What do Rihanna, Zendaya, and Kerry Washington all have in common? Well, besides being three of the most iconic Black women of our time, they all count Ursula Stephen as their personal hairstylist. With a stacked celebrity client list and a booming Brooklyn salon, Stephen is one of the most influential women in the hair industry.
So, of course, when the opportunity to receive personalized hair care advice from her presented itself, I jumped at the chance. At the start of Fall, I eagerly hopped on a video call with Stephen—who is partnered with drugstore favorite Dove—armed with a list of questions about the best way to care for natural hair. When she joined the call, she immediately greeted me with a warm, bubbly smile and was ready to answer all of my burning hair questions. During our one-on-one chat, Stephens provided me with an arsenal of tips and tricks to care for my curls during the cooler months.
Ahead, I’m sharing five things Stephens taught me during our session so we can all step up our wash day routines.
1. Apply your leave-in conditioner before any other styling products.
After shampooing and conditioning, your leave-in conditioner should be the next product you reach for. “You always want to put your leave-in conditioner in your hair first because that is going to protect your hair from the environment, the heat, and is going to get the cuticles ready for styling,” Stephen says. She recommends the Dove Amplified Textures Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner. After you apply your leave-in, Stephen says you can follow it up with a cream, gel, or oil depending on the style you want to achieve.
2. Detangle your hair before you step foot in the shower.
Having to work through tough knots and tangles is why so many of us dread wash days. To make things easier, Stephen encourages you to start the process before you hop in the shower. “I think detangling should start even before you shampoo. You have to comb through the hair, loosen the dirt, and loosen the tangles. If you try to wash it before detangling, that’s a disaster,” she says.
If you have a lot of hair, Stephen recommends sectioning your hair into braids to make it easier to manage. “You can even go in the shower with the big plaits and let the water soak them and then unravel them,” the pro stylist says. “Let the water help you detangle. Once you shampoo and condition, you want to always do a comb through with your conditioner. That's the best time to detangle and it's the easiest time.”
3. It’s better to wash your hair in the shower than the sink.
If you’re one to wash your hair in the sink, you may want to reconsider. “It’s better to wash in the shower because it keeps the hair downward. Once it goes upside down, your hair can end up getting more tangles,” Stephen says.
4. Rinse your hair with cool water before getting out of the shower.
Before you hop out the shower, give your hair a cool rinse. “The cool water helps to seal the hair’s cuticle, brings out more shine in the hair, and helps keep tangles at a minimum,” Stephen explains.
5. When it comes to twist-outs and braid-outs, begin with the end in mind.
If you like to style your hair in twist-outs and braid-outs, there are a few things you should keep in mind to achieve the best results. “First, figure out the direction you want to go in and twist the hair in that direction so there’s not that much pulling and manipulation after it's dry,” Stephen tells me.
She also shared that the way to create less frizzy twists and braids is to make them bigger. “Bigger sections give you more of a beautiful definition. When you make them too small, it gets too wiry and they get frizzy quickly,” Stephen points out. If you’re looking for a product to elevate your twisted or braided style, the hair care expert says the Dove Amplified Textures Twist In Moisture Shaping Butter Cream is a perfect choice.