As anyone with a head with hair knows: Hair care is not a one-size-fits-all thing. What you need depends on your hair type, scalp condition, whether or not you color-treat, use styling tools, and so much more. Which is why custom hair-care brands exist—and why they're becoming one of the best ways to ensure you're giving your hair what it actually needs, without any of the guesswork.
I've been struggling with my wavy, color-treated hair since I asked my hair stylist to give me highlights back in May. On one hand, I love how it looks. On the other, it feels like hay. I've also been growing my hair out for the last couple years, and blow dry it daily. Basically, I'm lucky if I can brush my hair after a shower without ripping out multiple knots. To save my mane, I tested one of the most popular custom hair care brands, Prose, to see if its made-for-me formula would bring life back to my strands.
Curious to see how others responded to customize hair care, I also asked three other staffers on the Well+Good team if they were willing to try.
- Zachary Morad, celebrity hairstylist
But first: what to know about Prose
Prose is a fully personalized hair care brand and subscription service that sends you custom formulas based on your needs (whenever you want and/or need product). Before Prose gets your order, it asks you to complete a comprehensive hair quiz so it can better understand your hair type, texture, and condition. It even takes your location into consideration (since if you live in a city, pollution can be play a big role), as well as water type (soft or hard). You're also asked to list the "issues" you're having with your hair (for example, I noted that my hair is damaged, thanks to dye and styling tools, and that my scalp gets oily quickly).
The brand states that its formulas are based on 80 different factors. "We start with micro details like hair thickness, condition, and texture, then move to the macro: the weather in your ZIP code, your workout routine, stress level, diet, and more. If you’re vegan or gluten-free, your Prose can be, too," the brand states on its website. Ingredients are also certified clean, sustainably sourced, and its business practices are carbon-neutral.
In terms of types of products, Prose offers shampoos and conditioners, but they also have styling and maintenance products, like a styling gel, curl cream, dry shampoo, pre-shampoo mask, pre-shampoo scalp mask, hair oil, leave-in conditioner, and scalp supplements. All of which are uniquely formulated for your hair type and condition. You can customize your subscription so you're getting a specific assortment of these, too. For example, if you just want shampoo one month, and the pre-shampoo treatment the next, you can tweak your monthly subscription.
Bonus: You can even pick out the fragrance for each of your products.
How much does Prose cost?
Prose is certainly not cheap. The cost of your Prose box depends on what you order. The shampoo and conditioner starts at $24 each, while the hair oil is $41 per bottle, and the pre-shampoo mask will set you back $36.
It's worth it for a lot of folks, though, especially those who have struggled with traditional products. “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," celebrity hair stylist Zachary Morad previously told W+G.
You can subscribe, so you get a box of hair-care goods sent to you regularly (and you can decide on when you want it sent—and where, since you can easily change your address). You can also try it once, or pause the subscription altogether.
So, how good is Prose? We put the personalized hair care products to the test. Spoiler alert: We were pretty impressed.
Gina, Senior Commerce Editor
Products used: Custom shampoo, conditioner, and pre-shampoo hair mask.
After filling out an in-depth questionnaire (where I learned South Bay, LA, where I live, is even more polluted than I thought!), Prose took all my answers into account (including the length and thickness of my hair, how badly my highlighted hair is damaged, and the fact that I have oily roots and hay-like dry ends) and created a custom-made shampoo, conditioner, and pre-wash mask for me. I even got to pick out the scent (an herbal-y blend.)
I've been using my Prose system for a week now, and can already feel a major difference, specifically with my ends. I can actually comb my hair without tugging on knots, which is quite the game-changer. I badly need a trim, but my hair is feeling so much softer and more manageable—while still staying voluminous and bouncy. You can see from my "before" photo what my hair (which is naturally wavy) looks like pre-blow dry, and while I haven't actually air-dried it yet, post Prose product wash, it's so much easier to style now. It took me 10 minutes to style my hair in the "after" photo.
