Plymouth Stylist vs. D.I.Y.

Five Plymouth gurus share their take on do-it-yourself beauty and offer a few secrets and tips of their own about the art of their respective—and sometimes overlooked—beauty services.

We can all play our own stylists in this day and age, but chances are if you’ve tested D.I.Y. beauty practices, you’ve experienced a snafu in which you wished that you had listened to the echoes of the styling gods, saying, “Don’t do it!” Next time, listen. Our esteemed Plymouth stylists are here to share the horror stories of DIYs gone awry and give you a peek into the art of the beauty services most commonly taken for granted.

The Brow

Over-trimming. Over-tweezing. Maria Wittnebel sees these plucking problems at Merrill Hair Designers all of the time, and the embarrassing D.I.Y. practices often result in an unsightly bald spot above the eyes, she says. Esthetician Karen Collyard adds a nightmarish memory of her own—the one where a pair of clients were trying to wax each other’s eyebrows, and one was too afraid to pull the wax, so she pulled it slowly, ending up with something along the lines of “a Friends episode,” she says dismally.

In these cases, Wittnebel says her repair approach is to shape and fill in the “bald area” with a brow pencil or powder until the hair naturally fills in. After three to four weeks, the brows should be shaped and trimmed back to perfection.

The brow-shaping process itself “is unique for each client,” says Wittnebel, who also shares that wax is preferable to tweezing, because “wax grabs onto fine hairs that you don’t see or the tweezer won’t grab onto.” Tweezing is better for fine-tuning, as opposed to the entire brow.

A thorough consultation is key for brows; during these, speak up, Wittnebel advises. If you aren’t loving a certain brow shape, say so. But ultimately, you should leave your brows to the professionals. “We have extensive training, which leads to a better-shaped brow in the end,” she says. Average price around town: $15–$20 for a brow wax or tint.


The Face

Imagine getting a fresh facial and peel. Your face is soft, fresh—it can breathe. Then imagine going to the tanning bed the next day and drying it all out. Karen Collyard has seen this kind of scenario play out before.

When it comes to the skin, “I have seen a few do-it-yourselfer beauty disasters,” she says. “It’s mostly cases of people using over-the-counter creams and products containing Vitamin A derivatives and Retinol. Collyard, who has been an esthetician for more than 10 years at Merrill Hair Designers, says that these are “aggressive treatments” not intended to be done on your own.

When at-home skin treatments go wrong, Collyard stresses the importance of educating her clients, figuring out the exact problem within the regimen and identifying ingredients that are causing issues. Marketing can make the process confusing, she admits. People will often see something endorsed by a celebrity and think it can work for them, too.

“Skin is the largest organ of our bodies,” she says. This alone is a reason not to turn your skincare practice into a D.I.Y. experiment— at least not until you’ve consulted your esthetician.

Collyard says most salons offer free consultations, and that you should bring products you’re using and ask questions about them to these consults. These products are often expensive, so you aren’t getting the best value when you don’t consult a professional. Be sure to find an experienced esthetician who listens to you, she adds.

A key tip: Check out an esthetician’s equipment, too—if he or she has a magnifying lamp and a high-frequency machine to kill bacteria after extraction, your face is in good hands. Average price around town: $50–$80 for an average facial.

Photo by Tate Carlson

The Cut

The Style Room’s Keri VanErp has been styling hair for 21 years, and she’s worked with countless people who’ve cut their own hair—poorly. Take the client who nearly cut her hair into a bowl shape—she tried to cut her own bangs, but kept going onto the side of her head.

Another common error she sees is the trimming of wet bangs. The way hair dries will completely morph, and people end up cutting it too short, thinking the length it is when wet is the same as when it dries. (VanErp only does the bangs after a blowout).

Fixing damage caused by inexperienced stylists is all about trying to “create an optical illusion,” VanErp says. “There’s not much you can do when a chunk of hair is missing,” so stylists will add layers to blend, texturize and disguise.

“Cutting is the foundation of your style,” she says; everything else comes after. A haircut is never just one haircut—it’s three or four in one. Face shape is a huge factor in cutting, and getting the optimum oval shape is the goal.

When you cut your own hair, you’re taking a risk, says VanErp, who is also a Eufora elite stylist at the salon, familiar with the Eufora product line. Consulting with a stylist is important not only for getting the cut right, but getting the perfect cut for you. Average price around town: $30–$35 for a women’s full blowout, more for a cut depending on the stylist’s experience.

Photo by Tate Carlson

The Color

On any given warm summer day, perhaps you’ve seen folks with shirts soaked in brightly colored dyes, having just finished a popular 5K. Last year Becky Higby found one of these runners in her salon chair, the dyes absorbed into the client’s blonde hair.

“Hair is like a sponge,” Higby says. This particular situation required the Christopher J Salon colorist to bleach each blue, pink or green strand individually to eliminate the deep hues, as treating the entire head would cause too much hair damage.

You’ve probably heard your own share of D.I.Y. color horror stories—with questionable chemical combinations in store-bought box treatments, they’re almost too numerous to name. Higby notes that box dye only works for one in a few hair types, and you shouldn’t be fooled by seeing it successful on someone else. “If you really, really have to cover roots or grays,” she says, “consider a temporary spray until you can get to the salon.” This is because a spray will wash out each night and won’t cause lasting damage.

Hair texture, gray coverage, skin tone, eye color and more factor into the perfect color. Colorists are mixing multiple chemicals to get a satisfying result, and Higby notes that pictures can keep you on the same page. (For example, what is golden to you might be strawberry blonde to your colorist.) You also might not be able to do a 180-degree change (like black to blonde) in one session, so keeping expectations reasonable during a pre-color consultation is essential. Average price around town: $65–$100 for full color.

Photo by Tate Carlson

The Nails

Grabbing a bottle of nail polish from a rainbow of shades in a store aisle can be tempting, but sometimes we don’t realize that color isn’t the only thing we’re supposed to be focused on. Dylet Grady, a nail technician at Simonson’s Salon & Spa, has seen firsthand the damage caused from mindless polishing without a protein-rich base coat.

Mangled acrylic nails are another issue that she sees often. People will bite them off, or worse, keep wearing them until mold and fungus develop in the crevasses. At that point, Grady will give the nails a treatment immediately in order to avoid infections that can travel into the bloodstream. To clean them up, she’ll do a natural manicure to get them healthier and stronger.

Once nails are healthy, she suggests shellac gel polish (different from shellac nails, which still must be filed off) or Vinylux, a polish which dries in eight to 10 minutes for those on-the-go types who can’t make it into the salon. “We can [all] sit for 10 minutes and let our nails dry,” she says with a laugh.

Grady’s philosophy on D.I.Y. nails is all about educating the client. She compares seeing your manicurist to seeing a doctor: In case you have a reaction from doing something on your own, you’re going to need to go to the doctor anyway, so it is worthwhile to see a professional in the first place and learn from them. Average price around town: $20–$50 for a mani or pedi.


Let's Be Honest

Do you really want to mix dye chemicals and pour hot wax yourself? See our resources:

Christopher J Salon
2700 Annapolis Circle N.

Merrill Hair Designers
3900 Vinewood Lane N.

Simonson’s Salon & Spa
2855 Glacier Lane

The Style Room
16725 County Road 24 #105

Esthetician Karen Collyard says: Mention this article in the month of September and receive a half-price European facial with any skin care product purchase at Merrill Hair Designers.