How to Style African-American Hair

How to work with the hair you've got.

Writer Maya Rock asks, my mom is black, my dad is white, so where does that leave me...and my hair?

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August 1, 2008 6:11 AM
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woman with short tight curls
Philip Friedman/Studio D
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Hairstyle Handbook

Deep condition hair three times a week with a super rich conditioner to flight frizz and breakage.

Try a leave in conditioner and a strong hold gel for the perfect mix of control and conditioning.

Try not to play with your hair as it dries, the more you touch it the frizzier and less chic it will look.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

GEL like, Ouidad Climate Control Gel, $22

SHINE SERUM like, Motions Smoothing Shine Serum $5.99

LEAVE IN CONDITIONER like, Joico KPax Conditioner, $16

curly hair
Philip Friedman/Studio D
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Hairstyle Handbook

Try a leave-in conditioner and a strong-hold gel for the perfect mix of control and conditioning.

Rake the product cocktail through damp hair with a wide-tooth comb. Scrunch hair to add volume.

Once hair has air-dried, use a serum to touch up any frizz or flyaways.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

GEL like Sexy Hair Concepts Big Sexy Hair Blow Dry Volumizing Gel, $12.49.

CONDITIONER like Dove Daily Moisture Therapy Conditioner for Dry Rough Hair, $4.99.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Alterna Hemp Leave-In Spray Conditioner, $20.
long hair
Philip Friedman/Studio D
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Hairstyle Handbook

"Thickening spray can give you the illusion of having a lot of hair, even if you don't," says Miami's Brownes & Co. stylist Liliana. She recommends spraying a volumizer all over your damp hair before you blowdry. A root-lifter at the crown, along with some gentle back-combing, will create even more lift. To get your hair to grow to its maximum length, use a leave-in conditioner every day — it will prevent breakage and split ends.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
THICKENING SPRAY like Kérastase Resistance Expanseur, $24.95

ROOT-LIFTING SPRAY like Nioxin Volumizing Reflectives Root Lifter, $11.99

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Aussie Leave-in Conditioner, $3.99

curly hair style
Philip Friedman/Studio D
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Hairstyle Handbook

Apply a hair mask in the shower for a strong dose of hydration. Detangle with a wide-tooth comb in the shower. Rinse almost all of it out — however, a little residual moisture is a good thing.

Work a mixture of shine glaze and leave in conditioner through wet hair and let it air dry.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

HAIR MASK like Alberto VO5 Hot Oil Treatment, $3.93.

SHINE GLAZE like Ouidad Shine Glaze, $17.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Bumble & Bumble Leave-In Conditioner, $22.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Use a small curling iron (holding it parallel to your head) and wrap small sections (about an inch) around the barrel for a glam, '40s look.

Do your entire head, curling all the way up on one side of the part. Vary how much curl you get on the other side so you leave a bit of super-smooth roots on one side.

Spray your whole head with a setting spray and a bit of shine spray when you're done.


MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

SMALL CURLING IRON like Revlon Studio 35 Professional Styling Iron, $6.99.

SHINE SPRAY like Sunsilk ThermaShine Detangling Shine Spray, $4.49.

SHINE SERUM like Motions At-Home Salon Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Deep condition hair three times a week with a super rich conditioner to flight frizz and breakage.

Try a leave in conditioner and a strong hold gel for the perfect mix of control and conditioning.

Let hair air dry and touch up with a serum to control any frizz or flyaways.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

GEL like Ouidad Climate Control Gel, $22

SHINE SERUM like Motions Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99

LEAVE IN CONDITIONER like Joico KPax Conditioner, $16,

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

To get perfect, tight curls sans frizz, you need a cut that supports your curl pattern. Make sure to tell your stylist that you wear your hair naturally so she can give you the cut you need.

Make sure to deep-condition overnight so you get that extra dose of moisture coarse curls need.

Run a thick leave-in conditioner and serum through your hair.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
DEEP CONDITIONER like Burt's Bees Hair Repair, $7.99.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Jonathan Product Conditioning Leave-In Gloss, $22.

