Jonathan Van Ness Wants to Create Haircare Products That Don't End Up in Your "Product Graveyard"
Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye's resident grooming expert, has so much enthusiasm talking about hair, he can make the average drugstore hair gel seem as rare and special as finding a first edition purple Princess Beanie Baby on eBay.
The hairstylist, author, podcaster, and political activist has the uncanny ability of breaking down the overwhelming (and often confusing) world of hair products for clients, the show's heroes, and his YouTube subscribers. These simple hairstyling routines bring out their inner sassy hair flip, while also fitting into their lifestyles.
And now, Van Ness is bringing the same level of enthusiasm to JVN, a line of haircare products that aims to be inclusive and accessible for all. Van Ness's brand is created in partnership with Amyris, the parent company of Biossance, the clean skincare brand of which Van Ness has served as celebrity ambassador since 2019.
"I love helping people find their own beauty and their own unique hairstyle," Van Ness tells InStyle. "And so, having an opportunity to demystify haircare and your relationship to your hair is such an honor and such an exciting thing for me to get to do."
JVN is starting off with three sets of shampoo and conditioner that target specific hair concerns: Embody (volumizing), Undamage (repairing), and Nuture (hydrating). There's also the Complete Collection, a trio of styling-treatment products, including the Instant Recovery serum, Pre-Wash Scalp Oil, and Air Dry Cream. The brand is also prioritizing sustainability, opting for aluminum, glass, and post-consumer plastic, where possible.
Given Van Ness's infectious personality and innumerable sound bite moments, I'd buy anything he's selling — including cutting my own bangs at home. Here, Van Ness chats about how hair can be a powerful source of self-expression, embracing gray hair during quarantine, and how to do a DIY bang trim that won't end in complete disaster.
On Geeking Out Over Ingredients
"Growing up, I loved learning about ingredients. Truly, every single time I saw a bottle of anything, I would read the ingredients. I would go to the mall and my mom would find me in an Aveda store or Bath & Body Works literally in a corner reading the back of bottles," Van Ness recalls. "I definitely don't think I expected I would be in a position to get to take all of my life experiences and get to create my own."
On Hair as a Form of Self-Expression
"Not to say [hair's] been everything, but it's truly been everything. It has been my connection to art, my expression of art, both on myself and on others. It was something that I played with on myself and my friends in junior high and high school, and during times that I was really depressed and full of anxiety. I used hair to express myself and connect with the creative side of myself that I always wanted to do in my adult life."
On Why You Don't Need Tons of Products in Your Routine
Your stylist may go to town with products on your hair, but they're giving you an elevated version of your go-to style. Van Ness thinks you don't need a ton of products to achieve a similar look at home because while these products all have a purpose, not everyone knows how to use them – and that's why they "just go into that product graveyard and die, never to be used again."
"There are some people who are huge haircare fans, and they're really good at styling their own hair, so they can do like 27,000 products. But most people don't have that ability," Van Ness says. "I think education is a really central important temple for us. We really want to help people learn how to style their hair and achieve all sorts of different things. So we're starting off with simple products that are multi-functional, especially in our styling line. Our Instant Recovery Serum and our Complete Air Dry Cream are both really versatile products."
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On More People Embracing Gray Hair Post-Lockdown
"I love it. I say aging is a privilege, so I am not coloring my hair. I love having my silver hair, and I'm getting more and more by the day. I think it's gorgeous, but also someday I might want to color it. Who knows?" says Van Ness. "[Lockdown] really made you realize what you want to spend your time on and who you want to look a certain way for. And I think that's beautiful because it's about us honoring our own humanity, our own beauty, and our own self-expression, rather than doing things for other people's validation."
On Cutting Your Own Bangs
While some people dyed their hair at home during lockdown, others attempted to cut their own hair (including me). And of course, Van Ness has a hack for DIY bang trims that I wish I knew a year ago.
"Do this thing where you only cut the hair that is between your eyebrows," Van Ness says, "Then you can brush the sides to create a little curtain fringe." Just make sure you point cut instead of going straight across and hold the scissors up against your forehead.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.