Can a trip to the stylist double as a spiritual experience? Meet Andi Scarbrough of CrownWorks, the salon stylist who combines hairstyling with whole-body healing. It’s the ultimate beauty experience.
How did you get started in the hairdressing industry? What drew you to it? I’ve been styling hair since I was a little girl. My grandfather was my first and most loyal client. As I got older, I was the friend who got you in trouble for dying your hair with kool-aide.
I always felt like sort of a black-sheep in my home town, and at 17, left Texas for California. Finding a community was as important to me as finding a way to provide a reliable living for myself through artistic expression. I realized that as a salon stylist I could create art every day, and it provided me a sense of belonging with a salon family of like-minded artists, many of whom were far from home, like me, and looking to discover themselves through their art. The salon allowed me to foster deep meaningful relationships with my clients, and I knew I had found my goldilocks spot in the world.
When was the moment that the idea clicked for your brand? I always saw the salon as a pivotal part of a neighborhood and community, just like back home. It was a place to gather, to find and share resources, and connect. I wanted to create that here in LA. At my first salon, we did a lot of local art shows and fundraisers. I wanted to be a part of something that fostered the belonging I craved by participating in enriching the lives of the people we served, and supported the causes they cared about.
Throughout the years, I gained a reputation for being a “fix-it” stylist – botched hair-color or problematic haircuts called for more time with clients, more frequent visits, and required a fair amount of trust, which resulted in deeper connections. It was an easy jump to understanding that when a big change was taking place, it was necessary to slow down, and acknowledge all the creative and emotional pieces in play.
In 2007, I was first introduced to Reiki, and began to also gain an understanding of how energetic exchanges where also a great part of what was happening behind the chair. During this time, I was in professional beauty education, where I got a much broader scope of exactly the unique and specialized creature that got called into working in the beauty industry. Many of which were also seeking belonging and community. I noticed in over a decade of education, the alarming rates of addiction, burnout, and numbness that came with the hustle-and-grind of the beauty and fashion world. Many of my dear friends left the industry, and new, fresh-faced hopefuls rolled in, looking to heal their own wounds of belonging. I began to see how the industry had a cannibalistic shadow side, and it felt at times like a dizzying ride I couldn’t get off.
“In 2007, I was first introduced to Reiki, and began to also gain an understanding of how energetic exchanges where also a great part of what was happening behind the chair.”
Then, in 2010, my father committed suicide, and my whole world came to a screeching halt, and my heart broke open. This set me firmly on a path of my own healing. Grief left me without the capacity to hustle or fake it, and I dropped into a whole new level of presence with my clients, and everyone else in my life. I stopped dealing in bullsh*t, everything just seemed too precious for that. And the wildest thing happened: my career morphed into something slower, gentler, more fulfilling. I realized it wasn’t ever about my needing to perform or play the expert for them, it was about my capacity to provide a sacred space for people to be witnessed as they are, and transform the mundane experience of a haircut into a rich and meaningful connection. My ongoing healing journey has led me to many of the modalities and practices I now share with my clients.
I feel as though sometimes people believe that getting your hair done is a vain activity. Or, there is a stigma associated with this specific career – that it’s all on the surface. What is your explanation that defies these standards? I think largely, people find what they are looking for. The stigma of Los Angeles in general is one of crowded streets and superficiality. If you come looking for that, you will most certainly find it. If you come looking for the natural beauty, availability of quality, healthy foods, healing on the forefront of alternative and western medicine, rich, diverse communities, and a plethora of spiritually focused gatherings and experiences, then you will find that too. You may hit traffic on the way, but that’s only because there are so many of us seeking these things.
The beauty industry is no different. You can find a friend and confidant to be a guide you through an ongoing exploration of yourself through self expression, if it’s what you’re looking for.
“I believe that we choose our individual expressions of beauty either from a place of fear, or from freedom.”
I believe that we choose our individual expressions of beauty either from a place of fear, or from freedom. The same face of make-up can be applied as camouflage from a place of shame, or a place of celebration, announcing who we really are. A haircut or color is the same. The truth is, beauty looks like whatever makes someone feel beautiful – and that’s the part people need professional help with – figuring out what their own feelings are apart from what other people say they should look like or feel. Beauty is full of contradictions and imperfections, because just like painting on hair: it is art on a moving object. Maybe someone wants lash extensions and doesn’t shave their legs, colors their hair and lives off the grid, Botox and Buddhism. There is room for every expression of beauty. There is no such thing as “age appropriate”, and most of us don’t fit in to the boxes on those beauty quizzes, and it’s the job of a stylist to keep you from believing you should.
When someone sits down in your chair and wants both a spiritual experience, plus a haircut, how does it begin? What’s the process like? We begin by getting to the root (so to speak) of the motivation of a change with a client. When we find the source motivation, we can bring a client into visual alignment with what they are wanting to express. I may ask a client, “What do you wish people knew about you?” or “What do you most often have to explain about yourself?” Some of these questions are hard to answer. As a stylist, I never realized how much I relied on my intuition and reading of energy in the chair. Now, we use full length mirrors so I can observe a client’s whole body language and assess their comfort or constriction throughout the entire service. Coming to understand my self as an HSP (or Empath, if you will) allowed to to take what used to be a wound called “over-sensitive” or “emotional”, heal and hone them into intuitive tools.
