Good Shampoo and Intuition: Secrets of an Austin Hair Artist

Austin Hair Artist, Susan Benefield

When you go for a cut and color with Susan Benefield, she may show you a picture of an 8-year-old’s hair color and tell you that could be your hair… At least that’s what she suggested for me.

The kid in the picture on Susan’s phone had that youthful color that looked like your everyday brown, but with a golden lamp shining on it. You know, the way a child’s hair looks in the sunshine. “That’s cute,” I said, “but her hair is young hair. Look at my gray, and my frizzies!”

“No matter. We’ll do lowlights. We won’t keep it on that long. Just a very short while after the color”

I was game.

One of these days I’ll pay more attention to the steps she took: the sectioning and the foiling, etc. and maybe I’ll figure out how she actually did it. For now, just suffice it to say, she made my hair behave and accomplished that youthful, shiny, brown, bobbled, beautiful look. My hair looked, if not 40 years younger, at least fifteen!

Benefield is an accomplished colorist and Austin hair artist who could have stepped out of an MTV video, c. 1984. A pretty, angelic blonde, Benefield had a thriving hair clientele in both Los Angeles and Austin for several years as she transitioned to full time Austin residency seven years ago.

While she worked her magic taking years off my hair, we held the usual salon chat women do so well.

We talked about the color trends today, the blues, pinks and oranges done with taste and elegance on hair of all ages; they’re nothing new to Benefield. Since she’s been doing color since the eighties, she’s done it all before. In fact she was personal friends with hair legend Michael O’Rourke, the founder of Big Sexy Hair, working with him at his first salon before he ever formulated his first hair products.

She swears by that line (the red bottles with the star) for styling products, but when asked what’s the one thing customers should know about creating gorgeous hair at home, she suggested a less known brand for cleansing and conditioning.

chihtsai

“First after a good haircut is a great shampoo.”

I’d never heard of Chihtsai (pronounced “chee-sigh”), but it’s the best shampoo out there, swears Benefield. Since Hot On! Austin is always on the lookout for things to bring home from local people and places, I took note, then looked for Chihtsai online, and found its website and Facebook page, just barely translated into English from Indonesian. E.g. Under the News tab, one section is “Lately Events.”

Bet you can guess, it’s hard to find in the states, except through the rare salon and beauty pro. Benefield’s that quirky, original gal who’s using products you’ve never heard of and trying unusual cut and color combinations when clients want something a little different.

For example, she recently did a shock of gray in front of a full, curly head of red hair on an active firewoman. (When I met this woman a few weeks ago, I had to inquire who did this unusual color and style; it’s the reason I called Susan for an appointment in the first place!)

Yet, there is a therapeutic, practical side to Benefield that comes out as you get to know her. For example, one recent client wanted a drastic cut just before some disruptive stuff was about to take place in her home. Experience — and an intimate knowledge of women’s hair psychology — told Benefield to refuse to make the change for her. Instead, she suggested her client come back in a few weeks after things had dialed down in her personal life. Susan’s intuition told her the timing wasn’t right for such a big change – and the woman was truly grateful when she came in for her transformation a few weeks later.

Chihtsai

Intuition’s always been a friend to Benefield. It made her realize she could get high school credit for “beauty school” and eliminate the need for boring typing classes; it landed her a job in a salon on Rodeo Drive when she first moved to LA; it helped fill her schedule with Beverly Hills personalities who needed hair styles and photo shoots; it manifested a sighting of Rod Stewart, who had blown her a kiss; it even nudged her to invest in Lakeway real estate before it got too hot to touch. Must be a gift she has.

Now, ladies, you know…that is the kind of hairdresser you want on your team. Susan can be reached at The Salon in Lakeway, or at 512-934-3141.

LINKS:

1. Michael Rourke, founder of Big Sexy Hair

2. Big Sexy Hair

3. Best shampoo, Chihtsai

4. The Salon

5. Intuition (Ted Talk, by Patrick Schwerdtfeger

 

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