It might be a slight stretch to say that the red carpet can make or break a celebrity’s career…but we’re going to say it anyway. After all, this is the season when up-and-comers make their Hollywood debut, new style and beauty icons are created (hi, Lupita!), and the red carpet regulars prove they’ve still got it. Celebrity hairstylist Adir Abergel is a pro in all three of these categories, having prepped the strands of stars like Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, and, most recently, Reese Witherspoon for some of their most iconic red carpet moments.
We got a chance to chat with the man behind some of the best-coiffed manes in Hollywood, and to ask him all of our pressing red-carpet hair questions (including how exactly he comes up with the looks, as well as the secret to mastering his signature waves). Turns out, Abergel is every bit as personable and generous with knowledge as he is skilled—keep scrolling to see his answers!
Here’s a little secret: Color your hair a full week before a big event, not right before. “I don’t like completely fresh hair color,” Abergel says. “I like color that oxidizes a little bit, so it looks more natural.” Before he sees clients like Kristen Stewart or Amber Heard, he asks them to always shampoo and condition their hair—even if the final look is one that’s undone or mussed-up. “I can always dirty it up,” he explains.
Another trick he shares with all of his clients? Only use conditioner from mid-shaft to your ends, to avoid weighing down your hair at the roots.
When it comes to creating soft, moveable waves, Abergel says you have to think backwards. “It’s all about the right foundation,” he says. “For Reese’s waves at this year’s Golden Globes, I used the Luxurious Volume Root Booster Lotion ($8) from John Frieda. It created the right ‘memory’ at the foundation, which is the most important.” (By memory, he means your hair’s ability to hold shape during styling.) He explains that the trick is to use any kind of volumizer—whether it’s a mousse or spray—to help expand the cuticle. And be sure to apply it throughout your hair, not just at the roots.
Abergel also recommends spritzing a soft-hold hairspray, like John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Keraflex Flexible Hold Hairspray ($10), on each strand before curling your hair to help the waves last, as well as opting for a bigger curling iron to create natural effect. When curling, he says to always make sure you leave the ends out. And finally, try adding a spritz of dry shampoo before your final hairspray to set the style and get a more textured, voluminous finish.
Abergel is a pro at creating deep, dramatic side parts on celebrities like Witherspoon, as well as Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence, and more. To create your own, he says, “Use your eyebrow as the mark. The part should start either at the highest arch of your brow or right at the end of your eyebrow for a more dramatic effect.” He warns that you should never go deeper than where your eyebrow ends, for the sake of keeping the look somewhat natural.
The idea is for the updo to look effortless and loose, like “Sienna Miller twisted her hair up and just threw it up in a bun or topknot,” says Abergel. The key to making it modern, not bouffant-y? “I always backcomb the hair, then smooth it out with a paddle brush on the top sections,” he spills. “The backcombing adds some grip and volume on the bottom section, which is especially helpful once you slide in the bobby pins and hair pins.”
We had to ask Abergel for his advice on dressing up shorter strands. Turns out, the secret is in the cut. “You have to make sure the back isn’t too long, so that it doesn’t look like a mullet,” he says. “It’s very easy with short hair, when you’re growing it out, for the proportion of your original style to change.” As for styling, he says it’s all about finding the right pomade (look for one adds texture and shape without a too-shiny finish) which he recommends only putting through dry strands, never wet.
Here’s a braid secret Abergel uses for almost every red carpet: Braid tightly at first, and then loosen it up. “I’ll spray a hairspray, like John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Keraflex Flexible Hold Hairspray ($10), throughout the strands after braiding, and then open it up with my hands to deconstruct it,” he says.
About his creative process behind each look, Abergel explains, “For me, it always starts with the dress. I get to look at the dress, I get to look at the lines, I get to look at the construction, and the texture…I kind of look at all of it as if it were hair. What are the elements from it that I can pick up?” After that, he pulls inspiration images from visionary books and past red carpet looks, and then presents it to his client for her opinion. “From that point, I listen to where my client is at, and what is going to make her feel most beautiful, most secure,” he says. “I never really come with one finished idea, because I love women and I love empowering them. I love when they feel the most powerful.” With a mindset like that, it’s no surprise Hollywood’s best-tressed leading ladies call on him time and time again.