In the Kit
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Celeb Stylist Laura Polko Shares Her Secret for Perfect Tousled Waves

She’s behind some of Chrissy Teigen and Gigi Hadid’s best red carpet looks.

By: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Tristan Kallas

If you’ve ever looked at Chrissy Teigen or Gigi Hadid or Martha Hunt and experienced severe hair envy (we sure have), allow us to introduce the woman behind those perfectly tousled waves: Laura Polko. The L.A.-based stylist has been taming the manes of Hollywood’s most glamorous elite for years now, and when she’s not traveling around the world with her kit in tow, she’s caring for her daughter, Breezy. We were lucky enough to snag an afternoon with her at her Venice Beach home to discover what tools and products she swears by to achieve that effortless, undone hair for which her clients are known. Plus, how she got her start in the industry—she’s originally a Midwestern girl—her favorite products to fight frizz, and how to get that signature hair bend on your own.

“I would do my own hair because I would get grounded a lot. I taught myself how to braid from a book, then I would braid my sister’s hair. My mom used to cut bangs on my hair, which is so mean, and she’d always do it when your hair was sopping wet out of the shower, and then it dries halfway up your forehead. But it was the same time that snap clips were cool—it’s funny they’re coming back. My memory of snap clips is growing your bangs out.”

“Skinti makes a lot of good [clips] that I love. They have the comb headbands—I love those ones. They’re really good.”

“I went to hair school in Ohio at Aveda. It was a really good institute—it wasn’t just a traditional beauty school—so my mom caved and let me go. Thank god.”

“I remember Allure had this spa directory, so I went online and I applied to all of the salons there in New York. I got a job at Ted Gibson, and then I sold all my stuff and moved two weeks later. I was just like, I got to go. Working in a salon is a lot of work, and I give credit to anybody that does it, especially because you have to assist for so long, especially in New York. I remember interviewing at Rita Hazan, and they were like, ‘You have to assist for four years.’ I was like, ‘I can get a college degree in four years.’ Like that’s so, so long. I probably would have been into it if I hadn’t already done it and already had a clientele in Ohio.”

“After about six months, one of my friends was like, ‘Oh, my friend needs an assistant.’ So I started working for this DJ. She was one of the first model DJs—Skye Miller. I worked with her for a year and traveled everywhere and went to Europe and Asia and all these places. It was a fun job. After a while I went back, and I spent a lot of time doing catalogues, like Saks and Alloy and Delia’s. It was so cool. I was able to sort of enjoy my New York life. But then I moved into celebrity, and it really took off.”

“I got really lucky because my friend asked me to do a shoot. She was like, ‘I would get out of that ecomm job tomorrow because I’m going to shoot Ashley Benson and you should do her hair.’ I was so grateful, and that’s how I met Poppy [Delevingne].”

“I was coming back and forth from [L.A.] for work all the time. I just started doing Chrissy, and I was doing Kim [Kardashian] a lot. I also had been in New York for nine years, so at that point you kind of get a little antsy, like, ‘Should I be doing something else?’”

On her signature aesthetic:

“I feel like I get a lot of ‘I just want it to look cool and a little messed-up.’ When I hear 'cool,' I think of textured and a little bent in front of the face. Not too wavy, not curly—maybe a wet look. I think people know that if I’m doing their hair, they’re not going to look corny. It’s important that they leave feeling confident and cool. That’s what I want as a girl. I want my hair to not look like, too done. Sometimes when you’re getting ready and you’re going to have a lot of makeup, if the hair doesn’t complement it, then forget it.”

“I think Unite’s Leave-In Conditioner is the most important starting point on hair, especially if you’re using dry texturizing stuff. Like if you’re using Oribe’s Dry Texturizing Spray, that will actually dry your hair out, so you need to protect it before you start. I’ll use some mousse sometimes on wet hair. Living Proof makes a good one.”

“To get a cool bend, I use T3’s inch-and-a-quarter iron. It doesn’t stick—you can just slide through it. Or I can just wrap [the hair] around loosely and give it a bend. I always leave some end out at the bottom. Just around the hairline, I’ll clamp it loosely and then pull out the hair away from the face.”

“I think the anti-frizz is all in the blow-dry, and a little mousse helps. I find that works for pretty much everybody. I’ll work the leave-in conditioner, and then I’ll do mousse and then I’ll blow it out, usually with a round brush or a Mason Pearson to get a little volume at the roots. Make sure the roots are definitely dry. That’s when you have problems with frizz—the hair needs to feel hot when it’s done. That’s how you know it’s dry. When it feels a little cool, even if it doesn’t feel damp, it’s a little damp. Then I’ll work through and do my trick with my iron, and finish off with the Oribe Swept Up.”

“The key product that I love is Oribe Swept Up hair powder. I’ll put it on my fingertips and work it in at the front of the hairline. It’s not going to give you that crunchy hairspray look. I’ll also take it and spray from a little far away—make sure no one breathes it, because I have no idea what’s in that. I’ll just pinch it and kind of work it in. It’ll really give [the hair] a hold and grit, but just enough texture without it being too all over the place, and once it’s done, it’s done. You can still move it.”

“Batiste Dry Shampoo is my favorite. IGK has these blonde drops. They’re so good. I mix them in with my leave-in conditioner.”

“I love the Harry Josh blowdryer. It’s a good, lightweight one. It’s so nice because I can travel with it. Especially going back and forth to New York all the time, I hate carrying so much stuff.”

“I have had my kit stolen out of my car. I was just like, some person is walking around Venice with $10,000 dollars' worth of hair extensions in every color known to man. I only noticed because I was on my way to go do Adriana Lima for the first time. But she liked it; she looked great in the end. But it was like, you can take anything else but the extensions.”

“I like Laced and RPZL extensions. I feel like you have to carry some in every color because you never know. I have so many clip-ons, which are really nice for an extra something. But if you’re doing a really long look, you should do glue-in so it’s tighter to the head and flatter. But people aren’t that into gluing. It’s a lot—it’s not the same as unclipping clips at the end of the night. You’re picking glue out for a while.”

“I carry a spool of cord, which is basically hair elastic, that I can use to get a bit more creative. I used that for Gigi’s bun at the Harper’s [Bazaar] party. I’ve used it on Chrissy for some cool looks, so it’s not just like, here’s a low pony, here’s a bun. It’s got a little more edge to it. You can keep wrapping [the hair], even if it’s just something at the base. You could have a lot more of like a look with the style that’s back.”

“We went to Greece this summer for work [with Gigi], and Mimi [Cuttrell] was there, too. We had so much fun. We were like, ‘Why are we leaving?’ We should just stay for another week, or month, or forever.”

“I feel like this job is just a constant state of discomfort and anxiousness. Like, I did really great then, but did they confirm me for these other dates? I try really hard to not focus on those things. But I do feel like sometimes I sit back, and if I feel really good about a look, I’m like, I did a great job. But there are also times where I’m like, I hope nobody says anything about that. You have ups and downs. I don’t necessarily feel like I made it. I think it’s more like, you’ve done something good.”

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