When it comes to beauty products, our options runneth over. But everyone has different needs, especially when it comes to hair care, which is where custom shampoos come in. Sometimes it’s not as simple as heading to the drugstore and picking up something new to try. The shampoo your best friend might swear by might be hell for your hair, and vice versa. That’s what makes custom shampoos such an interesting concept. Yes, having something custom-made is always a cool thing to brag about, but since these types of products are specially formulated for your hair, they’re meant to address any issues you need help with while optimizing your hair’s overall health.
Over the years, the market for personalized shampoos and conditioners has grown immensely, giving more of us a chance to find the right formulation for our hair needs. Many brands create their custom products by having the customer answer questions about their hair (including whether it’s curly, wavy, straight, or natural), the texture, any specific issues to address, as well as any other specific preferences. Some are very thorough with their “quizzes” in order to make a completely customized formula for the customer, while others will simply ask a few basic questions and make recommendations from an already-curated selection.
Are custom shampoos worth it?
Custom shampoos can be worth it—if you pick the right ones. And experts agree on this. Hairstylist Cédric Fuat Celik, of Cédric Salon in NYC, says that all hair is unique and different, which is why his approach when working with clients is very personalized, and based on many factors such as hair type, texture, face shape, and overall style.
He believes that custom hair care products can be a great tool, with one caveat: “In my experience, using a shampoo specific for your hair type from a larger batch is often more effective. Bigger batch products tend to have more consistency in formulation, [whereas] smaller batch products don’t always have the same quality control,” he says. “So, my belief is that a good ‘curly hair’ shampoo for curls or purple shampoo for blondes are the preferred choice. I do, however, believe that with technology, custom shampoos will be highly effective in the future.”
Zachary Morad, a hairstylist who has worked with Mindy Kaling and Nina Garcia, is a fan of custom shampoos, but believes that “the more questions they ask, the better” when it comes to the initial process.
“No two heads of hair are the same, so for a lot of people going to a store and buying shampoo for curly hair, fine hair, or color-treated hair doesn’t work. Then what happens when you have curly, fine hair that you’ve just had colored?” he asks. “You now have to make a choice. Custom shampoos allow you to cater to all of your hair needs based on the reality of your hair and not a ‘cookie cutter’ formula.”
If you’re looking into custom shampoo, Morad says you should always answer the questions honestly and the best as you can: If you’re confused and researching online doesn’t help, you can always consult with your hairstylist to help take the quiz more effectively. He also advises against going for a product solely because of a low price point. “Make sure to do a little research and read reviews. A lot of times with the custom shampoo process they use low quality ingredients which leave you with a ‘watered down’ version of what your hair needs,” he says.
Ahead, seven of the best custom shampoo and conditioner brands to try so you can finally achieve your hair goals.
The best custom shampoo & conditioner brands
When it comes to made-to-order products, Prose’s AI-centered approach is extremely in-depth. First, you’ll answer questions related to your hair type, lifestyle, fragrance preference, and where you live, among others. Then, Prose will determine a formula for a full line of hair care products, including shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, and styling products. For those dealing with hair loss, Prose now offers a custom, plant-based supplement called Root Source, which targets the root causes of thinning hair.
As one of the first players in the custom hair care market, Function of Beauty has won over a ton of fans (there’s something like 73,000 five-star reviews on its website). It also has one of the most straightforward processes, and maybe one of the most fun. You answer questions about your natural hair type, texture, and scalp moisture and decide which five hair goals you want to aim for (such as fixing split ends, nourishing roots, and color protection). You can also pick from several different scent and formula color options, and even choose what you want printed on the bottle. Function of Beauty also offers a custom co-wash, purple shampoo, and other hair care products.
If you have bright-colored hair, you might want to add Aura to your beauty routine. This custom hair care brand stands out because you have the option to add semi-permanent hair color, such as pink, teal, and lavender, to your custom conditioner and hair masque. Classic shades like browns and blondes are also available, as well as neutralizers to tone down brassiness. It’s a great way to keep your color fresh between salon appointments.
If you’re looking for some serious personalization, Strands might be the one to try. Unlike the other custom shampoo brands, you don’t just answer questions and instantly get assigned a custom formula. Instead, you get sent a testing kit, which analyzes your scalp and requires you to send back a strand of your hair. Scientists then analyze the strand, create a comprehensive report on their findings, and then send you a custom shampoo and conditioner.
After answering a quick series of questions related to hair tool usage, frequency of washing, and whether your hair retains smoke, and more (in addition to the usual hair type and potential concerns), Gemmist’s proprietary algorithm chooses a personalized shampoo and conditioner made from salon-grade ingredients.
Compared to other custom shampoo brands, OUAI’s approach is a lot less complex. You take a quiz on the brand’s website, answering basic questions about hair type, shape, concerns, treatment history, and how often you wash it. Then you automatically get paired with either the brand’s “fine,” “medium,” or “thick” line of hair products.
Formulate’s quiz process consists of the usual questions, but also asks if you have certain scalp conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and hair loss. You then get matched with a chemist who designs a formula based on your hair needs and characteristics. Your custom hair products are sulfate and paraben free, but also come in 12 different scents to choose from.
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