How I Get It Done: Sally Hershberger, Hairstylist and Entrepreneur

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Hairstylist and entrepreneur Sally Hershberger. Photo-Illustration: Stevie Remsberg

Hairstylist and entrepreneur Sally Hershberger has a line with 11 products, three salons across two coasts, and over 150 employees. She works out five to seven times a week, gives 30 haircuts, and maintains the manes of more celebrity clients than you can count on two hands. Here’s how she gets it all done.

On her more relaxed mornings:

Today I did not set an alarm, so I started my day a little later. My two puppies get walked at nine — they have a dog walker who picks them up and feeds them and takes them out, so I was up by nine for that. When they get back they’re very excited so I have to give them something to chew on. My morning routine involves very little. I roll out of bed, have coffee — I love lying in bed drinking coffee. Once it hits I’m calling everyone and driving them crazy. Maybe I’ve showered the night before, and I’ll do a ponytail or have someone touch up my hair at the salon when I get in. It takes me about 20 minutes to get ready. I wear no makeup — no makeup. If I’m off I like to get to the gym. Otherwise I walk to work except sometimes I’ll take a taxi if there’s bad weather. Because I worked uptown today I took Uber.

On her fashion uniform:

I’ll usually put on jeans and whatever I wore the night before. I used to have a jean line, so I limit how often I get them washed or dry-cleaned. I tend to get in a rhythm and wear the same thing for a day or two. I’m mostly into jeans and T-shirts or shirts. I’m currently wearing leopard jeans with a leather patch on the back; I love Gucci — I’m obsessed with Gucci — and I can’t think of the names but I have a variety of so many … I go through clothes quickly, if I haven’t worn them I get rid of them. I keep my favorites, I probably have 20 pairs of blue jeans, but that doesn’t include colors, just blue. If you include tie-dye and leopard I have about 40. My feet ache a lot, I have neuroma and it hurts, it’s a nightmare, so I wear flats. You can’t really wear heels. I have a good pain doctor [who] injected my foot and it’s the first thing that worked. I wear these old boots that are 30 years old from France, everyone’s obsessed. Now I’m in these Ann Demeulemeester higher funky boots — I’m more rock-and-roll bohemian.

On a day in the life:

I went to my uptown salon and met K.D. Lang — where has she been — and gave her a real haircut. Then I came back to my downtown salon. We’re in meetings now — my hair-care office is attached to the downtown salon, so I had a meeting with Tanner who runs my office here, going through models; I’m going on HSN so we worked on coordinating all that, testing the new product that comes in, then there’s in-salon testing with some of the hairdressers … The team is 49 people here at the downtown salon, 70 in California and 40 uptown. And the hair-care team is all over the US, we are based in Arizona and here. We have a lean machine. The amount of haircuts I give in a day really depends. I usually work Tuesday through Thursday in the salon, so I probably do about 30 in a week; maybe 8 a day. I’d say I have my hands in hair 60 percent of the time and on product 40 percent. If Connie had her way, my downtown manager, had her way, we would have meetings every day. But we do check in every day except weekends. I’m not allowed to text over the weekends.

On communication:

I’ve never counted how many emails I get but it’s an all-day thing. There are a lot in morning, then it simmers down. I dictate when I text and it gets a little messy so I pick up the phone if it goes on too long. I’m fine emailing too, but I’m more of a texter now.

On her office:

My office has sliding doors if we want privacy, and it’s very clean. I’m very meticulous like that. On my desk I have the first dollar bill I ever made in hair care. I have my meditation teacher’s picture and then nothing … a little thing for papers, an organizer. God forbid I get a pen, I keep asking and they end up getting me pencils. Then product stuff, and I always have ice water or water to drink. Tons. That’s it.

On today’s breakfast (and lunch) of champions:

Right now I’m drinking a juice because I’m going to cleanse for the day. I’m not happy with the cleanse my assistant got me from Juice Press — cucumber celery swiss chard parsley lemon and ginger — it doesn’t taste well. I might break it and go to Inday across the street. It’s natural Indian food, the owner went to Brown and ended up doing this — it’s super successful and the food is delicious. I’ve done every cleanse — we did Pressed Juicery and before that we did Organic Avenue and BluPrint. Next we’re gonna do the one from Butcher’s Daughter. I’m a little nervous but it looks amazing.

I had just come from We Care spa in Palm Desert, which I love but I went off this weekend in the Hamptons. I ate well but I ate decadent. Caviar every night, you know. I went with the bread and the whole shebang.

On getting past an afternoon slump:

If I need to, I usually grab a little bit of black coffee and have just a few sips, I don’t really like coffee in the middle of the day. Usually I have a lot of energy; if I’m busy it stays up. If I’m home, I might take a little siesta around four. Today I’ll go to gym when I get home. I either walk or run on the treadmill for 30 minutes at least once a day, five times a week or else I do it outside. I’ll walk home today, which takes about 15 minutes, then jump on the treadmill for another 20 minutes, then lift weights. Sometimes I work out seven days a week.

On her nights out:

Last night I drove up with my friend Gail Federici who co-founded John Frieda and now has Color Well. We went to see Lulu perform and Brooke Wall and my friend Andrea and then a ton of other people were there. It was at B.B. King. My friend’s best friends with Tim Hutton and we were meant to have a drink with him we didn’t get to the restaurant ‘til 11:30 and he already left. We sat at the bar at Giorgione and had fresh oysters and white wine.

