Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a hair care expert, it has taken me a lot longer to “pick up” on styling techniques and products for my hair versus learning about makeup. Anyone remember the bangs I used to have in middle school? Super hairsprayed bangs frozen into a bouncy curl in the middle of my forehead. I cringe. But one of my life’s mottos is to not trust anyone that didn’t go through an ugly/awkward phase when they were younger. Suffice it to say that I trust myself. A lot.
Now, as a 30-something chick with a laundry list of failed hair styles, colors, and cuts -I sort of have it figured out. Thanks in, a large part, to practice. Lots and lots of practice. And a bomb stylist (heyyyyy Renee) who has the patience of a saint, understands what I mean when I ask for “melty” color, and reels me in when I might be pitching a bad idea. Unfortunately, I can’t use Renee for my day-to-day looks (until I win the lottery, that’s our agreement) so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite hair care products that I rely on to help survive between hair appointments.
Shampoos + Conditioners
Redken Clean Maniac Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo – As you can see, I have 3 shampoos listed but they all serve different purposes and I alternate using them. This is the shampoo I use after I’ve gone a few days without washing my hair and it’s loaded with dry shampoo and hairspray and serums. YOU NEED TO GET THE PRODUCT OUT and with days of buildup, you need a heavy hitter. This shampoo is safe for color-treated hair and does not leave your locks feeling stripped or squeaky while delivering a thorough clean. Added bonus – it also helps combat hard water minerals.
Pravana The Perfect Blonde Shampoo – THE BEST PURPLE SHAMPOO I’VE EVER TRIED. And I’ve tried a lot. Unfamiliar with the concept of a purple shampoo? It is a toning formula that brightens and undoes brassy color for us balayaged (or straight up) blondies – bye bye yellowish-redish-orange strands. I use this once or twice a week for about a minute before rinsing it out. I was so used to underperforming purple shampoos before I found this one so the first time I used this, I left it on for a *little* longer than the recommended time and had a sweet purple/blue cast on my hair. Honestly, didn’t hate it. It wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me, but that reinforces two things: 1. it WORKS and 2. Don’t exceed the recommended time. I will use this shampoo after the Redken one or by itself.
Sebastian Light Shampoo – THE BEST SMELLING SHAMPOO ON THIS PLANET. I wish I could accurately describe the scent to you, but words fail me. It’s just really, really, really good smelling. So good that my hair will hold this scent all day. And that’s a big deal when you’re layering product and burning your hair with hot tools. I use this shampoo by itself or following the Clarifying shampoo.
Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray – Yay for clean products! I honestly can’t remember how I came across this product, but I’ve been using it for several years and it’s probably the best leave-in conditioner I’ve tried. I’m not really a fan of rinse-out conditioners, I find them to be too heavy and my hair almost never holds a curl afterwards. I spray this all over my damp hair and comb it through from root to tip – a little goes a long way, especially since I have very porous hair. This spray is good for all hair types, fights frizz (a MUST in Florida), and also protects against heat (if you’re like me and crank the heat up on your styling tools).
Amika Soulfood Nourishing Mask – Remember how I just said I’m not a fan of in-shower conditioners? This one doesn’t count – it’s more of a “mask” anyways. This is my go-to after days of repeated styling, essentially what I use to rescue my hair after I’ve *almost* damaged it to the point of breakage. I don’t do that often, I promise, but it’s still important to help your hair bounce back when you do. This is a very creamy and nourishing formula that I let sit on my hair for as long as I want and I do ZERO HEAT STYLING for a couple days afterwards. You read that right, zero. heat. styling. It’s an air-dry, ponytail, messy bun situation for a few days. That’s not a rule of course, but it defeats the purpose to condition your hair and then F it right back up.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo – Dry shampoo is a girl’s best friend, not diamonds. NO I’M JUST KIDDING I TAKE IT BACK I STILL WANT DIAMONDS. But really though, dry shampoo is up there with diamonds. I might hold the World Record for Most Experimentation with Dry Shampoo. Anybody with me on that one? They leave a white cast or a gritty feeling or just plain suck. Not this one though. This dry shampoo delivers on all fronts and yes, actually cleans my hair. I do not have the time or the energy to wash my hair every single day – as you have seen, it is an undertaking. I need a product that is going to help extend my style(s) between washes and not make my hair feel like its suffocating under a thick spray-powder situation. Admittedly, the price point is higher than most but for good reason. Look at it this way, you can use half a can of shitty dry shampoo trying to maintain your style for one extra day OR you can use a couple of healthy sprays on this bottle to really bring you through to your next wash.
Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Smoothing Anti-Frizz Blowout Butter – There’s a lot of “anti-stuff” happening in this gem of a product, gimme all the anti’s. Most of the time, I let my hair air-dry overnight and I don’t use this in those instances. But when I do pull out my beast of a hairdryer, I apply a very small amount (I’m talkin dime size) to my damp hair before blasting it with heat. There is a noticeable difference in my frizz and “texture” when I use this versus when I don’t. Again, strong emphasis on using a very small amount as too much can weigh your hair down and that’s not conducive to any type of style that requires a curl.