SERUM like John Frieda Frizz Ease Hair Serum, Thermal Protection Formula, $9.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Run a shine spray through dry hair.

Use large rollers on the very ends of your hair and let them sit for five to ten minutes.

Work a silicone-based serum through the ends to pull the curls out, leaving the softest hint of a wave.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

SHINE GLAZE like Frédéric Fekkai Salon Glaze, $28.

ROLLERS like BaByliss Ceramic 20 Roller Hair Setter, $39.95.

SHINE SPRAY like Alterna Spray Shine, $18.60.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Deep condition hair three times a week with a super rich conditioner to flight frizz and breakage.

Try a leave in conditioner and a strong hold gel for the perfect mix of control and conditioning.

Let hair air dry and touch up with a serum to control any frizz or flyaways.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

GEL like, Sexy Hair Concepts Volumizing Gel, $12.49

SHINE SERUM like, Motions Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99

LEAVE IN CONDITIONER like, L'Occitane Shea Butter Conditioner, $17

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Work a texture cream through the ends of your hair. Take a flat iron and use a little heat at the roots so everything is straight and shiny.

Use a small curling iron on the ends to make them flip up a bit so you get a different sort of texture.

Run a shine serum through your hair for a more polished look.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

TEXTURE CREAM like Sexy Hair Concepts Short Sexy Hair Slept-In Texture Cream, $15.99.

CURLING IRON like Revlon Studio 35 Professional Styling Iron, $6.99.

SHINE SERUM like Citré Shine Shine Miracle Anti-Frizz Serum, $7.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Try a leave-in conditioner and a strong-hold gel for the perfect mix of control and conditioning.

Rake the product cocktail through damp hair with a wide tooth comb. Scrunch hair to add volume.

Let hair air-dry and touch up with a serum to control any frizz or flyaways.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

GEL like Sexy Hair Concepts Volumizing Gel, $12.49

SHINE SERUM like Motions Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Alterna Leave In Conditioner, $20

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

For a modern-looking bob, keep hair well-moisturized and massage your scalp gently even when you don't wash your hair.

Place small sections of hair into large rollers and sit under a drying hood.

When your hair is nearly dry, remove the rollers and blow-dry on a very low heat.

Flat iron your bangs for the finishing touch.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

CONDITIONER like Carol's Daughter Leave-In Conditioner, $11.50.

MOISTURIZING SHAMPOO like Pantene Pro-V Relaxed and Natural Shampoo, $4.99.

DEEP CONDITIONER like Pantene Pro-V Brunette Expressions Intense Hydrating Conditioner, $5.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Spritz a thermal protective spray through dry hair to prevent damage and breakage.

Use a large curling iron and wrap 1-2 inch pieces around the barrel, holding the iron parallel to your head. Start wrapping from just above the middle of each section so your roots lie flat.

Run a tiny but of shine serum through your hair to separate curls so they look softer.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

THERMAL PROTECTIVE SPRAY like TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray, $4.79.

LARGE CURLING IRON like Revlon Studio 35 Professional Styling Iron, $6.99.

SHINE SERUM like Motions At-Home Salon Care Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Add bounce to a relaxed style by spritzing ends with a conditioning mist.

Put a few ceramic hot rollers in for three minutes, tops. Relaxed hair is delicate and you don't want to cause breakage with heat styling.

Shake hair out and spray lightly with a setting mist.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

CURLERS like BaByliss Ceramic 20 Roller Hair Setter, $39.95.

CONDITIONING MIST like DevaCurl Mist-er Right, $17.95.

SETTING SPRAY like Matrix Biolage Thermal Active Setting Spray, $15.50.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Naturally curly hair sucks up moisture so stick with a great, emollient leave-in conditioner on soaking wet hair.

When you get out of the shower, towel-dry lightly. Use a wide-tooth comb to detangle hair working from the ends up to the roots.

