Photographer, creator and business owner, Alyssa Lau has impeccable style and a knack for conceptualizing work that’ll leave you inspired. Born in Canada and calling Edmonton, Alberta home, she’s been in the digital industry for close to a decade. She got her start in 2011 with launch of (the now-defunct) Ordinary People, a project she ran with her cousin.
In 2014, Alyssa and her husband launched the online store, New Classics, an ethical and sustainability-focused e-retailer, where consumers can find unique brands and products that don’t harm the planet.
But before she started sharing her work and creative projects online, there’s been a journey to acceptance with her hair. We got to sit down and chat with her about her childhood, the evolution of her hair and why she keeps it simple for Our Hair, Don’t Care.
ATPB: Our relationship with hair starts at a young age – do you have any vivid childhood memories surrounding your hair?
Alyssa Lau: The first thing I can remember is spending so much time on my hair, actually. Back in high school, I could never understand why my hair never stayed in styles the way my friend’s hair did. Looking back, I never understood that there was a difference between Asian and Caucasian hair. I remember trying all these crazy things to get my hair to stay in place and to have a ton of volume. And I spent a lot of time just trying to get my hair to look a certain way. Very vividly, I remember cutting my bangs when I was younger and it turned out awful. I don’t know why I did it, but I kept trying to make my hair more ‘white’. The elementary school I went to I think I was like, one of two Asian kids in the school. And throughout middle school, it was predominantly Caucasian as well. It was only in high school when I actually started meeting a lot of Asian people and that expanded my friend group.
ATPB: Growing up, were there any particular hair ideals that you felt you needed to abide by?
AL: It sounds so silly when I talk about it now, but I really wanted to be able to back comb my hair. I just wanted to do what the cool girls were doing. Like it’s crazy now to look back at it and realise I just really wanted to emulate whiteness so badly. I was doing all these things to mimic what white girls looked like at the time. There’s a lot of things I wish we could tell ourselves when we were younger.
ATPB: You’ve gone through a few hair evolutions. What prompted the choice to dye and experiment with your look?
AL: I think for me, because hair is so – and I’m privileged to say this because some people don’t have a choice with their hair – but for me, hair has always been very temporary. I’ve never felt too attached to my hair so I’ve always wanted to change it. I think I’ve been able to express my style evolution and growth through my hair as well. So as a result, I’ve never been afraid to take those risks and you know, ruin my own hair [laughs]. I still cut my own hair, I like DIYing things even though it’s probably not best for my hair. Whenever I want a change, I just do it. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely stopped dying my hair because it’s just so much work and it’s a lot of money.
ATPB: How has your relationship with your hair and beauty evolved?
AL: I think like before, a lot of the hair and beauty techniques that I would try to do was to try and make me look whiter. But now, the more that I’ve learnt about my own hair, makeup and skin – I’ve been able to use it to express my personal growth. For example, the way I did my hair and makeup two years ago was very different, mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing. And now that I’m older, I’ve definitely fallen into a routine for my hair that I think will last.
ATPB: What’s your hair type and what does your haircare routine look like?
AL: So my hair is actually really wiry and thick. I tend to shampoo my hair once a week and when I don’t shampoo I just do a co-wash. And when my hair was damaged from all the bleaching and additional hair dye, I would use a Kevin Murphy hair treatment. But I’ve cut off all the damaged bits and for the most part my hair is back to a healthy state. So now I don’t use anything beyond conditioner and the occasional scalp scrub.
ATPB: Any particular holy grail hair products you love?
AL: When my hair was really damaged, I used to swear by Olaplex to restore my hair. But now that my hair is back to a healthy state, I try not to use too many products on my hair and keep it as simple as possible.