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It’s been a while since we talked about our favorite hair products — what are yours, readers? We asked each Corporette writer to share their favorite shampoos, conditioners, and other hair styling products!
Elizabeth’s Favorite Hair Products for Her Fine, Wavy/Curly Hair
I have very fine, wavy/curly hair (something like a 2B/3A hybrid if you’re into curl types), so I like products that don’t weigh it down too much. My current routine starts with the Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo and Conditioner. The products smell nice, and you can buy the huge refills at Sephora or Ulta to cut down on plastic waste.
Once a week I also use the Detox Shampoo from the same line to help get rid of any product or dry shampoo that may be lingering. The brand isn’t cheap, but I stock up whenever I have a coupon code.
For folks with fine hair, styling products can be a challenge. Select the wrong one and you look like a stringy mess all day. After a lot of trial and error, if I’m blowing my hair out, I usually use some kind of heat protectant like Drybar’s Prep Rally or the Color Wow Dream Coat. Those seem to provide some protection from heat damage without weighing everything down.
If I’m doing a curly/wavy style, the routine is a little more involved. I start by applying R+Co’s Twister Curl Primer to damp hair, then spritz my whole head with a continuous spray bottle to bring it back to sopping wet. Then I section and comb out my hair with a Denman brush to distribute the product and make some curl clumps.
Once I’ve got a bit of a style in place, I either add some medium-hold gel or some mousse to finish things off. Honestly, blow-drying is quicker most of the time, but once I stopped shelling out several hundred dollars for smoothing treatments every few months, I learned to embrace the curls most days.
Ann’s Favorite Hair Products for Her Straight Hair
When it comes to hair products, I’m always open to trying something new. But I have a few favorites that are working for my straight hair right now. I just started coloring my hair, so I have a big bottle of Tresemme’s Keratin Smooth Color Shampoo to protect my new look. I alternate that with Aveeno’s Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo when my hair and scalp start feeling a little greasy.
I’m not that particular about conditioner, but I love Herbal Essences Bio:renew Repairing Hair Mask — I use it once or twice a week and it makes my hair feel super soft.
Because my hair is very straight, it’s easy to manage and style. I use this Kristin Ess Style Assist Blow Dry Mist Heat Protectant Spray and massage a dollop of Moroccanoil Volumizing Mousse before drying with a round brush for volume.
Kate’s Favorite Hair Products for Her Fine, Straight, Short Hair
My hair routine is simple because my hair is easy to take care of. (Half of it is buzzed, for one.)
I discovered Amika’s Normcore Signature Shampoo several years ago when I found out the kids’ salon my son went to used Amika. After I bought the shampoo for him, eventually I started using it myself (my CorporetteMoms review). Recently, my mom switched to it as well! I really like the smell of this shampoo (apparently it’s “amber vanilla”?), and it always leaves my hair soft and shiny. It’s cruelty-free, too.
Afterward, I blow it dry with a cheapo small round brush. (Amika recommends Normcore for fine to medium hair, 1–2c.)
I only use one styling product, and it’s from Sexy Hair, a brand my hairstylist uses in her salon. I use their Style Sexy Hair Frenzy Matte Texturing Paste to add a little volume and definition to my fine hair, which my asymmetrical style needs in various spots.
The product doesn’t take away the softness or shine from my shampoo, it smells nice, and it’s cruelty-free. When I first started using it, I had a very short pixie cut, and it was great for that, too.
Kat’s Favorite Hair Products for Her Curly, Dry Hair That Takes Forever to Dry
I saw a meme once where someone asked a curly girl what her hair routine is, and her reply was, “I don’t think you’re emotionally prepared for this conversation.” So, um, buckle up.
I’ve been following the Curly Girl method exclusively since 2020. I’d flirted with it in previous years, but during the pandemic I decided that since we weren’t going anywhere, I had lots of time to experiment with different curly hair methods. (Is it weird that I would kind of classify my curly hair as a hobby?) If you’re interested in trying to follow it, I highly recommend the r/curlyhair subreddit, as well as their Holy Grail list of products — I’ve tried almost all of them. (My favorite influencer was Janelle O’Shaughnassy on YouTube, but it looks like she’s stopped posting for the moment..)
