For years, hair care has been a polarizing thing. To look at the descriptions on the shampoo and conditioner bottles, you either have “problem” hair (dry, lifeless, oily, dandruff-ridden) or else you have “normal” hair, which we must assume is none of those things.
I think we all know it’s not that simple. Not at all. Yes, there’s always the individual with a clear, unilateral hair care problem at play. But most of us have hair whose issues are a lot more complicated. In certain weather, it’s dry, but then the season changes or you go on vacation, and it’s oily. The strands are fine, but you have a lot of them, so does that mean your hair qualifies as “thick” or “thin?” You don’t have dandruff but your scalp itches frequently, or has a sort of pinched feeling, especially right after washing it.
The latter problem was confronting the man in my life. Like so many men, hair care was rarely, if ever, on his mind. He’s the kind of guy who could step out of the shower, rub a towel vigorously over his locks, and spend the rest of the day fielding compliments. Since he was steadfastly opposed to complicating his hair care beyond the use of a single product, I persuaded him to at least trade it out for something tailored to his individual needs. Together, we sat down and pulled up the website for Prose.
Maybe you’ve seen the ads for Prose and other customized hair care products floating around — the brand is particularly prevalent on social media. It might sound like a gimmick, given the overwhelming volume of hair care products on drugstore shelves, but as we discovered, dropping the mass-produced hair products in favor of a customized hair care solution is much like the difference between wearing a suit off the rack and having one made to measure. The results were staggering.
How Custom Hair Care Works
In most cases, a customized hair care solution starts with a consultation that asks about everything relating to your hair and how you typically take care of it. In the case of Prose, there were even questions about the customer’s age, diet, stress level, and zip code. Prose senior PR manager Carly Rappoport says these questions help the company’s in-house chemists to dial in on hair issues that the customer might not even be aware of.
“We understand that life is a journey and changes happen all the time. In order for us to ensure we’re delivering our customers a formula that is 100% unique to them and addressing their potentially ever-evolving needs and goals, we want to be able to embark on their journey with them. As we have the ability to optimize our customers’ formulas, we’re able to address their changing lifestyles (i.e. changes in dietary habits, moving to a new city, etc.) efficiently. Specifically speaking, understanding an individual’s geographic location will provide us with specific regional information such as UV rays, water hardness, pollution levels, etc. All of these factors have an impact on one’s hair and scalp.”
Makes sense, right? Not only does the customized hair care model offer insightful solutions targeted to the individual’s needs, but it also ensures that the products you’re getting are fresh — they haven’t been sitting on shelves for months or even years.
It’s worth noting that although hair care products tend to typically be marketed toward women, custom hair care formulas like Prose take pride in being nonspecific to gender. If you’re a man dealing with hair loss, nobody’s going to pat your hand and say that’s just what happens as you age. Prose’s ingredient lineup includes ingredients like maca root, nasturtium, and biotin, all of which help stimulate hair growth and can even balance hormones so that you’re actually fighting the aging process.
When you’re using a custom hair care product, it’s important to give it time to work. Even the best products have a job cleansing past build-up on both the hair and scalp. And if your hair has been beaten up by sulfates, parabens, and other harsh chemicals, it will take a little time to restore its natural balance. Carly says it usually takes eight to 10 weeks for customers to see the full transformation they’re looking for.
That’s not to say you won’t see a difference right away. I certainly did — warm shine, silky softness, alluring smell — and I’m just an outside observer. An active outside observer, if you will. My man reported that his scalp felt clean and no longer tight or itchy. Needless to say, I’m ready to order my own personalized product set.
Best Custom Hair Care Brands
Innovative beauty brand Prose stands head and shoulders (see what we did there?) above the other custom haircare options on the market. The brand makes its mark using meticulously sourced, clean ingredients that cover an extensive range of attributes. In-house chemists conduct constant research to ensure their formulas are up to date with the best options. If you’ve tried everything to deal with your hair issues and nothing has worked, you need Prose in your life. Newcomers might find their 22-item questionnaire a bit precious, but just a couple days with their product will make you a believer. You even get to choose your own scent; we loved “Napoli,” which calls to mind a sunny day at the beach.
Best for Biohackers:
Remember that blood transfusion system that’s been set up nationwide? Virtue Labs offers a hair-based version of that, with products built on a foundation of Alpha Keratin 60ku, i.e., pure keratin extracted from human hair. (Ethically, of course.) Unlike synthetic keratin, the pure version is easy for the hair on your head to recognize, accept, and absorb. Bet you had no idea your hair really did have a mind of its own.
Best to Set It and Forget It:
If you’d like to think about your hair as little as possible, Function of Beauty’s got your back. With just seven questions about your hair care needs, the MIT engineers, cosmetic scientists, and developers behind the brand set up a unique formula to restore your locks’ natural color and shine. You can even purchase an ongoing subscription to make sure you never run out.
Best for Ethnic Hair:
Tired of trying to find a hair care solution in a world of Westernized beauty standards? Form is a breath of fresh (h)air. This collection of products is customized for the unique hair needs of people of color. No questionnaire involved — simply choose from the mercifully minimalist product lineup and start styling.
Best for “Uncle Jesse” Types:
For some guys, the relationship with their hair goes as deep as any family or romantic ties. Maybe even deeper. If that’s you, walk this Ouai (pronounced “way”). Founded by celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, Ouai curates a custom hair care regime for each customer from their exhaustive product lineup. All products are sulfate-free and boosted with keratin for optimal health and shine, and include of-the-moment styling options like wave spray, air-dry foam, and sun soothers.
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