Having the best hair care products for your specific needs is the most crucial part of your entire regimen.
Show of hands: Who else gets overwhelmed at the drugstore beauty aisle? We know we categorically are, and we’re not even getting into the billboards that inundate us while walking the dog, the magazine blow-ins that fall out of our monthly subscriptions or the email newsletters that sneak into our inboxes on the daily. And just when we think we’ve managed to escape it all, ducking into a cab en route to a safe space, boom: taxi ads on repeat, shoving the latest, hottest hair care products down our throats.
This might paint a not-so-pretty picture, but of course, it’s not always a bad thing. This is America: land of the free, home of aggressive marketing. Competition improves the product after all, and as consumers, this is most certainly to our benefit, leaving us spoiled for choice. But it’s when it all gets to be too much that we get stuck in some sort of buyer’s inertia, genuinely at a loss as to what we really, truly need.
Luckily, we’ve managed to cut through (most) of the hype and distilled it down to the essentials. This list is in no way meant to assume what hair care products are best for everyone, as all our needs are unique (and All Things Hair HQ knows this better than anybody!). Treat it as a starting point, or a working foundation, shall we say, on which you can build on as the need arises. Let’s get started. —EUNICE LUCERO
The Best Hair Care Products To Have In Rotation, Full Stop
Hair care starts in the shower, and we’ve yet to find a stylist or expert that claims otherwise. Investing in a proper wash-and-care system that’s tailored to your specific hair type is always the best place to start. We present the Four Pillars of Hair Care Products:
1. Shampoo and Conditioner
The needs of dry, damaged hair are drastically different than those with curly hair, so why subject them to the same cleansers? Hair is most vulnerable when wet, and the wrong shampoo and conditioner might only exacerbate whatever issues that hair type is facing. That said, take a long, hard look at your natural hair type, then shop accordingly.
Normal hair usually fares well with a protein-rich strengthening system that helps reinforce hair against daily stressors. For this, we love Nexxus New York Salon Care Therappe Shampoo and Humectress Conditioner, as it protects and strengthens, while giving that sexy, everyday slip we can’t get enough of.
Dry, moderately damaged hair benefits from a deeply nourishing system that replenishes depleted moisture, whether from heat styling, manipulation or color-processing. We like the lightweight feel we still get after using Dove Intensive Repair Shampoo and Intensive Repair Conditioner, which also helps prevent split ends. In addition, colored hair should also be on the lookout for hair care products with little to no sulfates to help prolong their color vibrancy. Nexxus New York Color Assure Shampoo is both sulfate- and silicone-free, and used with the Color Assure Conditioner, helps extend the integrity of your new shade while providing softness and moisture.
Curly hair, particularly African-American hair, also falls under the very dry spectrum. As a rule of thumb, the curlier the hair, the drier it is (i.e. the harder it is for scalp oils to reach the ends). Tailor to your curl level—see here to figure out which category you fall under—and choose hair care products that give you moisture and curl definition, like TRESemmé Botanique Curl Hydration Shampoo and Curl Hydration Conditioner. The system has shea butter to deeply moisturize but also retains curls’ natural shape and bounce.
Those with frizzy hair should look for hair care products infused with a lightweight hair oil to help smoothen without leaving strands greasy. We like the added shine we get from formulas like that in Suave Professionals Avocado+Olive Oil Smoothing Shampoo and Smoothing Conditioner.
And what of oily and dandruff-prone scalps? Choose a moisturizing product—yep, you heard us—that helps balance things at the source. Dove Dermacare Scalp Pure Daily Care Invigorating Mint Anti-Dandruff 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner relieves any irritation while leaving hair smooth and free-flowing.
2. Deep Conditioners and/or Masks
Hair masks are special treats you give your tresses, usually once a week, with the frequency depending mostly on how much you’ve put your locks through the ringer. These hair care products are designed to give your strands a potent shot of nourishment in addition to what your conditioner provides, although may also be used as a standalone.
Normal, dry and frizzy hair types can get away with deep conditioning once a week, with a mask that provides a more intense level of hydration to make up for any accrued styling damage. Nexxus New York Salon Care Humectress Moisture Restoring Mask binds moisture deep within each fiber and protects from further damage. Bed Head by TIGI Reenergize Treatment Mask is also a great option for stressed hair that needs a weekly boost: It calms frizz and keeps hair soft and on-point.
Color-treated hair needs a deep conditioner that keeps your color from fading, enhances vibrancy and resolves the damage that bleaching may have caused. Blondies will love Catwalk by TIGI Fashionista Violet Mask which has special toners for blonde hair, while Catwalk by TIGI Fashionista Brunette Mask is made to bring out the best in brown tones. Mask once to twice a week.
