For the first 17 years of my life, the only hair accessory I ever needed was a hair tie. A brush was a secondary concern, considering that from 2002-2009 you could probably count the number of times I brushed my hair on one hand. (Sorry, mom!) But when I finally decided I wanted to change up the same straight, long, brown hair I’d had my entire life, I had to start taking care of it differently. The first time I colored my hair I dyed the ends super light, which has now become a much-loved global trend called ombre. After that, the blonde color crept up to my roots during my first year at college, disappeared entirely when I went super-dark weeks before I moved to New York, had reddish tones in when spring finally sprung, and went back to its normal color when I finally chopped my hair into a lob my junior year of college.
Since testing all of these shades, my go-to hair look has been a mid-length cut with loose curls and a subtle ombre color—still the most genius way to color your hair imo because I am too lazy to maintain my roots. I often get questions about my hair, so today I wanted to share my ride or die hair products. This isn’t just a list of current or trendy favorites—these are products I’ve used for years that have proven to work amazingly well for me and that’s why I keep them around.
Goody Ouchless Hair Ties, $5
Have used since: 2006
Have repurchased: way too many times
Yes, it’s true. I have loved and used these hair ties for the last 12 years. I’ve found that thinner hair ties work better for me than the thicker ones with the singular exception of when I played soccer in high school and I needed two or three of the thick ones to make sure my ponytail didn’t fall out. They’re perfect for sectioning your hair off when you curl it, for messy top knots, and for sleek, low ponytails. I love that there’s no metal piece to them and even though I’ve lost hundreds of them over the years, they don’t break unless I really stretch them out.
Conair Infiniti 1” Barrel Curling Iron with clamp, $20
Have used since: 2008
Have repurchased: probably 3-4 times
While for a while there I used Wrap, Snap n Go’s soft curlers (remember those from your local mall kiosk?) as a no-heat method for spiral curls, I knew that a hot barrel iron was the way to go to get the look I wanted. The first few times I tried to curl my hair were in the archaic days of YouTube where I watched a few blurry tutorials of girls explaining how to hold the iron and when to use the clamp without really having a clue what they were talking about. Turns out the best way to learn is practice, and here I am 10 years later and I feel like I’ve finally nailed down my signature, loose curls. I’ve probably replaced this iron three or four times over the years—these models hold up surprisingly well for being super cheap.
Dove Extra Hold Hairspray, $4
Have used since: 2008
Have repurchased: 20+ times
Every time I spritz this hairspray over my locks, I am immediately transported back to the first date I ever went on in eighth grade because I sprayed way too much of that stuff (practically an entire bottle) over my too-tight curls. Colin, if you’re reading this for some reason, I apologize for smelling like the human embodiment of a can of hairspray when we went to see Mama Mia. But for real, this spray locks and holds without causing crunch, and has kept my curls bouncy whether I’m at work all day or out all night. Or until like 11:30PM. Just remember to use in moderation!
Herbal Essences Color Me Happy Shampoo, $4 and Herbal Essences Color Me Happy Conditioner, $4
Have used since: 2012
Have repurchased: 15+ times
Although I was a Garnier Fructis stan for many years, once I started coloring my hair, my colorist recommended that I switch to a shampoo and conditioner that protect my color from the color washing out or the blonde turning brassy, which my hair tends to do because of the undertones in it. I tried a few before I finally settled on this Herbal Essences duo. I loved the way they smelled and felt like they left my hair feeling strong and shiny. If I ever feel like changing something in my routine, sometimes I’ll throw in a hair mask but as far as my shampoo and conditioner, these guys are my go-tos.
Conair Hair Dryer, $15
Have used since: 2012
Have repurchased: Never! It’s been working well for five years.
After stealing my mom’s hair dryer for the few rare occasions of adolescent life that required it, I finally bought my own when I went off to college. As it turned out, there were often occasions where you’d be studying all day at college, squeeze in a quick workout and then be invited out by your friends, that made having a hair dryer essential. I try not to use it unless it’s totally necessary (I prefer showering right before bed and let my hair air dry) but this dyer is good to have it for the occasions where I find myself short on time.
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And there you have it! What are the hair products you can’t live without?