How to blow dry your hair and other tips from Tatum Neill

I was born into a skin family, and married into a hair family. I was born into a family of all sisters, and married into a family of mostly brothers. I can’t think of better combinations. This is top of mind today as I am on my way to Chicago for America’s Beauty Show, and will see my brother Tatum on stage doing hair, and deejay (yes, another amazing combination) during his ElevateHair Show on Sunday evening (along with many other amazing artists, including Holly Pistas of Gordon Salons).

I am reminded of the below conversation I had with Tatum early on, picking his brain about the life of a hairstylist. Today, being behind the chair (at Paris Parker Salons) is only part of Tatum’s role. He launched ElevateHair shows and branded tools, teaches haircutting at Neill Corporation, and is the North America Artistic Director, Social Media, for Aveda. And yes, he’s my brother – and yes, he’s cut my hair and my sisters’ hair (Roxane said he might have given her the best short haircut of her life).

AP: What do you recommend clients do to ensure getting the best possible haircut when going to the salon?

TN: Do not use your previous stylist’s language; each hairdresser has their own way of talking about things, so don’t get tied up with the lingo. What I appreciate the most is when people bring a few pictures of what they are looking for. Pictures are worth a thousand words. The tricky part about images is that sometimes the hair has more to do with the styling than with the cut… so always be open to your hairdresser’s recommendations.

AP: As a hairdresser, what are your pet peeves?

TN: Turtle necks and lip gloss. When my clients come in wearing a turtle neck, it’s hard to cleanly get to the hairline, and impedes the cut. And if I need to trim your bangs and you are wearing sticky lip gloss, the hair ends up on your lips and it creates a mess. Of course, like any hairdresser, while I appreciate some direction from my clients, I don’t like it when clients want to direct me too much…

AP: Razor or no razor?

TN: The thing about a razor is that it needs to be new and sharp. Razors dull really quickly, and that is why razor cuts are sometimes bad. Also, it is essential to only use a razor when hair is wet or damp.

AP: Thoughts on at-home product use?

TN: Where do I start… typically, clients have three main concerns for at-home care: moisture, body, and shine. So you usually want a trifecta of products: for curly hair, you need to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to control the curl, and a product to hold the curl; for straight hair, you want to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to add body, and a product to add shine.

The challenge is that nourishing products (ranging from conditioners to masks to oils) will compromise body, so it’s all about balance. The hardest hair type to recommend product for is dry fine hair (think most colored blondes for example…). For that type of hair, a lighter moisturizing agent is essential as otherwise your hair will be nourished, but weighed down. Coarser hair can use thicker moisturizing products of course. It’s also key to show people how much product to actually use. I find that most of my clients will underuse product at home, only using about 1/3rd of the recommended amount.  Regardless of product, however, I always remind my clients that no matter what they put in their hair, hair is like skin; what you put in your body will affect your hair. I hate to say this, but when styling runway models, I can always tell from their hair which ones eat and which ones don’t…

AP: What is something few of your clients know?

TN: While it is generally known that pregnant women have thicker hair, and that once the baby arrives, hair thins out, people don’t usually extrapolate from that to the general fact that hormones affect your hair. Not just during pregnancy… during your cycle, during menopause, etc. And this is true not just for women of course. Men’s hair will be affected by their hormones also.

AP: Any tips about blow drying?

TN: I find that most people blow dry their hair the same way they did as when they were 12, i.e. head upside down, blow air all around, with the end goal being drying the hair. There is not a lot of consciousness about the direction of the hair. When you are upside down, most of the air and heat is focused at the nape of the neck, so you end up bottom heavy in terms of volume. Instead, you want most of the volume on the crown, so you should focus the air and heat there. And remember to always blow dry in the direction of the cuticle, to help seal it (which will give you shine); again, that is harder to do when your head is upside down. Remember also that if your roots are wet yet your ends are dry and smooth, the water will end up moving down the hair shaft from the roots to the ends, which will eliminate that nice dry smoothness. That means you need to make sure your roots are dry first, before drying the ends.

