Interview with Michael Canalé by Doina Pirau

Hollywood’s most sought-after colorist and co-creator of “The Rachel”, MICHAEL CANALÉ has revitalized JENNIFER ANISTON’S  look once again as she prepared for her Netflix  series “First Ladies.” Consistently pushing the standard in the hair industry Canalé is also the man behind some of the most famous locks including    Heidi Klum, Shakira, Penelope Cruz, and Carolyn Murphy, and now  expanding the way the beauty world views hair color –  proving that it really is an art form.

Michael Canalé’s Portrait. Photograph Courtesy of Michael Canalé

Best known for being JENNIFER ANISTON’S LONG – TIME COLORIST (he, along with stylist Chris McMillan, created  the  coif that later became known  simply as the “Rachel”),  Canalé  is  frequently called upon by celebs, models, and industry elite for his  innovative technique and keen eye. Highly regarded for his corrective color method, he focuses on  the natural beauty of hair,  making sure to protect and prevent damage. Since the  beginning of his career, Canalé has been a true pioneer of his style, leaving  clients with hair  that is healthy as it is gorgeous. Voted “Best-of-the Best” by Allure Magazine 14 years in a row and touted by Vogue as “not only really good, he’s really fast”. With over 30 years’ experience, Michael Canalé is a rare talent and truly  among the  best in the industry; his work has been published  in Allure, Vogue,  Vanity Fair, Women’s Health, Elle, Marie Claire, Redbook, Glamour,  and New Beauty, to name a few.

On top of everything,  Michael  Canalé has created CANALÉ, a gentle but effective line of  products using hypoallergenic formulae. Four products that work together as a core  system to Cleanse (shampoo), Soften (conditioner), Nourish (hair foam), and Replenish (hair vitamin) the hair. The  complete hair care system helps extend the time between water  washes, creating a virtuous of less frequent and gentle washing  that extends  color life and improves condition, starting at the follicular level.

From left to right: REPLENISH (hair vitamin), SOFTEN (conditioner), CLEANSE (shampoo), NOURISH (hair foam).

Photograph Courtesy of Michael Canalé

Doina: Mr. Canalé, you excelled in the last 30 years as a colorist for some of the most recognizable faces in the world, your art has been on constant demand ever since the 1990’s. How has your life started, what are your childhood memories?

Michael: My first important memory was a gifted children’s class at age 6, where I learned the odds of rolling dice. My mind became hooked on numbers, science, and formulas. As a young boy, I loved making things – and fell in love with sculpture. I loved art and painting. As a teenager, I learned to play bridge. My mind was drawn to numbers and creating balance in what I saw. I guess the artist in me was born at a young age, and I never felt that a “traditional” 9-5 job would be the path for me. Today, my predisposition is toward formulas, numbers, and logic – it’s how I bring color to life and make it perfect. Hair color, in the end, is a combination of math, art, and science.  We all know there’s good color – and there’s color that’s just not good. I look at a woman and I feel that her color is an extension of her beauty first, and then I use math to look at how to make it work and how it all fits together. That’s the way color lasts, and it’s how I make it look so natural.

Doina: I’ve heard the metaphor: “Mountains do not rise without earthquakes.” Do you relate with the saying? Did you have critical moments on your path before reaching the status quo, before co – creating the famous “Rachel” coiffure? If yes, how did you overcome them?

Michael: In my early years as a hairdresser, I was a technician working in the chemical world of permanent waves and color theory (and yes, permanents were a big thing in the 80’s – you can look it up!) I’d moved from the San Fernando Valley to Beverly Hills, as I knew that to be the best, I needed to work with the best. I was working in a higher-end salon, watching and learning. One day, the colorist did not show up to work. Panic set in. The make-up artist pulled me aside and told me that today, I needed to step it up. And I can say I honestly wasn’t scared. I knew I could do it. That was my earthquake moment, and 30 years later, I am at the top of my game, working in six cities around the country. I’m having a blast.

Doina: At TPM we are always looking to find ethical and sustainable ways that can truly improve people’s lives. One of the most blessed times in a woman’s life is said to be the time of pregnancy, giving her a special aura of happiness and fulfillment. In the same time, it is also challenging, one of the hot topics being the way a woman can achieve beautiful locks in complete safety, during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Kate Hudson enjoyed your innovative color techniques during her pregnancy and after giving birth. Please tell us about the innovative methods you developed.

Michael: The safety of my clients and the health of their hair is mandatory in my world. When an expectant mother comes to me, the first thing I think about is how to make sure what I do is the best thing for her and the health of her baby. I have had expectant mothers not color their hair for the full 9 months of a pregnancy, but I would suggest there is a safe and healthy way around that. First, as I did with Kate, I utilize a technique where chemicals never touch the skin. My salons are always well-ventilated, I use special “dome” dryers, and I make sure nothing is touching the scalp – whether foil, bleach, or color. I have a special “comb-up” technique, where I pull the color and bleach away from the hair follicle, and away from the scalp. I do the same thing when women are post-partum and still nursing. Hair can still be treated during pregnancy and post-partum – and all done safely, with health in mind.

