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Styling San Diego

Carlsbad-based, fourth-generation stylist and makeup artist Chelsea Adair transforms looks and lives

By Ann Wycoff

Salon Adair

Salon Adair

Generations of beauty know-how have helped shape Chelsea Adair. Her great-grandmother, Phyllis Adair, opened one of California’s first beauty schools in Redlands in 1929. Her granny Maxine helmed the town’s bustling salon, and her single mom crushed it as a six-figure nail stylist in San Diego. So it’s no surprise that Adair owns one of North County’s finest places to get styled — Salon Adair.

Chelsea grew up painting her mom’s clients’ toes, starting at age six. By 10, she was on the payroll. Working by her mom’s side as a teen, she watched her mother groom the ladies of Rancho Santa Fe and ascend as arguably the best nail artist in town. “My mother took a low-end job and made it an art and luxury service,” explains Adair. “She taught me to follow your passion and find someone you admire to work for. And don’t take your eye off the ball.”

Salon Adair, generations

Salon Adair, generations

But Adair’s mom became ill, eventually dying from cancer. She went to beauty school while caregiving and, taking her mom’s advice to heart, found mentors she admired, including master stylists from Ulta and beauty icon Gina Rivera of Phenix Salon Suites. Eventually, she rose through the ranks, overseeing 350 of the chain’s locations.

Adair then moved on to train with Vidal Sassoon in Santa Monica while attending makeup school in Hollywood when she was invited to be the lead hair artist at Coachella’s Refresh Artist Colony. Her first big-time client was Beastie Boy Mix Master Mike, one of her favorite musicians. This entry into the celeb world led to her being flown to the Hamptons to style Fergie pre-concert and a coveted on-camera stint on national TV for CW’s makeover show: The Look: All Stars.

Adair has come a long way since she struggled to open her own salon back in 2015. She labored around the clock for three months to qualify for a loan, then started out with four stylists renting booths in Carlsbad’s BluWater Crossing. But her business grew quickly when the professional hair group Matrix offered a partnership.

Today, her high-energy, treehouse-styled salon dressed in green vines is home to 20 employees and a million-plus annual pull. “I just want to see my girls succeed. It’s like having 20 children, and seeing them thrive makes me happy. My stylists can make six figures—not bad when you are in your 20s.” She smiles.

So what’s next for the Pop Sugar Ambassador, top US hairdresser, and mother of four? Adair is currently working with clients with alopecia, OCD, hair loss from trauma, and other forms of baldness. She’s also traveling to Venice, Milan, Austria, and Paris for styling work, and is in the middle of expanding her Carlsbad salon.

In particular, her second floor will be transformed into “a dry bar on steroids” with wine tastings, live acoustic music, spa experiences, food, and more. “Hell, if I’m gonna work all the time, it might as well be fun,” she says.

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