When it comes to hair care creams, serums or oils I have to say that I'm just simply overwhelmed with all the options on the market. However there are so many different hair types and there is so much you can do with styling it does make sense why there are so many options. I'm pretty low maintenance when it comes to styling my hair. I either blow dry and straighten or just let it air dry. For me I like to keep my hair on the medium to long side because it's easiest for me to manage and also tie up in a pony tail or bun. I have medium to thick hair that is prone to frizz. It's never been color treated although I have always been curious about the process and have been wanting to try it for a long time. My friends who have usually tell me not to though. They say once you start it's a process you can't really just say you'll take a break from and that it requires a lot of maintenance.
Back to the styling. My hair is usually heat treated with a blow dryer and often a flat iron. My two favorites are the T3 PROi (c/o) and HAI Convertible Ceramic Flat Iron. I don't mind air drying my hair on days where I'm not in a rush but I really don't like having wet hair for an extended period of time and in the past air drying usually meant it would dry to an unflattering frizz. I would say that my main concerns for styling are controlling the frizz and flyaways without having something that will weigh down the hair or look greasy as the day progresses. Since I heat treat it frequently, finding something to protect or smooth it is also important.
Quick repost from previous articles on what my hair looks like, it varies in length depending how long it's been in between cuts.
I've had a few go-to's I would call staples but this year I've acquired a number of new to me products, some press samples for review and some based on recommendations from people who said "this product is simply the best." This post has been months in the making. I've split the styling products by category and if you're looking for something new or have been interested in any of these I hope this post helps you. Sometimes I'll be in a Sephora store standing in front of the hair care section like a deer in headlights. This is going to be a long one and if you're wondering what I plan on doing with all of these, I'm passing a good portion along to friends.
Up first are some items I am always happy to test out and try which includes blow dry treatments, primers and smoothers. I really believe adding a treatment before heat helps tremendously in detangling the hair and giving a good smooth finish.
- Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer (c/o, available at Space NK) is a pre-heat styler to condition, smooth and protect hair from heat breakage. I've used this one for years in the minis that you find with GWPs. It's one of the best heat primers and smoothers I've used. It spritzes product evenly through the hair and doesn't weigh it down. It is on the sweet smelling side like a mix of fruit and vanilla which is very strong when you spray it. The good thing is it does fade after your blow dry is finished. Leaves hair feeling silky, smooth and healthy looking.
- Moroccanoil Blow Dry Concentrate (c/o, available at Morocccanoil and Nordstrom) is a new concentrate that can be used pre and post heat styling. For me it had a similar consistency and texture to the regular Moroccanoil but this new one comes with a pump dispenser which is genius. It comes in a glass bottle and works to smooth hair and add shine. As a huge fan of Moroccanoil I give this one a thumbs up.
- Shu Uemura Art of Hair Wonder Worker Air Dry/Blow Dry Perfector (available at Shu Uemura Art of Hair and Barneys New York) has had so many rave reviews and I had to try it out. It was a bit hard for me to find in stores near me so I ordered it online. It works to prevent frizz and smooth hair. It is scented almost like a Byredo Gypsy Water kind of vibe but a lot lighter and sheerer. Their website claims that it instantly hydrates, detangles, smoothes, conditions, boosts radiance, tames frizz, and add silkiness. It does all of them. For my hair I still need to add a finishing product on ends for shine. Other than that it's awesome.
- Shu Uemura Art of Hair Satin Design Polishing Milk (available at Shu Uemura Art of Hair and Barneys New York) is another one that many love. I was torn between Satin Design and Wonder Worker so I ordered both to see what the difference. The Satin Design can also be used as a blow dry pre-treatment. Main difference is texture and consistency. This one is more like a fluid cream versus spray. It's easy to work through the hair. Leaves hair feeling soft. Doesn't leave hair greasy and holds up well in hot weather but it is thicker in consistency compared to the spray of Wonder Worker.
- R+Co Park Ave Blow Out Balm (available at Birchbox) is amazing. I bought this in store at Space NK but it's not listed on their website anymore. I love the way this smells and R+Co packaging is always so creative. It has a smooth fluid texture with a bit of thickness like a smooth cream.