Also, next time you go see your stylist, ask him or her to show you how to hold your blow dryer; most people have never been coached on this, and are trying to figure it out by themselves, and you would be amazed what a difference a slight tilt of the wrist will make! Another typical mistake is not to blow dry your hair completely. The recommendation is to blow dry your hair until it is 100% dry, even if you have curly hair. Until the hair is totally dry, the hydrogen bonds that shape it are not set. Same thing if you are letting your hair air dry: your hair needs to be left alone for as long as possible, until it is 100% dry. If you play with it too much you can cause frizz (because touching it breaks the hydrogen bonds and that is what causes frizz).

My favorite blow dryers are made by Parlux – specifically the Alyon. No one makes a dryer like the Italians… I want a blow dryer that gets really hot and has strong wind velocity, so that heat is evaporating the water, while the wind makes the process faster.

AP: What about flatirons and curling irons?

TN: The most important thing to realize about flatirons is that a professional flatiron needs to go up to 450 degrees to be used during permanent or semi-permanent straightening treatments. At that heat, the hair will be chemically altered. What this means is that for at-home use, you need to make sure that your flatiron has good temperature control. Don’t ever use it about 400 degrees when doing your hair at home. I actually recommend a low to mid 300 temperature range. Hotter in this case is not better. 400+ degrees is for the hair professional only. The concept is the same for curling irons, but it is harder to find a curling iron with temperature control capability. So do the following test, carefully of course: set your tool on a piece of paper; it if scorches it, it’s too hot for your hair.

Click here to hear more from Tatum.

Mardi Gras

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street.

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which starts on January 6th.
  2. The actual Mardi Gras day depends on when Easter falls (which depends on the Moon). This means that Carnival season can be as short as a month or as long as two.
  3. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold.
  4. The foods of Mardi Gras season are delicious, and fast – given that no one has time for a sit-down meal: King Cake, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, and one pot Louisiana dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo.
  5. King Cake is the Louisiana version of Galette des Rois. In New Orleans, the two best sources of said King Cake are Gambinos and Dong Phuong (at a recent taste test at my friend Angie’s house, Dong Phuong won hands down). It is not possible to eat King Cake after Fat Tuesday.
  6. Krewes are Carnival organizations that exist solely for the purpose of putting on parades and balls during Carnival season.
  7. Costumes are de rigueur during this weekend. Most New Orleans residents have entire costume closets, and costumes don’t necessarily represent specific characters (one year I dressed up as the color purple).
  8. Mardi Gras day is followed by Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
  9. The Mardi Gras rules of our household are the following:
    1. Me first.
    2. No plans.
    3. Always have something to drink in your hand.
    4. No breaking up.
    5. No fighting.
    6. Everyone is welcome.
    7. If one partakes in the revelry of Mardi Gras, one must give up something for Lent. (I am still trying to figure out what to give up on Wednesday).

Happy Mardi Gras weekend y’all!

Polar Vortex

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

Here is what I learned.

  • Arctic temperatures make people kinder. My girlfriend Kirby who lives in Chicago once told me the same thing: “In the freezing temperatures, we all come together. It’s like a bonding experience.” I guess everyone is suffering so much from the cold, we all decide to be nicer because we realize everyone else is also suffering so much from the cold.
  • Floor to ceiling windows are lovely. Except during a polar vortex. My hotel room could not get warm no matter the setting on the thermostat.
  • Gloves were my most prized possession this week. Along with the travel size of our Dry skin balm. Freezing hands are red, shriveled, old-looking, not attractive.
  • On that note, I need to invest in a pair of touchscreen gloves. My fingers almost froze while trying to text outside.
  • My lips looked as shriveled as my hands. I use Aveda Lip Saver and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream on a regular basis, but had to do something more. I was recommended the VenEffect Anti-aging Lip Treatment and it helped. Or maybe I was just looking for a reason to buy an anti-aging lip product…
  • This cold is no joke on my skin. Redness from the freezing cold. Dryness from the heated indoors. Discomfort all around. Hydration, nourishment, oils, heavy creams. Thank you Kantic Brightening moisture mask (which I slept in twice this week), Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream, and Vintner’s Daughter facial oil.

