I Finally Found the Perfect Curling Iron

Hair by Barbara at Barrow Salon in SF

Hair by Barbara at Barrow Salon in SF

I’ve talked a lot here on the blog about how I do my hair, and I’ve talked about it elsewhere. I used to wash my hair pretty often, because I dance a lot and get sweaty. But over the past two years, my hair-washing frequency has significantly decreased, which likely has a lot to do with the small human in my life.


That would be her! That means my previous technique of letting my hair dry in twists to create a beachy wave now has its limits. After a few days, the curls gets a bit frizzy and flattened and needs some attention. So I’ve taken to using a curling iron to clean things up, but I’ve never found one that creates a shape that I’m in love with. Until now! Barbara Thompson at Barrow Salon introduced me to the Hot Tools 1.25-inch curling iron, and I’m finally happy with my dirty, iron-curled hair. Previous irons were too big, too small or weirdly tapered (I still dont get the point of those). Also, they didn’t get hot enough. This one solves all of that, it’s pretty, and it only costs $40 (on sale on Amazon now). It’s less expensive because it’s not made of fancy ceramic or tourmaline, which the experts say is healthier for your hair. But I haven’t experienced any damage, yet. Just be careful not to burn off your hair like this poor girl.

hot tools

What’s in Your Bag for Spring Break?

bag contents

I’ve collaborated on a video with Glam to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: spring break. The truth this year mine will be spent welcoming a new member of our family in to our home and my vacation will likely come in July, when I’ll finally pack up this cute BluKicks bag with my favorite Mara Hoffman kaftan and a few other essentials and lounge for hours on the warm sand.

Watching the video made me realize some serious sunscreen would also be vital, like Maria emphasized in her segment, and a giant hat like Nkechi mentions. Both of them and the Glam crew were so much fun on set, can’t wait to do it again! What are your essentials for spring break?

The Secret Ingredient in This Face Magic: Powdered Pearl

Photo by Kourosh Karimkhany

Photo by Kourosh Karimkhany

This past weekend, the husband and I took a trip down to Southern California to visit his family. For the first time in the history of my blogging life, HE SUGGESTED we take an outfit photo. He is in love with the mountain behind my head in this photo, and he’s always wanted to stop and try to get a better look at it. It’s on route 152 on a stretch of truly beautiful land scattered with farms and hills.

As usual, I was rushing around as we packed up the car and wrangled Frida into the car seat. I figured I’d apply my makeup on the way, but then Kourosh said these four horrible words: “Do you mind driving?” Ugh. But he ALWAYS drives and he always does so many other things too so of course I said yes.
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In a World With No Selfies… #TBT

It's 1992, let's play a CD!

It’s 1992, let’s play a CD!

Listen, kids. In 1992, we didn’t have digital cameras. We certainly didn’t have digital cameras on our phones! The luxury of retaking a selfie 800 times to make sure we looked pretty was not something we possessed. THE WORD SELFIE DIDN’T EXIST. As a result, this is what my photos looked like.

This was me in 1992. I’m in my very first San Francisco apartment at the corner of Masonic and Page in the Haight. I was wearing an L7 t-shirt, a female grunge band I discussed earlier this week, and who recently got back together (yay!). In 1992 I listened to them by inserting a CD into a CD player. I ate large plates of pasta covered with tomato sauce from a jar because I didn’t have much money. I had a spiral perm. My boyfriend, whose identity I tried to protect here, leased the apartment while I was still living in Colorado. I agreed to move into the place with him sight unseen. Apparently I was pretty laid back back then.

This was our very first night in the apartment. My belongings were scattered all over the floor. We eventually decorated the place with tapestries and Bob Dylan posters and tchotchkes picked up from sidewalk sales (there seemed to be a lot more of those back then, maybe because Craigslist didn’t exist yet?)

Aren’t throwback Thursdays fun? Also, I may be having a little too much fun with my Sprout (more here and here). But hey, I never learned Photoshop, having come up in a time when it didn’t exist, so it’s endlessly fun to play around with this thing.

Stainiac by theBalm Made Me Love Lip Color Again

Serge et Moi

Serge et Moi

I had the pleasure of visiting theBalm at 788 Valencia Street in San Francisco recently on an important journalistic assignment to review their makeup tutorial service. It’s totally free, and includes your own personal video of your visit. Want to learn how to create the perfect cat eye? Contouring? A red lip? Whatever you’re wondering about, they’ll show you how to do it and record the process. I’m now devoted to this brand, especially since their products are not tested on animals and are free of nasty ingredients.

My new favorite: Stainiac by @thebalm_cosmetics. #nofilter More on the blog!