What do you do when all the blow-dry products you've tried are amazing and have limited bathroom and storage space? Since I blow dry my hair very frequently and go through product fast, I can justify keeping all of these. I would say my recommendation for you would be based on your preference for consistency and packaging - do you like a spray, cream, pump or tube? If I were forced to pick one I would say kill me now. Just kidding - I have to give it a three way tie between the Shu Uemura Wonder Worker, Moroccanoil Blow Dry Concentrate and Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil Primer.
Next are beachy wave sprays or what some call surf sprays. I never thought beachy wave sprays were any good because some I've tried in the past left my hair crunchy feeling. I do know the point of a beachy spray is to give it that tousled slightly messy undone beach look, but having hair that feels soft is still essential for me.
- Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray (c/o, available at Space NK) is the best surf spray I've tried. I love the entire Surf Line and this spray gives that sea salt beachy kind of look with texture and volume. With heat treatment it does give that windswept look like it claims. I love the way the line smells which is rare for me when it comes to beach/salt sprays. It smells lightweight fresh and what I'd think of as soft and beachy.
- Oribe Apres Beach Spray (available at Birchbox and Space NK) has been my go-to beach spray for years. I spray it on my hair and let it air dry and hair dries to a soft natural wave without any frizz. The only downside is the price - Oribe is very pricey and with aerosols I feel like you get less bang for your buck. This one gets used up quickly by me, but I know the point of product is to be used.
- Ouai Wave Spray (c/o, available at Birchbox and Space NK) is a decent spray similar to the others in the sense it's a mist that adds texture and a natural wave. It does hold the hair in place to give it that undone look. It also has the same floral scent as the Finishing Creme, which I'll say again isn't bad, just something I'm not a huge fan of. Performance wise it works. Scent wise, I prefer the Oribe or Bumble products. This one has a slightly heavier feel on my hair.
- Bumble and Bumble Surf Infusion (c/o, available at Space NK) is now tied with the Oribe Apres Beach spray for me. I love that you shake it up to mix contents of oil and salt. It gives a softer feel to the hair compared to the Surf Spray which I really really love. The oil adds a very natural sheen. A little can go a long way. I hands down recommend this. Works well to air dry the hair to a natural finish and look.
Top two favorites are the Bumble and Bumble Surf Infusion and Oribe Apres Beach Spray.
Up next are hair oils and serums. Most of these can be multi-use products to use as a pre-heat treatment and also finishing product. I usually don't like oils because I find they are easy to overdo and once you apply too much, it's not like a blush that you can tone down. For me if there's too much oil I simply just have to rewash my hair or put it up in a pony tail and hope that it helps cover a bad hair look.
- Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil (c/o, available at Space NK) is described as a lightweight oil to add shine. Reviews are mixed and I'm in the batch that finds this too heavy and greasy looking. I will say that a little goes a very long way so the quick fix is to simply use less. If you have very dry hair or have days your hair just looks like it's had too much heat styling this is a great fix. For me it's best as a once in a while treatment because it is very rich. For everyday it's too much for me and easy to overdo. If you can manage how much you dispense and apply it's very good to restore the hair's shine and gives it a heathly look.
- Ouai Hair Oil (c/o, available at Space NK) is a lightweight oil to tame frizz and seal ends. If the scent of most Ouai products didn't have that floral scent I think I would be more inclined to use them more frequently. It's a great lightweight oil so if you're one who has been wanting an oil that is truly lightweight but adds shine, this performs well. I like the packaging and the dispenser works well. The bottle is sized perfectly to fit easily into my hand and for that I give the line a huge thumbs up on all their styling products.
- Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil (c/o, available at Shu Uemura Art of Hair) is in my top two for hair oils because of the lightweight texture and almost-camellia like scent. I can use this as a finishing product after styling and sometimes put it on at night as an overnight treatment. Lots of love for this one and no complaints. The one I have is part of a limited-edition collaboration hence the packaging, but you can buy it in the regular clear packaging.
- Moroccanoil Moroccanoil (available at Nordstrom) is the other oil in my top two. It's a classic and I am beyond obsessed with the way it smells. I've gifted lots to friends and family and they all love this regardless of hair type.
