I’m Not a Hair Product Expert, But I Played One Once

I used to test hair products for a hair care website years ago. I tested hair sprays, mousse, gel, paste, wax, shampoo, conditioner and temporary color (I once colored my bangs turquoise). During that time I found out that, except for a very few product lines, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in products.

In a nutshell, here’s what I found out:

  • Shampoo – you can list all the botanicals, herbs, oils, fairy wings and pixie dust on the bottle you like, but basically, shampoo is shampoo. Some may smell better than others, but basically it’s pretty much the same. If you have oily hair, get shampoo for oily hair. If you have dry hair, get shampoo for dry hair.
  • Conditioner – same deal applies. While conditioners will temporarily soften hair, it comes down to this: they are all about the same. After shampooing and rinsing, apply the conditioner, wash all your body parts (giving the conditioner time to do its thing), then rinse your hair so that it”squeaks” when you run your fingers through it, but doesn’t feel greasy. If it does, it’s going to weigh your hair down when it’s dry.
  • Hair spray – it all depends on what you want. Use a light hold (i.e., you can run your fingers through it without getting your fingers stuck) if you want your hair to move fairly naturally. Use a heavier spray if you want your hair to stay put–sort of like a helmet.
  • Mousse – again, it depends on what kind of look you want. If you like a tousled look, mousse can work for you. Just check the ingredients; if it’s too oily, you’ll weigh your hair down. Be aware that some mousses will work well until you touch it. Then you will have zillions of white flaky stuff throughout your hair–which will look exactly like dandruff.
  • Gel – this is nearly the same deal as with mousse; be careful not to touch it or you may get the flakes. In this case, I’ve found that the higher quality stuff really is worth it; you get a good look and a good hold and NO flakes.
  • Hair paste – this stuff looks and feels like real paste, but if applied lightly, you’ll get a pretty good look. You can go smooth and sleek, or the give yourself the still-popular “bed head” look (I wore it for years and loved it).
  • Hair wax – this is a lot like hair paste, but if overused can give you a wax-y finish (what a surprise, huh?). And if that isn’t bad enough, it tends to be sticky and attract airborne stuff like dist, lint, bugs, etc.
  • Temporary hair color – this is actually a lot of fun. I have tested hair mascara in various shades, and it looks pretty good–especially if you are going for a streaky look. It washes right out, so no permanent harm done.

Now, all that said, if you are lucky enough to have a fabulous stylist as I do (thank you, Tina!), LISTEN to her (or him). Since they work with your hair on a regular basis, they know what works for your hair type and what doesn’t. If they recommend a product, use it. Even though it’s your hair, they know best how to work with it.

All that said, remember that fancy packaging and expensive commercials do not an effective product make–the hair care folks need to make money as much as anyone else. So do your research, try out different brands, and most of all, consult with your hairdresser.

TIP: If you bought shampoo and didn’t like it, you can either return it (if the store allows) or use it to wash your undies by hand. This way it’s not a total loss……





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