By Kathryn Holl
She may be known for creating signature looks for A-listers such as Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez and Carmen Electra (to name just a few), but ask any of her loyal customers and it’s not just the work of a true color genius that makes them keep coming back. As one of the most sought-after colorists in the world, Rita Hazan is truly a master of her trade. Her ability to set trends and reinvent celebrities’ styles has set her apart from others in the field. Talent and genius aside, it is Rita’s warmth and down-to-earth charisma that makes her that much more desirable to have as the one person you trust to color your hair.
As unpretentious as Rita herself, her cozy salon located on 65th and Madison is quaint and welcoming. With a staff of over 30 accommodating, well-trained professionals, many of whom she previously worked with at Orive, Rita knows how to run an intimate business that women want to go to and be seen at. A celebrity in her own right, she doesn’t put on heirs when it comes to dealing with customers. She chatted with everyone about the upcoming holidays, asked how their children are doing in school and even counseled a pregnant woman that not coloring her hair is not the end of the world because the most important thing is that the baby will be healthy.
As I sat in the chair, embarrassed about my roots and incredulous about the fact that she was actually going to color my hair, I was impressed at the speed with which Rita worked. I later found out that it should not take any longer than 10-15 minutes to highlight a whole head of hair. Tell that to my regular colorist! After a warm and friendly hello she asked what we were doing with my color. As a blonde who never skews from her “natural” color (I never dye my hair too light or dark because I know it will never grow in blonde ever again at this age), I was skeptical. After one look, she told me I should go lighter, brighter and have more fun with my hair. After all, since this is the woman who Jessica Simpson trusts for her color, she must know a thing or two when it comes to making suggestions. And for me, it’s not too hard to trust someone with a resume like Rita!
While she placed the single process on my hair, I asked Rita what people can do to ensure longer-lasting color and healthier hair – the number one question customers ask when they sit in her chair. She highly recommends cutting hair regularly as healthy hair keeps color longer. She also suggested using a moisturizing or hydrating mask, such as Phyto citrus mask, once or twice a week along with incorporating nectar oil into your conditioning routine.
As someone who defines trends, Rita’s input on do’s and don’ts of hair color should be taken seriously. She says the most popular hair color depends on the season. Not surprisingly, the number one request in the summer is to go blonder, and in the winter, she likes to use warmer, chocolaty shades. Rita would love to put an end to chunks and thick streaks. She prefers tone on tone color and a blend of three colors in the same family – nothing too extreme. Her biggest pet peeve? When a customer comes in and asks for orange or red tones. She stands so firm on her core belief that color should be glamorous and classic that she even turned down working with Kelly Osborne because of her out-of-this world color demands. “I won’t do color just to do it,” Rita said, “My idea of beautiful color is to keep it simple and pretty – nothing too trendy or extreme.”
I always like to get professional opinions on products, so when Rita told me her favorite shampoo was L’Oreal shine curl I was floored. No fifty dollar shampoos for this gal. She even told me I could use the product on my pin-straight hair for unbelievable shine. Rita also let me in on a little secret: Be on the look out for a new product coming in February from Pantene called Shimmer Look. The formula does exactly what shimmer powder does for your face. Why didn’t they think of this sooner???
Rita’s biggest tip was to make sure you get a thorough consultation before any color decision – no job is too small not to discuss it with your colorist. She recommends bringing in pictures and speaking up about exactly what it is that you want. She feels women oftentimes just agree with what the professional says and that’s wrong. Rita thinks everyone “should be comfortable with their color decision.”
I couldn’t sit in her presence without poking around about her pocket full of celebrity clientele. Rita’s first celeb-gig was doing Mariah’s honey-blonde highlights. Working seven days a week must be tiring, but this go-getter really gets around. Clients often fly her to their destinations twice a week on average. When she’s not making the stars more beautiful, Rita is a regular on the Oprah. She is the resident colorist on the show’s makeover segments, and these regular appearances are very special to Rita, “I really love it because I get to do people’s hair that otherwise couldn’t afford it. It’s great to see people really feel good about themselves.”
So could West Coast hair connoisseurs also be graced with the presence of a Hazan Salon in the near future? That’s quite possible according to Rita, but franchising is not what she’s about. No matter what this native New Yorker has in store for her future, her unique creativity and unprecedented skills at coloring hair will remain timeless and unique as the woman herself.
Rita Hazan Salon
16 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10021