Stay warm. Build a fire if you can. Have a hot toddy. Hug someone. And have a great weekend!

Gift Giving Guide

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.”

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.” (I have three of them on my list…)

For your significant other: Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummins. (With the promise of a live reading by candlelight)

For your dad: Smartphone Film Scanner. (So all of those pictures of you as a baby can make it to his phone instead of being relegated to a cardboard box at the bottom of a closet)

For your mom (in particular if, like mine, she loves art and espresso): Color Lab espresso cups.

For your brother (or brother-in-law): a top of the line double-edged razor. (And for an even smoother shave, add Alchimie Forever Antioxidant skin repair gel)

For your sister (or sister-in-law): a gorgeous sparkly clutch that will take her from day to night.

For your best friend (or for your mother-in-law who has everything), this hand-beaded silk chiffon bib necklace is the perfect accessory, and it won’t be one that all of her friends have.

For your co-worker, the most beautiful candle from the unique NYC boutique Aedes de Venustas, which smells as delicious as it looks.

For your secret Santa: a bottle of Bourbon and these will for sure help him/her stay warm throughout the winter.

For that special person on your list who has everything, these two options always enchant: an artsy iPhone case, and a beautiful notepad.

Tips For a Successful Boudoir Photo Shoot

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

Sometimes, however, the “crazy Polla” side of me comes out. For example, a couple of years ago, I did something I never thought I would do – a boudoir photo shoot. I was inspired by seeing the boudoir photos of one of my best friends, who is beautiful and looked absolutely stunning. My excuse was that it was a gift for my husband, but in the end, it was a gift for myself. I am pretty sure I look at those pictures more than he does. Often to remind myself that I look fabulous and sometimes to help motivate myself to go to the gym.

Should you decide this is something you wish to try, here are some tips, from actress and Stript brand ambassador Rachel Sterling (I love these women named Rachel!). We met in LA not too long ago and caught up over a glass of wine. Boudoir photos came up (don’t ask why), so I couldn’t help but pick her brains about it.

Getting in character

For Rachel, the most important key to success to any boudoir photo shoot is to get in character. “Part of my process of getting ready is getting my hair and makeup done; this helps me remember that I am transforming myself into a different version of myself and need to get in character.”

Make a playlist: pick songs that make you happy, make you want to dance, make you want to sing in the shower, make you feel powerful and sexy. Rachel adds “Even if you are doing it as a gift for someone else, it is really about you; It should be fun. Play the soundtrack a few times before the day of the shoot, dance in front of your mirror when no one is around as practice – use this as an opportunity to get to know your body. You would be surprised, but we all should know our bodies, angles we look good in, curves, much better than we actually do.”

Grooming tips

  • The number one tip is to be hair-free. Of course, legs and bikini line, but also think underarms, arms, legs, brows, mustache. On the brow front, make sure they are professionally shaped. Good brows make all of the difference…
  • Be careful about too much makeup – make sure you still look like yourself (from personal experience I can add that that is the one thing I would change from my boudoir photo shoot – the makeup is just too much, and I almost don’t look like me). Rachel’s personal favorite brand of makeup is Runway. She recommends that if you are getting your makeup professionally done (which is not a must) that you work with someone you have worked with before (again – this is where I went wrong; I had the photographer’s makeup artist do my makeup, and we didn’t do a practice run and she did not know my style).
  • If you can, get eyelash extensions; at the very least curl your lashes and layer on extra mascara.
  • Spray tanning is helpful to even bumps. Sterling’s recommendations are of course to apply after waxing (not before), apply with gloves to avoid orange hands, and again if you can get it professionally done. Stript offers professional spray tanning using South Seas Spray Tan, which is what she does. Her favorite at home alternatives are L’Oreal’s self-tanning wipes and the Norvell at home kit which is very user friendly.
  • Have your nails done. You don’t need polish, or to have them red or long, but do get a manicure and a pedicure so that you are perfectly groomed.

