In our series Behind the Curtain, we get the scoop on the routines, careers, and more of those working so hard behind the scenes to make celebrities look stunning.
“It's not a very glamorous answer,” says Christophe Robin when I ask how he started his career as a renowned celebrity colorist. “I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere.” (Though his sleek-cut trench coat suggests he was born and bred in a metropolitan fashion hub). Today, the guru owns an eponymous haircare line and one of the most coveted salons in Paris.
But in the small French town of his childhood, “there were no hairdressers around, and my mother was a farmer girl” — a farmer girl who, on Sundays, gathered her girlfriends and boxes of hair color from the pharmacy to dye each other’s hair while eating home-cooked dinner. “As a child, I was amazed by the transformation,” he shares.
Since then, Robin has transformed the likes of Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, and countless other bombshells. But, of course, the path from watching his mother color at the kitchen sink to creating some of the most striking hair hues in the fashion and entertainment industries wasn’t a straightforward one. Here, he shares his top hair advice, how he “made it,” and more.
Spotlyte: What was your first true colorist gig?
Christophe Robin: When I was 14 years old, I started to work as an apprentice with an old colorist from the 1960s. Hair color was not a trend at the time. It was just to cover grays. [My mentor] told me right away, “you should become a good hair colorist [instead of a stylist]. Your client will be much more loyal to you and it's a great artisanal job.
Spotlyte: What has been your biggest career highlight thus far?
CR: [Model] Kristen McMenamy was the coolest [client]. At night we would shave eyebrows and hair. We made her from a blonde to a brunette and that was fun. [Also, creating my brand in 1999]: Because we're an independent company, there is nobody behind me forcing me to come up with products every five minutes. It's sometimes difficult when you're independent, with all the competition. But it gives us the freedom to do exactly what we want, when we want, and to create products we want.
Spotlyte: Which features do you focus on when you're determining what the best color for someone?
CR: When you look at somebody, you look at their eyes, so I always try to make their eyes look a little brighter. I always try to [color] to flatter the skin tone. For example, if your skin is a little grayish because you don't see the sun and you start to have dark circles, [I will] color a little gold-ier to warm up the skin. But if your skin — because you're young or whatever — is blushing and you turn red, I'm going to try something cooler [toned].
Spotlyte: How do you feel about trends in hair color?
CR: When I arrived in Paris at 17 years old, I worked with Yves Saint Laurent for 11 years doing [hair] for all the girls for the shows. [He told me]: 'you know, you never want to be trendy, because you'll be out of trend right away.' And that's something I kept in my mind. So I don't care too much about the trends.
Spotlyte: What is one product most people should be using on their hair but they're not?
CR: Pre-shampoo treatments. One of my oldest products, my Lavender Oil [is good for pre-shampooing]. Take a tiny bit, maybe two pearls. Rub all around your hair, comb it and let it air dry. [The product forms] a natural film around your hair to avoid breakage and protect the color. A lot of people say, "I have oily roots, so I'll never put oil onto my hair." Which is wrong. If you have oily roots, most of the time it's because you don't wash your hair properly.
Spotlyte: And what would the proper way of washing your hair be?
CR: De-tangle [with a pre-shampoo treatment] first. [Then], don't use too much shampoo. People apply so much shampoo and they don't rinse properly, so [the formula] leaves a little coat onto the scalp.
Spotlyte: How important is scalp health to overall hair health?
CR: When you remove your makeup at night, you take the time to do it. But nobody takes care of the scalp. [For example], dry shampoo goes into the pores of your scalp. Your scalp can't breathe. It fights back and becomes more greasy. If you apply too much product and don't rinse enough, then it builds up onto your scalp. You should wash your hair — really well — before going to bed.
Spotlyte: How would you describe French beauty?
CR: The French girls don't want to wash their hair or put on nail polish every day. They take the time once a week to really do the big job. You know — masks, pre-shampoos, and other [things]. So there's more of a long-term vision. And you don't see them with that perfect blow-dry. They're more natural.