7 GOLDEN RULES | What I Learned from Hair Colorist Rita Hazan

Author: Sarah de Brun

Rumor has it, in order to call yourself an expert at any skill, you must devote 10,000 hours to your preferred subject. With more than 20 years of fierce hands-on experience in coloring, Rita Hazan is basically a Life Master in the world of hair. For the New York native, she’s just doing what’s deemed as normal in her book, working with nearly every mega female celebrity known to the universe, e.g., Beyoncé, Madonna, Jessica Simpson. We first saw her creativity come to life during Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly’ era, as she took the singer from a girl-next-door brunette to a sexy blonde. Since then, Hazan has been incredibly hands on, building her company milestone by milestone. “I really think as an artist you have to figure out another means of expression," Hazan shares. “I like to be challenged. I like to push myself. I have ambitions, and goals, and passions.”  In 2006, she opened up her namesake salon in Midtown, with the launch of a product line following five years later. She is leading anything but a boring life, and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. "If I ever get bored or I hate this, I’m not going to do it.”

Listening to Hazan share about her career, work ethic, and experience went beyond a simple Q&A for me.  I took note of everything she had to say, and found a common thread of pointers and golden rules. This is what I learned while chatting with the hair coloring ultra expert. You should take notes, too.

It’s not rocket science. Sometimes you really do have to trust your instincts and be in tune with what comes naturally for you. Without thought or hesitation, Hazan gravitated towards hair. She was good at it, and she knew it (ego aside). “I was like, this is all I’m going to do. No question about it.” After graduating high school, she went straight into Wilfred Academy, where she experimented with her own hair. Sure, she screwed up every now and then, but she eventually learned to create the perfect blonde we all lust after. Once her education in cosmetology was complete, Hazan made a beeline for the salon she’d set her mind on working at, the lavishly famous Oribe. Starting off as an assistant for Brad Johns, former Color Director for the salon, Hazan eventually worked her way up to a chair of her own and the rest is history.

Listen, not everything happens overnight. And anything worth having is worth working your fingers to the bone for. While at Oribe, Hazan trained for six years. Yes, six years. “I think that the first couple of years you’re getting to know how to use the colors. What they need and what they do. But, then when you know that and you watch somebody work and see how they use it in their own way with their own experience, it just takes you to a whole other level of education.” There’s nothing wrong with being prepared for any situation, and after all, these were chemicals and women’s hair on the line. Still, sh*t happens. “I made mistakes, but you learn from them. You never do them again."

Hazan was dedicated to learning and building her skills, observing her mentor and questioning his every action. Why are they using this? Why are they using that? Why is this not working? She began to understand execution from a different perspective, collecting experience that no beauty academy could teach you. Also, back then there weren’t as many rules to abide by. “No one’s counting your hours, no lunch breaks. It was a different era.” Hazan would work seven days a week and stay up until four in the morning. “Those were the times where, if you pushed yourself harder than you would normally… pushed your mind to the limit in the witching hours… that’s when the creative juices started flowing.”

As the saying goes, “Everything in due time.” Hazan stepped out on the salon floor as ‘90s glam hit the scene. Pop stars and celebrities wanted luxe looks that set them apart from the rest, and we have Hazan to thank for the cutting-edge blonde as seen on Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez back then. She started a revolution and a trend for ethnic girls as she proved that yes, you can go lighter and be blonde without the horrid brassy orange tone and cuticle damage. It was revolutionary, and soon every brunette begged for that honey hue. We all know that once they went Hazan blonde they never went back. JLo told the colorist, “You’ve created this look for me, and I love it and I’m never going to change it!”

So what’s the trick to reaching that perfect shade? "Timing. The color you use and timing.” Hazan says she works very fast, spending an average of 15 minutes on a head of highlights. “For me, it’s timing. Where you start. Placement. How it falls.” She takes everything into consideration. Color is not a one size fits all.

Why do what everyone else is doing, when you can be the first at something within your industry? While other stylists have come out with common product lines, Hazan’s is cutting edge and innovative. “I created a category with my root concealer, there [were] no root concealers before and now there’s a whole category for [them].” The Rita Hazan product line includes seven well-thought-out products, each one telling a story all their own as they are entirely new concepts to the hair world.

