You probably know Taraji P. Henson as the veteran actress lauded for her stellar performances portraying the boundary-shattering mathematician Katherine Johnson in
Hidden Figures or the fictional, renegade matriarch Cookie Lyon in Fox’s Empire. Her acting chops are undisputed—that’s just a fact. But if you follow Henson on social media or pay attention to her red carpet appearances, you may have noticed another strength of hers: She’s seriously adventurous when it comes to her hair. A self-proclaimed hair chameleon, Henson cycles through braids, bobs, curls, and more vibrant hair colors than just about anyone in Hollywood without ever skipping a beat. She makes it looks easy, but as she told Who What Wear in a recent exclusive interview, this wasn’t always the case.
“When I moved to Hollywood, I had to start wearing weaves because Hollywood hadn’t embraced Black women’s natural hair yet,” she explained. “But, you know, you just don’t put a weave in your hair and say, ‘that’s it’. Sometimes a weave is way more work than a natural because you’re washing two different hairs; you’re washing the weave hair and you have to get down underneath all of that and tend to your own scalp and hair.” And what happened when she couldn’t find products that met this need? She created a haircare line,
TPH by Taraji, based on formulations she’d been creating for herself in her kitchen.
“I didn’t see anything out there that catered to this to my needs, so like Black people do when we’ve been deprived or we don’t have something, we create it,” she said. A year and some change into the journey and Henson is a full-fledged beauty maven. She recently added a new extension to her product line, which was informed by a call from her customers for moisturizing styling products. But outside of her own line, Henson has a whole host of hair and beauty tips she swears by for keeping herself looking and feeling her best as she embarks into a brand new decade, her 50s. Keep scrolling to see the seven genius tips we learned from her in under 10 minutes.
“I love healthy hair. I’ve always been about healthy hair and scalp since I was a little,” Henson told us. She recalls sitting in her aunt’s garage as a kid scratching her cousin’s scalp and even getting her first relaxer sitting around the kitchen table at her grandmother’s house. But since transitioning to natural hair (she was way ahead of the curve—a hairstylist on the set of her 2001 film Baby Boy encouraged her to go natural), she’s learned the importance of adequate moisture. “My hair is always lacking in moisture. I have to have moisture; I gotta have it,” she says od her 4c hair type that’s prone to dryness and intense shrinkage. The new offerings are infused with natural ingredients like coconut oil, mango seed butter, and pequi oil for soft, smooth strands.
Above all else, Henson knows that scalp care is just as, if not more important, than anything you put in the lengths of your hair. That’s why her brand launched with a set of products specifically made for the scalp.”TPH by Taraji is literally based on a healthy scalp,” she said. “I was in the kitchen; I created that! Baby, nothing goes in a jar or on the shelf until it goes through this Virgo’s roots,” she laughed.
No one is exempt from the, not even Hollywood’s biggest stars. And with the increased time spent at home over the last year, Henson picked up some new beauty skills. “Call me crazy, but I like to do passion twists on myself. I do, I really enjoy it; it’s therapeutic,” she said. “I have my music I pour a little wine and I take my time.” And if you’re wondering where Henson picked up this skill, you might be surprised to hear that she taught herself by watching YouTube videos! “I’ve been learning how to do nails, cut hair, all of it,” she said. We stan a resourceful queen.
When it comes to her ever-changing hair color, Henson admits that she’s not afraid of an at-home dye job. “Since I’ve been natural, I can play in color. You know how many times I took my hair out playing in color because I had a perm in my hair? And who knew just I had to grow the perm out,” she says. “The damaging process, or where you can go wrong is bleaching your hair. I can do my own. I wouldn’t do anybody else’s since I’m not a technician, but if I were someone else, I would just say go get your hair professionally lifted.” She told us her favorite at-home hair dye is the semi-permanent offering by Adore that fades away after a few washes. “It’s like Kool-Aid; it rinses out, you put it back in, and that’s how I’m able to play with so many different colors.”
If there’s one recurring lesson we keep coming across in recent years, it’s that aging is a process looks a little different for everyone. A newly minted 50-year-old, Henson has had her fair share of aging surprises, including some unexpected changes to her hair. “I feel like my hair getting thicker,” she said. “My mother’s the same way. A lot of her sisters are losing their hair and her hair is getting thicker. Yeah, I’m honored and blessed. I’m not complaining.
OK, so Henson didn’t exactly say this, but she certainly demonstrated it. We’ve seen her comedic timing in action on the big screen, but her demeanor during our chat was just as fun. She cracked jokes and wasn’t afraid to let out a bellowing laugh when something really tickled her. There are probably plastic surgeons out there might who would argue that laughing causes lines in the skin, but if you ask us, a joyful spirit is a key to stopping the clock. Be happy, dang it!
Henson knows better than anyone just how much of a task wash day can be for Black women. But her goal in life and via her haircare brand is to switch-up the narrative around wash day. “It’s a process, but what I want to do and what I hope is to change the narrative and not make it about beinga chore. I want it to be about self-care,” she told us. “You know, you go to a salon for a facial, and they’ve got 10 things they put on your face before they tapped you on the back and say go. And you feel so good. We need to do the same thing for our hair; treat our hair the same way we treat everything else. That’s what I’m hoping for because for me, I look forward to wash day! I put my music on, I have my essential oils I put in my diffuser, and while I’m under the dryer with my hair mask on I have do paraffin wax with little heated booties and I enjoy it.” Now, that sounds like an absolute dream.