Yes, their ability to turn anything they touch into fashion gold is something to behold, but the allure and mystery surrounding Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s hair has been a point of fascination for nearly 20 years as well. Yes, since their teens, the designing duo has managed to keep eyes fixated on their effortless boho-meets-NYC-chic style, which is often anchored by their perfectly imperfect waves.
How does one even begin to describe this hair that’s become a signature for The Row founders? Wavy, yet not too wavy? Done, yet undone? Bedhead with a touch of styling? It all remains a mystery, much like most things surrounding Ashley and Mary-Kate — until now. Their longtime hairstylist and Dove celebrity stylist (and creative consultant) Mark Townsend recently sat down with The Zoe Report (in an interview arranged by Dove) to discuss all things hair, and that included that of his two much-loved clients, who he’s worked with since they were teenagers.
According to the hair guru, perfecting the strategically disheveled waves Ashley and Mary-Kate are known for took some time, and was definitely a group effort. "It took all three of us quite a while to get [the look] down," said Townsend. "[...] I didn't think it would become a trend."
And how does one emulate this trend, you ask? According to Townsend (who also counts Rachel Weisz and Dakota Johnson as clients), it all comes down to a little hair discipline. "[Ashley and Mary-Kate] are photographed the second they leave their homes, these days," explains the hair stylist. "And you see them with wet hair all the time. They literally have trained themselves to wash, condition, and brush out their hair while they're in the shower — and then they don't touch it. They're 100 percent air-dry girls now."
Fair enough. But even au naturel looks call for some help to keep frizz and humidity at bay. "They make sure they put the right oil in when it's still wet, and they've always experimented with new products I'm working on with Dove. I get to try them all out on their hair."
The hair guru added that Ashley and Mary-Kate have also come to swear by one of his own DIY concoctions (while on vacation specifically) to keep their hair hydrated. "I've always made a homemade conditioner," he explains. "It's a cup of coconut oil, raw and refined, a tablespoon each of almond, jojoba, and macadamia oils. I used to do a drop or two of carrot oil because it's so good for shine, but I've noticed it can stain blondes just a smidge, so I've taken it out."
One of the most surprising takeaways from TZR's interview with Townsend was how often he actually freshens up the style icons' hair. "I haven't cut Ashley's hair in about a year, because she's passionate about long hair right now" he says, admitting it's probably been even longer for Mary-Kate. "We always do their big haircuts in April, before Met Ball and CFDA, and both have been canceled."
To keep the designers' hair from looking like it's only cut once a year, Townsend uses what he calls a "haircut in a bottle": Virtue Labs' Split-End Serum. "It's something I use for photoshoots and especially when my clients walk onto a red carpet," he says. "I put it in my hands and break it through the hair to seal up the ends. It's a quick fix I use all the time."
And that's not to say Townsend hasn't learned a thing or two from his clients either. Ashley, who washes her hair daily because "she likes the feeling of clean hair," introduced Townsend to one of his now-favorite products, which he also passes on to other A-list clients. "[Ashley's] the one who turned me on to Iles Formula, which is her go-to conditioner," he explains. "It's incredible. Last summer, I did a movie with Dakota Johnson and you literally need to do the same hair every single day. So, for continuity reasons, it's not a good time to try a new shampoo or conditioner because the hair has to dry the same way every day. So I got Dakota on that conditioner."
As for Mary-Kate, Townsend explains she's a bit more relaxed with her haircare, going some four or five days between washes. Which brings up another crucial component to the designers' hair regimen. "Dry shampoo is probably their most go-to product," says Townsend. "They just re-zhuzh their hair throughout the day. They both let their hair air-dry, almost always in a middle part, so it can dry a little flat. They use dry shampoo to help with that."
The hairstylist says both women have application down to a science (and even launched their own dry shampoo formula for Elizabeth and James). "They spray directly above the head, leave it far enough away [eight to 10 inches from the hair], and massage it into their roots, so it stays in and gives them a little bit of lift," explains Townsend, who adds that dry shampoo is one of the products most often used incorrectly. "For me, it's the most misunderstood product out there still. There's a dry shampoo for everybody out there, so to hear someone say, 'dry shampoo doesn't work for me,' it takes a lot for me to not turnaround and say, 'no, you're wrong.'"
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.