When it comes to looking good, you can dress to the nines and your makeup can be close to perfection, but if your hair is off, so is your look. Let's admit it: good hair often trumps all other factors when it comes to one’s appearance. For many of us, a remarkable mane usually takes regular effort and constant discipline, while your favorite Hollywood stars can call in help from the experts. One man responsible for keeping many of Hollywood’s locks beautiful is celebrity hair stylist Philip B. For the past three decades, he has revolutionized the hair industry with his eponymous line of high quality botanical products (devotees include Nicole Kidman, Mick Jagger and Mathew McConaughey). We sat down with the tress master to get some of his invaluable hair advice, from root to tip. Here, a breakdown of the master's golden rules.
What was the turning point in your career that pushed you to branch out from hairstyling into your own hair care venture?
It was not intentional, but it was an "Aha" moment early in my journey as a hairdresser. I was working in a popular Los Angeles salon with a big Hollywood following. I found that a lot of our A-list actresses had very damaged hair from constant heat styling, chemical treatments, and color changes for their roles. It sent me on a mission to find truly effective ways to restore moisture to their hair and rebuild it. I had this intuitive sense that nothing could heal the scalp and help grow healthy hair like the nourishment of botanicals.
When I started working on film sets all over the world, I spent my free time looking for hair care products that really delivered. I found that no matter where I was, for the most part they didn't exist. Even at the luxury high-end, shampoos were primarily water and detergent blends. The conditioners were too heavy and waxy. So I started working with pure essential oils and extracts. I came up with my own botanical blends (formulated at home in my kitchen), and I used them on my clients, fixing dry ends and restoring the sebum, shine and bounce.
The results were dramatic and I decided to bottle my system—what is now my Four-Step Hair & Scalp Treatment. Almost immediately I got into Neiman Marcus and shortly thereafter a spread in American Vogue, so I continued doing both hair and products for a while but before long, I was making hair care a full-time job.
Every head of hair may need its own individualized treatment, but what are the fundamentals for a proper, healthy hair regimen one should attempt to follow?
Brush your hair and scalp. Every single day! It boosts blood flow to the scalp, helps encourage cell turnover and clears the hair follicles, all of which can help slow follicle miniaturization as we age. It’s like taking your scalp to the gym and it is part of the process that helps to grow healthy hair. Also, botanical oil treatments, every one to two weeks. They’re really a must-do as we age, because our hair dries out more and our skin cells turn over more slowly. A botanical oil treatment is the optimal way to restore hair’s youthful bounce and shine while also deep-cleaning your scalp. The sheer plant oils in the formula are amazing at dissolving the heavy, waxier oils that can clog follicles and rob your hair of its natural bounce and movement. It gives you a clean, healthy reboot. And the plant oil molecules are so tiny that they actually sink inside the hair fiber and plump it up from the inside out. Any excess oil on the surface simply lifts away when you shampoo, so the treatment leaves all hair types ideally conditioned, bouncy, sexy and gleaming.
Don’t forget to masque. My rule is that whatever you take out of your hair—through color, chemical treatments or heated styling tools—you have to put back in. So my new Russian Amber Imperial Gold Masque is perfect for using every week or two, more often if your hair is very dry or damaged. Lastly, remember that shampoo and conditioner are not usually needed more than every two to three ays. It’s good to let your scalp build up some sebum, so you can brush the natural, nourishing oils through your hair. I wouldn’t usually recommend going much longer than that because your scalp can start to smell after a few days.
Why is it so important to keep your scalp healthy first and foremost?
Healthy hair comes from a healthy scalp. That means good circulation, healthy open follicles and a fresh, clean feeling without flakes or irritation. I’m a huge proponent of brushing your scalp with a boar’s-hair bristle brush before each shampoo, to rev up circulation and loosen dead cells and debris from the scalp so you can get a deeper clean. Massage your scalp as you shampoo, too. You want the skin to feel a little flexible. I touch a lot of heads, and in my experience, thick, shiny, youthful hair doesn’t grow from a scalp that’s as hard and tight as a coconut. If you’re eating a healthy diet, with plenty of nutrients and iron, that helps a lot, too.
People don’t really like to talk about scalp problems, but they’re surprisingly common. And whether it’s dry scalp, oily scalp, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, those issues need to be addressed so that your hair can grow in healthy and strong. The answer is a good scalp maintenance regimen: daily brushing, a botanical oil treatment every week or two and – if you have a troubled scalp—the right products to bring it back to health. I can’t stress enough what a difference the right regimen can make to your scalp. It leaves you feeling more confident and comfortable and even improve your sleep while paving the way for lush, healthy growth.
Is there a proper way to brush your hair to keep your scalp healthy?
