As the countdown begins to the Valentine’s Day opening of Fifty Shades of Grey, the film’s star Dakota Johnson is in New York City—with her hairstylist, Mark Townsend, in tow, naturally. Townsend, who also tends the tresses of celebs like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Jennifer Lawrence dishes on Johnson’s bangs and beachy, easy style—both on and off the red carpet.
How did you start working with Dakota?
I did Dakota’s hair for a Gucci event in L.A. last year. She had just found out she was cast in Fifty Shades of Grey a few days before—at this point she had no bangs and her hair was blonde—and I’ve been doing her hair for all her major events since then.
What do you like about her?
She is Hollywood royalty and her grandmother [Tippi Hedren] is one of my main references hair-wise. We’re also always on the same page about hairstyles. For the Gucci event this year, she showed up with her own pictures of mohawks that we used as inspiration. It was a crazy look, but also very fitting for her aesthetic. She can be really versatile. But, of course, even with a mohawk, we kept a little bit of her signature fringe, too.
Speaking of which, tell us about the bangs—we love them.
I’m so into fringe right now! I didn’t cut her bangs for the movie, but those layers open up her face in such a beautiful way. When I’m styling her, I think a lot about Jane Birkin—that effortless, breezy hair—but the other nice thing about fringe is it’s a hairstyle all on its own. You can do what you want with the rest of your hair—a messy bun, a ponytail, natural waves—as long as you spend the time on the bangs.
So, for those of us dying to get her cut, what are your guidelines to the fringe?
Think about the cut this way: If the ideal face shape is an oval, you use fringe to create the illusion of that shape and bring out your face. It works with long hair—I’m a child of the 90’s, I love long hair—but it also looks really nice with the long bob so many women are doing now.
Can you give us a step-by-step of how you style Dakota’s hair?
Dakota does have a cowlick, so I always start with the bangs while they’re wet and blowdry them into the direction I want them to go. I don’t use hair product on bangs since women touch them all day and that adds natural oils, but I always finish with dry shampoo, sort of like an alternative to hairspray. It keeps the volume and freshness, and the bangs can still move. I’m obsessed with R + Co’s Death Valley Dry Shampoo. It gives hair a sort of beachy, slightly chunky texture.
How about the rest of the hair?
Dakota has really straight hair naturally. I use a volumizing spray at her roots like Dove Root Lift Spray and a volumizing mousse or styling lotion through her hair and then rough dry it about 90 percent. Then I use a round brush or Mason Pearson brush to finish blowdrying. At the end, I apply a little a salt spray onto my hands and scrunch it through the hair. Since salt sprays are usually wet, I don’t want to re-wet the finished style, so when I spray it onto my hands first then I am only adding the texturizing salt. I like Toni&Guy Casual Sea Salt Texturising Spray, TreSemme Expert Selection perfectly (un)Done Sea Salt Spray, and R + Co Rockaway Salt Spray.
Do you have a funny Dakota story?
Well, I was up extra early this morning to do her hair for The Today Show and when she showed up she had cut her own bangs! I don’t advise cutting one’s own bangs, but they looked great. A little choppier than I usually do them, but it’s what she wanted. So, if you watch her segment, bangs cut by Dakota!