You probably know Taraji P. Henson as the veteran actress lauded for her stellar portrayals of the boundary-shattering mathematician Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures and 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 just don't put a weave in your hair and say, 'That's it.' Sometimes, a weave is way more work than 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." So 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, 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. 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 enters a brand-new decade, her 50s. Keep scrolling to see the seven genius tips we learned from her in under 10 minutes.
1. Moisturized Hair Is Happy Hair
"I love healthy hair. I've always been about healthy hair and scalp since I was 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 while sitting at the kitchen table at her grandmother's house. 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 said about her 4c hair type, which is 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 scalpcare is just as important 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."
3. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment With At-Home Beauty Treatments
No one is exempt from this, not even Hollywood's biggest stars. 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." 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.
4. …Even DIY Hair Color!
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? Who knew I just had to grow the perm out," she said. "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 semipermanent 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," she added.
5. Aging Looks a Little Different for Everyone
If there's one recurring lesson we keep coming across, it's that aging is a process that 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 is getting thicker," she said. "My mother's is 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."
6. Laughter Keeps You Young
Okay, 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 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!
7. Reframe Your Most Tedious Beauty Chores as Self-Care Sessions
Henson knows better than anyone just how much of a task washday can be for Black women. Her goal in life and with her haircare brand is to switch up the narrative around washday. "It's a process, but what I want to do and what I hope is to change the narrative and not make it about being a 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 tap 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 I look forward to washday! I put my music on, and I have my essential oils I put in my diffuser. While I'm under the dryer with my hair mask on, I do paraffin wax with little heated booties, and I enjoy it." Now that sounds like an absolute dream.