With great pride, Hazan shares the inside scoop on her line like she’s gushing about her children. There’s strong integrity there, and if she puts anything on the market, it means she stands behind it and it works! Take for instance the 2-step Weekly Remedy Treatment, a breakthrough hair therapy that gets the job done with NO CHEMICALS. “The first step has a high pH balance, so it opens the cuticle with just conditioner, and the second one has a low pH so it closes the cuticle and locks in the ingredients, so you really are having repair and hydration.” The woman knows her science.

“It’s not rocket science. Sometimes you really do have to trust your instincts and be in tune with what comes naturally for you."

Repeat after me: wash, gloss, condition! Personally, I’m a wash-my-hair-once-a-week kind of girl. Hazan isn’t having any of that. She schools me that our haircare routine should be the same as our skincare routine. “People don’t like to wash their hair. It’s this new thing. Would you not wash your face? You have to wash your scalp. You have to.” She reiterates that we have to clean the scalp, since it has pores that need to stay clean. “People use dry shampoo, and they only wash their hair like once a week… every two weeks. I’m like, would you not wash your face and just keep putting moisturizer on?” Ok. Never thought about it like that before, and I’ll never treat my precious scalp this bad again.

Her use-everyday trio includes the True Color Shampoo, True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss (she insists that once you use it, you’ll never not gloss your hair again), and True Color Conditioner. Hazan graciously sends me all three products, and I must admit–not a wash has gone by where I didn't use the gloss. It really is that good.

Since she has such insight on gorgeous tresses, I wondered what Hazan thinks the hair trends are for 2017.

Her prediction is more natural colors. “I think we’re going to see a lot of it. If you’re brunette, you’ll see more solid colors. Or blonde on blonde. Tone on tone. Not stripey, not chunky, just sort of natural.”

Hazan adores her salon and thinks of it as a hidden gem. It’s a bit tucked away, nestled on the 11th floor above 5th Avenue. She describes it as downtown energy with an uptown vibe. A salon where you can get sophisticated, but edgy work. But, after a day of working amongst the hustle and bustle, she welcomes her off-duty spot in town. She lives in easy-going NOHO, where she loves to run around sans makeup and just chill in her personal time.  “I’ve always lived there and I kind of love it.” To Hazan, it feels off the beaten path, and the fact that not everyone knows about it is what leads to its appeal. “It’s just really low-key!” A favorite place to grab a bite to eat is The Smile on Bond Street. “It’s really cool. You can bump into many people. Celebrities are always there.”

I mean, this is a no-brainer really. But for Hazan, it’s also a normal occurrence. When she hears from Queen Bey, everything on the books stops, “because you know it’s gonna be a good time, and you’re gonna turn out some good work.” She talks about Beyoncé as a dream client because she’s someone who gives creative freedom to do what you need to do. For instance, as Mrs. Carter embarked on The Formation World Tour last year, Hazan sat in the audience like the rest of us, evaluating her own work as Beyoncé’s hair whipped and flipped with every dance move.  “I had to go back to the concert again because the first time I saw it, all I was doing was looking at her hair!” She observed how the lighting, placement, and way the hair blew affected the color. Hazan discussed with Beyoncé a few color upgrades. “I was like, you need to be blonde! You have to stand out on that stage and be super blonde. And, she was like, you know what? You’re right. Let’s do it!”

When I ask Hazan who her main MISSBISH is, she says without hesitation, Beyoncé. “I would say one of my favorite people I’ve ever met or worked with is Beyoncé. She’s so down to earth. You can have a conversation with her like you're sisters. Just sit and hang out. She’s easy. She understands the process. She loves the process. She’s a cool person and she’s very respectful of everyone around her. I think she’s like, one of the classiest women I’ve ever met.”

Before I let Hazan go, I ask her, “What does MISSBISH mean to you?” and she says, “I love anything that’s women empowerment. Anything that sort of uplifts and gives women a platform to be who they are comfortably is anything I want to be associated with.” What Hazan doesn't realize is that she herself is an important piece in women's lives that helps to empower them and make them feel their most beautiful.  Because when your hair looks good, you feel good, and then everything else is golden.

Photos by: Carmen Chan