Not many people are lucky enough to have a beauty expert on speed dial. However, I’m blessed that I can call celebrity stylist Chris Appleton — mane manager of Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and more — one of my close friends.
We first met while I was working as a social media manager at Allure® magazine, when I filled in as a “hair model” for a video shoot. I was admittedly super nervous about the state of my hair. My strands are very fine and chemically processed, so I crossed my fingers and hoped Chris could help. It turns out I had no reason to be nervous. As soon as we met, we hit it off, joking about how I love extensions, and then went on to select the longest weave in the pile. We giggled the whole time on set — and he even gave me his cell number, swearing we’d stay in touch. Still, after he left the Allure video studio, I never knew if I would see or talk to him again.
To my surprise, after our first encounter, we worked together several more times — and hung outside the office a lot more. We went to dinners, grabbed drinks, and attended morning boxing classes when he was in NYC. This past April, I got a call from Chris: “Babe, what are you doing next weekend? Want to go to Coachella® with me?” Next thing I knew, I was on a flight to Palm Springs, California, hanging out with him for a whole weekend. As you can imagine, after that weekend, the rest was history, and I’ve become (as he likes to say) his “beauty bestie girl.”
Because we’re so close, it was extremely challenging to interview Chris. Anytime we chat, we go off on tangents, reminiscing about old times, catching up, or ideating his Instagram® captions. That means that this was the first time I got to hear (straight from the source!) how he became one of the biggest names in the hairdressing industry. As it happens, Chris was just nine years old when he realized he had a thing for hair. He was intrigued by how different people could look with a new hairstyle, and how, in turn, a style could cause you to perceive someone differently.
His foray into hair started shortly after that realization, when he began styling his mom and sister. He added extensions to his mom’s hair and gave her updos — ironically, with the goal of making her look like a “Hollywood movie star.” His mom soon bid farewell to her salon stylist, because her son made her feel and look just as good (if not better) than the salon could.
That’s how Chris learned that you could genuinely impact someone's mood — and even their self-confidence — by styling their hair. This new “power” was addictive enough for Appleton to commit to the field. He decided to go to school in England to get an education in hairdressing. That said, he admits he learned most things by being observant and working in a salon, which he started doing at the age of 13. After he saw how the pro stylists would cut and style hair, he’d go home to practice on dolls, his mom, and his sister.
Since those days, Appleton’s style has dramatically evolved as he worked his way up the ladder, through plenty of Fashion Weeks, television show contests, and magazine covers. “You get taught the basics [at a salon from] a technical standpoint, but the hair I do is not really technical,” he explains. “It's more raw.”
Clearly, people love his luxurious, glossy styles. Today, he has over one million Instagram followers and a roster of A-list celebrity clients, including Katy Perry and Ariana Grande. He’s also been the brand ambassador for Color Wow® and Glam Seamless® extensions. Keep reading as he shares more details about his career, styling tips, tricks he’s picked up from celebrities, and more.
Spotlyte: What was your "big break?"
Chris Appleton: I had a few, honestly. I won "British Hairdresser of the Year" in England, and I also won “2010 Young Talent of the Year” on the London TV show, Hairdresser of the YearTM. Those were both pretty big moments for me. Vogue UKTM named me a “Hair Star,” and then I was recognized by Industry MagazineTM as "The One to Watch." In my early twenties, I had a lot of attention on me and the hair I was doing. I guess it's sort of strange, but hair was my passion, and people recognized that.
One of my most memorable moments was when I was doing hair for some of the Industry Magazine covers. I remember Vidal Sassoon® — one of my biggest hair icons — emailing me, saying, "I just wanted to congratulate you on the cover of Industry Magazine, your work was amazing." As for my first celebrity client? It was Rita Ora, and that was huge for me.
Spotlyte: How would you describe your work?