- Kerastase Elixir Ultime (available at Kerastase) has high ratings and raves which is why I ordered it. For me it's excellent but also has a slight floral powdery scent that actually fades after a few minutes so it's not a huge problem. For me it was not life changing but it's a solid oil you can use before styling, on wet or dry hair, after styling. It's multi-purpose and comes in a sturdy glass jar with a pump. People who've bought it seem to really love it. I have no complaints about it, it's just on my favorites list.
- Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil (available at Space NK) is another long-time love. I feel like this is a good oil to add natural shine and make the hair look healthy. It comes in close third behind Moroccanoil and Shu Uemura. I've never been let down by anything Oribe and think it's very good.
Finishing creams and serums can perform similar to the oils listed above in the sense they add shine, give texture or smooth the hair.
- Gloss Moderne High-Gloss Serum (c/o, available at Sephora) is one I received from SpaceNK but it's no longer listed on their website. Out of all the products I tested this is one of the few where my reaction was "I don't like it." The words "gloss" and "serum" made me think this would be a clear product. It's a beige cream. It's also very sweet smelling like a vanilla cake which I'm not a fan of. Texture was thick and felt sticky. It did work well to add shine and once on the hair it did not leave my hair feeling sticky. Scent is important to me and this one I just did not like. If you're a vanilla fan though you will probably like it.
- Oribe Supershine Moisturizing Cream (available at Birchbox and Space NK) was previously in my Top 2 shine creams tied with Drybar's Chaser. I still love this one for soft shine and moisture. If you have super dry hair or ends that need some love this is a great one. I love the way it smells. It adds shine and makes hair look soft and healthy with a sheen. Doesn't get greasy or feel heavy.
- Oribe Creme for Style (c/o, available at Space NK) is new to me but not a new product. This has replaced the Supershine Cream as my favorite cream. I like this one because it adds more texture and has a softer looking finish. If you like shine stick with the Supershine. If you feel like you want a softer yet textured look, the Creme for Style is it.
- Drybar The Chaser (available at Sephora) has been such a long-time favorite I've lost count of how many tubes I've gone through. I've used this pre-heat styling and post styling. My husband has taken several of my tubes and claimed them as his own putting them in his drawers on his side of the bathroom. It adds just the right amount of shine while taming flyaways. LOVE.
- Ouai Finishing Creme (c/o, available at Birchbox and Space NK) is a lightweight finishing cream to give what they call a "lived-in" look. It does exactly what it claims. I prefer something that looks a bit more polished so this one isn't really for me. It also has a floral scent that is super feminine. I'm not a huge fan of the scent but it isn't unpleasant.
Bottom line is I stand my point of view that everyone needs a little Oribe in their life, although the Drybar Chaser has never let me down.
These aren't really styling products but more treatment masks.
- Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt (c/o, available at Net-A-Porter and Sephora) is something I tried late last year. I've gone through two tubs already. Earlier this year I had the privilege of meeting Christophe Robin in person to learn more about his line and hair care philosophy. It was a joy to meet him and chat with him about hair care. I'll say up front the Cleansing Salt is probably best suited for those with thick hair like me. I use it once a week as a purifying treatment to rebalance and cleanse the scalp and hair. I use in place of shampoo on the days I use it. For color-treated hair it helps to soothe scalp irritation caused from chemicals. Leaves the hair and scalp feeling squeaky clean. He did suggest after a look at my hair that I follow with a rinse out conditioner since I have normal hair. I do follow occasionally with a conditioner on the ends.
- Christophe Robin Cleansing Mask with Lemon (c/o, available at Net-A-Porter and Sephora) is another cleansing mask. It's softer in finish and a bit less stripping than salt scrub. It has lemon and is suitable for color-treated hair. The trick to using this is for me to apply on dry hair/scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes and slowly add water to emulsify into a foam. Rinse and hair is left clean and soft and moisturized. I'm almost done with a tub and need to replace very soon.
- Ouai Treatment Masque (available at Space NK) is one I reviewed before in my shampoo/conditioner post. I didn't really like the packaging design of these but after using them more frequently I have found I can look past it because this is one of the best restoring masks for the hair I've tried.
