While I love doing my nightly skincare routine and delight in applying my makeup, I spent years despising washing my hair, drying it and deciding what to do with it. (Spoiler: My hair is either down, in a messy bun or in some kind of half-up, half-down style.) Sometimes it feels like my hair has a life of its own: While a nourishing shampoo might leave my hair falling into soft, silky waves on Monday, on Saturday I'll often have entirely different results. It's frustrating, to say the least.
Before we go any further, a bit about my hair. The daughter of a man with thick, tight curls and a woman with fine, poker-straight strands, my hair has been left decidedly in between. Neither straight nor curly, it settles into a kinky wave when left to its own devices. It pretty much always feels dry, is prone to frizz (something which I love and embrace on a daily basis, but I'll admit that sometimes I do want to smooth it out) and can last a solid five days between washes.
Thankfully, over the past year or so, I've managed to carefully curate an edit of hair products that actually work and manage to make hair-wash day feel like less of a chore. For a product to make its way into my permanent haircare shortlist, it has to provide one of three things: moisture (to combat dryness), time (as in, saving me it), or the professional polish I normally only get when I visit the hairdresser's. Trust me—each of these products has been thoroughly tried and tested, so keep scrolling to shop the 16 products I use every single week.
If I could only use one haircare brand for the rest of my life, it might very well be Amika. Its products are a mid-range price point, the packaging is so damn cute and every formula I've tried really does deliver. This is my weekly shampoo of choice. It's deeply hydrating (so probably one to avoid if your roots get greasy quickly), and contains keratin and wheat proteins to improve elasticity. Also, sea-buckthorn berry and avocado oil add a bit more moisture.
Hands down, this is the best clarifying shampoo on the market. If you don't know what a clarifying shampoo is, effectively it's a deep-cleansing formula that removes all of the product buildup in your hair and on your scalp. (This does mean colour-treated hair types should avoid using these.) I use this once a week to remove all traces of dry shampoo from my head and leave my strands feeling squeaky-clean.
I alternate between two types of conditioners—a replenishing one and a shine-boosting one, depending on what my hair needs that day. This one falls firmly in the first camp. It contains roucou oil to replenish the driest of hair, but it also works to neutralise free radicals and protect your hair against cellular damage for improved hair health.
An oldie but a goodie, this affordable conditioner is one of the best I've tried for adding shine and lustre to my hair. It contains invigorating ginseng and pearl powder to leave hair seriously glossy.
Another favourite from Amika? This intensely hydrating hair mask. I use this once a week—leaving it on for around 10 minutes—and love how it not only leaves my hair feeling really soft, but also temporarily seals down split ends if you're in need of a trim.
I've used Philip Kingsley's Elasticizer for years, so I was over the moon when this litre bottle in a new, tropical scent landed on my desk. This is actually a pre-shampoo treatment, so you apply it to damp hair before you do your shampoo-and-conditioner routine, and it works to restore your hair's natural elasticity and bounce. Honestly, use this once a week and you'll basically feel like you have a new head of hair.
Serums and oils are an essential post–hair wash step for me. I mainly use them to help detangle my strands when I'm brushing through them (things can get seriously wild post-shower), but many have the added benefit of adding shine and reducing flyaways. I love this one from Redken because it leaves me hair looking less puffy than it would otherwise. Plus, I'm obsessed with the smell.
I've been using this mask since my early teenage years, and I always come back to it. I find that the extra-strength version (tailored to medium-thick and wavy-curly hair types) does the best job. For me, this is essential in summer for the way it protects hair against humidity. I'd also recommend it if you have kids who hate having their hair brushed, as it's a dream at detangling.
I've never been particularly fussed about hair dryers (that is, until I used a certain brand Rosie Huntington Whiteley loves—but more on that tomorrow), so this is more to demonstrate the attachment that I swear by. Despite avoiding diffusers since my teenage years, I visited a stylist about 12 months ago who showed me how to use one properly, and now I swear by it. They work by directing the airflow gently around your strands and enhancing your natural curls.
The original and the best. I rarely straighten all of my hair, but I use a pair of GHDs to whizz over my fringe each morning and curl any loose strands around my face if I'm wearing my hair up. They heat up quickly, so there's no waiting around and get the job done.
As I mentioned, my hair is naturally wavy, with a few distinct curls here and there. I tend to use curling wands to give my strands more definition when I'm wearing my hair down. This one is my weapon of choice when I want loose, beachy curls.
On days that I want a tighter, more perm-like curl, I opt for the Chopstick Styler. It's more time-intensive than the BaByliss hair wand (you need to work in smaller sections of hair), but I love the results for a night out or special occasion.
The price of this product kills me, but it really is the best texture spray I've tried. Even if all you've done is blast your hair with a hair dryer, this has the remarkable ability to look like you've actually made some effort with it by delivering the perfect amount of dishevelled texture and volume. It smells like a really fancy hair salon, too, which I love.
When my beloved Bumble and bumble Cityswept spray was discontinued (R.I.P.), I needed to find an alternative pronto. This one really does deliver. I blast it in at my roots to add lift and then spritz it through my lengths, twisting my strands with my fingertips as I go to add some shape and definition.
I normally start using dry shampoo around day two after washing my hair, and generally use it three days in a row before my next hair wash. Some people love it, some people hate it, but I really couldn't live without it. If you've got a fringe like I do, I think it's essential for keeping it looking fresh without having to wash all of your hair and start again—plus most of them have the added benefit of adding texture and volume. This one from Philip Kingsley is one of the best I've tried. Your hair will genuinely feel like it's been washed after using it.
If you go through dry shampoo as I do, having a more affordable version on hand is a good idea. Batiste is basic but effective, and it gets the job done. It just needs a little more massaging into the roots than other brands if you have dark hair, as it can leave your roots looking a little ashy.