LA Times Featuring's Ron Robinson: The taming of the tresses

The taming of the tresses

Get fly-away hair under control with a mix of styling products and chic looks that can take you from the beach to the red carpet.

By Alene Dawson, Special to the Los Angeles Times

June 13, 2010

The words “Oh, behave!” — uttered in imitation of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers’ voice — come to mind when you’re standing in front of the mirror trying to tame out-of-control hair on the hottest days of summer, whether at home or vacationing in exotic humid climes. And though a hairstyle that vacillates between something like a cotton ball and Cameron Diaz’s coif in “Being John Malkovich” certainly has its charms, it isn’t for everyone on every occasion.

Luckily, there are humidity-fighting products and chic summer hairstyles that can help.

Celebrity stylist Harry Josh, who has coiffed notables including Gisele Bündchen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cyrus, has tons of tips. He’s dealt with hair in all kinds of weather, splitting his time between the Serge Normant at John Frieda salons in Los Angeles and New York. “I’m the ambassador when it comes to frizzy hair,” Josh says. “It’s such a worldwide issue!”

For kinky and curly hair, Josh says the key to fighting frizz is product application. “What most people end up doing is washing their hair, then they come out of the shower, put a towel on their head, and then they moisturize their legs and maybe put some mascara on, and then towel-dry their hair,” Josh says. “And then they go out into the humidity and boom — it’s frizzy.”

Instead, Josh recommends starting with de-frizzing shampoos and conditioners that protect, moisturize and control, such as John Frieda Frizz-Ease Smooth Start Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner ($5.49). Other shampoo/conditioner options include Kerastase Oleo-Relax (about $38); Pureology Super Smooth ($21.99 and up); L’Oreal Everpure Smooth ($6.99); Redken Smooth Down Anti-Frizz ($14.99); Matrix Sleek Look ($14.99 and up); and Aveda Be Curly ($20.99).

Josh warns against “roughing up” hair while towel drying — it creates static and frizz. “Squish the hair with the towel so that you’re not damaging it,” he says. But don’t over-dry because to fight frizz you have to put the product into sopping wet hair. De-frizzing and anti-humectant products include John Frieda Frizz-Ease Original Formula Hair Serum ($6.99 and up); Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum, 5.1 ($20); Alberto VO5 Sheer Hairdressing Weightless Leave-In Anti-Frizz & Shine Crème ($5.99); Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner ($16.99); Redken Smooth Down Sleek Obedience Anti-Frizz Serum ($17); L’Oreal Smooth Frizz-Free Serum ($8.99); Kerastase Serum Oleo-Relax (26.95); Phyto Phytodefrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm ($26); and Matrix Sleek Look Serum ($14.95). Read labels and buy for your specific hair type.

When air-drying hair naturally, Josh recommends Kerastase Elasto Curl for its hold power instead of a serum, because serums largely just de-frizz without giving hair shape. For women with kinky/curly medium to thick hair, Josh recommends emulsifying in your hands two quarter-sized dabs of Elasto Curl cream and a pump of Frizz-Ease serum. Start applying on the ends of your hair and work your way up, concentrating on the frizziest areas. For thinner or finer hair, use a smaller amount of the concoction.

Women with frizzy straight hair need to style by blow-drying, Josh says, or gather hair into off-the-face styles, such as a braid. “Hair accessories these past two years have never been better — you used to think of ‘junior’ when you thought of hair accessories; but now Louis Vuitton, Chanel, they’re all making these beautiful clips. It’s a great way to make your hair look perfect.”

For the die-hard blow-dryer/straight hair fanatic: Use serums with thermal and UV protection for heat styling. But, Josh warns, “You can’t get a salon-style blowout with a drugstore blow-dryer because what you’re paying for is the engine that is very strong and very hot.” He calls the FHI and the T3 the Maseratis of blow-dryers but says that the Super Solano for about $100 also does the trick. Major hint: Always use your blow-dryer with its nozzle attachment. “It’s been designed that way by the professionals because it creates shine,” says Josh, who likes the Mason Pearson brush (about $125 and up) and the Marilyn brush ($15) for straightening hair. “Stay away from metal brushes, I find that they’re not great for straightening and de-frizzing hair in the summer,” he says. But for a straight look in humid conditions, “The flat iron is your best friend.” He cautions against overdoing it since using a flat iron can be damaging, but for an occasional special night out, flat-ironed hair can look fantastic.

