Now we have what we have always wanted, an abundance of hair product selections. In fact, there is practically a product to address almost every hair concern and for every hair type. On the other hand, knowing to choose and use each product is a different matter that takes knowledge and skill.  If you have Product Junkie tendencies, then it could save you loads of cabinet space and a big chunk of your paycheck if you read this quick guide for selecting your products, managing expectations, and testing them for an appropriate amount of time. 

How to choose

Approach the quest by taking an honest inventory of your needs and goals.

  1. Address the current state of your hair by determining if it is dry, damaged, chemically treated (e.g. color treated), or just needs general health maintenance.
  2. Assess your hair porosity, width, and curl pattern.
  3. Create hair goals in terms like length, style, or volume.
Once you know these answers, you can better select a shampoo, conditioner, growth aids, and styling products.

What to expect

Product claims tell you what the product intends to do for the hair. You should give the claims a fair chance. Yes, the companies want you to purchase the product, so it is in their best interest to deliver on the claims so that you will love their product and consequently share with others. So, select a product that claims to deliver your most important goals and needs. For example, dry hair needs a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, while volume seekers will opt for a volumizing cleanser and conditioner with a root boosting or voluminous styler. If you take time to study a label and apply the product accordingly, you can save yourself some disappointment (and another trip to the store for a new product).

How long to sample

This depends heavily on the current condition of your hair. Julie Hall, master stylist for over 20 years, tells her clients, "I can usually tell about a product after 2 uses, especially since my hair is damaged and in a fragile state. I think the average consumer can give a product two weeks before deciding if it's a yay or nay.”

  • First use- you should experience a taste of your desired effect. However, first time experiences can be skewed by your 1) understanding of the product; 2) skill using the product; 3) any buildup that might be on the hair shaft.  
  • Over time- using a product for 2-4 weeks will definitely tell you how it is affecting your hair. If your hair is fragile or damaged hair, you will most definitely need to make a quicker judgment in order to protect the integrity of the hair.

Product breakdown

  • Shampoo - The purpose of shampoo is to cleanse the hair and scalp. Specialty shampoos give the added benefits of color protection, repair, volumizing, silkening, or moisturizing. 
  • Conditioner - Your conditioner should be a partner to your shampoo, used to close the cuticle after cleansing and bring the hair back into an appropriate pH balance while prepping the hair for combing and styling. 
  • Styler - Stylers should enhance the look of your hair and maintain your desired shape or form. These are typically creams, gels, or mousses that work with your natural texture (that's right, no magic potions) and can enhance shine and reduce frizz, smooth your strands.
  • Treatment - A hair treatment enhances the condition of the hair and typically comes in cream form. This treatment should be used as directed for at least four weeks to adequately judge its effectiveness. Certain treatments that are reparative generally take time to replenish and repair long-term levels of moisture and strength on the inner and outer layers of the hair shaft.  
  • Moisturizer - It can be difficult to judge a moisturizer since moisture levels within the hair shaft are based on many things like sleeping on satin rather than cotton, using a gentle shampoo, keeping your ends trimmed, regular deep conditioning, and sealing of the ends. Therefore, make sure you are doing all of these things in conjunction with applying your routine moisturizer. Assess how long your hair feels moisturized after each use.

Note- The myth that products stop working after a while might mean it is time for a clarifying shampoo to remove the buildup from your hair shaft.

What do you look for in a good product?