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Top Tips for Healthy Hair with Celebrity Stylist James Cornwell

Top Tips for Healthy Hair with Celebrity Stylist James Cornwell

Written by Diane Helentjaris | Photos by Tony Gibson

Stylist James Cornwell’s story begins, in true horse country style, centered in the equestrian world. Born and raised in Fauquier County, early on he was influenced by his great uncle Robert Kerns, a prominent horseman and inductee in Upperville Colt & Horse Show’s Wall of Honor. Cornwell traveled around the country, riding and showing horses, immersed in a life of glossy athletic animals. He jokes that perhaps it was braiding those manes and tails readying ponies for classes that set him on his eventual change of course. 

Today he is the co-owner of Iva Bella, a full-service salon in Vint Hill. As he transitioned from horse trainer to well-known stylist, Cornwell earned his license through Virginia’s apprenticeship program, and did hair and makeup work at regional charity events. These initial experiences helped him gain celebrity stylist status, which would see him doing the locks and faces of famous performers, traveling around the country, and eventually living for two years in Los Angeles. 

But home beckoned and his family, well… “They pulled at my heartstrings.” Eight years ago, Iva Bella opened as a family operation. Cornwell shares, “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without a great team of people and family supporting our team here. We work so well together and help each other.” As a Fauquier native, he includes friends from his youth and his time in the horse world among his clients and continues to keep tabs on the equestrian world. 

As for his work as a stylist, Cornwell shares, “All of us stylists take hair very seriously. … The first part of healthy hair is working with a stylist to know what the client’s hair needs are.” As examples, Cornwell notes, “Curly hair is different from straight. Moisture and protein needs can change with the seasons and over the lifespan. Really understanding hair type and texture is important. We really try to educate [clients] about their hair and sell them products that work for their hair.”

Cornwell readily shares tips on how to achieve and maintain a healthy head of soft, shiny hair. He emphasizes the importance of the conversations between a client and their stylist. “At Iva Bella we work closely [with our clients]. We talk about having 100% transparency with clients and talking with them about potential issues such as a spot on the scalp or hair loss. We learn about diseases, about the scalp, troubleshooting, and culprits such as stress… Lots of women have hair loss after childbirth. People, when they suffer hair loss, well, it’s pretty traumatic.” He continues, “Conversations are a time to educate clients. For instance, textures — the more tightly the hair curls, the more moisture it needs, and over-shampooing needs to be avoided.”

Thoughtful exchanges between a client and stylist can set the stage for good results. Cornwell recalls one client who experienced sudden loss and thinning of her hair. After discussing the typical causes, she realized her loss coincided with a change in her birth control pills. She followed up with her physician and was able to reverse this problem.

Beyond specific concerns, regular haircuts are more than opportunities to keep a style fresh or try new ones. “Most people don’t realize cutting hair is important, even if it’s only an inch or so as you’re cutting off split ends, or else the split ends continue up the hair shaft and then you get the frizzy, damaged-looking hair. Even if only a half-inch haircut, it helps with split ends,” Cornwell explains.

From his experience working with hair, Cornwell knows the importance overall health plays in supporting healthy, gleaming hair. Stress and sleep deprivation can have negative effects. He underlines the importance of nutrition. The American Academy of Dermatology agrees with this and recommends following a generally healthy eating plan. The Academy also notes that, although supplements may claim to promote hair health, these products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some may actually cause hair loss if taken in too large a quantity. 

Lastly, Cornwell encourages the development of positive habits. “Make sure you have a good routine of shampooing and conditioning, using the right products. Proper hair holders [clips, barrettes] are important. Avoid tight ponytails as they put tension on the hair and can cause breakage.”

James Cornwell concludes, “No matter where you go to get your hair done, that relationship is important… I love what I do.” ML

Iva Bella Salon
7132 Farm Station Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187
(540) 216-3653

Published in the January 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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