Beauty: Kristin Ess

This article is part of our Create & Cultivate 100 List created in collaboration with Dove, you can view the full Beauty List Here

The hair whisperer. 

Kristin Ess has been doing hair for more than half of her life. Since she was 15, the hairstylist whose roster includes fellow C&C nominee Lauren Conrad, Lucy Hale, and Halle Berry, has said “yes to anything and everything” that came her way. The stylist and her trademark vibrant redhead has done the salon thing, the editorial jobs, the freelance route, as well as assisting hairdressers she admired for free “a lot.” In 2011 she launched The Beauty Department, aimed at bridging the divide between the glam squad and the every-girl, work she has continued as founder of Kristin Ess Hair. 

Taking on the role of founder it’s only natural that her workload has gotten “more intense,” as there is now “more to see, more to create,” as well as “more to dream up.” But don’t expect her to start slacking as a result. With a new Target collab, she's only getting started.  

“I try to be as original as possible,” says the mane guru. “I don't go on Pinterest and just copy whatever pretty visuals I see. I don't creep other hairdressers and copy what they do. I do my research and try to bring something inspiring to the table.”

Despite her superhuman hair prowess and boss ass hair flips (see: above photo), the mane goddess is mortal. A month ago (over the holidays) Kristin says she was walking about her house crying, wondering if she would ever sleep again. Between The Beauty Department relaunch, Kristin Ess Hair coming out, the steady stream of content creator, travel, and being down two assistants, she had averaged between three to four hours a night for four days. “I actually googled, ‘Can you die from exhaustion?’” 

She didn’t. 

The hairstylist doesn’t set goals, something she says may be “a big no no according to some, but so far it’s worked for me.” She also doesn’t have habits or routine. “The one and only habit I have is brushing my teeth.” 

As for her relationship to herself and career she’s keeping it real. “I think I've started to judge myself a little bit more in the last five years,” Kristin openly shares, “which I never did before. I thought I would have launched my line sooner, I thought I would have traveled more, I thought I would have lost weight, I thought I'd be more organized, I thought I would have a bigger team. I never would have thought those things about myself 10 years ago. But you get into your 30s and you start being a little harder on yourself. I catch myself in the moment, almost every time. I stop, mentally step back and look at what I am/do/have experienced and I remember I'm doing fucking great.” 

When her clients feel good, she feels good. And her number one takeaway for them when they leave her chair is that “That they've been heard. That I get what they want and that I can deliver on what they've asked for.” It’s simple, but powerful and is in harmony with what she sees as one of the next big trends in beauty. “We're breaking down the walls of overpriced beauty!” she exclaims.  

In an industry not known for being soft, rather one that Kristin says “can be very competitive and sometimes nasty,” she’s focused on a positive future. Encouraging “women, both friends and people I haven't met, via social media and throwing down all the YAS KWEENS I can. We’re all in this together and no one woman is better than the rest.” 

While it may seem that the follicular feminist's career is on fire ('cause it is), Kristin remembers a past and “very wise” client who told her, "You never want to be on fire. Fires burn out. You always want to be smoking." 

"You never want to be on fire. Fires burn out. You always want to be smoking." 

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Sound advice that has stayed with her. “I’ve never desired to be the most famous hairstylist on earth. I never needed to have every single celebrity in my chair. I just want to do my job really well for a long time, and hopefully people will love it whether they're famous or not.”

Styling provided by Reservoir LA. Hair and makeup provided by Glamsquad. Photography courtesy of Light Lab and Woodnote Photography.