Ouai Is Changing the Way We Wash Our Hair—And I’m Impressed

Elizabeth Denton
Ouai Is Changing the Way We Wash Our Hair—And I’m Impressed
Photo: Ouai.

In the past two decades, my hair has been on a journey, to say the least. Now in my mid-30s, I thought I had finally figured out what my dry, damaged, frizz-prone, fine, color-treated hair needs. (Phew.) But Ouai’s Daily Care, a new collection from celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin’s cult-favorite line, just threw a wrench into what I always thought was right for me and my strands. In a way, this is actually a good thing, even if my routine has been a bit rocked. Allow me to explain.

I’ve been dying my naturally brunette hair blonde since I was a teenager, going back and forth between highlights and full bleach-and-tone. In my 20s and early 30s, I tried every trend: pastel, grey, short, long—you name it. I always used shampoo and conditioner that worked best for my hair at the time. This was usually color-friendly, ultra-hydrating and frizz-reducing depending on my current style. Yes, I have 15 bottles of shampoo going at one time. Unsurprisingly, my hair started rebelling from everything I was doing to it so I added even more hair masks and repairing shampoos, along with my smoothing and color-brightening. It’s complicated, high-maintenance and a huge pain, TBH.

Atkin wants to change all that and simplify our routines with the new Daily Care collection. When it comes down to it, we all want the same thing, regardless of hair type or texture. We want healthy, strong hair that’s shiny, smooth and soft. Do we need a million different shampoos for that? According to Atkin, we should all be using a shampoo and conditioner based on whether we have fine, medium or thick hair. That’s it. Then, for specific concerns such as frizz-reducing or volumizing, that’s where styling products come in. So, she and her team revamped the OG shampoo and conditioner with specific ingredients for each hair type.

“There are new ingredients that are a step up from the original, like chia seed oil for Fine, Babassu oil for Medium, and marshmallow root for Thick, plus a ton of other amazing quality ingredients that elevate the new formula,” Atkin tells STYLECASTER. “It was time to simplify the process and make it easier for our customers to shop for a crucial part of their daily (or weekly!) hair routine and care foundation.”

To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. My entire life I’ve been attempting to use any old shampoo and conditioner and then find I can’t even get a brush through my hair. I need an ultra-heavy formula—or so I thought. It turns out, Atkin knows what she’s talking about. But first I had to figure out what type of strands I have. Atkin says she has a specific test that can determine what type you have. When holding one strand in between your fingers, if it feels almost invisible, you have fine hair. Feel a little something? You’re probably medium and if you could “play a tug of war with what’s between your fingers,” you have thick hair. Initially thinking Fine, I went with Medium.

ouai daily care bathroom

Image: Elizabeth Denton.

Because my hair is naturally frizzy and wavy, I often use heavy products that weigh it down, attempting to smooth and straighten. I’m afraid of anything “volumizing” so I just deal with flat strands sometimes. When it’s too flat, I add waves with a curling or flat iron. That just causes more damage and it’s a vicious cycle. But I was skeptical of how Ouai’s Daily Care would be different.

ouai daily care review

Image: Elizabeth Denton.

“Ultimately, if you know you have fine and dry/damaged hair, you would choose the Fine formula for your daily or weekly shampoo/conditioner,” Atkin tells me via email. “You can also use products like Hair Oil at the ends to give your strands the drink of water and hydration that they clearly need if you’re battling dry. Often with dry hair, it leads to split ends, which oil will also help with.” She’s using this line to help make it simple for people and take the guesswork out of choosing from the literally hundreds of options.

“As a brand, the goal is to keep things easy for real people who have real schedules, real hair woes, who need real and attainable solutions,” she says. “Offering a more intuitive approach to the foundation of washing your hair is one of the reasons we revamped our Daily Care line. From there, depending on your hair needs (curl, volume, breakage, etc.), we then recommend using the different styling products to layer into your routine. If you need volume, spritzing some Ouai Volume Spray at the roots before blow-drying is key. Or if you battle frizz and need to smooth things down a bit, try a bit of Leave In Conditioner.”

I got a chance to try the new line for a little over a week before it launched. I grabbed a few styling products as Atkin recommended and set out to change the way I washed my hair. Three times in 10 days, I cleansed with a quarter-sized amount of Medium Shampoo and finished with a dollop of Medium Conditioner. I was extremely surprised that I could, in fact, get a Wet Brush through my hair when finished. I used a few different leave-in treatments including my favorites from Ouai, Virtue and It’s a 10! for a dose of hydration. I finished with my usual blow-dry routine with my Dyson Air Wrap (I like the Firm Smoothing Brush attachment.)

ouai hair care

Image: Elizabeth Denton.

Was my hair perfect? Nope, but it was way better than I expected. Apparently, I don’t need the specific shampoo and conditioners I always thought. My hair felt smooth and soft, with a natural-looking amount of volume. I looked like busy me, who doesn’t always have a ton of time but wants to look put together. Only better. For those who love Ouai fragrances, each new Daily Care product has the Mercer Street scent (Italian lemon, Turkish rose, jasmine sambac, iris, lily and white musk) which stayed in my strands in a subtle but pretty way.

My hair looked great not because I’m skilled at a blowout but because of the ingredients in Medium Shampoo/Conditioner. Those include Babassu oil, derived from palm fruit, for weightless hydration, Kumquat fruit extract for shine, coconut oil to strengthen and hydrolyzed keratin to reduce frizz and flyaways. In the same vein, Fine features some of the same ingredients but with chia seed oil to thicken hair and biotin for ultimate hair health. The Thick products have marshmallow root to help detangle strands, shea butter for deeper hydration and avocado oil to prevent breakage.

ouai daily care bottle

Image: Ouai.

Will I never go back to my complicated hair care routine? I’ll probably slip back into it once in a while but I’m surprised to say I will definitely be restocking Daily Care when I run out. I like it that much. Atkin is so sure you will too that she’s also launching a refillable pouch available in each collection to reduce the number of plastic bottles we’ll all use. Shop the entire collection, including Medium, online now.

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