Zendaya makes headlines for her hair on a regular basis these days, but there was a time when the CHI spokeswoman was worried her hair was damaged beyond measure — and Disney was to blame.



“I’ve experienced hair nightmares,” the actress tells PeopleStyle. “On the first season of the Disney Channel’s Shake It Up, heat-styling destroyed my hair. I was only 14 years old, and I didn’t know how to protect my hair, so it took over two years to grow it back, which really sucked!”

She’s come a long way since those days of singed strands. “Over time, I learned how to properly care for my hair, and I partnered with Chi because the brand has so many products that protect it,” she says. “I use the Argan Oil line because it’s really moisturizing. I condition my hair every day, and I shampoo it every other day.”

And to prevent further damage, she tries to avoid heat-styling when she’s not heading to a red carpet. “Day-to-day, I wear my hair as natural as possible to minimize damage,” she explains. “To define my curls, I use a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment and Chi Styling Cream Gel, which helps me crunch my curls up.”

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When she’s ready to have fun with her hair, however, she really has fun with it. “I am not afraid to have fun with my look,” she says. “A lot of the styles I wear are inspired by Cher, Joan Jett, Grace Jones and Diana Ross. When people see me, I want them to understand the character that I am that night. I want them to have a moment.”

So when it comes to beauty, we’re always taking her advice — especially now, as she’s the newest face of CoverGirl.

For more from Zendaya, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands now! And tell us: are you stealing hair inspiration from the star?

— Jillian Ruffo, with reporting by Jackie Fields