As a celebrity hairstylist, Helen Reavy has worked with the biggest stars of today like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Harry Styles. But before that, she was a celebrated editorial hairstylist who had 15 years of experiencing creating looks for glossies, as well as working with accomplished hairstylist Sam McKnight backstage at Fashion Week. After years of making other people's tresses look good with her hands and skills, she took the leap into doing it through products — with her own haircare line, Act+Acre. Aside from her tips and tricks, Helen shares with us her creative process, mindset as an entrepreneur, and the sustainable practices she follows in haircare. Read on.
Hairstyling as a creative story-telling collaboration
"I love the planning that goes into the hair for fashion shows," Helen says. With years of working backstage, she's cultivated a strong working relationship with the most creative minds in fashion. Speaking of how the creative process goes, Helen says she takes the time to meet with the designers and stylists a week before a show to discuss the inspiration behind a collection or show and create a mood board. "The hair and makeup looks represent the collection and the woman we are trying to inspire with this collection. We would then do a test on a model and try on some of the collection and see how they work together.”
For the more out-of-the-box avant-garde shows, there’s more preparation needed to be done leading up to the show since the looks these shows require usually need hairpieces to create the desired look — tons of hairspray and gel included.
Meanwhile, for editorials, the purpose of the hair is to tell a story. Helen's work — which has graced the pages of Elle, Glamour, and Vogue, just to name a few — always aims to create a flow with the clothes the model is wearing. “My inspiration for creating looks comes in many forms [and changes] depending on the shoot, the team, the magazine and the models. Most of the time I would meet with the photographer and the stylist to understand the storyline for the shoot.”
On the fulfilment that comes with being a hairstylist
But it's not just the final look she's after. “For me, it’s really all about the positive impact I can have on someone's day, week, year. From the moment you sit down in my chair, I have the ability to turn your day around, put a smile on your face, and leave you feeling like the best possible version of yourself. That is what motivates me to get up in the morning and always strive to do better, and be better,” she shares.
From hairstylist to product developer and businesswoman
For a hairstylist, 15 years means countless hours and many clients and many hours backstage for fashion shows. Her experience there was what catapulted her into creating her own brand. “[That time] definitely impacted my decision to launch a haircare line. I would arrive on set and see a model's hair with huge amounts of product buildup on their scalp, and thus their hair would be more difficult to style. We as stylists would have to add more product to counteract this issue, so it really was masking one problem with another.”
Taking inspiration from this, Helen created clean products for Act+Acre, which help reduce buildup on the hair and scalp. Since she began testing and using the products personally, she's noted distinct ease in styling her own hair and the increased longevity of the style.
Challenging established haircare norms
Aside from achieving ease of styling to aid her in her work, it was also important for Helen that the science behind the process of making shampoo and conditioner was challenged. “The industry had just accepted that in order to make these products, we must use very high levels of heat, sulfates, silicones, and parabens. This was something I completely disagreed with and thus (with the help of many very smart chemists and botanists) created the Cold Processed Method™.”
Act+Acre’s Cold Process Method™ uses ice-cold water at high pressure to combine essential oils with other clean ingredients to create their products. The regular process is believed to be a factor in damaging the integrity of the ingredients by evaporating away the beneficial nutrients. By not using heat, the active ingredients remain fresh and highly potent just as nature intended.
Scalp care and sustainability
While it's natural for us to think of our hair when we cleanse and treat, scalp care is relegated as an optional step. But Act+Acre has an interesting way of viewing haircare. Helen firmly believes that you should treat the hair — and the scalp — the way you treat your skin. When Act+Acre started out, the company really wanted to enforce that scalp care shouldn’t be an afterthought. "The scalp actually ages six times faster than your face, and therefore, should be treated with as much care — if not more than — the skin on your face.”
But taking care of your scalp and hair the clean way is not just what Helen wants to push forward. With an awareness of how hair product packaging contributes to the growing carbon footprint in the environment, she decided to incorporate sustainability into their company ethos. “Sustainability is really important to us. We not only care about the long-term wellbeing of your scalp and hair but also the wellbeing of the world,” she shares.
Act+Acre bottles are made from the most recyclable form of plastic that exists (PET2), boxes are made from recycled cardboard, packing peanuts are biodegradable, and the tote bags are made from bamboo. “We are proving that you can deliver a scientifically advanced and high-performing hair product while ensuring environmental conservation.”
Act+Acre products are available in Sephora and Sephora.sg.
(Cover photo from: @helenreavey)