Use a diffuser on a low heat to dry hair partially, letting it air-dry the rest of the way for best results.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Modern Organic Products Leave-In Conditioner, $10.99.

WIDE-TOOTH COMB like Vidal Sassoon Wide-Tooth Comb, $1.29.

DEEP CONDITIONER like Neutrogena Triple Moisture Hair Mask, $6.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

A close crop requires heavy-duty hydration to look chic. Always use a moisture-rich conditioner.

Wet hair with a setting lotion and sit under a drying hood on low heat to bring out hair's natural texture.

Work a little leave-in condition through a few pieces in front.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Charles Worthington London Results Leave-In Conditioner, $5.99.

HAIR MASK like Pantene Pro-V Strengthening Mask, $3.99.

GEL like Soft Sheen Carson Protein Styling Gel, $4.29.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Start with your bangs and spray them down with a little water mixed with leave-in conditioner.

Dry them using a small round brush so you get a little oomph right at the ends. Spritz with shine spray.

Dry the rest of your hair without using too much product. You want the rest of your hair to look a little more matte than your bangs.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

SMALL ROUND BRUSH like Goody Tufted Round Brush, $3.99.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Alberto VO5 Detangle & Shine Restoring Daily Leave-in Conditioner, $3.99.

SHINE SPRAY like Matrix Color Smart Reflective Shine Spray, $14.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Spritz a thermal protective spray through dry hair to prevent damage.

Use medium-sized hot rollers and roll two-inch sections all the way up. Let rollers sit until they're nearly cool (about 10 minutes).

Mist with a hairspray and unroll hair for voluminous curls that stick around.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

ROLLERS like BaByliss Ceramic 20 Roller Hair Setter, $39.95.

HAIRSPRAY like Got2B 2 Sexy Voluptuous Volume Hairspray, $5.99.

THERMAL PROTECTIVE SPRAY like TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray, $4.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Refresh your straight style by taking a shine serum and running it through your hair.

Use a flat iron on pieces in the front, pulling each section down and toward your chin to create a face-framing shape. Keep the heat setting at a medium level so you don't cause damage.

Spritz with a setting mist to fight flyaways.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

SHINE SERUM like Motions At-Home Salon Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99.

FLAT IRON like BaByliss Ionic Flat Iron, $85.

SETTING SPRAY like Matrix Biolage Thermal-Active Setting Spray, $15.49.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Spritz a leave-in conditioning mist through dry hair to prevent damage and breakage.

Wrap two-inch sections halfway up with hot rollers, rolling them back away from the face to create volume. Mist with a setting spray. After five minutes, undo rollers.

Run a tiny but of shine serum through your hair to work curls into softer looking waves.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Motions At-Home Nourish Leave-In Conditioner, $3.79.

HOT ROLLERS like Vidal Sassoon 60 Second Fast Heat-Up 20-Roller Hairsetter, $35.00.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Spritz a thermal protective spray through dry hair to prevent damage and breakage.

Use a large curling iron and wrap two-inch pieces around the barrel, holding the iron parallel to your head.

Run a tiny but of shine serum through your hair to separate curls so they look softer.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

THERMAL PROTECTIVE SPRAY like TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray, $4.

CURLING IRON like Revlon Studio 35 Professional Styling Iron, $6.99.

SHINE SERUM like Motions At-Home Smoothing Shine Serum, $5.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Always deep-condition after you wash your hair. Choose a product that's full of replenishing oils.

Blow-dry hair in small sections keeping the dryer on low heat and angled down from the root, says Pantene stylist Tippi Shorter.

Use a flat iron sparingly to get a bone-straight finish.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

DEEP CONDITIONER like Burt's Bees Hair Repair, $7.99.

FLAT IRON like Hot Tools Ceramic Flat Iron, $59.99.

HAIR MOISTURIZER like Infusium 23 Leave In Conditioner, $6.99.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Shampooo with a sulfate-free formula once a week — it won't strip natural oils from your hair, which keep curls under control.

Half a dropper of organic hair oil on very damp hair keeps ringlets looking healthy especially during dry weather.