I love the shampoo and conditioner (both feel very nourishing and give my roots a nice deep clean without completely stripping my scalp of all natural oils), but I feel like the real star of the show is the pre-shampoo treatment, which works in tandem with the shampoo and conditioner. The pre-shampoo treatment is a mask that you apply to your ends 5-30 minutes before your shower. I keep it on for about 10 minutes before I hop in and wash it out before applying shampoo. It deep-conditions my dried-out strands, and gives my highlights more shine.
Overall, I'm super into the Prose system—I didn't think I would be, and now I'm hooked.
Jessica Willison Reyes, Business Development & Ops Manager
Products used: Pre-shampoo scalp mask, curl cream, styling gel, and dry shampoo.
"I dove deep into my curly hair journey three years ago. But while in the aisles of my favorite stores, I found myself forgetting the details of the newfound information I had binged on Youtube (“What was the dew point cut-off for glycerine? Which ingredients should I avoid for hard water, again?"). Least to say, I was already impressed (and thankful) that Prose took even those specifics into consideration during my Prose consultation.
When I finally tried the pre-shampoo scalp mask, curl cream, styling gel and dry shampoo, I was pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of each. The highlights for me are definitely the curl cream and styling gel. Despite not reaching for a leave-in conditioner, my hair felt soft, defined, and voluminous—all things I was looking for in styling products. On day three, I decided to put the dry shampoo to the test instead of embarking on another wash day. I was very happy to find that my just-noticeably-greasy roots were refreshed without a dreaded white cast giving away my dirty little secret. Hooray for extending wash day one more day! Overall, I’d absolutely order again and will be trying the shampoo and conditioner next."
Amelia McBride, Editorial Assistant
Products used: Custom shampoo, conditioner, pre-shampoo mask, and curl cream.
"Greasy roots and dry ends are my biggest hair complaints at the moment, so I was looking for a hair routine that was clarifying yet hydrating. The shampoo was exactly what I needed; a quarter-sized amount was enough to lather my entire scalp, and its clarifying power zapped the grease without compromising on moisture. The real star, however, was the super-rich pre-shampoo mask. After applying, I was able to run my fingertips through my hair without snagging on a single knot.
While the curl cream added some support for my waves, it didn’t have much staying power. I applied the curl cream throughout my hair with my fingers, then turned my head upside down and gave my whole head several scrunches. I ended up incorporating a few small swipes of the styling gel onto my ends while damp, and that seemed to add more texture than the cream.
Once my hair was fully dried, I could feel just how soft the conditioner and mask made my ends. Because of color treatments, my ends tend to be super dry and straw-like, but the Prose products breathed moisture back into them."
FYI, I selected 'Botanica' scent for my formula, and while I absolutely *adored* the herbal notes of mint, eucalyptus, and rosemary, this scent is pretty potent and may turn off some."
Kayla Hui, Commerce Writer
Products used: Custom shampoo, conditioner, and styling gel.
"One of my favorite products that I've been testing from Prose's offerings is the styling gel. I struggle with taming flyaway hairs, but this gel keeps my baby hairs in line. When I'm done for the day, I'lll wash my hair using the custom shampoo. It's formulated with professional silicone and yucca stem extract to fight frizz and humidity. After each wash, I notice how shiny and sleek my hair looks. Bonus: it smells nice!"
Francesca Krempa, Associate Commerce Editor
Products used: Custom shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, and curl cream
"As you can see, I have very thick, naturally curly hair that's been wild and free for as long as I can remember. It's prone to dryness due to its thickness, coarseness, and the fact that it's highlighted every four months or so. That said, all of my products were made to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While I can't say Prose's shampoo and conditioner made a huge difference, my custom curl cream and gel definitely did. You can see in the "before" photo that my curls are looser and more scraggly looking. The spirals aren't as defined as I'd like them to be. With the curl products (which were formulated specifically to be moisturizing, have a light hold, and not leave a stick residue behind) my individual curls are more distinct. I feel like my hair has more body and volume, especially in places like my bangs that tend to lose shape quickly.
I probably won't order the shampoo and conditioner again but the styling products have definitely earned a place in my cart. Bonus points for the scent 'corsica' that smells like an Italian seaside villa. Mmm."
Is it time to toss your traditional hair care products? Prose is definitely giving my Amazon hair care haul a run for its money. Customize your own formula here and enjoy salon-worthy products made just for you.
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