Kristen Ess Soft Waves 1.25″ Curling Iron – My newest love, it’s SO pretty. So here we have my go-to curling iron, I like the 1.25″ barrel for bigger and looser waves – start mid-strand, curl up, leave the ends out (about an inch or so). As a slight control freak, I have specifications for my styling tools that I don’t budge on: Temp control with DEGREES (wtf does 20 mean on a dial?), an auto-shut off feature, rotating/swiveling cord, and a decent barrel length. What I loved about this curling iron in particular is that it came with a wide-toothed comb (yay free stuff!) and a little instruction booklet on how to achieve various curls and what temperate settings were recommended based on your hair type. Now, of course I completely ignored all that because I am set in my ways (and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) BUT!!! I did read it and thought it would be helpful to beginners or anyone just tryna’ get their learn on. The clamp on this iron is also fantastic, I haven’t battled with loose hair getting twisted up in the hinge once.
Redken Control Addict 28 Extra High-Hold Hairspray – I happy clapped the first time I used this, it is the HOLY GRAIL of strong hold hairsprays; it was a day when we were shooting outside on the beach so I was dealing with high Florida heat in direct sunlight and a STRONG coastal breeze – my curls held and they held GOOD. Against all odds (and elements). I do NOT spend as much time (read: money) as I do to protect and style my hair to end up with a droopy, flat mane. I’ve tried Kenra, Tresemme, Biolage, TIGI… you name it, but Redken came through. Let me say this, I prefer soft touchable hair and this hairspray is SO strong that it essentially prevents movement. It is still brushable but it’s doing it’s job and not letting anything eff with it. On days when I don’t really care if my waves fall a little bit, I drop down to their Fashion Work 12 Hairspray. Strong enough to hold up your style but light enough to be touchable.
Redken Rough Paste 12 Texturizing Hair Paste – If you haven’t caught on by now, Redken is my boo. Hey when you know, you know. Props to them for consistently delivering on the shit I need to not look like I just stuck my finger in an electrical socket. I use this hair paste when I’m going for a tousled-wavey look. After my curls have cooled, I finger comb my hair and then hit it with the paste. It’s got a pump feature since it is a paste formula and not a spray wax so I warm up about a nickel sized amount between my palms and push my hands into my curls and then pull them out – I also do a combo of scrunching and will also randomly take some pieces and twist them a little bit. In case the word “paste” wasn’t a giveaway, this is STICKY and too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Once you’ve got your perfectly messy hair, hit it with some hairspray and you’re gold.
Kristen Ess Dry Finish Working Texturizing Spray – On the days when I want my waves to be a little more put-together, this is what I reach for. NOT to be confused for hairspray, this spray gives my style a little extra volume and sass. Its label says “ultra light hold” which translates to NOTHING in hair terminology, so don’t use this instead of, use it in addition to. After I’ve brushed my curls out, I gently lift medium-sized sections out to the side and spritz on this texturizing spray – or sometimes I’ll just flip my hair upside down and blast it that way, both ways work! This product works just as well between washes too, I use this to bring some life back into my hair after I’ve used my dry shampoo.
Design.Me PUFF.ME Volumizing Cloud Mist – Look, I think the name is confusing too, which is which, but it’s all semantics when a product works this well. So, WHAT IS IT? So glad you asked, it’s a volumizing/texturizing spray powder that can rival the “There’s Something About Mary” hairstyle if you wanted to (do not recommend, tbh). Spray this directly onto your roots wherever you want a little lift and then massage it in, follow it up with a teasing comb if you’re working around the crown of your head, and then of course HAIRSPRAY. I chopped 6 inches off my hair last year and had a very short cut and no mousse or foam was really giving me the volume I was looking for. All hair lengths need volume, but ESPECIALLY short hair styles. Since this is a powder formula, there is a little grit to it but it’s what helps hold your style and it doesn’t leave a white cast; as with most hair products, less is more, half a pump here and there will get you what you want! I use this regardless of if my hair is straight or curled, no matter the other products I’ve applied, and always as the final step before hairspray because it does stiffen your roots up.
Remember the Lotus face oil I talked about in my skincare routine? That oil can also be used as a shine serum on your hair for a little frizz control, what’s better than a multi-use product? Get the most bang for your buck!
Hair care, GOOD hair care, is not always cheap. Fortunately, most of these products have travel sizes available for you to trial before makin’ it rain at the checkout counter.
I know it can be tempting to browse Amazon for a cheaper version of the brand, but buyer beware. Often times those are knock-off products or watered down. You’re better off buying from a reputable company (Target, Ulta, Sephora, etc.) or directly on the company’s site. *Exception to the rule here is the PUFF.ME product, that one is legit.