No one does a messy bun (AKA: upgraded gym hair) like Mark Townsend—the master of Hollywood’s done, un-done look. “I love hair to look like if I took one pin out, the whole thing would come cascading down,” says Townsend. “But there are actually dozens of hair pins in there to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
Townsend has been Hollywood’s go-to guy since 2000, working with everyone from Minka Kelly and the Olsen twins to Dakota Johnson and Gal Gadot. But despite all of the fancy mousse and hairspray sent his way, Townsend has found some of his favorite products at the drugstore—including the ultra-affordable bobby pin he sent Lydia Hearst on the red carpet with.
When we caught up, I asked him how to shop for hair products without breaking the bank—and let me tell you, the guy knows how to stretch a Benjamin. Read on for his must-haves.
Keep scrolling for all the items that Townsend reaches for under $100.
“I start every hairstyle with dry shampoo. Clean hair has no guts or hold. So, I spray dry shampoo on a flat brush and brush it through from roots to ends to give hair a little grip. Having one can of this dry shampoo is like having five hair products with me,” Townsend tells me. “I use it as a volumizer, texturizer, to clean the scalp and hair. I also spray bobby pins with dry shampoo before using them to keep them from slipping out—I had a hairpin split out on the red carpet years ago and I vowed to never let it happen again.”
“I love putting little braids in the hair,” says Mark. “Mary-Kate and I always put a hidden braid somewhere and these are the best because they don’t snag or stretch. You can reuse them over and over again.”
“Brushing out your hair to get rid of flyaways will immediately flatten any height you have,” explains Mark. “So, spray some hairspray on a natural bristle toothbrush (the alcohol in the hairspray will melt a plastic one) and gently lay down any flyaway hairs. It’s an amazing trick for detailing a volumized look.”
“Once I sent Mary-Kate to the Met Ball with nothing but coconut oil in her hair,” reveals Townsend. “Her inspiration was that she raked her fingers through her hair and tossed it up—she wanted it to look, and stay, wet-looking in a bun. So, I sat there with a jar of unrefined coconut oil, combed it through her hair, and pinned it up. Her hair was so soft for two weeks after that because we used so much. The actual molecule is small enough that it can penetrate inside the hair, making it a really amazing hair conditioner. It’s pretty heavy so use it as a mask from three-quarters down your hair to the ends.”
“Nothing in the world is worse for your hair than using a terry cloth towel turban,” explains Townsend. “It doesn’t matter how expensive your towel is or what kind of fabric softener you use—cotton is meant to absorb moisture, so it naturally dries and snaps hair. Instead, use a microfiber turban, but make sure you don’t pull it too tight. This one has a button in the back, which makes it easy to use backwards. Don’t flip upside down to put it on (this is aggressive on your fragile hairline). Rather put the button at your forehead, make a low ponytail, and pull it up.”
“I’ve been loving this super light styling cream,” says Townsend. “It really keeps waves and curl pattern, but it doesn’t weight down the hair.”
“All of my round brushes are Spornette mixed bristle,” says Mark. “The longer, white plastic bristles pick the hair up from the scalp and pushes it into the natural, small back boar bristles, which smoothes hair. It gives you volume and smoothness at the same time.”
If you have 100 more bucks to spend after Townsend’s picks, here’s how a top dermatologist would spend $100 on beauty and here’s how Beyonce’s makeup artist would dole out his cash.
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