A photo posted by Kristen Philipkoski (@stylenik) on

The demo made it clear I had to purchase the Stainiac lip stain. Not since M.A.C.’s Twig in the ’90s have I found a lip color I could really love. And in 20 years I don’t think I’ll be horrified by it. Old photos show that brown lips are not cute on my face, alas! Stainiac, which comes in one color called Beauty Queen is just… pretty. And it doesn’t dry too fast or streak in the process like other lip stains. The formula is a gel that contains aloe, which gives you a little more time to blend before it dries.


If you’re in San Francisco and check out the Valencia shop, you have to find Serge and tell him I sent you. He has mad skills and is the sweetest.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sugaring But Were Afraid to Ask

Photo via Spa Zeeba

It had been a WHILE since I had attended to certain unmentionable grooming situations. So it was serendipitous that 7×7 magazine asked me to check out Habit, a hair removal establishment in Cow Hollow that offers waxing and sugaring (period, hair removal is their thing). Since I hadn’t heard of sugaring, I wanted to try it (look out for the 7×7 article in the March issue!)

Sugaring is like waxing, but so much better. First off, they for real use sugar. The golden (like when you caramelize sugar) substance contains sugar, lemon and water, that’s it. They say you can even eat it and it’s delicious (though I stopped short of a taste test). Amy at Habit rolled a blob of it around in her fingertips like a malleable crystal ball as she told me all about how she got started in sugaring. She started in waxing in L.A., but didn’t love it. She had heard tell of sugaring and wanted to learn more, so she made an appointment to try it out for herself. As luck would have it, her sugarer was Lisa Kennedy, the woman who invented the modern method of sugaring and is now the president and CEO of Alexandria, the country’s premier certification (it’s not included in a regular esthetician’s license) and sugar products source.

It didn’t take Amy long to fall for this new technique. It undid everything she disliked about waxing: It’s applied at room temperature and flicked away from the skin without fabric strips or tongue depressors. Instead of pulling in the opposite direction of hair growth, with sugaring you pull IN the direction of growth, which causes fewer ingrown hairs because you’re not yanking the hair backwards which can lead to the regrowth getting caught under the skin, i.e. ingrown hairs. There’s also less breakage, because sugar sticks to hair better than wax, and therefore is better at yanking the whole hair from the root, thereby leaving you smooth longer. Sugar only sticks to dead things, like hair, but not to alive things like skin. Also if there’s any residue left after the treatment, it rinses off easily with water because it’s just water-soluble sugar. Amy went on to get certified, moved to San Francisco, and now trains all of Habit’s sugar technicians.

I mean what’s not to like? I guess if you’re OK with wax—the pain doesn’t bother you and you don’t get ingrown hairs, there’s not a big reason to switch, since sugaring is a little more expensive. But if you have any issues with wax, you have every reason to try out sugaring. And you should really try it at Habit, because the place is gorgeous and the women, including founder Carrie Maxwell, are wonderful. I wanted to claim them all as BFFs by the time I left. Have you tried sugaring? What did you think?

What I Learned From Six Beauty Appointments in Five Days

Hair by Barbara at Barrow Salon in SF

Hair by Barbara at Barrow Salon in SF

I just spent the last week on a special journalistic assignment that required visits to half a dozen beauty and wellness establishments in five days. The project came just before a trip out of town for my sister in law’s birthday Dance Your Ass Off party in SoCal, so I also needed nails and a facial, which fell outside of my professional purview. There were challenges, like when I had to rush across town from a chiropractic appointment in the Castro to a hair appointment in Union Square. The time invested was significant, and the planning required precision in order to fit everything in.

But I would never complain, because you would totally punch me for whining about a job that involves getting pampered.

I now have a perfect bikini line from Habit, a wonderful balayage with pops of pink from Barrow Salon (see above, the cut and previous balayage is by Anastasia at Hair Collective), flawless nails from my local ReFresh salon in Pacifica, pretty decent skin thanks to Sofia Skin Care and Serenity MedSpa, excellent makeup skills courtesy of The Balm, and a less painful back thanks to Fitwell Chiropractic.

While I was racing in between all these appointments, it occurred to me that this might be a normal schedule for women who are impeccable about keeping up their appearance. And I wondered, how in the name of god do they do it? I tend to get my nails done only when I have a special event, and I wear very little makeup on a daily basis. This was the first attention my bikini line has attention in … let’s say a while, and I get my hair cut and colored probably twice per year. Keeping everything perfect would require an expense that would infuriate the husband, and frankly I am lazy.

The feminist in me wondered: Why should women incur such expense—while getting paid less than men—to look perfect at all times, austensibly for the benefit of men?

But then that feminist in me realized that truth is, we don’t do it for men. We pamper ourselves because we like the creativity of getting pink hair, the art of an awesome cut, the orderliness of an attended-to bikini line, and the beauty of an unblemished face. Or not! The other beautiful thing is that we can pay as much attention to aesthetics as we like.