There’s a saying in the curly community that the process is more important than the products, and I do generally agree with that — but some of the more time-intensive processes I’ve tried, like the bowl method, just don’t net a huge enough difference for me to do them. (Other processes I just haven’t mastered yet, like the Denman brush or finger curling.)
My General Curly Hair Routine
For wash day, I alternate through a variety of different shampoos and conditioners. I generally only wash my hair with shampoo once a week, so all of these last a long time. (I’ll get to exact products in a bit…)
Anyway: my current wash day process is thus: I shampoo my hair, condition my hair (then combing it out with a wide-toothed comb), and then rinse it all out. At the end, I turn off the water, and — while my hair is still dripping wet, still standing in the shower, I flip my head upside down and 1) apply leave-in conditioner, 2) apply a curl cream/mousse 3) brush with the Denman, 4) scrunch out as much water as I can, 5) add a cheap gel like LA Looks, and 6) (while my hair is still upside down) “plop” using a moisture-sucking hair wrap/cap. I generally use some combination of scrunching and “praying hands” to apply the products, but I’m not devoted to either of them. (Sometimes I will separate my hair into distinct clumps after step 3, then skip step 4, but I’ve gotten away from that as it’s started to get colder in favor of getting my hair as dry as possible before I put it in the cap/wrap.)
But wait, there’s more!
THEN, I get dressed, put on my makeup, et cetera (letting the wrap/cap soak up more water). Before I blow it dry, I remove the now soaked cap, flip my hair upside down again, blot my hair with a t-shirt to get any excess moisture out, and then add another layer of a better quality gel. I use duck clips to clip my hair out of my face (and give a bit of volume)… then, on to the blow dryer.
To blow dry my hair, I absolutely love my Shark blowdryer and diffuser, and it takes about another 10-15 minutes for my hair to be mostly dry (80%, maybe?). My interest wanes after 5 minutes, to be honest, so whenever possible I try to blow dry it as much as I can, and then let it air dry — in a few hours when it’s totally dry, hopefully the gel will have dried in a cast.
The common phrase for curly girls is to “scrunch out the crunch,” but I don’t actually like to scrunch at this point — instead, I flip my head over yet again and “clap out the crunch,” basically applauding with my hair between my two palms. (If it’s late enough I may just go to sleep with the crunchy cast; that’s another great way to get rid of the cast.)
My CoWash Routine
A few days after my wash day, I’ll do a cowash routine — I don’t use shampoo, which can be stripping, and instead use a dedicated cowashing product or just 3X the amount of conditioner so I can get enough slip to scrub my scalp. Then the rest of my routine is pretty much the same.
My Refreshing Routine
I shower daily, even if I’m not getting my hair fully soaked every time. I used to wear a shower cap, but lately I just put my hair up in a claw clip, leaving the ends out so it’s kind of like a floppy ponytail. I wash my body and face, and then grab handfuls of water under the spray to scrunch into the ponytail; ideally it’s about 50% wet.
(I’ve also used a big bowl for this step of wetting the ends — some people like this because the resulting water in the bowl ends up with runoff from the products you put in on wash day, and then those products get reapplied as you scrunch the bowl’s water into your hair.)
When I step out of the shower, I flip my head and use a ultra fine water mister to get the rest of my hair slightly damp — and then I plop my hair it in this great mesh cap I love. (You could instead do this with the “fishnets on your head” routine, but I’ve never gotten that to work.) I’ll do my skin routine, get dressed, and do makeup, then take my hair out of the mesh cap and clip it up with duck clips. It’s usually dry within 20-30 minutes from this point forward.
(Some days I will also mist my hair with this “curl energizing & refreshing spray,” but it’s usually a sign that I really just need to shampoo or cowash my hair. Another sure sign: my hair is totally frizzy and my curls are all flat.)