Doina: I had never colored my hair yet because of two reasons, and one of them is the thought that coloring it in lighter shades from a dark brown (which I love – the 1st reason) might bring harm to it, being silky and fine. I admit dreaming at times of the well known and desired California Beach Blonde. Can people in my case, with a Mediterranean look, achieve such color without stressing the hair?

Michael: Yes, of course! You can do it, too – but my approach would be to start slowly and subtlety. I’d use very mild bleach and add some very paper thin and well-placed highlights around the front and crown, balanced by the right color wash and gloss to ensure a long-term shine. It’s easy to add more over time. I have many clients who have beautiful dark tresses – check out Carolyn Murphy, Paige Turco and Faye Dunaway – I take what they have and give them subtle highlights to make hair look healthier, shinier, with very subtle highlights. My key words are subtle and natural, with a touch of sun-kissed. I don’t want anyone to feel overdone, ever – we know how that turns out!

Doina: How can we choose the best color in relation with our complexion?

Michael: There are basically two complexions: cool tone and golden tone. (The trick is to look right under the wrist – if your vein color is blue, you’re a cool tone, if it’s green, you’re a gold tone). So that’s where I start – I look at skin tone and eyes. I love working with what you’ve been given – and then I make it better, richer. I also work really hard to enhance and highlight one’s natural hair color to brighten skin tone and eyes. Even if someone wants to go super blonde, I still take my focus and direction from the eyes so it doesn’t feel too brassy. For lighter to medium skin tones, I can go for a fewer, more dramatic highlights right around the face, because it looks a bit more natural and complimentary to frame the face with a few brighter, sun-kissed highlights, and then go a bit more golden in the back. For darker skin tones and eyes, I dial the highlights back just a bit to more naturally accentuate skin tone. Either way, I keep the focus on the eyes – the window into one’s soul!

Doina: How frequently should we visit the salon in order to maintain the color at the state-of-the-art form?

Michael: I think every 4 to 8 weeks is a great cadence. For darker roots or graying hair, it’s likely that 4 weeks is a better bet. But I pride myself that my color lasts at a minimum of 8 weeks. We also have a highlights booster that highlights around the hairline, which gives you 4 more weeks. I have a full line of hair care products on I devised each product in the line to ensure that color not only lasts, but hair looks incredibly healthy, shiny, and strong in between visits. I am also about to release a gloss that lasts for up to 20 washes. I’ve got several glosses to choose from: baby blonde, clear, and blue gloss to help with golden tones, and golden blonde, for red heads and brunettes.

Shiny means healthy, and healthy looks great – so that’s my mantra – and my shampoo, conditioner, foaming conditioner, vitamins, and new gloss have been researched and designed to do just that.

Doina: Can you please give us tips on how to help maintaining the color between visits?

Michael: I’ll go back to my product line. Having worked on hair for 30+ years, and having worked with some of the best in the business, I created a scientifically-developed line to focus on maintaining the best balance and shine – while helping color to last. Good products can do that, and I felt that investing my time and experience in creating a great product line was a logical next step for me. Canalé Shampoo is the mildest shampoo on the market that still cleans the hair and is nourishing, while loaded with antioxidants to keep your hair shiny and clean from visit to visit.

Doina: How can our readers obtain the Best Blonde in relation with their skin tone?

Michael: I always start with skin tone and eyes. I’m known for a natural, beachy, sun-kissed tone – and for darker hair, I focus on building up shine and shimmer. Overdone, overbleached, and noticeable deep roots are out for me. I love working with what you’ve been given – and then I make it better, richer. I also try to brighten and lift skin tone and eyes. Even if someone wants to go super blonde, I still take my focus and direction from the eyes so it doesn’t feel too brassy. For lighter to medium skin tones, I can go for a fewer, more dramatic highlights right around the face, because it looks a bit more natural and complimentary to frame the face with a few brighter, sun-kissed highlights, and then go a bit more golden in the back. For darker skin tones and eyes, I dial the highlights back just a bit to more naturally accentuate skin tone.

Doina: The color empathizing with the spirit of our times?

Michael: Right now, it’s balayage – darker roots and lighter at the ends. I think that look is on its way out, and I know that it’s a bit aggressive and hard on the hair. This is why I formulated Canalé products to repair and replenish hair – both damaged and not – and try and recommend going back to what you were born with and seeking a more natural look!

Doina: What would you recommend in terms of color to a man who is having grey hair but he has not decided which way to go? Is a natural color hard to achieve and maintain in a man’s life?

Michael: The best way to work with a man that’s graying is to work with a semi-permanent color that does not alter the natural base color. It’s always good to ease out the gray hair, but I also work to retain some of the gray so that the regrowth is subtle – and that people aren’t shocked when they haven’t seen him in awhile!

Doina: You personally travel between locations in Beverly Hills, Rancho Santa Fe, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, and Washington DC, making sure that each of your clients get the hands-on attention they need to look and feel their very best. How do you get the necessary energy to keep up the pace?

