“What products do you put in your hair?”
It’s a question I ask every time I find myself in the chair of a new stylist, and my preferred method of deciding which shampoos, conditioners, masks, and pretty much every other hair product I should be trying.
I’m certainly not above taking a beauty blog recommendation or approaching strangers with great hair to ask them about their routines, but those who’ve dedicated their careers to styling others’ hair generally don’t play games when it comes to their own; it’s the products they use personally I really want to know about.
What I’ve found is that the pros are just as likely to rely on a drugstore staple as they are a luxury product, and many of their methods are very simple (i.e., things that anybody can do at home).
For a bounty of this intel, we asked 11 professional stylists to explain how they do their own hair. Here’s what they shared, from steam treatments to product cocktailing.
Lena Ott, editorial colorist and owner of Suite Caroline salon in NYC; has worked with Lady Gaga, Rachel Weisz and Florence Welch.
"My hair is fine, yet naturally dry and slightly coarse—on top of that I bleach it. I continually bounce around and try different styling products with a little hold, moisture, and frizz control, but my one consistent, crucial product that has not changed in years is Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Oil with Lavender ($47).
I put just a touch on my ends after they’re about 60 percent dry. Without it, my hair dries a little on the heavy metal side—and not in a good way."
Lacy Redway, New York–based stylist who's worked with Uzo Aduba, Kim Kardashian, and Alicia Keys.
"I have 'natural hair' which means my hair isn't chemically altered in any way. This hair type tends to be drier than other textures, so my hair requires a lot of moisturizers to keep it hydrated. Right now I cocktail a few oils together to help lock in moisture and stimulate hair growth. I mostly co-wash instead of shampooing, as over-shampooing will strip my hair of its natural oils.
Right now I'm using Cantu Complete Conditioning Co-Wash ($5). After cleansing, I use a leave-in conditioner before I cocktail Jane Carter Solution Nourish and Shine ($22), Rooted Treasure's Jamaican Black Castor Oil ($15), and some jojoba oil.
At night I either wear a satin or silk scarf or sleep on a pillowcase made from one of those materials; it helps maintain the natural oils in my hair. Satin and silk also minimize the friction that leads to tangling and breakage."
Bridget Brager, Los Angeles–based stylist who's worked with Kate Bosworth, America Ferrera, and January Jones.
"I have fine hair with a bit of wave, and I like my color to be really bright. I lighten my hair with bleach so it's often left feeling parched and dry (especially the ends) and styling can be tricky. I'm a busy working mother but no matter what, every two weeks, I use a restoring treatment and hydrating mask to keep my hair shiny and healthy. My go-to is Olaplex No. 3 ($28.95). I slap it on before bed, put a cap on, and leave it on overnight. When I wake up I rinse it out and my color is like new again.
I also like to use Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask ($71) in the shower every two weeks as well. My thought process is that Olaplex heals the inside, and a hydrating mask works on the outside. As a girl with bleached hair, I swear by this combo."
Jenny Cho, Los Angeles–based stylist who's worked with Anne Hathaway, Dakota Fanning, and Amanda Seyfried.
"My hair is naturally wavy and pretty thick. It doesn't like too much of anything—less is definitely more with my hair.
The key element in my daily routine starts with a good haircut. I try my best to go in every three months. My hair tends to keep its shape for a while and I do a self trim to thin things out here and there, so I don't need a fresh cut that often.
I use Suave Professionals Coconut Oil Infusion Shampoo ($4) and Conditioner ($4) for moisture every two days and switch out the conditioner for a weekly mask—Oribe Signature Moisture Masque ($62)—to keep my hair healthy and soft. I use a Sheila Stotts brush to get all the knots and tangles out while I have the conditioner or the mask on. Once I get out of the shower, I towel-dry my hair and apply about a quarter size of Bumble and bumble Bb.Curl defining creme ($31). This cream brings out my texture with such softness that it hardly feels like I have anything in there, so my hair is bouncy but yet controlled. It also allows me to let it air dry to bring out my natural relaxed waves without the frizz."
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"The most crucial part of my hair-care routine would probably be when it's time for a relaxer touch up. The product is cold and heavy and can sometimes have a burning sensation, but the results are awesome, so it's worth it.