CA: My work is very dramatic. I like to do "a look" — I always call a style "a look." I honestly can never head to a client with my curling iron and just do some beachy waves. I'm more about asking my clients, "What have you always wanted to do?" or "What's your alter ego?" I try to explore that. I like to bring it out in people and have fun. I also love trying something new — it just works well with the time we're in now, this Instagram era, and the fact that people always want to change it up.
Spotlyte: Let's talk about hair trends. How have they changed over the years?
CA: In the sixties, it was all about big hair. In the eighties, everyone had a perm. In the nineties, everyone had the "Rachel" from Friends haircut, but now there's not just one, singular trend. The trend is literally "change." The trend at the moment can be long hair one minute and short hair the next. Next thing you know, the trend is icy blonde hair, and then it's “latté” brown hair. All these different things are like trends that are continually evolving — from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. We live in a different time right now [with social media], and I think that the hair I do works for "that time."
Spotlyte: What is your favorite hairstyle to do on Kim Kardashian?
CA: On Kim, I like to do anything that looks rich. I just love it when it looks beautiful and healthy. I call it "luxe hair."
Spotlyte: If you could only have three styling products in your hair kit, what would they be and why?
CA: Color WOW Dream Coat® because it transforms the texture of hair and helps make hair look luxurious and rich. Second would be a Tangle TeaserTM brush, because it can get through any old head of hair. It's also gentle on the hair, which I like! Lastly, the Dyson Supersonic® Hair Dryer, because it is powerful, light, and easy to use with high speed. Just like me. [Laughs]
Spotlyte: Let's talk extensions and wigs. Do you prefer using clip-ins, tapes, bead-ins, or wigs?
CA: Clip-in extensions, because they require no commitment.
Spotlyte: What type of hair extensions would you recommend for someone who wants to try them for the first time?
CA: Clip-in. Pro Tip: Wherever you want to place the clip, tease that small amount of hair at the root, then flatten it with a flattening iron. This style tip prevents the extension from falling out, and it will give the extension a real grip at the root. I make sure I do this on all my celebrity clients.
Spotlyte: Have you learned any beauty tricks or lessons from some of your celebrity clients, such as Jennifer Lopez or Kim Kardashian?
CA: From J. Lo, I learned all about her iconic snatched top knot. She doesn't need all the pins and stuff, she can put it up herself and make it lock in with one pin. It’s effortless, yet snatched.
Kim loves having a really clean, razor-sharp middle part. She's known for that little detail. She has taught me to be super aware and particular. Kim has a good eye! It is now easier to realize that I might be slightly off with the part or see if there are a few hairs. I have to make sure I get it perfect. She has taught me to be very detail-oriented.
Spotlyte: What hairstyle or trend are you most proud of?
CA: The "glass hair" look on Kim Kardashian. "Glass hair" is something that I decided to call Kim's hair one day, because I was trying to do her hair and it kept getting shinier and shinier with some of the products I was using. After Kim posted a photo on her Instagram of this new shiny look, people were commenting on her post saying, "Oh my god, your hair looks like glass!" Thus, the "glass hair" trend was born. So, glass hair is basically hair with an ultimate shiny finish. I love to use and layer the Color Wow Dream Coat spray-on Kim's damp hair to give her the ultimate "glass hair" look.
When I do these looks, it's not just about keeping my celebrity clients happy. The rest of the world gets to have their opinion, too.
Spotlyte: What is the best part of your job? The most challenging?
CA: The best part is probably the variety of it all, and the fact that [I do] something different every day. I'm always thinking about what I can do: What's different? What's fresh? What's better? What wigs can I find and use? That's the challenging part. Also, when I do these looks, it's not just about keeping my celebrity clients happy. The rest of the world gets to have their opinion, too.
Spotlyte: Let’s switch over to you! What’s your skincare routine like?