Last but not least, for texture and volume:
- Edward Bess Black Sea Hair Hero (c/o, available at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and QVC) is the best all around do-it-all hair product for me. I use it pre-heat stying or after to add shine and texture to ends. It's the best smelling hair product I've ever tried which is hard to describe but fresh. My brother helped me shoot this a couple years ago (time flies!) and to this day it's still a go-to. The bottle is huge and a little goes a long way.
- Ouai Dry Shampoo (c/o available at Birchbox and Space NK) I rarely use dry shampoo. I've tried a number of brands and at the end of the day I think the concept is a bit gross. I wash my hair daily and I know some do not have the time to wash and dry it daily or find it is too stripping for the hair, but for me washing daily is a must. Still there are occasions where I'm just dead tired or didn't wake up early enough to wash and dry my hair. The Ouai Dry Shampoo is the best one I've tried. It doesn't leave a white film or cast on the hair and absorbs oil.
- Bumble and Bumble Surf Foam Spray (c/o, available at Space NK) is the best volumizing product I've tried. I've mentioned before even though I have thick hair, finding a product that will actually add volume has been almost impossible for me. Most just don't add any volume. This one adds noticeable volume. It's a blow dry mousse and works. Leaves the hair thick and volumized all the way through.
- Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray (available at Birchbox and Space NK) is hands down one of the best texturizers I've tried. I love the way it smells and adds volume. I use it as a dry shampoo occasionally to give a lift to roots.
- Shu Uemura Ample Angora Volumizing Light Foam (available at Shu Uemura Art of Hair) is another winner for the volumizing category. Perhaps it's really only the foam kinds of products that work on thicker hair to really add volume. It's a bit more lightweight compared to the Bumble and Bumble product so there's a bit less volume with the Shu Uemura one. It smells great, volumizes, combs through hair easily and isn't sticky.
- Christophe Robin Instant Volumizing Hair Mist with Rose Water (c/o, available at Net-A-Porter and Sephora) is one of the best smelling hair sprays I've tried. I've mentioned I do not like the florals from Ouai, this Christophe Robin has rosewater so it smells like roses but it's the good kind of rose. On my thick hair it doesn't add a ton of volume but it smooths everything out and leaves the hair looking and smelling amazing.
In sum, I tested about 30 hair styling products. With the exception of the tried and true favorites like the Drybar Chaser, Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and Edward Bess Hair Hero, the remaining new to me items have been tested for several months. Summer humidity is relatively mild in Southern California so I can't comment on how these hold up in extremely hot or humid weather. While traveling last summer through Europe and also earlier this year in New York, I barely used any styling product - it was so hot my hair air dried very quickly and it felt too hot to wear any serums or creams. After extensive testing, my top picks would include the following:
- Best finishing product: Oribe Creme for Style and Edward Bess Hair Hero
- Best oil: Moroccanoil and Shu Uemura Essence Absolue
- Best heat pre-treatments for blow drying: Shu Uemura Wonder Worker, Moroccanoil Blow Dry Concentrate and Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil Primer
- Best volumizer: Bumble and Bumble Surf Foam Spray and Shu Uemura Art of Hair Ample Angora
- Best beachy spray or air-dry sprays: Oribe Apres Beach Spray and Bumble and Bumble Surf Infusion
- Best lightweight shine products: Oribe Supershine and Moroccanoil
Note if you have fine, color treated or even thicker or curly hair, some of the ones that worked for me may not work for you. As always I'd love to hear about your favorites regardless of hair type! Please share in the comments :) I'm pretty stocked up on hair care for the moment but it's something I tend to use up relatively fast.
Don't forget that Space NK is having their Autumn Beauty Edit (huge GWP with any $250+ purchase), Barneys New York Love Yourself is going on (GWP bag with any $200+ purchase) and also next week Bergdorf Goodman will have their Rewarding Beauty event so if you have things on your list you may want to group your purchases to take advantage of the events this month. Also not on sale or part of any events, but Net-A-Porter has a Christophe Robin Essentials Travel Size Set which is nice if you want to try out items before splurging on the full size.
If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. I'm not an expert with styling in any sense and I know some of you are probably better versed when it comes to hair care. For those who are like me I hope this post helps from the perspective of a beauty junkie who really doesn't know much about hair care products.
Press samples included indicated with a c/o.