My natural hair is very coarse and kinky, and the relaxer keeps it sleek and straight, which works best for my short pixie cut. I usually get one once a month, and I almost always have someone apply it for me, just to the new growth. I use Designer Touch Texturizing Relaxer ($8) and leave it on for 25 to 35 minutes to process. I follow up with a neutralizing shampoo and conditioner before drying and styling."
"I have thick, curly hair that I brush in the shower with conditioner in it. Since curly hair is inherently more dry than straight hair, I love Shu Uemura Moisture Velvet Nourishing Shampoo ($48) and Conditioner ($58).
When I get out of the shower, I gently wrap my curls in a towel for about one minute before carefully removing it. (Rubbing creates frizz.) Next, I work about three small handfuls of Kerastase Mousse Curl Idéal ($42) evenly through my hair while my head is turned upside down. I squeeze the product in instead of combing it so I don't disrupt my curl pattern. Then I flip by head upright and gently move it from side to side to create a natural part. I don't comb or force a part because then the top will be flat compared to the sides.
I let it air dry for a bit and right before I leave the house I take a nickel-size amount of Shu Uemura Cotton Uzu ($39) and squeeze the ends of my hair upside down to eliminate any crunchy feeling from the mousse. Then I place my fingers at my scalp and shake the hair back and forth with my hands without combing through the curls. This entire process gives volume, no frizz, and lasts for days."
"My hair is super straight and on the fine side, but it's a double-process blonde so needs moisture. My natural hair color is medium-dark brown.
A step I swear by is using R+Co Sunset Blvd Blonde Shampoo ($29) to keep my hair looking bright and not brassy, and it also keeps me from having to gloss my hair in between doing my roots.
I wash my hair around three times a week, sometimes more if I do hot yoga. In that case, I use Oribe Cleansing Crème ($44) instead of regular shampoo.
When I wash I usually do one shampoo, two if I've been working out."
"I go through cycles with my hair in terms of how I wear it styled. For the last few years I’ve been wearing the Zulu Goddess, which is an afro-kinky twist out with extension hair. When done correctly, extension styles allow the hair to rest and grow. But I don't skip my hair treatments because of my extensions. I swear by doing a steam treatment every four to six weeks, along with moisturizing my hair and scalp two or three times a week. When I wear my hair loose, I shampoo, condition, and sit under the steamer for 30 minutes with the conditioner still in my hair and my hair covered with a net. Afterward I moisturize with Anu Essentials Leave-In Conditioner ($22) and apply Anu Essentials Medicinal Hair Oil ($13) to my scalp and hair."
Jennifer Yepez, NYC-based stylist who's worked with Lily Aldrige, Salma Hayek, and Zendaya.
“I shampoo and condition every three to four days and alternate between Keratase products and the [soon-to-be-released] Honest Beauty hair-care line. They’re both great for restoring my hair and helping with frizz. I always use a serum and a moisturizing product when I do blowouts. I love Kerastase Elixer Ultime ($58) and Honest Beauty Moisture Milk. I have thick hair, but I like volume at the roots, so I use R&Co Dallas Thickening Spray ($28), which gives me volume for days.”
“I’m a strong advocate of simple hair-care lines that put back the nutrients that the hair loses from either daily wear and tear or from overuse of heat tools.I have long highlighted hair and I only wash it once a week. I use Hair Food Color Protect Shampoo ($10) and Conditioner ($10) and a leave-in conditioning cream. I just discovered Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Cream, which is light enough to add daily throughout the week as it gets absorbed by the hair. For styling, I put my hair in a twist, braid or knot while it’s wet and shake it down once it’s dried a bit.”
Nicole Perteet, stylist at New York's Marie Robinson Salon who's worked with Kim Cattrall, Molly Shannon, and Bette Midler.
“Because my hair is curly, I always make sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid depleting my hair of its necessary oils, and I leave my conditioner in for about five minutes to allow it to penetrate the hair shaft. After I rinse and squeeze the excess water from my hair, I apply a dollop of regular conditioner mixed with a gel. I like to use a conditioner on the thicker side such as Wella Enrich ($30) or Bumble and bumble Creme de coco ($28). I mix this with a fluid gel such as Oribe Curl Gloss ($37), then diffuse until dry.
Oils from the scalp travel longer on a curly hair shaft resulting in drier looking strands making it appear dull and lifeless. The moisture from the conditioner helps to offset the crunchiness from the gel, which in return maintains the curls hold and form, preventing strands from looking fluffy. The most important thing for curly hair is hydration.”