Like many musicians who constantly re-invent themselves — Lady Gaga and Madonna are two of many — R&B sensation Rihanna is a woman who isn’t afraid of change. From a fiery red bob to straight blonde locks; from a mop of honey-brown ringlets to a textured black pixie — nothing is off limits for this well-loved performer.
“Rihanna is a real style chameleon, especially when it comes to hair,” says celebrity stylist George Gonzalez, owner of George The Salon. “She isn’t afraid to take risks and then bring it right back to be on trend.”
With the help of Gonzalez, I’ve pulled 11 fabulous hairstyles worn by Rihanna over the years. Check out each look for styling techniques, hair advice and product recommendations.
Low Profile Side Pony
For her “Unapologetic” album launch in NYC, Rihanna showed up looking calm, cool and collected. To re-create her low profile pony, curl small sections with a professional grade curling wand (try NuMe’s Classic Curling Wand). Make sure you curl each section with the same sized barrel and in the same way so they create a uniform curl once pulled together. Pin one section of the bangs back behind the ear and throw on a head scarf and chic glasses to seal the deal.
Bouncy Blonde Ringlets
“This style showcases and accentuates Rihanna’s layers, allowing for her waves to create just enough volume and bounce while maintaining soft, loosely sculpted curls,” notes Gonzalez, who’s worked with Oprah for 11 years. As for that shade of blonde, Gonzalez has one piece of advice: Never dye from the box. “Always visit your local salon to ensure the service is done right the first time,” he says. “Your colorist will make sure the blonde you desire compliments the undertones in your skin to get the best results possible.”
Wet, Glossy Curls
Rihanna looked nothing short of royal when she was named “Queen of the 2012 West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval.” Her black-as-night locks looked near wet they were so glossy. To get a similar look, use a thick hair serum (try It’s a 10 Miracle Styling Serum) on wet hair and twist with your fingers to set. Let it air dry and apply a high-shine spray for even more gloss.
Bouncy and Honey-Brown
Rihanna was paying homage to Tina Turner with this look. Only instead of copying Turner’s look outright, she modernized it by making her curls soft and voluminous. To get curls like Rihanna’s, Gonzalez recommends using a 13 mm curling wand and gathering hair into four sections. “Take 1 in. sections, wrapping hair around the barrel, making sure the tip is pointing down. Don’t be afraid to get close to your scalp wrapping from root to tip. Repeat this process until completed and then shake with your hands for added volume and oomph.”
Here we see Rihanna wearing her natural hair color in pixie form at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. While the super short look still turned heads, it doesn’t distract from her gorgeous face. In fact, this style shows of Rihanna’s bone structure and flawless skin. If you dare to chop it all off, talk to your stylist about what kind of pixie is most flattering to your face.
Punk Meets Glam
Who’s scared of a little razor action? Not Rihanna. At the 2012 Los Angeles premiere of “Battleship,” the fearless singer showed up rocking a partially shaved head on one side and fabulously flowing waves on the other. To re-create this look, you need a double serving of courage. A hair wax that softens your coiffure and reduces frizz helps, too. Try Jonathan Product’s Green Rootine Pure Paste.
Face Framing Fringe
“Rihanna brings some of her signature edge by adding a textured bang. The sides are longer to frame her face while the rest of her fringe is softly pieced to graze just above her eyes,” notes Gonzalez, who’s salon was recently chosen by Refinery29 as the “Best Bang Trim” in Chicago. Fringe tip: “I always like to style bangs from wet to dry to get the best results. Use a water bottle to lightly mist the area before drying for a fresher look.”
Despite the funk appeal of this updo worn by Rihanna at the “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversions” Costume Institute Gala, she looks quite regal. “A rather antiquated updo is transformed just by adding large twists and pompadour-like features,” says Gonzalez. “She further claims the style as her own by shaving the sides of her head to make this look anything but boring.”
While many women fear looking clownish in a red this vibrant, Rihanna wears her fiery red locks like it’s NBD. It’s important to note that red hair dyes fade very quickly, so keeping your hair this rich-looking requires serious upkeep. Your best bet is to have your hair stylist dye your hair with quality products and then use color-shielding hair products, such as Alfaparf Milano’s Semi De Lino Diamante Color Protection line.
Large, Silky Curls
“The key to re-creating a style like this is cutting an angled fringe with some of the sections skimming the tip of the nose,” says Gonzalez. This allows hair to effortless sweep from one side to the other. He adds, “There is a lot of bounce and movement to this style thanks to a round brush and a large barrel curling iron.” To re-create, use a round brush to flip out bangs (a la Farrah Fawcett) and use a 1 1/2 in. curling iron to form billowy waves. “Pull one side up and away to complete and finish with hairspray.
So far we’ve shown Rihanna wearing her blonde hair in curls and in an updo with face framing fringe. This style has to be my favorite of the blonde looks, though. To re-create the look, straighten sections of hair (avoid getting your hair stick straight, though) and use a texturizing spray for a piece-y finish. Try Neuma’s neuStyling Texturizer.