In the world of hairstyling, mosts artists have one specific talent. Theresa Adams, L'Oréal Professionnel international artist and creative director of New York’s Dop Dop Salon, has three.
After 18 years in the business, Adams has made cut, color, and styling her own. And while she’s worked in the glamorous business of magazine photoshoots and editorial, it’s the salon and her clients that keep her thrilled about the job.
Like many hair professionals, Adams is quick to give out her creds. Nearly two decades ago, she began work as a makeup artist after studying art for her undergraduate degree. Adams moved into editorial styling, but still hadn’t found a daily job that made her feel fulfilled.
She cites one important moment in history as the jump start that led her to her ultimate passion. When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, happened, she took a now-or-never approach to her future.
In the salon, Adams found that the world of creating beautiful hair color isn’t so different from what she had become accustomed to while practicing painting.
“I really got to know color theory, which is the same whether you’re painting on a canvas or on hair. So it made sense to me,” she explains.
About ten years ago, Adams' hair styling career shifted yet again. She was invited to audition for an educator role with L’Oréal Professionnel, opening a professional door to a part of the industry she hadn’t even been aware of.
“I had no idea before I went into the salon world that there was this whole education world,” Adams says. “I’m a person who loves to learn, so that became a really natural fit to teach.”
If there’s a common theme in Adams’ time in the industry, it’s just that: Learning is everything. Whether she’s helping to create the U.S. certification program for balayage on behalf of L’Oréal Professionnel or making time in her travels to take classes around the world, she’s set on never becoming stagnant in her art. That’s the kind of attitude that enables her to say she’s yet to have a single day of dreading coming into work.
“I think it’s important to see what other people are up to to be inspired by that, to push yourself out of your box so that way you’re not getting bored,” she says.
These days, Adams can be found at Dop Dop Salon in New York. Working as creative director, she’s still maintaining relationships with clients who have been seeing her for 15 or more years.
“I feel blessed I have really amazing people who invite me into their lives. It all happened through hair. But it’s about setting people up to win in their life,” she adds.
If there’s one element of the hair industry that inspires Adams the most, there’s no doubt it’s the give-and-take between professional and client. The pro stylist has made a name for herself as an advocate for consultation appointments. You may think of them as the 5-minute chat you have with your stylist before getting shampooed, but Adams sees them as the gateway to a better way of hair styling.
“I think it becomes about the listening,” she says. “To me if I have a new client in my chair, it’s almost like you’re a hair detective in that moment and you need to be able to understand what their language is.”
If you’re investing money in a new hair color or cut, Adams wants to be sure you’re getting the final product you dreamed about. Whether she’s using photos as a visual guide or scheduling styling appointments with clients who just can’t seem to heat style correctly, (“I’m like, let’s do a style appointment, bring your stuff, I’ll have mine and we’ll sit down. I’ll do a section, you’ll do a section.”) it’s all about making the cut or color you visualized come to life.
In fact, it’s that very personalization that makes Adams (and all professional stylists) so valuable. Although the internet can supply you with a steady stream of at-home tutorials, it can’t always tell you whether or not trying the trend is a good idea based on your lifestyle, care routine, and budget. Or, as she so expertly puts it:
“A box cannot look at you and say, ‘You need x,y, and z, or maybe those ends are a little bit sensitized. Even when I’m coloring, I’m not just coloring for that appointment. I’m coloring for the next thing we’re going to do and looking down the line. That way I’m keeping the integrity of your hair.”
It’s that intuitive skill for understanding the client that’s helped Adams excel in her field.
These days, everyone with a social media profile is showing off their beauty chops. While it can be embarrassing to admit you’ve been creating balayage at home, Adams recommends her clients take the desire to create their own hair color seriously.
“There’s a lot more that goes into coloring or cutting or doing hair sometimes than people realize as far as education is concerned. If somebody is really inspired and doing their hair, I invite them to get their license and join the family,” she says.
Until then, you’ll have to book an appointment with Adams to witness her art in person. When you’re all done, she’ll take the greatest pleasure in watching you walk out the door a new person.
“When I watch my clients leaving and they’ve got the swing going on because you know that they’re really feeling themselves,” she says. “That’s my favorite part.”