CA: I start by washing my face with my favorite cleanser, the iS CLINICAL® Cleansing Complex. I use a unique facial cleansing scrubber given to me by Dr. Simon Ourian himself to help give my skin a deep clean. Next, I use the iS CLINICAL Super SerumTM Advance Plus. It makes my skin bright. Then, I use the skyn ICELAND® Icelandic YouthTM Serum to prevent stress-induced signs of aging. I complete my morning routine with iS CLINICAL Moisturizing Complex, a hydrating moisturizer formulated with antioxidants, then the skyn ICELAND Brightening Eye Serum that keeps my under eyes bright and looking refreshed, and I finish it off with sunscreen. I use a few pumps of the Elta MD® UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 40. You need sunscreen on at all times when you live in Los Angeles.
Spotlyte: Are there any treatments you swear by?
CA: The Diamond Infusionsm Facial from Beverly Hills WilshireTM, and any facial from Dr. Simon Ourian. I like getting facials because they noticeably brighten up my skin. I also love lasers treatments for my face, but to be honest, I'm more of a facial person than a laser person. I get facials whenever I can get some downtime. If I've been doing a lot of traveling; my skin gets dull, so I'll make sure to get a facial.
I have also gotten Clear + Brilliant® laser, which uses pulsating beams of light that exfoliate away layers of skin to reveal a smoother, brighter complexion. I absolutely love it and the results it gives. I have also tried Dermalinfusion®. It is a non-invasive treatment that combines exfoliation, extraction, and serum infusion in just one step. Truthfully, I don't like seeing all the gunk in the vial after the treatment, but I do love how my skin looks afterward.
Spotlyte: You are always traveling for work, how do you stay in shape? Do you have a specific workout you love?
CA: I feel like I travel eight months out of 12, so I like consistency with my workouts. For me, high-intensity workouts are better than just lifting weights. Honestly, everything is better when you have a good sweat! I'm not a huge fan of jumping on the treadmill straight after a lifting session. I like to get it all done in my workout the first time around. It is tough, but I like to look good. If I feel as if I’m letting myself go, I don’t like how I look or feel. I like to feel like I'm taking care of myself — even if it's just an hour a day.
Spotlyte: So, what do you usually eat in a day? Any food or diet tips? You're obviously in fantastic shape and not eating burritos like me (right now).
CA: What's a burrito? I've always been super conscious of my fitness and diet. I start my day with eggs and avocado toast on low-sodium bread. For lunch, I like cooking ground turkey with stir fry [veggies], such as fresh peppers and some onion. I don't add any salt or anything, and it is still really tasty. For dinner, I like to have a nice fish like salmon, a juicy filet, or grilled chicken with a salad.
Spotlyte: How do you keep your blonde hair so icy? How often do you color it?
CA: I use the Color WOW Dream FilterTM. It adds a more gray tone to your hair after just three minutes. It takes all the minerals out of hair, so it stays bright and extremely clean. Next, I use the Color WOW Security ShampooTM, because it doesn't leave any residue behind. I don't like the warm tones in my hair. And, I get my hair colored whenever I have time. I was supposed to do it today, but it takes five hours to do, so I was like, "Another day." I color it every four to six weeks. As many of you know, being blonde is a lot of work.
Spotlyte: What hair products/tools do you always have on hand and why (even just for touch-ups)?
CA: The Mason PearsonTM Mixture Hair Brush. I always have it for detangling my clients’ hair. It's always a good idea to have one for a snatched pony.
Spotlyte: You're a busy celebrity stylist, parent, and brand ambassador — when you have the time, what are your favorite ways to pamper yourself?
CA: I enjoy going to Malibu and just chilling out, or even picking up some nice healthy food. I try to unwind and clear my mind.
Spotlyte: What do you hope to teach your kids about beauty?
CA: Well, I believe beauty comes from within. I also believe it's a confidence thing. It doesn't matter how perfect you look on the outside or how perfect you make yourself look. If you do not have the inner confidence to believe that you're worth it, then it doesn't really work. Beauty comes from self-confidence and self-love, and that is important to me.
Spotlyte: Lastly, what celebrity's mane would you love to get your hands on and why?
CA: You know what? I don't know. I get asked this question a lot. I feel like I do my dream clients already. I am incredibly fortunate to do the people I do.
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