With curly hair, the idea of an easy updo — one that isn’t just a bun or a sad, floppy ponytail — can seem as unimaginable as a Kardashian without contour. In search of a better (but still easy) way to style curls up and away from the face, the Cut spoke to celebrity hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez, who counts Alicia Keys and Shakira as clients. Revisiting a style she once created for Keys, Alvarez demonstrated how anyone, but especially curly ladies, can elevate the boring ponytail into a mohawk-inspired updo. It’s an easy style that requires only an elementary understanding of braiding, and will keep your neck cool and breezy in the dog days of summer.
Step 1: Take a nickle-size amount of clear gel or pomade and smooth it over the edges of dry, curly hair. This manages flyaways, and makes hair look healthy and shiny. Alvarez recommends Ouidad’s Clear Control Pomade, because it’s not sticky and fights frizz in humid conditions.
Step 2: Starting at the forehead, part hair in a U shape that reaches back toward the crown, and secure this section with a clip so it’s out of the way. Take a coarse, natural-bristle brush to smooth the sides of the bottom section of hair and tie it with a ponytail holder near the bottom of the U part, about an inch or so above the ears. The natural brush smooths curly hair much more effectively than plastic options.
Step 3: Now create a loose French braid with the top section above the U. For extra volume at the top, carefully pull small sections of the braid near the forehead up, for added height.
Step 4: When the braid is complete, wrap it around the top of the pony to hide the elastic holder, tucking the end of the braid under the ponytail.
Step 5: Paying special attention to the sides and edges, mist hair with a flexible-hold spray. This will further ensure the style stays smooth and frizz-free. Alvarez recommends Ecru’s Sunlight Styling Spray.
Step 6: The final look.