Also, with each new fabulous woman I met during these treatments, I felt more and more like I was in this club of women who loved women. Not in a sexual way, but in a way that we all take care of each other. Girls’ girls, if the term doesn’t offend. There wasn’t competition or judgement, there was support and acceptance.

As Courtney Martin of Feministing says in this video, “I think that part of the work of feminism is to admit that aesthetics, that beauty, that fun do matter.” Amen, sister.

Look what hair genius @barbdoeshair just did!

A photo posted by Kristen Philipkoski (@stylenik) on

2015 Is the Year to Go for a Crazy-Awesome Hair Color

Gray blue balayage hair

This is the year I stop being late and also the year that I get purple hair. Or possibly blue. Probably with a touch of gray. This is the year! Why the F not. It’s been a popular trend for a few years, but it’s not going anywhere. There are tons of inspirational photos on Pinterest but it’s not easy to find exactly what I have in mind. I want the color to be mostly on the ends, like my ombre, but I for sure don’t want a hard line between colors. Or, like the one above, completely freakin gray.

Here are some of my faves. Maybe the next post will be of my own ‘do, woo!


dark blue brown ombre hair

demi-lovato purple ombre

m-k-a gray pink lavender hair
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Cover Your Roots With This Powder That Doubles as a Dry Shampoo

root touch up

Madison Reed, the non-toxic, non-damaging option for hair color that I wrote about for 7×7 back in August, now has a new product for last minute root fixes called Root Touch Up ($30, available online-only). It’s a lightweight powder compact that comes in eight shades from platinum blond to jet black. It brushes on dry, blends in with your color, and stays put until your next shampoo. Awesomely, it serves as a dry shampoo too—it’s a fine, micro-milled powder so it absorbs oil, adds volume, and has a light, lovely fragrance that revives second- (or fifth-) day hair, so it’s extra great for dirty hippies like myself.

See before and after below:

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French Braids: When You Need to Get the Hair Out of Your Face

french braids111
Photo by Richard Philipkoski
My mom has been telling me to get my hair out of my face pretty much my whole life. When I was in second grade, my hair reached past my waist, and my mother hated combing it. She informed me that she’d tolerate it only until after her wedding that year, in which I would serve as “junior bridesmaid.” After that, I was going short whether I liked it or not. I cried in a corner of the playground during recess at the prospect.

At 8-years-old, my hair was already my security blanket.

Now, a few decades later, it’s still is. I almost never wear my hair up. Shrouded behind hair, my imperfections are less evident, or at least they feel that way from beneath the mane. So it was kind of a big deal for me to be out in the world with French-braided hair. But I knew even without my mom telling me that I needed to get it out of my face for travels from Pennsylvania back to San Francisco with a toddler. Having my head exposed to the general public may have been disconcerting had the extreme volume and energy of my child not dominated every last one of my senses.

But the experience got me thinking of all the hairstyles I sported during my school years post-shag: I had a Dorothy Hamill cut circa 4th grade. That grew into a “feathered” style up until 7th grade when my older cousin from New York taught me the magic of a curling iron. The tool transformed the flat feathers into barrel curls that I then brushed into two big wings, one on each side of my face, until they met at the back of my skull in a vertical line that resembled a butt crack.

Then came the mullet. We called it “ears cut out.” It felt very cool. The following year or so I let it grow in to a shoulder-length bob with bangs and a perm. In my senior year of high school, I had it all chopped into an extremely short-in-the-back style that was longer on the top. I swooped that long part onto one side and sprayed it stiff. In my first year of college, I let one side grow longer than the other for an asymmetrical hairdo. Eventually it grew longer, possibly because of limited access to my stylist and/or lack of funds. I let it grow super long and got my first spiral perm circa 1988. I’ve had nearly the same hair, minus the spiral perm, ever since.

What I’d like to know is: where did I get the confidence to chop off all of my hair my senior year of high school? I remember boys in my class looking at me with wonder asking “why?” “Because I like it!” I said. I didn’t feel one bit self conscious and I didn’t regret the cut for one second. I only wish I could have bottled that confidence so I could take a dose of it now!

snowy vertical edited_Fotor_Fotor_Fotor

I did enjoy the French braid for a change though. My hair didn’t get caught under my bag strap and Frida didn’t get food in it. I could also see when I searched for diapers and toys and tranquilizers (just kidding) in my carry-on.

I wore this particular outfit the day before our travels following a French braid test-run. The jeans are Gap, booties are c/o Freda Salvador, I bought the jacket at the Alameda Vintage Fashion Faire, and the turquoise earrings are from the Susquehanna Trading Post.