Layer a cocktail of leave-in conditioner and gel over and let hair air-dry.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS

HAIR OIL like Dr. Hauschka Neem Hair Oil, $29.95.

SULFATE-FREE SHAMPOO like Back To Basics Color Protect Shampoo, $11.99.

CURL GEL like Ouidad Climate Control Gel, $24.20.

Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

Though admittedly not for everyone, a cropped cut makes textured hair look instantly polished. This style requires professional relaxing but not a ton of maintenance. Use a fine mist of spray-oil to impart sheen, moisturize your scalp, and smooth flyaways. The right shampoo, used sparingly, and a healthy application of conditioner will keep your locks healthy.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
SPRAY OIL like Soft & Beautiful Oil Sheen Conditioning Spray, $2.99

SHAMPOO like Jonathan Product Shampoo Weightless Smooth, $20

CONDITIONER like Optimum Care Anti-Breakage Therapy Stay Strong Conditioner, $5.49
Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

A great way to go from day to night: add curl to a straightened look, even if your hair is already dry. Start by misting a heat protection spray and a wave spray onto the bottom half of your hair. Without opening the clamp, twist small sections around a curling iron, from midway to the ends of the strands. Use hairspray to hold it all in place.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
HEAT-PROTECTION SPRAY like TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Protective Spray, $4.75

WAVE SPRAY like Sally Hershberger Wave Spray, $12.50

HAIRSPRAY like Sebastian Original Shaper Hair Spray, $12.99
Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

This softened version of a long bob has shoulder-length layers and face-framing angles. Your relaxed hair will need to be thoroughly blown-out and flat-ironed. Begin by running a leave-in conditioner through the ends and spraying a heat-protector all over. Then, working in small sections with a round brush, bend hair under and dry completely. Lock in the style with a flatiron.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Miracle 7 Leave-in Conditioner, $12.99

HEAT-PROTECTION SPRAY like Ion Heat Protection Thermal Spray, $7.49

FLATIRON like Chi Ceramic Flat Iron, $74.99
Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

A Cleopatra style — think blunt, eyelash-grazing bangs and thick, straight locks — works well for most hair types. To get it just right, use a leave-in conditioner and a straightening balm on wet hair. Divide it into sections and blowdry with a round brush. Then, flatiron the top layer, pulling downward. Finish it off with shine spray — more is better; you want it really sleek.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER like Paul Mitchell Original The Conditioner, $17

STRAIGHTENING BALM like Phyto Phytodéfrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm, $26

SHINE SPRAY like Philip B. Shin Shine, $27
Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

To evoke an authentic '70s-era style, all you need is your natural hair, a wide-tooth comb and detangling spray. Mist your dry hair with the detangling spray; you'll want to use enough to make it slightly damp. Then, separate small sections and hold them between two fingers. Gently rake through each piece with the comb, pulling up and out. (Holding it prevents tension on your scalp, which causes breakage.) Keep going until you've combed out all your hair. For much-needed hydration, apply a deep-conditioning mask every time you wash.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
DETANGLING SPRAY like Graham Webb the Untangler Light Detangling Spray, $11.49

WIDE-TOOTH COMB like Conair Styling Essentials 3-in-1 Comb, $1.87

HYDRATING MASK like Motions at Home Deep Penetrating Treatment, $5.99
Ben Goldstein
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Hairstyle Handbook

A blowout is the best way to make short, thick hair look polished. Start by distributing a liberal amount of blow-dry lotion throughout your tresses. Separate top and bottom sections and begin drying underneath, curling hair around a round brush. Then, do the same with the top section. Smooth flyaways with shine serum. Patience is important — the more time you spend, the better it will look.

MARIE CLAIRE RECOMMENDS
BLOW-DRY LOTION like Redken 02 Satinwear Ultimate Blow Dry Lotion, $19.50

ROUND BRUSH like Conair Performers Full Round 100% Boar Bristle Brush, $10.99

SHINE SERUM like GHD Shining Serum, $18