Ricky Pennisi

Ricky Pennisi

It's one thing to make curls look perfect when a client is sitting in your chair. But stylist Ricky Pennisi wanted his clients to be able to make their curly hair look good everyday.

"We needed to answer clients' needs," says Ricky Pennisi, owner of Atelier Salon in Basking Ridge, N.J. "We needed to come up with something that worked with all seasons that could create soft, beautiful curls easily at home. One of the biggest reasons people don't like their curls is because they can't create the curls they want.

"Pennisi's answer was to create Ricci, a line of five products designed to work together on all kinds of curls and kinks. The line includes Splash Shampoo, Drench Conditioner, Memory Setting Spray, Thirsty Gel and Smooth Pomade.Pennisi used client feedback to develop the line over the last year. His clients wanted a simple system that was easy on their wallet and good for their hair. The products, which contain pomegranate, are rich in moisturizing and softening agents to make the hair resistant to humidity.

"We think of hair like a sponge," Pennisi says. "If you take a sponge and fill it with moisture, you can't add any more water. We decided to fill the cuticle with moisture so no other moisture can fit in."The products can be used in different ways to get different looks. For example, for volume, Thirsty Gel can be combined with the Memory Setting Spray. For control, Drench Conditioner can be combined with Thirsty. And for detail, Thirsty can be used alone. The water-based Smooth Pomade is the last step. When people want to refresh their curls mid-day, the products can be reactivated with water.

In the near future, Pennisi plans to add a chlorine-removing shampoo to the line as well as a vial that can be added to Drench to turn it into a deep conditioner.

Ricci products

Ricci products

Pennisi didn't set about to be a curl expert. Although he would shave the name of his school into his friend's heads before wrestling matches and football games, he didn't see it as a career. He initially worked in the construction industry. But an economic slump hit him hard."I didn't want to be a deadbeat," Pennisi said. "My mother said I should think about getting into hair. Hair is pretty recession-proof. Then I fell in love with it.

"Pennisi said he loves the creativity of working with hair as well as the technical skill it takes to make somebody look good. It's also an ongoing challenge to stay up with the latest trends to "constantly reinvent yourself."A client first turned Pennisi on to the joys of working with curls and kinks. He had been doing her hair for years. But one day, she came in and only wanted him to color it.

"She had been going to a curly hair salon and wouldn't let me cut it," he says. "I watched her style her hair and realized immediately that there was a better approach to curly hair. Hairdressers used to put mousse in people's hair and scrunch the heck out of it, freezing it into position. I realized if we could come up with a system and a plan, you can make the curls look like you want them to look. We needed to answer our clients' needs."

"It can't just be about looking good when they walk out of the salon," Pennisi says. "It's about educating the client so they look good everyday. To order Ricci products, call (908)766-4630 or e-mail ricky@ateliersalonandspa.com.