Outfits and accessories  

When I ask Rachel about outfits and accessories, she reminds me that “When looking at the photo, the eyes of the viewer should go to the face. Yes, it is a boudoir shot, but the highlight is always the woman’s face.” She adds:

  • “If you are shy, a great prop is a boa – you can use it to hide certain parts and it makes you feel better or put it in front of you.
  • I love the retro theme of an apron and plate of cookies – it is particularly fun and slightly ironic if you never cook.
  • I also love a boudoir shoot in a sports jersey; there is something appealing about the very feminine photo and a traditionally masculine item of clothing being juxtaposed together.
  • Another great juxtaposition is a work shirt and glasses – kind of playing on the theme of sexy librarian.
  • Whatever do you, high heels are a must – ideally some you have not worn out so that they look pristine in the photos.
  • But remember, the eye of the beholder should go to your face – you don’t want too much distraction.”

As we finish our second glass of wine, I ask her what not to do. “Don’t have unrealistic expectations or be disappointed in your photos,” she says gently. “They will not look like pictures in magazines, nor should they. The most important thing is to love yourself and to realize that there are infinite definitions of beautiful and sexy. Every woman is beautiful and sexy in her own special way. That’s what a boudoir photo shoot is all about.”

Amen sister!

Style and Grooming Lessons from My Godmother

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

  1. Perfect manners are the most elegant accessory any woman can have.
  2. Great posture gives any woman class, elegance and a slimmer look.
  3. Leaving things to the imagination is more elegant than putting it all out there. Think backless dresses rather than low-cut dresses.
  4. There is no excuse for imperfect grooming.
  5. Nails (hands): The most elegant nail length is short; the most elegant shape is a slightly square oval; the most elegant polish color is clear; and there is nothing French about a “French manicure.”
  6. Feet: take care of them daily with a good moisturizer in the evening; but no socks in bed, please.
  7. Groomed eyebrows make any face look more elegant; overly-groomed eyebrows will age you.
  8. Don’t save your jewelry for special occasions. Wear your diamonds, pearls, chunky necklaces to celebrate the fact that it is Tuesday.
  9. You always look more elegant holding a champagne glass than a beer mug or a shot glass.
  10. You never look elegant smoking (no matter that Audrey Hepburn might disagree).
  11. You never sound elegant swearing.
  12. Drink water. Lots of it. Ideally, Contrex.
  13. It’s hard to look elegant in cheap fabrics. It is much easier to look (and feel) elegant in fabrics such as linen or cashmere. Buy less, but better quality.
  14. It’s hard to look elegant in an outfit that doesn’t fit; fit is everything; find (and be kind to) a seamstress you love.
  15. Elegance is not about trendy outfits; it’s about finding styles, shapes, fabrics and colors that work for you and sticking to those.
  16. If you find the perfect pair of pants, buy three.
  17. If you find the perfect pair of heels, buy two.
  18. On the shoe note, don’t walk around in heels that need TLC or shoes that need polishing.
  19. Pay attention to your weight and don’t let pounds creep up on you.
  20. It is always elegant to smile and be kind.

Fall Beauty Resolutions

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

  1. I will discard any left-over sunscreen (any sunscreen I bought this summer will not be good next summer).
  2. I will continue to apply a day cream with SPF protection even when the sun stops shining (SPF 20 or above, per the recommendation of my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla).
  3. I will practice regular exfoliation, on face and body, to help cellular turnover (I love the Alchimie Forever Gentle refining scrub twice a week).
  4. I will diligently use my Advanced retinol serum twice a week to repair any sun damage from the summer.
  5. I will continue to take extra care of my toes even after putting away my sandals (I am loving the clear polish natural look these days, beautiful in summer and winter).
  6. I will get two trims between now and the end of the year (this may sound like a minimalist approach, but considering I usually get one trim per year this is actually an aggressive goal for me).
  7. I will continue to exercise three times per week and will be mindful of my eating and drinking, in particular during the holiday period.  
  8. I will purchase a new lipstick color for the fall. I am intrigued by the new Aveda Feed My Lips colors…

What are your fall beauty resolutions?