If you have curly hair and don’t shampoo everyday, make one wash day dedicated to soaking hair in a deeply restorative moisture mask. Suave Professionals Moisture Mask with Almond & Shea Butter works as well as professional hair care products in leaving curls touchably soft without deflating them. Mask once to twice a week.
Severely damaged tresses (say, after going platinum, or after relaxing your hair) can benefit from masking twice to thrice a week, or as often as necessary. In desperate need of an intervention? Bed Head by TIGI Resurrection Treatment Mask “breath[es] life into locks that are on the brink.” ‘Nuff said!
3. Specific Treatments
Not to be confused with treatment masks, treatments that are meant to address specific needs. Some treatments are also considered stylers, much like a smoothing serum (such as in TRESemmé Keratin Smooth 7 Day Heat Activated Treatment) or hair oil.
Treatments meant to address specific one-off concerns, like immediately after a chemical or color process, may be used as needed. Nexxus New York Salon Care Emergencée Pre-Reconstructing Treatment, as the name may suggest, is handy in cases of crises, like when tresses are intensely damaged after coloring or thermal styling.
4. Leave-In Conditioner
Leave-in conditioners are perhaps one of the most underrated parts of a strong hair care regimen. A lot of people think they can live without it until they try it, and then wonder how they could’ve possibly gone thus far without it! True gamechangers, they keep locks in optimum condition throughout the day, after that fate-sealing towel-dry has passed. They act as heat protectors in a pinch (or even in their own right), detanglers and pre-stylers. The best part about leave-ons: They’re low-maintenance, meaning you can whip ’em out as needed, no strings attached.
Normal to moderately dry to frizzy hair can benefit from a spray formula, such as S Factor by TIGI Papaya Leave-In Moisture Spray, which does all the post-conditioning jobs of detangling and protecting against frizz without the weigh-down of a cream or serum.
Fine and oily hair types can also look into using a leave-in conditioner for on-the-go hydration. Nexxus New York Salon Care Hydra-Light Leave-In Conditioning Foam is so lightweight, it does away with the fear of hair turning stringy, but still nurtures hair while retaining its flexibility.
Needless to say, dry and damaged hair sees best results with a cream version that has more slip. Suave Professionals Honey Infusion 10-in-1 Leave-In Conditioning Cream works to repair rough hair, reduce frizz, tame flyaways—and, oh, about seven other things, maybe?—for locks that don’t lose their luster as the day goes on.
Last but not the least, leave-in conditioner for curly hair has the challenging task of detangling (’cause ringlets can get knotty, especially after washing) and moisturizing, but to a balanced, optimum level only, else curls get weighed down and flatten. Dove Absolute Curls Leave-In Detangler helps keep things tug-free, and encourages a smoother, stronger and softer feel.
Curious to see what we have lying on our shower shelves? See which products our editors are currently obsessed with:
Week after week we try a number of products on our hair and come together to have a chit-chat about our experience. While it’s helpful for us to have these conversations internally, we thought it would be best to share some of our thoughts on different hair care products with our readers, too. What use would our personal experiences be for you if we keep it all to ourselves!
Many of us are motivated to try or buy a new hair care product after we’ve heard someone else with a similar hair type sing its praises. Below we’ve rounded up some of our new favorite hair products in hopes that it will make your hair care product shopping much easier. Read on to get the scoop from our latest hair care product picks. —ALYSSA FRANCOIS
Editors’ Picks: Hair Care Products We’re Currently Obsessed With
“I finally got around to trying Dove Absolute Curls Supreme Creme Serum on my hair. For a while I’ve been after a styler that moisturizes my curly hair and leaves it extremely shiny. Besides how soft, defined and shiny it makes my curls, I admire the packaging. The pump makes it super easy to dispense the exact amount of product you need when styling.” —ALYSSA FRANCOIS, Associate Beauty Editor
“Obsessed with Nexxus New York Salon Care City Shield DD Crème. It’s made me rethink my relationship with hair creams and serums. It manages to lock my style in and provide that extra noticeable slip that I just don’t get with other formulations.” —EUNICE LUCERO, Senior Beauty Editor
“I’ve been loving the TRESemmé Color Revitalize Shampoo and TRESemmé Color Revitalize Conditioner. I recently dyed my hair back to my natural color and this duo keeps the color fresh and vibrant and leaves me worry free.” —MIRIAM HERST, Assistant Editor
“I love the Suave Professionals Honey 10-in-1 Leave-in Conditioner. It’s awesome for taming frizz and providing my wavy hair with moisture and making it super shiny. Plus, it smells amazing!” —SERENA NORR, Editor in Chief
Which of these hair care products are you adding to your wishlist? For more reviews take a look at our What’s In My Hair series.