An Interview With Hairboutique's President and CEO Karen Marie Shelton
by D.A. Fox
Karen Marie Shelton has become an icon in the hair care industry. Her success with Hairboutique.com has been nothing short of amazing. Karen graciously agreed to do an interview for the users of The Long Hair Loom recently. It was my privilege to get to know her better, and to share that with you as well.
(For easier reading, Karen's words are in blue, and mine are in black)
How and when did Hairboutique get started?
HairBoutique.com started life as a "now defunct" site known as The Long Hair Video Site (TLHV) that was started at the end of 1996 and launched on the Internet in February of 1997. The concept behind The Long Hair Video Site was to offer complimentary long hair information as well as to market long hair videos.
During the first several months of TLHV site's existence we received a large amount of email from consumers who wanted help with all types of hair issues that ranged from long to short hair, straight to curly and tons of different styling questions. We also had lots of questions about hair loss challenges and hair extensions. Which was interesting since we were billed as "a long hair site". As a result we decided to refocus the site's business direction from "just" long hair to "all" hair topics. We completely redesigned the format of the site, changed the name to fit the new direction and relaunched the site officially as HairBoutique.com in March of 1998.
What brought your interest into the hair care industry?
My Aunt Margie was a licensed hairstylist and was always experimenting with the hair on all of the women in the family. She had a salon in the basement of her home in St. Louis. My mom often took me to my aunt's salon for a variety of hair treatments including too-short chop/cuts and a traumatic Shirley Templesque perm. Although I eventually forgave my aunt for the perm-from-hell experience, the photos live on in the family album and are a cherished bit of family history.
Although I was always a bit of a klutz with my own hair, I always enjoyed playing with new styles, and with the hair of my friends. When I was just 15, I rebelled against my dishwater blonde locks and sneaked a box of Sun In home to try in the privacy of my bedroom. Yes, my hair turned a disappointing shade of muddy blonde, but I swore it was lemon juice while it grew out. To prove a point to a guy in high school I attempted to dye my hair ruby red, only to wind up the talk of the entire school because of the bright carrot top orange I had to sport for several weeks. Ultimately ,I discovered Nice n Easy and was on my way to a lifelong quest for a great shade of blonde.
The original Long Hair Video site happened as a direct result of my ongoing quest to grow my hair long, healthy, and beautiful. As I got more involved in the Long Hair Video site, I realized that while I had a good start on hair care knowledge, I was sorely lacking in my ability to help other people with quality information. Since I was not able to go to full time cosmetology school, I did the next best thing and started buying tons of books on hair care. I read every technical book I could get my hands on. I also watched over 50 different hairstylist videos to get styling tips and ideas. During the first year with TLHV site I formed relationships with some licensed stylists who worked with me to get answers to consumer's hair questions and challenges.
The more I worked with TLHV and ultimately HairBoutique.com, the more consumed I became with learning about hair from all aspects. I continue, even now, to watch videos, read books, talk to many different stylists and take correspondence courses. Along with HairBoutique.com, the topic of hair has evolved into an all-consuming passion.
How long have you been working in this field?
Since 1996 with the start of The Long Hair Video project.
Are you a long hair enthusiast?
Completely and absolutely.
Your hair looks amazing! How long have you had long hair?
I had gorgeous, thick, long hair until I was seven, and I suffered through my first horrible perm experience. To eliminate the results of the perm my hair was cut super short. I managed to grow it back to shoulder length until my teens. My hair went up and down in length until I hit my late teens, and I grew it back to my shoulders. When I was in my early 20s I saw a photo of the very longhaired Debra Jo Fondren. I was green with envy, but determined to grow my hair at least to my waist. My hair has been consistently below my bra strap since 1988.
How long do you plan to grow?
My hair is currently holding at 4 inches below my waist. It seems to have stalled in its growth cycle, which I attribute to my insane work schedules, hormones, a slight thyroid problem as well as getting older. However, I hope it continues to grow, and would love to see it reach my knees, if that is possible.
What kinds of hair accessories are gentle and safe for long hair?
The key to finding gentle and safe hair accessories for long hair is to locate accessories that don't have sharp edges, pieces or points that will rip, snag or tear precious strands. Many of the accessory lines make a range of barrettes, hair pins, clips, sticks, slides and elastics that are designed to be "hair friendly" and will work well on long hair.
The key to safe accessories lies in the materials that are used to create the pieces. An accessory is neither inherently good or bad for long hair, but depends on whether high quality or inferior forms and findings are used. The smaller the cost of the accessory item, the higher the risk of rough clasps or closings that may catch and rip hair, regardless of whether it is a barrette, comb, hair stick, prong, dolphin or claw clip.
Generally speaking, accessories made from high quality soft plastics, acetates, acrylics or some types of woods, that are tipped or mounted on high quality silver or gold metals are safer than accessories made with nickel or cheap plastics. Soft headbands made with silk, satin or velvet, are less likely to rip or tear. Accessories that are encrusted with Swarovski or Austrian crystals can be safe if the crystals are embedded ala Pave style to prevent hair from catching on loose stones or elevated prongs. Always look closely at high glitter items to make sure the crystals are securely place and smooth for the health of your hair.
As a rule avoid any mesh ponytail holders or headbands that might tangle hair. When in doubt run a fingertip around the edges and closures to determine the roughness factor. Although accessories made with wood are often good choices for "hair friendliness" always check for rough spots.
