Suffice it to say that Kelsea Ballerini knows how to stay busy. In just the past year, she co-hosted the CMT Music Awards, appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine, released the critically acclaimed album Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, and wrote and directed a short film to accompany the EP. It's easy to assume that the singer-songwriter is a planner, mapping her goals and her next moves out with precision. In reality, she exudes nonchalance.
"I honestly am just trying to do the next right thing," she confesses when I ask her what's next for her, sitting on the couch in her New York City hotel room. "I feel like last year how we thought it was going to look in January versus how it looked in December were two vastly different years in the best, most beautiful way. I just am really interested in trying not to think too far ahead and to just honor each next right thing. Right now, that thing is making the record."
The secret to her seemingly endless well of creativity? Living life to the fullest.
"I'm trying to live a life to write about," she explains. "I'm trying to allow myself to have time and let it feel as valuable as the time that I'm on the road touring. I'm tryingto show up as a daughter and show up as a friend and show up as a girlfriend, and just be able to really honor the things in my life and be present for them so I can write about them and make a record I'm really proud of. And then go tour it."
Ballerini has certainly done just that. Her last tour, Heartfirst, lasted from 2022 into 2023, after which she joined friend and collaborator Kenny Chesney for his I Go Back tour. She also made headlines last year by making highly publicized, inspirational political stance at the CMT Music Awards by performing with onstage with drag queens in the wake of Tennessee's anti-drag legislation. The move, she says, instilled her with a sense of confidence that she's continued to carry through her career.
"There is such a level of confidence that they exude," she gushes about the drag queens. "I feel more confident standing on stage with them because that's what they exude; that's what they were bringing. It was just a really beautiful moment to share together."
These experiences, while rewarding, have kept Ballerini unprecedentedly busy—a schedule that's taken its toll, from her energy levels to her health. As a result, she's had to check in with herself more than ever before.
"It's active pursuit. It really is—everything from just mental health to obviously physical health, to hair health, to skin health," she says. "All of it is an active pursuit because [touring] is like running a marathon for a couple months. The first remedy is giving yourself a lot of grace. The second remedy is trying to find the things that really help maintain your health."
She mentions that her hair, in particular, tends to take a beating amid her busy schedule.
"Dryness is a big thing because I do bleach my hair. I'm not a natural blonde—whoops," she admits, grinning. "So I think that's the biggest one. Also, just traveling is so drying for your hair, winter is so drying for your hair—all of it."
The uptick in performances and public appearances Ballerini has experienced at this stage in her career has therefore required a revamp of her self-care routine.
"I used to be the girl that was like 'makeup wipe, hair back in a bun,'" she says. "And then I realized that there are so many things that I can do that are better for you than that. So I think for me, specifically with hair, I try to do a mask a couple times a week. I try to do Pantene's repair mask a couple of times a week. I try to switch my pillowcase to a silk pillowcase. I'm growing up, guys! I'm growing up!" She laughs. "And then obviously, with skincare, if I am working that day and I have a ton of makeup on, I'm pretty religious about getting it off now."
She also swears by "towel time," calling it her favorite step in her beauty routine. "It's when you get to take your time in the shower, and you get to take your time doing your ten-step skincare routine, and you get to wrap your hair up and you get to get back in the bed for about five minutes and you're like, 'I know that everything on me right now is good for me and clean.' And then you get to start your day," she explains. "That's the peak."
When prompted about what specific products she uses pre-towel time, Ballerini raves about Pantene, which she recently partnered with as part of her "healing era."
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"I'm partnering with Pantene and they're releasing these products that I've been using for 12 weeks on this hair healing journey, which has been really fun," she explains. Her favorite product, in addition to the repair mask, is the brand's Miracle Rescue Deep Repair Conditioner.
"I've actually watched it bring my hair back to life after having a year of coloring and putting so much heat on it, styling it up and down and up and down, and having extensions," she says. "I feel like I finally was like, 'Oh, there's a little glimmer back in my hair. It looks like it's alive again.'"
The 12-week hair journey, she says, has been a crucial aspect of accessing "the healthiest, best version of myself."
"It's truly all about how you're feeling," she says of the effort to discover the products that work best for her. "Are you feeling healthy in every way? Are you taking care of yourself? That's what's going to show."
Ballerini, a self-described "product junkie," notes that she's picky when it comes to her partnerships.
"I've never really been a #adgirl," she says. "I really want to find partnerships that I feel really excited about and that there's a lot of synergy. And especially with this, I've been on my healing journey musically for the last year and a half, and it made a lot of sense to do it with my hair too."
But Pantene's efficacy isn't the only reason the singer has immersed herself in the partnership: She values the brand's accessibility, too.
"I think it's really easy to get marketed a ton of stuff that makes you think you have to spend a ton of money for something to work, and that's not the case," she says. "Pantene is such a household brand, and it was important for me to be able to go to the lab, learn from the scientists how the product works, and learn about all of the science to back it. It really made me more passionate about saying, 'This has been tested up against a $60 treatment, and it holds up, and everyone can walk into a store that's in their neighborhood and get it.' I think that that's a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of."
Shop Kelsea's Hair Routine
Pantene Pro-V Miracles Bond Repair Keratin + Vitamin E 1 Minute Miracle Conditioner
Pantene Pro-V Miracles Bond Repair Keratin + Vitamin E Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Pantene Pro-V Miracle Rescue Deep Repair Conditioner with Melting Pro-V Pearls
Pantene Hair Mask
Pantene Miracle Rescue Moisture Mix-In
Pantene Hair Mask Miracle Rescue Shots
Pantene Shampoo, Conditioner and Hair Treatment Set