here.

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Images: Supplied