Julien Farel Shares Tips on Haircare for Athletes

Manuela Rana

The official hair stylist for the U.S. Open takes us behind the scenes and shares his tips and tricks for healthy hair post-workout.

Acclaimed French coiffeur Julien Farel—the official hair stylist to the U.S. Open (and unofficial stylist to DEPARTURES Magazine)—is running his 9th annual pop-up up salon at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York. During this year’s U.S. Open, he and his team will cut, style, and pamper between 40 and 50 players, coaches, and players’ family members per day. A tennis enthusiast and athlete himself, Farel employs every trick of the trade to keep the players looking good and feeling prepared for the high intensity matches of the tournament. This week, Julien invited us behind the scenes to see how it’s done, and shared his top tips for pre- and post-workout haircare. 

What's the most popular service at the pop-up salon this year? The most popular services for female tennis players are braiding and gel manicures. These are the most tennis-friendly services since both can withstand the high performance and intensity of a match. The players know that when they are on the court, the cameras are zooming in on their hands, so it is always best for them to have well-groomed, decorative nails—Serena Williams even became a professional nail artist and creates masterpieces on her nails for each competition. For men, it’s much simpler: clean haircuts and fresh shaves. A surprising runner up for men’s favorite service is the Natura Bissé mini facial. In general, men are starting to care about their skin more.  Especially after a long match in the sun, their skin needs pampering! 

What is a player's number one concern when it comes to looks on the court? For women, their number one concern is for their hair to stay out of their eyes and in place during the entire match. To accomplish this, we created sleek, wet hairstyles! The players start to sweat the second they hit the court, so starting off with wet hair really keeps the hair slick and tight throughout the entire match. I recommend Julien Farel Sculpting Gel ($23)  to maintain the stiff, shiny wet look. Braiding is also huge for women athletes since it locks the hair down. This year we included a braid book for the players to choose from. (See one of Julien's braided styles on Jelena Jankovic, below.)

Do you have any tips for readers on haircare pre- and post-workout? A great conditioning treatment is to apply a light weight conditioner (we use Julien Farel Hydrate Condition, $23) to wet hair and use it as gel to put your hair up. It will deeply condition the hair while you are working out. Rinse thoroughly post-workout.

If you have to spruce up the hair quickly after the gym, braids are great for your workout; when you take them out, your hair has a little more wave to it. Add some dry shampoo for texture and volume, then put your hair into a half up/half down style.

Many people who work out every day end up washing their hair every day, which can be very drying to the hair. Even if you feel you need to wash you hair every day, start with skipping one day a week. When in the shower, just rinse the hair with water and massage the scalp to get rid of dirt.  This will allow your hair’s natural oils to spread from root to tip instead of being concentrated at the scalp. 

What's the best part about being involved with the US Open? The best part about being involved in the U.S. Open is when I see the tennis players looking amazing on the court—with their hair in place, skin glowing and nails in tact. We are a part of the process that prepares them for their matches. It’s important for the tennis players to look good and feel good to perform their absolute best. We help world-class athletes gain a competitive edge with a bit of the Julien Farel magic!

The U.S. Open Players’ Salon is only open to players and their guests, but you can visit Julien Farel’s New York City salon at 540 Park Ave; 212-888-8988; julienfarel.com