Afro Hairstyle Tips BTS Beauty Hair Tutorial Starring Joan Smalls


The larger than life blonde afro hairstyle that Joan Smalls wears so powerfully on the Documentary Beauty cover was inspired by natural hair textures that defy gravity and demand attention. 

Capturing the essence of a historic hairstyle from the 1970s, I created an afro look with an editorial twist to celebrate black beauty! 

1970s icons and some more modern muses made it to my mood board to help set the tone of what women exemplified the character I was inspired to create for the cover. These moodboard muses include Diana Ross and a personal 90’s nostalgic favorite of mine, Erykah Badu.

I hope this afro tutorial inspires people with textured hair to express their beautiful natural textures by letting their hair grow out and set the body free from potentially harmful relaxers and straightening chemicals.

Truly a rebirth of natural beauty, many of my clients and friends have transitioned from a lifelong journey of getting straightening relaxers to now finally allowing their natural hair to grow out.

I love how this look gives main character energy vibes when I see this look strutting down the street. It’s simply cool and a sure way to stand out in a crowd.

Let’s dive into some tips and tricks for textured hair that I used to create this beautiful afro hairstyle for our magazine cover. 

A BTS look on how we transformed Joan Smalls into an afro goddess for the cover of Documentary Beauty Magazine

Watch our Behind The Scenes Beauty photoshoot video

Reviewed by African Braider Hair Stylist Hazel Hoto

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The Afro Hairstyle Guide


step 1

Moisturizing shampoo

Natural afro hair texture needs much more intense moisture than straighter hair textures.

Set the hair up for moisture success by starting with a cleaning ritual based on the hair type.

A shampoo that infuses heavy moisture rather than stripping and drying out the hair is a great place to start.

I have textured hair clients that love these.

step 2

Moisturizing conditioner

A conditioner that promises intense moisture results is key!

This is a great time to use a wide tooth detangling comb to work out knots and tangles.

But wait there’s more to this step! Instead of rinsing out all of the conditioner, I recommend leaving about 25% or more of the conditioner on the hair instead of rinsing it all the way out. 

The humidity in the bathroom is not on your team for having a great hair day. So leaving all that extra moisture on the strands will be helpful from the very first air drying moments to combat frizz and dry hair.

Try these great products!

step 3

Oils for textured hair to leave-in

Pour on the oil heavily for dry textured hair that needs some extra love. Don’t forget to massage the oils into the scalp if needed.

Alternative oil application for fine hair

Do heavy oils weigh down the hair? Then try switching up the routine by applying the oil as a rinse out treatment instead. After shampooing, apply the oil, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rinse out the oil. Lastly, apply the conditioner.

step 4

Leave-in product that feels oh so soft even in coarse hair

Be sure to buy this product if you want the hair to feel silky and soft instead of coarse and dry. This product is incredible.

step 5

Air drying benefits

I recommend that air drying curly or afro textured hair without the use of heat is best to prevent drying out the hair, damaging the hair and also to reduce frizz in the hairstyle. 

Twist outs for definition

Some textures would look more defined by twisting the hair into 2 strand twists before air drying.

My best friend, Hazel Hoto, who I met in beauty school in 2002 specializes in braiding. She grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa before she moved to the US, so her African braiding culture is a lifelong journey. Here’s what Hazel suggests, “To get the curly afro look to last, when doing twist outs use African Pride Olive Miracle Foam Setting Mousse. I love that it doesn’t flake.”

step 6

Fluff it up without a brush

Brushing may cause a frizzier and puffier then desired result. 

Though I have to add that sometimes experimenting with a good brush out can create a really cool rockstar texture that’s worth a try.

A good eye and hands are the best tool for fluffing up and taming the texture.

step 7

Finishing touches of shine


If the hair needs an extra boost of shine try out an oil sheen at the end.

My recommendation with any spray products is to be sure to spray quickly and hold your breath to prevent inhaling all sprays. I even sometimes go outside of the room to spray to avoid hanging out in a room with products floating in the air.

step 8

Optional wig or hair extensions for thickness and drama

You know a professional hairstylist like myself loves a great moment to expand my canvas with the help of some hair pieces. 

In the video on the top of this page you see some of our techniques for installing the giant afro wig to Joans’ head. 

We decided to prep and hide her natural hair by braiding two invisible french braids and tucking the ends with Bobby Pins in the lower back of the head. We didn’t use a Wig Cap, but feel free to throw one on if you’d like.

Now for that transformational moment… put that wig on! Using bobby pins to secure the wig on the head by placing them by the ears, nape, and temples.

Wig stacking for big hair – Industry secret

To create the super large volume of this look I relied on wigs. Yes, I said it, wigs with an s. My team of hair assistants and I prepped the 5 wigs before the shoot day with a technique called wig stacking. Basically sewing the 5 wigs together to make a giant afro. 

Tutorial coming soon on wig stacking… sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when this tutorial drops.

Get the big afro wig look

The 5 wigs for the wig stack that I used to create this dreamy editorial cover afro is no longer available for purchase. No worries! That wig was custom and it is so much easier to just buy something ready to wear!

Here are some natural human hair and synthetic afro wig suggestions inspired by the look!

Human Hair Perfect Locks Kinky Curly Lace Front Wig 10% Off on All Products
step 9

Afro hair cutting tips

Sometimes an afro needs a good shaping to open up the face or to create a cool silhouette.

Natural hair is best trimmed with shears for a nice clean snip, but I often use clippers on synthetic afro wigs because it’s so much fun to express my creativity as a sculptor on a hairstyle that is worn like a 3D art piece.

I recommend using Andis Speedmaster Hair Clippers to cut an afro easily and quickly. Trim three-dimensionally on dry hair. It feels like carving an ice sculpture.

It’s really fun and messy, so use a Hair Cutting Cape to protect the body from loose hair and finish with a blast of cold air from a blowdryer to get the pieces off the face.

And there you have it: the larger-than-life statement afro… a big hairstyle with major visual impact. Go on, channel your inner Erykah Badu, Jimi Hendrix, Solange and Pam Grier!


TAKE A SELFIE to complete and tag us! @documentarybeauty / #documentarybeauty We LOVE seeing these looks come to life out in the world. 

Stay tuned for more exciting hair and makeup tutorials coming soon. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when they drop! What’s your favorite curly or afro products? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!




get in, you’re invited… 


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Kayla MiChele
Kayla MiChele

Kayla MiChele is a celebrity and fashion beauty artist who is interviewed in the pages of Vogue Italia featuring her as top talent in the world. Her work is in prestigious editorials from Harper’s Bazaar to W to Vogue with clients for fashion brands ranging from Tom Ford to Chanel. Kayla's beauty expert collaborations include indie clean beauty brands to leading cosmetic brands Estée Lauder to L'Oréal. She began her career assisting hair stylist Guido Palau backstage at fashion shows from Louis Vuitton to Marc Jacobs. Since then, she has worked with top models and iconic artists including Vanessa Hudgens, A$AP Rocky, Jared Leto, Joan Smalls, Hailey Bieber, and Gigi Hadid.

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