I’ll never forget the day my fourth-grade crush grabbed my ponytail on the bus ride home, whipped his hand back, and said something along the lines of “Your hair feels like a horse’s tail.” Suffice it to say, it’s a traumatizing memory, and since then, I’ve done everything I can and used every product under the sun to bring my hair decidedly away from horse-related territory: oils, masks, deep conditioners, more frequent haircuts—you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve since accepted that my hair will never be slippery or silky like my flaxen-haired counterparts, but rather than wallow in this said realization, I’ve grown to love it.
Thanks in part to the fact that having slightly messy, unkempt hair with lots of texture is actually considered cool nowadays (thanks, off-duty models) and partly because I’m not going to let a snotty fourth grader forever ruin my self-esteem (hair-esteem?), I’ve fully embraced my textured, slightly frizzy mane—yes, mane. But this doesn’t mean I just let my hair roam wild and free (okay, stopping with the horse analogies now). Rather, I gladly bid my straightener a very satisfied adieu in favor of a much lower-key (read: lazier) but specific and pointed routine.
Obviously, this won’t work for everyone, but I hope that you’ll discover a new product or two, or at the very least be encouraged to embrace your own natural hair texture. And to you, Jordan S., I proudly toss my horse hair right in your face. Bye!
Keep scrolling for the key products I swear by for air-drying!
Once upon a time, I gave up traditional shampoo for 30 days in the hopes of getting to the root (literally) of my oily scalp problem. My hair is naturally dry on the ends and oily at the scalp. Before my experiment, my scalp would get oily by midday if I had shampooed the morning of—it was that bad. Through my experiment, I learned the benefits of switching to a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo—or rather, cleansing conditioner. Basically, I realized I had been stripping my scalp of its natural oils with my traditional shampoo and cleaner, and it was overcompensating by producing excess oil—thus, my gross oily scalp problem.
Since then, I’ve tried many cleansing conditioners and sulfate-free shampoos, and my all-time favorite is Reverie’s Nude shampoo and conditioner set. Created by hairstylist Garrett Markenson, Reverie is all about addressing your hair health with the help of some sleek, minimalist, beautifully packaged products. I had already used and loved the line’s leave-in treatment, Milk ($42) (more on that later), and was excited to try the Nude duo. The gentle shampoo is free of sulfates, glycols, petrochemicals, and artificial fragrances, and instead cleanses your scalp with a blend of sweet almond oil and other various essential oils.
The smell is incredible, and hard to describe—like a mix of luxury, flowers, and the slightest hint of woodsy patchouli. I find that I usually have to lather, rinse, and repeat to get rid of all the buildup, but since it doesn’t contain any stripping ingredients, it doesn’t over-dry your hair. The conditioner is a nice addition, though I’ve tried others that detangle more easily.
I’ve since discovered Kevin Murphy’s Repair.Me line and have switched off between the two, but I find myself coming back to Nude time and time again because it feels the gentlest.
I know what you’re thinking—a sea salt scrub for your scalp sounds excessive at best and ridiculous at worst, but Christophe Robin’s cult product is neither of these things. If you’ve ever used clarifying shampoos, you’ll know that they leave your hair and scalp feeling squeaky clean—which is nice at first, until you realize your strands feel like straw. Byrdie senior editor Deven Hopp shared this magical product with me years ago, and I’ve never let it out of my sight since. (It should also be noted that I’ve had the same tub this entire time—this stuff lasts forever, in case you balk at the price tag.) Robin is a noteworthy French colorist who noticed his clients suffered from irritated, itchy scalps post–dye job.
He started mixing together a soothing formula made with sea salt to help his clients, and it has since blossomed into this cult product. The texture is incredible and hard to describe—there are big chunks of salt mixed into a slightly gooey, Play-Doh–like formula. I always get the weird sensation of wanting to eat it when I scoop it out of the tub, probably because it slightly reminds me of melted marshmallows. You apply a handful to your scalp and massage it in—the sea salt will dissolve and slowly work into a lather.
When you rinse it out, your hair will feel silky soft, like you just used conditioner—it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I usually follow with a conditioner or hair mask applied just on my ends for good measure, then towel off. Anytime my scalp feels irritated or there’s buildup at my roots, I reach for this miracle scrub.
Reverie’s product is the one I recommend to anyone, regardless of hair type or texture. The leave-in treatment does have a milky texture, but it absorbs almost instantly on contact. I apply it on wet, T-shirt–dried hair after my shower, and it greatly decreases my frizziness factor, as well as adds softness. You can also use it on dry hair anytime you want some smoothing action, and it will never weigh it down (though I prefer to use it on damp or wet strands). One thing to remember: A little goes a long way.
I usually use about three pumps for my past-the-shoulder strands. It’s made with a concoction of organic, fragrant (but not overpowering) oils—from rose flower to jasmine—and turns my poofy hair to soft silk. Yes, it’s pricey for a leave-in conditioner, but it’s worth every penny.
After applying Milk, I usually let my hair air-dry 75%, then plait it into a (very) loose low braid. After 10 to 15 minutes, I undo the braid and my hair will have dried to super-natural, barely there waves. To add a bit of shine and finesse, I always smooth Bumble and Bumble’s orange-hued invisible serum through my strands as a final step. The light-as-air oil is made with six different oils, like macadamia and coconut, and sinks instantly into your hair, wet or dry. I love the fact that I can apply it throughout the day, or even on second- or third-day hair, and it never, ever weighs it down.
Instead, it just adds shine (and smells amazing to boot). This is another product that lasts forever. I’ve had my bottle for years and use one pump a few times a week.
No lazy-girl hair routine would be complete without the Band-Aid that holds your hair together between shampoos. I’m a dry shampoo floozy and will dabble in every and any one that comes my way. Batiste’s wallet-friendly dry shampoo beats out other $30-plus versions I’ve tried by a landslide. The smell is a bit polarizing—a slightly overpowering sticky-sweet floral, but it doesn’t even matter, because it absorbs instantly and makes even the oiliest scalp look freshly washed. Another perk: I’ve found that it actually adds a bit of volume to my roots too.
My hair is thick, and this manages to tame it, clean it, and give it body all in one go. Yes, you’ll go through these bottles quickly, but for $6 a pop, your wallet can’t be mad.
Have you tried any of these products? Now that you know my basic routine, I want to know yours! Tell me your can’t-live-without-it products below.