The Lebanon-based, hairstylist is known for his creative talent seen on many TV shows, fashion stages and in magazine editorials. Georges El Mendelek first started to pursue a Marketing Degree at the Lebanese American University, and then decided to shift his career and to follow his father’s footsteps, Simon El Mendelek- a renowned Haute Coiffure. Mendelek pursued hairdressing at the famous Saks Academy in London, and after his return to Lebanon, he built a reputation for working with an impressive list of clientele, and his signature touch goes unnoticed all over TV shows starting from Mission Fashion, Project Runway, Arab Idol, Arabs Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars.
Today, the TRESemmé brand ambassador talks bridal hair tips and everything from working with celebrities to his favorite products and styling secrets; and here’s what he had to say.
Growing up, what inspired you to become a hairstylist?
Well, until I was 22 years old I never thought I wanted to be a hair dresser, I actually hated it. However, I think my love for women is what led me to eventually take this path. To tell you the truth, one day my previous girlfriend came up to me and asked if I can blow-dry her hair and that was my very first time I ever held a blow dryer; and honestly I enjoyed it. From that moment I decided to shift my career from marketing to becoming a hairstylist. When I approached my father, he was completely against it, because he wouldn’t believe that I can take the beauty industry seriously. I remember him giving me a pep talk about how it is a very tough industry to be a part of, which requires long hours, working during holidays and most importantly over the weekends. I believe after all these years I proved him wrong, because eventually I develop my skills under my great father’s coaching and became very passionate about my career that I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.
What is your main philosophy regarding hair?
I think all women are beautiful; you just need to see it and show it. Sometimes it’s a trait of character or a smile, or an imperfection. When it comes to being a hairstylist, you need to be a good judge of character, what I am trying to say is that a hair dresser must appreciate women’s femininity and try to create something beautiful he or she would want to see on others. The relationship between a hairdresser and client is very personal, if I must say it is all about chemistry.
What are the 5 ways to get the best hair for life?
Try not to dye your hair; and if you have to, then the least you do it the better.
After care is very important. I always tell my clients the care I give their hair in the salon is just as essential as it is to be taken care of at home.
Cut it every four months maximum, with at least a small trim to keep it healthy and clean.
Don’t leave your house without hair protection. Pollution is very harsh on the hair, even if one doesn’t dye or do any colouring; half of the damage that happens to hair is when the cuticle of hair is open and sand particles sit inside the cuticles, which leads to split ends and is the main reason why you won’t reflect colour. So, use a leave-in conditioner, in order to protect, close the hair cuticles and to help it look shinier. Plus, I highly stress on not leaving the house with completely wet hair, because this is when the cuticle is open and is prone to accept any dirt and particles to settle in.
Try not to let your hairstylist make you look like a clown or use you as an experiment to show off his/her skills.
What is your biggest “no no”? Do you follow any hair rules?
I try to avoid using a hair colour remover known as ‘effasor’, it is a product that removes the unnatural pigments from the hair and it is used when one wants to go shades lighter. The problem with this specific product, it is very harsh on the hair, because it opens the cuticles to strip the colours. In our case, as people from the Middle East we have a red undertone, which is why the majority have darker skin, therefore if they use effasor they will start to see red shades; that is why I highly suggest if you really want to achieve a lighter colour, I always tell my customers to wash it out more frequently and the hair will lighten gradually. I am really against drastic changes, for instance if someone has very dark hair and wants to go blonde, I wouldn’t do it all in one sitting, I’d prefer to go lighter step by step.
Bridal season is approaching, what are your top tips to keep in mind when choosing a bridal hairdo?
I usually go with simple looks. It is very important to know all the details about the wedding, the theme, the dress, and everything around it, in order to create the perfect hairdo. I always think how I am going to make the bride look better and have her stand out. An advice to all brides would be to go to an experienced hairdresser, someone who had worked on TV sets or editorial shoots, because they will know how to create a look that will last all night long and looks flawless in photographs.
Do you have tips for brides when it comes to conditioning and treating hair before the wedding day?
Just keep conditioning and protecting your hair as usual. However, I like to give it a trim before the wedding day, because sometimes when you want to curl the hair or do a small up-do the ends will look dry and split.
How long before the wedding day should brides have their hair coloured?
Ten days to a week before. Unless the bride is trying to go for a low-light build up we would have to start six to eight months before.
What are some of your must-have hair styling tools or products?
Dry shampoo, soft-hold spray, and an up-do brush; and my most favorite is the tail comb, I never leave my shop without it.
What’s your favourite bridal trend this season?
I don’t believe in bridal trends, I prefer putting a perfect hairdo to every face that brings out the character of the bride.
What do you prefer: head-piece/accessory, veil or both?
I love having either or, but not together! I am currently collaborating with a Lebanese designer, we are creating an adjustable head-piece that can get bigger or smaller, and can be used in many occasions from day to night. It will soon be released in Lebanon, hopefully in time for the upcoming wedding season.
You favor working with everyday clients or celebrities?
My favorite would be my everyday clients who come to my shop. My passion is to put a smile on the customer’s face, to make them feel confident and beautiful- it is a priceless feeling.
How about the celebrities you have worked with, is there anyone that stands out as your favorite from a hairstylist stand point?
As for celebrities, I would say I really enjoy styling the Lebanese singer Elissa and TV presenter Raya Abirachid; both come from different backgrounds and industries but they are very easy going and humble, which I seek for when I work with any celebrity or TV star. Someone who worked with recently and stood out was Lady Madonna; she was on the past season of “Dancing with the Stars” it was a great honor to meet such a glamorous woman and to style her hair on set.
Do you believe in DIY recipes?
Everything that has to do with coconut oil, avocado and egg whites hair mask recipes they do not work at all! It may give a nice effect on the spot, but I strictly believe that scientifically it doesn’t work on the long-term. In order to protect the hair the product must have a formula that closes the hair cuticle- meaning go for products that contain keratin proteins or else it is useless.
Then, what kind of treatments do you swear by?
The best way to treat the hair is with its own oil. I have seen this happen once, when I was studying hairdressing in London, we had a volunteer student who went 40 days without washing her hair, and the results were unbelievable. Yet again, I can never recommend that to my clients, but my advice for them would be not to shampoo the hair every single day, because it is aggressive on the scalp, which will weaken the bulb of the hair and that’s when it starts to fall out.
Any good hair tricks for when one is having a bad hair day?
Braid it if it is long, if it is short gel it back or add an accessory.
What would you classify as the Georges El Mendelek hair?
The best lesson I have learned was from my father, because all of what I have today comes from him truly. He told me to observe him, to learn the expertise from him but to never copy him; and the fact that my father pushed me and set me free allowed me to be who I am and to have my own uncommon signature touch. If I need to define the Georges El Mendelek hair I would say it is chic with a twist.
If you were to style someone’s hair, who would you pick?
I would love to style Queen Rania of Jordan and the Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi.
What’s the one hair message you’d like to spread?
Keep it healthy to look beautiful.
Simon El Mendelek Salon
Zalka- Amaret Chalhoub., Beirut, Lebanon Tel: +961 1 896 669
By Dana Mortada