It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jennifer Aniston’s hair is the stuff of legend. Over the course of her three-decades long career, the actress has set off a hair craze with a career-making chop, experimented with different cuts in all lengths and styles, and ultimately, cultivated a signature California cool hair code oft coveted (and copied!).
Of course, it all began on the TV show Friends, where “The Rachel” cut—her shaggy, honeyed bob—cemented her as the hair icon she is today. That ’90s crop was crafted by none other than her longtime hairstylist Chris McMillan, who sought to help Aniston grow out her bangs with a transformative, editorial-worthy cut. Inspired by a combination of male surfers from his hometown of Manhattan beach, supermodel Beri Smithers and her chin-grazing bob, and the curvy blowouts Garren was giving Amber Valletta at the time, he landed on the style that would put Rachel Green on the map.
From there, McMillan, alongside Aniston’s colorist Michael Canalé, helped the star whip through a number of styles characterized by face-framing layers, lush, yet imperfect waves, and sun-kissed golden highlights. At present, Aniston’s famous mane is as shiny, silky-smooth, and healthy as ever, and in honor of her 52nd birthday today, her go-to pros are helping to break down the secrets behind her famous lengths.
Go Bronde, Then Brighter
Aniston’s signature beachy golden blonde may look effortless, but there’s a lot of meticulous, time-honored work that’s gone into achieving and maintaining it. For nearly 30 years, colorist Michael Canalé has been tending to her tresses, weaving eye-brightening highlights into honey-brown waves for that California girl feel. “Jen’s the original bronde,” says Canalé, who slowly brought Aniston from her natural brunette to a golden blonde before adding those back-from-the-beach highlights. “Over time, you can see that I sanded out her hairline, making it brighter to bring out her eyes and warm complexion,” he explains. To recreate a similar look with your colorist, he recommends steadily going bronde, which typically suits honey-toned hair and warm skin tones, before going full-throttle blonde. Once you’ve achieved a solid base, use “color bathe” (as Canalé calls it) to create dimension. “As you add highlights, you deepen the root,” he explains of the technique. “It’s not so much shadowing, as it is adding a ‘glisten’ look at the root that goes into the bright ends.” To preserve color and give the blonde tones a boost, a gloss treatment, like Aniston’s go-to Canalé Midnight Blue Signature Gloss, is essential. “It keeps the hair really shiny and seals the color, while keeping the pieces around the face light and vibrant,” he explains.
Cleanse and Condition Thoroughly
Under McMillan’s watch, Aniston takes hair-washing very seriously. When she cleanses her hair with her choice shampoo—alternating between Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo and Drunk Elephant Cocomino Glossing Shampoo based on the day’s needs—she lathers, rinses, and repeats. A “really good” double cleanse ensures a proper cleansing and keeps the scalp cleaner longer, says McMillan. Next up, it’s all about an all-encompassing, roots-to-ends conditioning session with Cocomino Marula Cream Conditioner or Canalé Soften Conditioner and a wide-tooth comb. “We don’t just condition the ends,” explains McMillan. “A lot of people worry it’ll make the hair flat, but it doesn’t!” To encourage his clients to do so, he likens conditioner to facial moisturizer. “Would you moisture just your jawline or forehead?” he poses. “No! You’re going to moisturize your entire face. Conditioner is moisturizer for your hair! You should be doing the same thing to your hair as you do your skin.”
Do Regular Hair and Scalp Treatments
Every Sunday, Aniston fits in a weekly deep conditioning treatment—typically the Living Proof Restore Mask—while getting her nails done and watching 60 minutes, says McMillan. Another all-important supplementary treatment is Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub. “We do it once a month, beauty school-style,” says McMillan, who also incorporates “scientific brushing,” a technique used to remove dead skin from the scalp to help eliminate buildup, boost blood flow, and promote growth.
Commit to Regular Trims
“A big part of Jennifer’s beauty routine, whether it’s her hair, skin, or her body is staying consistent,” explains McMillan. “She’s consistent about trims, she’s consistent about getting highlights, she’s consistent about facials. She takes care of herself.” For her hair-care routine, getting regular haircuts and trims is an essential part of her well-calibrated equation. “She gets her hair cut every four weeks, even if it’s just a baby trim,” he explains. In other words, don’t underestimate the power of a good “dusting,” which consists of taking off no more than an eighth of an inch, to get rid of split ends caused by heat styling or environmental damage.
Skip the Curling Iron, Go Messy
“Jen doesn’t like a manufactured curl,” says McMillan. Instead of using a curl iron, the pro uses a blow-dryer and “twists” her lengths around with different sized round brushes for looser, more natural bends. He also takes a pared-back approach to styling products. “Jen’s hair always looks like you can touch it, it’s not sprayed into place,” he explains.
To enhance texture, McMillan either uses an ultra-lightweight hairspray (“Jen hates hairspray, but knows I have to use it,” he laughs) such as Shu Uemura’s Sheer Lacquer Micro Fine finishing spray or Oribe Superfine Hairspray, which he sprays in his hands and rubs together first, and/or he combines Shu Uemura Ishi Sculpt Texturizing & Sculpting Hair Paste with Kérastase Discipline Oleo Relax Anti-Frizz Oil Serum and smooths it through her hair to add grit. For height and volume, he also likes to lift the roots by using velcro rollers at the crown of the hair (“When choosing a size, go smaller than you think!” he says) and by misting small amounts of Sisley-Paris Hair Rituel Volumizing Spray. When applying these tips and tricks, remember that by Aniston’s philosophy, less is always more. As McMillan puts it, “The way she wears her makeup, the way she wears her hair, the way she wears her clothes, there’s an ease to it and that’s why people can relate to her. “