Many of the accessory companies like Roberta Chiarella & Betty Wales make wonderful hair accessory items with gold and silver plated forms, which are softer & more gentle on tresses. France Luxe's line of Barely There butter soft barrettes, which act as scrunchie replacements, are made with the finest and softest quality of acetate materials, and gold and silver metals. Evita Peroni has a stunning array of long hair friendly accessories that range from elastics to soft combs, sticks, dolphins and claws. Intuition and Karina also have some higher end soft claws and hair slides that are "hair friendly". Blax makes a complete line of elastics and headbands that are 100% snag free. I use the small elastics for ponytails and the headbands to hold all my hair back. Bungees, (made by Smoothies,http://mp.hairboutique.com/details.asp?ProdID=2095) are also wonderful elastics that are snag free. Bottom line, shop carefully and avoid poorly made pieces.
What is your favorite product line and why? I know you've tried many over the years.
Although I have tried to find more affordable lines, my hair is naturally dry, wavy and highlighted. Therefore I have to use higher quality lines which tend to cost more. I alternate between many lines because I tend to mix and match. My all time favorite top three shampoos are Aveda Shampure, PhytoNectar (which used to be S88), and ARTec Smoothing. As a general rule of thumb I think that Aveda, Phyto, ARTec, Goldwell, Rene Furterer and L'Oreal's Kerastate lines are exceptional. I use lots of brands to test them, and there are many good ones. Ultimately each person has to find what works best for their pocketbooks and hair needs. For more natural lines I highly recommend Giovanni, Aubrey Organic, Paul Penders and California Baby.
My top rinse out conditioners include Aveda Curressence and ARTec Smoothing. I have been using either Phyto 7 or Phyto 9 leave-in conditioner since I found it in New York in 1997. It never lets me down.
What's new at Hairboutique?
Thank you for asking. We recently launched a brand new expanded HairTalk Message board system with 39 hair and beauty related topic threads to support our existing 60,000+ classic hair messages. We also have a new Marketplace. We are moving to a new "boutique within a boutique" concept and have implemented software to improve the user friendliness and ease of shopping at HairBoutique.com.
Our new marketplace design was driven by our brand new business partnership with the Internationally acclaimed Evita Peroni corporation based in London. We are also in the process of negotiating to bring in some great new hair and beauty related lines to HairBoutique.com that are high quality but affordable.
Karen, that sounds wonderful! Ive already had great reports about your new Marketplace. Fast delivery and great service are the words Ive been hearing!
What do you see as the latest trend in hair?
One trend that I have noticed from the thousands of emails that I have received since the very beginning of HairBoutique.com is that the majority of all people, regardless of the type, texture or length of their hair, admire long hair. Long hair is still considered the ultimate in sensuality, beauty and grace. I don't believe that will ever change, or certainly not in our lifetimes. Yes, there are some people who prefer short hair but ultimately they still appreciate long hair on others.
As far as current hair trends for 2003....................................
1. Thermally straightened hair is huge.
2. Add-on hair, ponytails, braids, hair extensions & wigs
3. Ponytails that are soft and swingy.
4. Romantic styles including soft curls, waves and long, side swept bangs.
5. Sleek and elegant buns, chignons and twists.
Look for haircolor to be layered in soft and more sensual colors with names like- Mocha, Cookies n Cream, Vanilla or Chocolate Covered Cherry.
One of our visitors here on the Loom had her hair thermally straightened recently, and it did look fabulous!
Thermally straightened hair is huge. As more and more stylists and salons become certified in the latest thermal reconditioning treatments, the prices are dropping and the time commitments to the client are lessening.
What is out there for those who want long hair N-O-W?
European quality, human hair extensions are also becoming more affordable and add-on hair is becoming a major trend on the fashion catwalks, where hair fashions are ultimately born and carried to the hair masses. Usually there is about a 6-9 month lag before the runway & awards show trends hit the consumers, but I am already seeing a major surge of interest in the latest add-on hair pieces and extensions. One of the reasons that hair extensions are so hot is because there are many people who are not able to grow their hair, for whatever reason. They want the beauty of gorgeous long hair, as well as "instant ponytails" ala Lara Flynn Boyle at the 2003 Golden Globes, and are willing to go with extensions to get the look.
Whats new in the hair accessories department?
As far as hair accessories...................
1. Butterflies are back in fashion but made in more "sensual" materials like soft velvet, leather, and lace.
2. Soft headbands covered with lace and soft ribbons.
3. Hair slides are back in fashion and continue to be strong.
4. Ponytail holders are talking on a more flowery motif.
5. Hairsticks are not as popular, but the ones that are available are coming out in colors like Lemon Custard, Strawberry, Cherry and Orange Swirl.
Karen, on behalf of everyone here on the Long Hair Loom I want to thank you for sharing your time with us.
Thank you so much for asking me to do this. It is such and honor and I am very flattered.
The privilege is ours!
Be sure to visit Karen at the Hairboutique, and stop by the Marketplace to see some of the wonderful products Karen has been telling us about.
17/33/35+ - Bangs at 15 inches - Type 2CMii (3B underneath layer) Somewhat fine, slightly wavy (with curls on the underneath layer), light brown with gold and red highlights. To see more pictures, click on the gallery link found here:
You can also find me here: The Long Hair Loom
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, they will become your character. Develop your character for it becomes your destiny." -John MacArthur
Aubrey Organics S&C
Oils: Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Virgin Oil de Coco Creme, Monoi, Castor, Meadowfoam Seed & essential oils
Shea Butter (from which I make my own leave-in)
MP Popular Mix Brush
Wood and Horn combs