Michael: I love what I do and the relationships I have with my hundreds of clients, whether they’re celebrities, business leaders, politicians, or moms. I have built my clientele over 30 years, and I think sometimes I mean as much to them as they mean to me! I’ve learned that a life has so many dimensions and chapters, and I’ve made so many friendships along the way. I’ve also learned that I want to give back – because I am now in a position to do so. I support charities and causes I care about when I’m not in the salon. I have focused on education, the challenge of homelessness, and creating more peace in the world – the latter of which means I’ve supported the practice of NAAM yoga, which has taught me the importance of breath, of taking time for myself, and how to use my body and mind for self-healing and revitalization.

Doina:  Among the Canalé line, you have created a 100% vegan Replenish and Replenish Boost. Please tell us more about them, about the creative process; composition and what can the products do for our hair.

Michael: Canale Replenish is an ingestible vitamin with a vegan and all-natural approach that contains patented Targeted Cellular Technology for maximum absorption with critical ingredients that will help build strong, healthy hair. It provides essential vitamins and nutrients that your hair and skin needs due to environmental damage, aging, and from color and chemical treatment of hair. With its patented technology for maximum absorption, this vegan super food supplement has the crucial building blocks essential for healthy hair.

Replenish Boost contains vital nutrients and amino acids that support strong, thick, vibrant hair, and is best when used in combination with Canalé Replenish.

 REPLENISH BOOST (organic spirulina)

Photograph Courtesy of Michael Canalé

Jennifer Aniston for ELLE Magazine (January 2019), Hair Color by Michael Canalé

Photo Credits: US ELLE Magazine

Doina: Is it possible for someone who is not celebrity to benefit from your talent accessing your one-on-one service?

Michael: The celebrity in my world is the client that sits in my chair. I think all of my clients are celebrities in their own right: they are leaders in government, non-profit, philanthropy, homemakers, mothers. They are all beautiful, and my job is to help accentuate that – and it is the best part of my job.

Doina: You are at the top of the ladder of success, your ground breaking, ongoing career inspires and shaped the world…what are Michael Canalé’s dreams or vision for the future?

Michael: Some of the most influential philanthropists can be found in my salon at any moment in any city at any time. So, after three decades in this business, I am now in a position to help all of these amazing people connect with one another all over the world to create change – so I do that through the chairs in my salon. I’ve introduced Cabinet secretaries to non-profit leaders, and homemakers to entrepreneurs – there are connections out there every day! I genuinely believe that those of us lucky enough to give back should do so to address the challenges we all face – which is why I’ve chosen to focus on education, homelessness, and empowering young people as the charities and organizations I support.

Doina: California is well known for being a place where giving back is widely spread among people’s conscience. What are your ways of doing so?

Michael: One of my favorites is the Peapod Foundation, founded by the Black-Eyed Peas. The organization was created to be a global leader in encouraging social change by uniting people through the universal language of music. The foundation provides support for social issues affecting children worldwide, including: Shelter/Housing, Healthcare, Education, Poverty, and Music/Artistic Education. The Peapod Foundation was established as a donor-advised fund of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), the philanthropic leader of the entertainment industry and was architected and run in association with Thirty-Three Productions, Inc.

I also support Dr. Joseph Levry, who has founded a global movement called Naam Yoga, to bring peace and unity to introduce yoga to practitioners around the world. I also support charities that address the homelessness challenges in California, organizations to help children graduate from high school, and charities that support young women in educational pursuits.

Doina: Please tell us which are your Top 3 Favorite Charities and why.

Michael: Homeless: I am Waters

I Am Waters distributes its bottled water to the homeless through partnerships and strategic alliances with existing homeless organizations, shelters, and churches that already have a distribution network or facilities serving the homeless.

I support this charity because I think that addressing homelessness in this country is paramount to addressing the gap between the wealthy and those who are struggling to get by. We need to try and find solutions today – so we need to try and take a longer-term burden off of the generations that follow.

Pine Ridge Girls’ School and other projects involved with Native American Mental Health:

I am from a Native American heritage, so I feel it is a natural link to give back to this group, who focus on the mental health and spirit of young girls.

The Girls’ Lounge @ Campus Leadership is not about age, it’s about action. We launched the Girls’ Lounge @ Campus in partnership with SAP Next-Gen to give young women the tools they need to create real change. The Girls’ Lounge @ Campus is a global leadership program designed to cultivate the next generation of female entrepreneurs, executives and innovators in more than 122 countries. The goal is to empower women to find their voice and fill the pipeline with the best talent by connecting college women with entry-level positions.

As the father of a young woman, I am supportive of charities that work to support their growth, minds, and forward path. The Girls Lounge @ Campus Leadership is an amazing group I am thrilled to support – particularly as they work to address mental health challenges, something that we need to face as a society, as the statistics only increase.


Artist. Genuine lover of great characters, great fashion, great food...and I love to write about them. Here we go!

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