These tools, which I access with the entry points of medicine/oracle/tarot cards and crystals, are fun, light, and highly informative. It feels like play, and may show both the client and me a clearer picture of what is happening in their lives that they are looking to either amplify or release. Then, we talk about what kind of visual transmission they really want to send – what will make them most themselves, and we formulate a technical plan from there. At the shampoo bowl the may receive reiki, a guided meditation or breath work session, or sound healing. The diversity of tools I use always allows me to meet someone at their degree of readiness and openness.
Can you go in-depth about the symbolic significance of the seventh chakra, or the crown chakra? How does this relate to getting a haircut? The Crown (or 7th) Chakra is where we access Universal Source energy, wisdom, and the guidance of our highest self. An imbalanced crown may show up as a sense of disconnection, self doubt, confusion, exhaustion, and self judgement. When the Crown Chakra is open and clear, we are able to trust easily the desires and inclinations that come to us, as we understand that we are being fueled and motivated from something greater than ourselves. Nearly every culture world wide honors the treatment of hair with ceremony and rituals around birth, death, coming of age, marriage, and other life changes. In Kundalini yoga practice, women leave their hair long to amplify their connection to this source. It is viewed often as the “antenna” between worlds, and a physical representation of the Crown Chakra itself – the place where the material world meets the divine.
A haircut, then, is a perfect opportunity to check in with this. Using the vibration of crystals to anchor in a specific feeling, essential oils to address both the physical and metaphysical issues around this area, and sound to attune the nervous system – all work in unison to create a deep sense of self acceptance, self love, and attune to whole-being beauty.
What does the CrownWorks comb achieve for a client? Why is it something that a hairdresser would need in their kit? The CrystalComb in a professional’s hands becomes an invitation into this depth of work. It is a professional point of difference, a value added to a service, and a unique and memorable experience.
“Not only are professional stylists using it, but estheticians now have an invitation to add scalp therapy to their existing treatments, and body and energy workers have an opportunity to spend more time with a client’s crown.”
As I was beginning to cut hair dry, for example, my clients didn’t understand at first what had changed, and a dedicated set of dry cutting shears let them know this was a REAL thing (I wasn’t just running late), and it allowed me to delve more deeply into that style of work, legitimized by a dedicated tool. Even the act of allowing the client to choose which comb they feel more called to use becomes an intuitive exercise. They are empowered in their own healing. I see based on the qualities and properties of the stone they are drawn to what may present for them emotionally or mentally, then we have the opportunity to address that.
Not only are professional stylists using it, but estheticians now have an invitation to add scalp therapy to their existing treatments, and body and energy workers have an opportunity to spend more time with a client’s crown.
Do you have a specific story of a powerful transformation of your client after using your products? While I am not able to share personal stories (stylist/client confidentiality, of course), there are many stories of personal shifts and professional transformations into a greater ability to integrate what were previously un-integrated gifts to their craft. This work is about making whole-self health and wellness a path to beauty, rather than a cosmetic simulation thereof.
Do you have any advice for people who are just starting out in their stylist career? This industry is challenging to get a foothold in, and more than 70% of stylists who enroll in beauty school won’t be working actively in the industry within two years of graduation. To understand that then, you must be deeply passionate about all aspects of what you are providing. Find a way to make it fun, because especially in the beginning, you’ll be doing a lot of it. If you don’t love it, you won’t be able to talk about what you do, and if you aren’t able to hand someone a card and confidently and graciously tell them why you should be doing their hair, you may find growing your business very challenging.
You must also be willing to fall in love with the humans you serve. When they cancel because their kid is sick, when they lie about having henna on their hair, when they cry because you gave them exactly the haircut they said they wanted. All the very human, messy parts of this that are not glamorous and Instagram worthy. And those parts remain, after more than 16 years for me, there are still those parts, because we work in a human-on-human business. I have found I can receive other people’s humanness much more when I have learned to fall in love with my own. Do your personal work. What comes up in your life will likely come up in your chair, and people aren’t coming to you just for a shampoo, but for permission to be themselves, and you have an opportunity to model that, authentically.
Make self-care one of your cornerstones, but know that if you want a successful business, it may mean working more than you think you “should.” Likely you’ll miss dinner parties and have to work weekends, and you may make less than some of your friends in other industries in the beginning. You’ll work for trade or for free, and holidays on Mondays will become meaningless to you. That point where you want to quit? Keep going, success is right on the other side.
Block out days off to be bored, and don’t fill them. Blank space is where creativity comes in. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or specialize. You aren’t meant to be everybody’s hairdresser, and you wouldn’t want to be. Share what matters to you, from your heart, honestly, always, and let like-minded people find you from the light you emit. Then one day, you’ll come back from vacation to a full book, and be truly delighted to catch up with every. single. person. that sits in your chair. For me, that is how I have redefined success.
What are some tips for people to practice self-care of their Crown Chakra at home with your products? The intention of CrystalCombs was to empower stylists to step into this work more wholeheartedly, and to provide clients a means of home care. Just like your stylist would recommend an at home treatment, a CrystalComb becomes an at home practice to maintain the feeling they had when they leave the chair.
Utilizing this time where people are already doing a beauty routine (brushing their hair out before bed, applying in a deep treatment) is a way to optimize this time and create a meditative practice with that time. Listening to a meditation, chanting, or journaling can be great self-care and self-exploration practices to maximize this experience.
Katie Keyser is an artist, makeup collector, and MUA. She graduated from the University of Redlands with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Healing, and is currently in cosmetology school to be a hairdresser. She ultimately wants to help others feel gorgeous, inside and out. Follow her on (Instagram: katiekeyser).