Brushing your hair and scalp before each shampoo can work wonders for the condition of your hair. The trick is using the right kind of hairbrush: It needs to be made with natural boar’s-hair bristles. Why? Because unlike conventional nylon bristles, boar’s hair is porous, which makes it able to pick up the natural oils from your scalp and pull them down through the mid-lengths and ends of your hair, where they’re needed. On their own, those nourishing oils don’t make it more than a few inches down the hair shaft. So that why gliding the brush over your scalp and down through your hair before you shampoo is so important. As a bonus, the brushing action helps stimulate blood circulation to your follicles while loosening up dead cells and product build-up. That, in turn, helps your shampoo work more effectively. Brush your hair upside down if you can—that’s optimal because you’re working against gravity, moving the follicles in the opposite direction, and increasing blood flow and cell turnover. Also, it just feels good.
What are your favorite products and tools to use?
First, from my personal range I recommend the Rejuvenating Oil for all of the reasons mentioned above, and the Forever Shine Shampoo & Conditioner. Drawing on advanced skincare technology, these formulas contain tiny, time-released safflower oleosomes that sink into strands, delivering weightless moisture that keep your hair bouncy and shiny for days. Last, the Russian Amber Imperial Gold Masque is amazing for strengthening dull, dry, fragile strands and locking in long-term moisture.
From others I really like Rene Furterer’s Complex 5, which is an incredible vaso-dilator for the scalp. It creates a warming effect, opens up blood vessels and helps with circulation, so it’s great for anyone who has thinning hair. I like fabric hair ties by Scunci and the Mason Pearson all nylon bristle brushes. As far as a hairstyling tool, I like the Parlux hair dryer. It’s like a tornado in your hand. It has thrust, push and heat and the right ratio between fan speed and heat so you don’t fry your hair. The speed and power combination doesn’t just protect your hair, it means faster drying times and smoother, shinier blowouts, too.
What are some of the greatest myths when it comes to hair care?
That you should squeeze some water out of your hair before applying conditioner. Conditioner actually works best if you apply it to dripping wet hair and massage it in, using the water as a vehicle to push moisture deeper into the hair. You can use less product that way, and there’s no need to towel-dry your hair in an attempt to get conditioning benefits. That ultimately works against you. If you’ve squeezed the water from your hair, then the conditioner can’t thin out; there’s nothing to dilute it, so it just sits on your hair and stays heavy and waxy. Another misconception: hair doesn’t need tone. Just two to three sprays of my pH Restorative Spray and the hydrogen releases from the water, allowing the cuticle to close again so you can comb it though, towel it dry and have it get smooth and glossy again. Also remember, you shouldn’t put oil on a greasy scalp. Adding more oil to an already oily situation sounds counterintuitive. But the right kind of botanical oil makes all the difference. Remember, the natural oils on your scalp are made of large, heavy animal molecules that weigh your hair down and are hard to wash away. When you solubilize or dissolve those oils with sheerer, lighter botanical oils, they’re far easier to remove. So once you shampoo, your hair feels lighter because you’re getting much more natural lift at the roots and your scalp feels fresher and cleaner. Plus, it takes away that greasy, oily feeling without stripping your hair of its essential moisture. I see a lot of clients with oily scalps who live in humid climates. I usually have to talk them into a Rejuvenating Oil treatment, and then they can’t believe the transformation.
How can we keep hair protected in the harsh summer months?
Start with a sun hat that will protect your color and save your hair from drying out under UV rays. Another important tip, always saturate your hair with tap water before you jump in the pool. That way, your hair won’t absorb as much chlorine. Put some conditioner on your hair before you put on your swim cap and do laps. If you’re out at the beach, run some Rejuvenating Oil through your hair and tuck it under your hat. When you wash your hair at the end of the day, it will come out perfectly conditioned. I would also recommend to step up your advanced hair care routine with more frequent oil treatments and masques.
What has been the defining moment of your career in hair care?
The defining moment of my career was when I developed these unique hair care treatments that really delivered – using pure botanicals in precise blends to restore hair’s healthy, youthful feel. But what I’m most proud of are the maintenance programs I’ve created for psoriasis and dandruff. The feedback we get for my Peppermint & Avocado Shampoo (which is made with healing, clinically-active levels of pure peppermint oil) and my Anti-Flake shampoos is so rewarding. Nicole Kidman credits my Rejuvenating Oil as a hair product she "can't live without" for red carpet events and my hot oil treatment is how she likes to "chill out" after long days on Big Little Lies. I’ve had Robert Redford come right up to me at an event and thank me for my products; I’ve had Gwyneth Paltrow write to me about my products. One woman wrote and said that she’d had such a bad, itchy, flaky scalp that she felt too self-conscious to leave the house. She’d tried everything and finally found Anti-Flake online and used it and wrote, “Now I can go out with my family, I can sleep through the night, I can even wear a black dress. Thank you so much, you’ve changed my life.” I hear those kinds of stories all the time, and a lot of clients come to me with scalp conditions that I can turn around. That feels really good. I mean, those are proud moments where I know all the time, expense, purity and passion I pour into every one of my products is worth every last drop of effort.