How I Maintain My Curls Overnight
Sleeping is one of something else that curly girls talk about. There’s the pineapple (a super high ponytail), there are hair wraps, there are a ton of different techniques! The one that I’ve found works best for me is a “cooling gaitor” I bought back when we thought those might be good protection from Covid (they are definitely not).
I just put the gaitor around my neck, then pull it up over my face and around the top of my hair, kind of like a headband that continues all the way up. I look a bit like a nun, I guess. Sexy!
It’s cheap and easy, not sweat-inducing, and my curls come out of it mostly in tact and not overly frizzed.
My Favorite Curly Hair Products
Shampoos & Basic Conditioners: At the moment my collection includes drugstore brands like Kinky Curly’s Knot Today/Come Clean shampoo and conditioner set, the Trader Joe’s tea tree tingle set, Giovanni’s Deep Moisture set, and Not Your Mother’s Blue Sea Kale & Pure Coconut Water (it’s in the middle of their hydration range).
Every six or so washes I do a clarifying wash with Suave. (There actually isn’t that much product buildup as you might expect from all these products because as far as I remember they’re all Curly Girl approved products and rinse out without the need for sulfates, but a clarifying shampoo still helps!)
CoWashes: Cantu, and Trader Joe’s — I also have an extraordinarily old bottle of Devacurl’s cowash that I found in my parents’ house… I think I’ve heard chatter that the formula has changed, though, so YMMV). The two cheap conditioners I use for this purpose (because I take 3x as much conditioner as usual to get enough slip to really scrub my scalp) are Suave’s coconut one or the Vo5 lime one.
Leave-In Conditioners: I alternate between As I Am, Curls Blueberry Bliss, Ecoslay Rice Leave-in, NYM’s Tahitian leave-in detangling spray, and sometimes just the basic Kinky Curly conditioner. (One surprising thing about the past few years is how much conditioner my hair can take — I’ve loaded it up and my hair hasn’t felt weighted or greasy at all.)
Curl Cream / Mousse (Middle Step): I’m still figuring out what I like here, to be honest. I seem to get the best results from Kinky Clean curling custard or drugstore mousse (I like Herbal Essences or Giovanni ones). I also sometimes use Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curl Stimulator, as well as Curlsmith’s Feather-Light Protein Cream, as well as the Cantu curl enhancing cream.
Gels: My first gel is always the super cheap LA Looks. I’m pretty loyal to the fancy ones for my second gel, though, switching almost exclusively between Ouidad’s Climate Control Gel and Ecoslay’s Orange Marmalade.
Extra masks and other treatments: I’ll do these as needed/when I have time…
For when my hair is feeling dry/frizzy then I’ll do Olaplex No. 3, Vo5 hot oil, Ecoslay’s Banana Cream Deep Conditioner, or NYM’s butter masque. (Ideally I’ll do them about 30 minutes before my shower, with a heated cap on.)
When my hair is feeling frizzy and limp I’ve been experimenting with adding protein (although too much protein can also make your hair frizzy, I guess?) like with Ecoslay’s protein shake — I also get good results from an apple cider vinegar rinse (you dilute it with water first). (I have tried the rice water rinse and hoo boy was that nasty, so perhaps I let it soak too long.)
If my scalp feels itchy or dry, I love Kiehls’ Magic Elixir and Briogeo’s scalp reviver. I also make sure to scrub my head extra well on my wash/cowash days, and sometimes before a wash I’ll use this metal scalp massager is also good for circulation, which in turn is good for scalp health. (I have one of these palm-sized scalp massagers but I find it hard to use with my long hair, for what it’s worth.)
Also, yay gray hair: I’ve heard that you should keep your gray hair from getting “brassy,” so I’ve also been experimenting with purple shampoo (I like Shea Moisture), but at about 15% gray I don’t seem to need it very often. I feel like it lightens the rest of my brown hair, but maybe it’s just the gray being lightened? Hmmn.
(If you’ve made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS!)
Readers, do tell: What are your favorite hair products? Anything you’ve been meaning to try lately?