Tonight I’m having dinner with Meg Ryan, Jane Berliner who used to manage her, and Andrea Mitchell at Le Coucou, and that’s a wrap.

On staying balanced:

I have a meditation master who I’ve been working with since ’89. I think selfless service and meditation keeps you balanced and in your life. I go to the ashram all the time, at least once a month. I’m going this weekend. I’ve had a lot of death in my life, especially at a young age, which teaches you what your priorities should be. Work hard, play hard is my motto. But moderation, you know what I mean? I try to meditate regularly, sometimes I do it for years but this weekend I was in the Hamptons and I didn’t. But I took long meditative walks, and then we would go out on my boat and party. I tried to go waterskiing, it was just a little too cold — I’ll be out there in June. Tomorrow I’m cleansing again and the next night and then I’ll go to the ashram, so I’m just pulling it back. If I play hard I have to be disciplined later. A balanced life is a good. I think that’s how I accomplish a lot, making sure I take care of myself so I can handle what comes in front of me.

On bedtime and winding down:

I try to go to bed around 11:30. I’m pretty much always already “unwinded.” If I go out and had some wine, I’m “wined.” I go give some love to my dogs, lounge, or watch Law and Order. I actually know Mariska Hargitay, I’ve done her hair before. The blonde [Kelli Giddish] from the show comes in too, she’s super cool and so sweet too. So I saw Mariska years ago, and when I’ve done her hair I never saw the show, so now I’m catching up on what I missed all these years.

On travel:

I’m based in New York but I go to L.A. every six weeks. I used to travel constantly but the industry’s changed a lot. Now I travel for HSN; I travel for pleasure.

I don’t check bags and if I have a friend with me who wants to check one they’re in a lot of trouble. All my friends overpack. I’m always like, “You’re never gonna wear that,” and baggage claim adds another hour! I didn’t stay at my house this time in the Hamptons so I packed a bag but didn’t wear anything I brought. I just wore the same thing every day.

For my personal item, I’ll carry another bag and shove my purse into that bag if I have to. I just bring magazines and stuff to read and pack super light now. I use Burton luggage — it’s lightweight and you can get a lot into it. I have that Louis Vuitton stuff too, but it’s heavy, man — I don’t want to carry that on my shoulder. I also like to be a little more low-key and I don’t want anyone stealing my bag. It’s like saying, “Come get my bag, I have expensive stuff in this bag …”

On hair and skin care:

People tell me I have good skin all the time. I go do this light peel; I do Clear + Brilliant and use Chanel Sublimage cream and Cetaphil lotion and that’s it. If I wear makeup it’s just a smudge under my eyes, then I curl my lashes and put on Maybelline mascara.

I’m both a bath and a shower person. I love a bath but if I need to wash my hair, it’s got to be a shower. I use my 24K shampoo and conditioner, which cleans from the inside out, from the scalp out. I don’t like things that are overly conditioned — they clog your pores and I don’t want anything weighing my hair down. Mousse is a must, for depth and body. I finish it off with the Vanity balm after it’s dry. I work it through [to] give it a lot of dry texture. How often you wash your hair depends on the hair. It’s every other day for thin hair, thicker hair every four days. When I was at the beach I washed it on Thursday and then again last night which was Tuesday. I don’t wash it much at the beach, just rinse it with conditioner — I love saltiness of the beach on my hair. Sometimes I’ll use my beach spray, though I took the salt out of it because it dries the hair out too much. Sometimes I’ll use my dry oil. Also occasionally Will or Dana at my salon will color my hair.

On her favorite part of the job:

I love making people feel like they look better, there’s something very rewarding about that. I love aesthetics and beauty, I love being creative, I get to meet a lot of interesting people and be around fun people. I love reinventing people and giving someone a makeover. When you change them and they feel it, it’s such an exciting thing to do. My work is not monotonous by any means. I also love training people, I love building careers, I like the business side and the creative side.

On what she’d change about her work life (or not):

I kind of do what I want. There would be nothing I would change really in salon world. I feel fortunate that I’ve worked in a time when there were real movie stars and less reality stars; I love that I worked in fashion and with celebrities, it’s rare to do both. Usually if you’re a celebrity hairdresser you don’t do fashion. They shun that a bit. I worked with the big models in the ’80s like Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana. Now it’s all reality stars turned models — when I worked they were actually drop-dead gorgeous. They were supermodels. I feel fortunate to have worked with people from Steven Meisel to Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts and Arthur Elgort and all of them; Nicole Kidman — her show was the best thing I’ve seen on TV since Breaking Bad — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, Hillary Clinton when she was the first lady, all the rock-and-roll stars, a little bit of everything. Now it’s such a different kind of business. I’m not thinking so much about that right now. I’m very focused on product development and salons. I like being in the salons because I’m my own boss, as opposed to a photo shoot where you’re on someone else’s time. It’s a different world.

On what she can’t live without, or wouldn’t want to:

I can’t say what I can’t live without but what I don’t want to live without is my dogs. They’re famous. They’re drop-dead gorgeous Aussies and now everyone’s buying dogs like them. They get very expensive haircuts — short puppy cuts. Not here, it’s too hard, I forget where my dog walker takes them. Their names are Foxy and Bowie. They’re unbelievable, they look like stuffed animals. The other thing is my friends, it would be a real bummer if I lost them.

How Hairstylist Sally Hershberger Gets It Done