Josh suggests keratin treatments (such as Brazilian Blowout) for the hardest-to-tame hair, but be warned: Keratin treatments are controversial, and some women report hair damage after use. Never use formulas with formaldehyde. “There is evidence that high levels of formaldehyde can be carcinogenic and can cause allergic reactions,” says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, founder of And even keratin treatments that say they are “formaldehyde free” may use aldehyde, which Robinson says is from the same family of organic compounds, so use caution.

If you wear extensions or a weave, consider switching to a curly texture that doesn’t need styling and blending the faux hair with your own humidity-induced frizzy tresses.

Josh recommends several go-to chic hairstyles for summer:

Side braid

“It’s really easy to do, and it’s really cool and fresh,” Josh says. “The key to making the side braid look interesting is to make sure it looks rough and not clean and nerdy. The more organic and loose it is the better it will look.”

How to:

1) Gather your hair to the side of your head opposite your natural part (if your hair parts in the center you can go to either side).

2) Do a basic braid down one side and secure with an elastic band.

3) Pull it apart with your fingers and let a few pieces fall out, including long bangs, so that it looks casual and undone.

Top knot

A bun piled on top of the head feels cool and can look special with accessories tucked in.

How to:

1) Gather all hair high on top of the head. Don’t use an elastic if you’re going to wear a messy bun unless you have really thick hair (in which case you have to use an elastic so the bun will hold; you can disguise it by wrapping some hair around it).

2) Wrap hair around itself completely into a bun and tuck the ends underneath the bun.

3) Use hair pins to secure so that they disappear under the bun locking underneath, creating a little foundation so that the bun doesn’t move around.

Beachy, wavy hair

Mousse, “my best friend for summer,” Josh says, helps create this look.

How to:

If you have curly hair and are letting your hair air dry:

1) Mousse wet or dry hair

2) Use a diffuser to create a bend if your hair doesn’t have enough. To do this, apply a curl-enhancing product to hair and then tilt your head drastically to one side (so far that hair falls straight down) and gently place hair within the diffuser on low heat to dry, and scrunch with your fingers to create the bend.

“It’s really good to do this at night and then sleep on it because it gives you that ‘I didn’t style my hair’ texture,” Josh says.

For straight hair or if you want to refine your curls:

1) Use a curling iron vertically rather than horizontally

2) Wrap the hair around the iron instead of clamping hair at the bottom and rolling it up. “If you start out at the bottom you end up getting this ringlet like Nellie Oleson on ‘Little House On the Prairie'” Josh says.

3) If you want a little texture to the hair, you have to leave out the half-inch tip on the bottom.

4) Curl the hair that frames your face back and away from the face. If you want a directional look, wrap the rest of the hair in the same direction; for a tousled look, curl in different directions in a haphazard way.

Slicked back and sleek

For a sleek beach or pool-side look, put conditioner or chlorine/UV protector in hair and slick back into a knot at the nape of the neck, securing with a hair elastic or pins.

Whether your hair is chemically relaxed, colored, highlighted or otherwise stressed, take extra care not to incur additional damage and prevent hair from turning strange colors from the sun and chlorine. Products to slick on in the sun include: Kerastase Soleil Masque UV Defense Active conditioner (about $45); Phyto Plage After Sun Repair Mask (about $21); Phyto Protective Beach Spray With Olive Oil Extract ($18); Redken Color Extend Sun After-Sun Mask ($14.25); Leonor Greyl Huile de Palme for Dry Hair ($42); Ouidad Sun Shield Sun & Sport Leave-In Spray ($20); MoroccanOil Intense Hydrating Mask ($30); and Barex Sun Essential Shampoo and Conditioner ($23-$27). For a natural alternative, Josh recommends an avocado and olive oil mixture to slick on instead.

If all else fails, consider embracing your afro-puff. Or just plop on a stylish sun hat and be off to enjoy a summer day.