Within the span of a few years, I’ve seen countless Instagram ads for custom hair care lines promising to transform my shampoo experience or save me from chopping off some serious length that was beyond repair. To begin one’s personalized hair care journey, the customer takes a quiz about the particular qualities of their hair and any problems they’d like to address. One may be asked about the thickness, porosity, and length of their hair in addition to how often they wash it and heat-style it. The answers to these and similar questions inform the formula of the products created for the customer–and voila, a match made in hair care heaven, or so the idea goes.
While this all sounded pretty cool, I generally ignored these ads, figuring that the custom hair care brands were little more than clever marketing for averagely decent shampoo and conditioner. Besides, I attributed my own frustrations with my hair to the hard water in my area, not the products I was using in the shower. Given that I’ve tried everything from $3 drugstore shampoo to mid-range natural brands to spendy salon offerings–and experienced similar results with each–I assumed the buildup and dullness my hair experienced had nothing to do with finding just the right product.
My Experience with Custom Hair Care
When a good friend of mine found herself with more time on her hands due to the pandemic, she decided to get really creative with her beauty routine and ordered a custom shampoo and conditioner set from Function of Beauty, a well-known personalized hair care brand featuring shampoo and conditioner in a variety of gorgeous pastel hues and sumptuous fragrances. “I’ve been receiving so many compliments on my hair!” she told me. I could tell (from our grainy Marco Polo videos) that her fine hair was more voluminous, and her natural waves were more pronounced. The peach fragrance that her boyfriend found addicting didn’t hurt, either!
Still, I remained skeptical. Would personalized shampoo actually help me with hard water issues? Would a luxe, custom conditioner improve the appearance of my dead ends that, under normal circumstances, I would have had lopped off at the salon? Eventually, I found a personalized haircare brand that asked me about my zip code to determine the water hardness in my area: Prose. I started by ordering only a shampoo–despite being tempted by conditioner, hair oil, pre-shampoo mask, and scalp mask. I figured that washing was my main concern; plus, I was pretty happy with my conditioner.
One of the fun parts of the Prose experience is seeing which ingredients are selected to address your concerns. For example, you may get avocado oil for split end repair or acacia collagen for fiber repair. You can see all of the potential ingredients in the Prose ingredient dictionary, which also includes the EWG score for each listing. Furthermore, I liked that I could request a vegan formulation, choose from a variety of fragrances (including an unscented option), and indicate that my hair is dense as well as long and thick (a lot to deal with!).
A few weeks after I filled out the lengthy online consultation, my bottle of Prose shampoo arrived. This little shampoo will have its work cut out for itself, I thought, going into the experience with very few expectations. It probably won’t lather well, and it probably will leave buildup in my hair–just like all other shampoos, but I’m sure it will smell great.
I couldn’t have been more wrong (except about the fragrance–it’s lovely). Never, in my nearly 10 years of living in cities with hard water, have I found a shampoo that works this well with my hair. With two lathers, my hair is clean (but not too clean/squeaky), shiny, soft, and more voluminous–which I don’t recall indicating as a concern though I definitely needed a boost. What surprised me even more, however, was the fact that my lengths appeared healthier and better conditioned even though I hadn’t switched up my conditioning routine. Although my ends are still damaged, they simply look better.
Now that I’ve had a chance to use the shampoo, I can go into my Prose account and refine my formula by answering a series of follow-up questions about my shampoo experience. I can also decide if how often I want to receive a bottle or if I’d like to snooze my subscription.
Prose and Function of Beauty cost more than your average bottle of shampoo, but there are ways to reduce the overall cost a bit. First, both brands offer discounts when you sign up with a subscription. You can also try what I did–just get a shampoo or conditioner and use a budget-friendly option for the product you didn’t get. Furthermore, you can alternate using your personalized hair care with a reliable budget-friendly option. For example, every few shampoos, you can give your custom hair care a break and use your favorite grocery-store brand.
Bottom line: Personalized hair care may surprise you. My experience has taught me that there is the right shampoo out there, and perhaps hair care doesn’t need to be so frustrating!
Have you ever tried custom hair care?
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Photo: Respective brands, Mary Hood Luttrell