Brave pioneers have long pushed boundaries and explored unchartered territories in search of gold — or, more specifically, a truly money hair product. (See what we did there?) With grit and foresight, these conquerors of new hair-care frontiers helped reshape the beauty landscape with their innovative genius. We’re talking legends, like John Frieda, who made shine serum seem so supremely cool back in 1990 that even those with pin-straight, frizz-devoid wisps dutifully applied a dropperful daily. Chaz Dean, the LA stylist who dreamed up the world’s first cleansing conditioner at the height of the grunge era, way before throngs of knock-offs lined drugstore shelves. And superstylist Oribe, who developed his Dry Texturing Spray a decade ago, sparking a global obsession with raw, rumpled strands.
Now we’re witnessing the birth of new hair potions imbued with that same trailblazing spirit. Each is the first of its kind, poised to spark an entirely new category — and make hair-care history in the process.
1. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day In-Shower Styler
The Pitch, According to the Company: Made to be applied in the shower (post-shampoo and -conditioner) and lightly rinsed, this robust cream for straight to wavy types “enhances your natural texture,” delivering “air-dried hair with softness, natural body, and shine.” In short, it’s an in-shower hair styler.
The Perks: From a brand that’s become synonymous with breakthroughs, this formula coats strands with “fairly rigid and very substantive styling polymers that remain on hair after rinsing to thicken and texturize; plus a strong-conditioning polyester polymer; and a resin that deposits a waterproof [frizz-prohibiting] film on hair’s surface,” says cosmetic chemist Joe Cincotta, who also warns that, with regular use, some amount of build-up is likely with this cream. The in-shower application, while crazy convenient, actually has a higher purpose: It “allows the product to completely coat each hair — something traditional stylers have difficulty doing,” adds cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. Another advantage, points out New York City-based hairstylist DJ Quintero, is the protection this formula affords hair prior to styling. “Hair is most fragile when wet, but this keeps the cuticle smooth and intact during towel-drying and brushing,” he notes. Those with curls or fuzz-prone textures may need to supplement with a stronger-hold cream or cuticle-sealing oil after showering. And, yes, though engineered for air-drying, this goop can take the heat, says Cincotta, so go ahead and blow-dry if you can’t wait for nature to take its course.
2. Kristin Ess Depth Defining Water-Based Pomade
The Pitch, According to the Company: “You know how I always tell you guys to mix a little dab of pomade plus a little drop of serum?” asks celebrity stylist Kristin Ess, describing this tacky texturizer on her web site. “I went ahead and mixed the two for you in this jar. This combo…is a soft, lightly mattifying pomade that won’t dry out as you apply. This is an epic alternative to an aerosol can of texture spray and will give you a very similar result.” Whether setting braids and waves, or defining short cuts, it gives separation and light hold.
The Perks: We say “pomade”; you say, “greasy.” “Pomade!” “Greasy!” “Pomade!” “Greasy!” But not so much with this one. Ess’s version has all but severed that old-school association. Hers is “less heavy than your typical pomade, but with similar benefits,” says Hammer. Giving it an edge over those texture sprays she referenced, “it allows for better control and coverage than an aerosol, and the base [of lanolin and coconut oil] is much more moisturizing, so you get the benefit of hold plus hydration,” adds cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. According to Dana Tizzio, a hairstylist at New York City’s Butterfly Salon, while the formula is durable, it’ll keep hair touchable, not stiff and sticky, and create a clean shine rather than a matte look. To avoid an overdose, emulsify a dime-size drop of pomade between your palms, says Quintero, and starting at the back of your head, scrunch it in or pull it through your ends.
3. Deva Curl Buildup Buster Micellar Water Cleansing Serum
The Pitch, According to the Company: It’s a “no- to low-lather cleansing serum that gently removes buildup from hard water, product, and the environment without stripping hair of the moisture it needs.”
The Perks: A micellar water…for HAIR? Here’s the deal, according to our chemists: The product relies on low levels of non-stripping detergents to form cleaning micelles, or microscopic oil-based spheres, which surround build-up on the hair and lift it away during rinsing. The formula “is considerably less harsh than a clarifying shampoo with traditional surfactants,” says Hammer. (A blessing for both hair and scalp.) Plus, it’s loaded with moisturizers, like panthenol and jojoba oil, and conditioning polymers, so it won’t desiccate strands or strip away your color. “A lot of my curly clients co-wash their hair, using only conditioner in the shower if they want to feel cleaner or have to restyle, because regular shampooing removes the natural oils needed to keep curls in good shape,” says Tizzio. “This cleanser is a great alternative to co-washing, since it’s so nourishing, and really brings curls back to life.” While it targets ringlets specifically — since they’re most susceptible to frizz-inducing dehydration — this ultramild purifier can refresh any hair type.
4. Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam
The Pitch, According to the Company: “This foaming dry shampoo works without water to thoroughly cleanse and refresh hair and scalp while adding instant volume and just-showered shine.”
The Perks: While applying something wet to achieve a matte effect seems utterly incongruous, this fresh-smelling mousse “dries really quickly because it consists primarily of air,” Wilson assures us. It also contains a fair amount of alcohol, which evaporates almost instantly, and powders like diatomaceous earth, rice starch, and volcanic ash, which “absorb excess oil, while added proteins and conditioners help with volume and softening,” she explains. (That said, those who battle frizz may want to stick to dry shampoo powders, notes Cincotta, since introducing any amount of water to such hair types can precipitate a pouf explosion.) Other advantages our stylists picked up on: There’s no chance of this foam leaving behind dusty residue (emoji hands to the sky!). And it doubles as a texturizer, notes Quintero, making it ideal for anyone seeking oomph or lived-in movement. However, “if you’re after a sleek, smooth result, this may not be for you,” Tizzio notes.
5. Ethique Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
The Pitch, According to the Company: Though solid cleansers have been around for ages, this French beauty brand is the first in the world to develop an entire range of solid hair, face, and body products made of biodegradable ingredients and wrappers — and has thus far prevented the disposal of over 130,000 bottles. The water-free bars are highly concentrated, so they last three to six times longer than bottled products. Plus they’re all vegan, soap-free, pH balanced, and positively loaded with natural butters, oils, and extracts (while being completely free of sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, synthetic fragrance, triclosan, silicones, and other iffy ingredients).
The Perks: While the bars’ ingredients are not unlike those you’d find in an ordinary shampoo or conditioner, “these water-free solids can tolerate higher levels of hydrating oils — and without sacrificing the foaming effect that people love in a shampoo,” says Wilson. (Translation: They’re perfection for coarse, dry, or damaged hair.) As long as they’re kept out of water, and allowed to dry after use, they should hold up well in the shower rather than melting like a traditional bar of soap. “A single bar could very well outlast three bottles of regular shampoo if it’s stored properly,” Wilson says. One potential caveat: “Unlike water-based shampoos and conditioners, which immediately break down, these solids may take longer to liquefy and spread through the hair,” says Cincotta.
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