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George Papanikolas, A-list celebrity hair colorist, got his feet wet studying under Negin Zand, color director at West Hollywood’s John Frieda Salon.
In October 2007, Beverly Hills’ Chris McMillan Salon hired Papanikolas, who now styles for the Ford and L.A. Models agencies. Papanikolas has earned recognition among celebrity circles for his French freehand highlighting technique, known as balayage.
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“Balayage is essentially when you brush bleach under the hair to give it a sun-kissed effect,” Papanikolas says. “I’ve always been obsessed with blonde hair and color since I was a kid. I colored my sister’s hair when I was 8! Kids’ hair has been an inspiration to me with its dimension and variety of color. I [also] look at high fashion; Gisele Bundchen, for her beach look; and Sarah Jessica Parker, for her multidimensional color.”
Although he uses a variety of hair care brands on his clients, Papanikolas says he relies mostly on Joico products (a division of Shiseido, Inc.). One of the products he uses most, Joico’s K-PAK Deep-Penetrating Reconstructor, recently won behindthechair.com’s Favorite Deep/Restorative Conditioner Stylist Choice Award for the seventh year in a row for its ability to enhance and restore hair after chemical treatment. “I use it [on clients] after every highlighting service,” he says. “It maintains hair’s health and keeps the condition of hair supple and soft. Anytime you’re using a color service, you want to maintain the health of the hair. I tell my clients to use it once a week after their service.”
When searching for the right product, Papanikolas looks for results (performance) and how the product maintains hair integrity. “I look for moisture and texture, without weighing [hair] down,” he says. “On my own hair, I like using Joico Paste. It gives hair a ‘piecey,’ cool, modern texture—a more pliable, softer feel. On my clients, I like to use thickening spray.”
Papanikolas says he’s also an avid promoter of Joico’s new Design Collection, depending on the Dry Spray Wax and Molding Putty to complete his signature summer styles. His balayage technique creates natural beach-ready color on blondes, but during winter months, he says he does a lot of highlight and lowlight effects on clients’ hair.
With help from his boss and inspiration, Chris McMillan, Papanikolas has garnered magazine photo assignments to expand his portfolio. In between highlighting jobs, “overwhelming” Beverly Hills nightlife and trips to Palm Springs, California, according to the colorist, he has noticed some notable new trends in the salon scene. “Everything’s becoming much more specific as far as servicing clients’ needs go,” says Papanikolas. “Instead of one product for everyone, people are targeting specifics—scalp issues, frizzy hair, colored hair. People don’t want cookie-cutter hair, but they do want natural styles.”
With a flare for the natural, tousled summer look, Papanikolas is a must-stop for Hollywood starlets seeking a color boost. In the coming years, he plans to train other hair colorists and stylists on how to translate runway style to the salon.