Get the Hair You Want with the Hair You Have

Just because you weren't born with your ideal mane doesn't mean you can't get it. Here, pro tips, product must-haves, and styling secrets for scoring locks you'll love — and others will covet.

Ben Goldstein
Get the Color You Crave

It's an age-old question: To color at home or not to color at home? For more than just subtle changes or maintenance, see a pro to avoid disasters, and be sure to be up front with him or her about any previous chemical processing you've had done.

As for deciding what type of color will work for you, a semipermanent will mask stray grays for up to three months before requiring touch-ups, while a permanent color will totally disguise grays (though you'll see regrowth in four to six weeks). Stay within the realm of your true hair color — two to three shades lighter or darker than the one you were born with — for the most natural results, advises Bridgette Hill, a colorist at the Peter Coppola Salon in New York City. And avoid going too gold, which looks artificial on everyone. To create the illusion of fullness — and avoid frequent touch-ups — try this trick from Patrick O'Hara, owner of the eponymous salon in Dallas: Weave darker highlights into the hair underneath your top layers. The contrasting shade will peek out whenever your hair moves. So sexy.

MC recommends: Clairol Natural Instincts in Cinaberry

Find a New Style

"If you want to modernize your look, go for a cut that has charm straight from the pillow" — meaning slightly scruffy and tousled — says Danilo, a Los Angeles and NYC-based celebrity stylist. There are several ways to achieve such a look, including floppy bangs that dust your eyebrows and long, shaggy layers. If you have short hair, Danilo favors choppy looks (like Selma Blair's), which can be "roughed up" with styling products.

Color can also be used to give your hair added chic: Place it on just the ends of your hair for a dramatic effect or use it all over to enhance layers. Letting your hair go curly after you've been straightening it for years can also provide some panache. "As beautiful and dramatic as smooth hair is, we've seen so much of it that most people's eyes are immune to it," says Danilo.

MC recommends: Matrix Dirty Trix Clay

Get Great Volume

Turn Up the Volume

Volumizing shampoos really do work: Up to 50 percent of hair's volume and lift are created in the shower, says Dianna Kenneally, a senior scientist with Physique. Look for a volumizing shampoo with the ingredient polyquaternium-10, which, in addition to enhancing body, also detangles hair (often a concern for those with limp hair, since it tends to be fine and snarl-prone).

To style: Choose a volumizing mousse that contains copolymers, such as polyquaternium-4. These ingredients hold your hair away from your scalp, creating long-lasting lift. Enhance the lift by flipping your hair over while you blow-dry and using a big, round brush to finish styling. Lightening your hair — even if it's just a few highlights — also boosts body by slightly swelling the hair shaft, says Gary Howse, co-owner of the Gary Manuel Salon in Seattle. And never underestimate a good cut: A shoulder-length look with long layers is key.

MC recommends: Pantene Pro-V Mousse, Dove Extra Volume Shampoo

Create Curls

To make waves: You can either get a perm (for, you guessed it, almost permanent results) or attempt to create curls yourself. Although today's home-perming kits are gentler and less stinky than they used to be, if it's your first perm, you may want to leave it to a pro. Professionals know what size rods produce the curls you want, how tight to pull them, and how much chemical solution your hair needs, which is hard to monitor at home, according to Sam Brocato, a Baton Rouge, LA, stylist.

For one-day curls: Brocato recommends tearing up an old T-shirt into 12 to 15 cloth strips and dousing them with volumizing spray. Next, roll up your damp hair in the strips, knotting the ends to secure them. Last, blow-dry the strips, then allow the curls to set for an additional 15 minutes. Undo and finger-comb hair.

MC recommends: Schwarzkopf Osis Hairbody Style & Care Spray

Iron Out the Kinks

You have two choices: thermal reconditioning (for permanent flattening) or a good blowout (which lasts until your next shampoo). "The major difference between a traditional relaxer and thermal reconditioning is that reconditioning uses heat, which gets the hair even smoother," says Michelle Charles, a "retexturizing specialist" at the John Barrett Salon in New York City. Expect to pay up to $900, plus thrice yearly touch-ups, which cost less.

For less expensive but not as long-lasting results, Charles suggests prepping damp hair with straightening lotion, then blowing it dry using a medium-to-large round, natural-bristle brush. Work in small sections, starting around your face (where waves emerge first). Finish with a flat iron.

MC recommends: Frédéric Fekkai brush

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