Below I will be listing my holy grail products AND I will be periodically updating them as I come across more good finds or as more people ask me for other product recommendations. I am involved in several affiliate programs, though some of the options listed are not involved in my affiliate programs because I genuinely believe them to be the best, and you are in no way obligated to use my links. Feel free to comparison shop away, but also be aware that sometimes "grey market" product distribution practices come into play and not everywhere you buy a product is "the real deal." I specifically included certain retailers because I know they are "authorized retailers"- aka the product you're buying from them is not a watered down knockoff. If I put this checkmark symbol ✓ in front of the product, that means the link I provided is an authorized retailer. If your local hairstylist sells any of these products, you should support local and buy from them!!
Shampoo and Conditioner
✓ Olaplex No. 4&5. (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* It's no secret that I love Olaplex. I even used to be an Olaplex Advocate. I genuinely believe that Olaplex was the best product to hit the pro world in the 2010's. When Olaplex came out with shampoo and conditioner (it was previously only a bleach additive that prevents breakage from occurring), my hair was collarbone length and shredded from stress, color damage, heat damage, and poor maintenance due to depression. Now, three+ years later, my hair is waist length, and the curl has come back from the dead. The only con is the price point. Retailing at $28 for an 8.5oz bottle, it's a whopping $3.30 per oz. I find it 110% worth it, but if you don't, that brings me to our next product
✓Redken Color Magnetics. (click here to buy) This was the shampoo I was using before Olaplex was released. I picked it because I did an evil science experiment using it vs. 5 other brands I had hanging around the salon, and it had the least bleeding and fade out of all the shampoos. This comes in liters and I've seen it go in random places (the famous Ulta once-a-year Liter Sale) for sometimes as cheap as $50 for the set (2 33.8oz), which would make this $0.75 an oz. However, its normal retail price is $33 for 16.9oz, bringing it to $1.95 per oz.
Arctic Fox Road Trip (click there to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* This is the newest addition to my list. I love non-aerosol products, especially for damaged hair. Unless you have virgin hair, I just don't recommend aerosol hair products. They unnecessarily fade your hair and cause damage, and it is for this reason I prefer powder ones. There are two reasons AF Road Trip is top of my list: The smell, and the engineering of the bottle. It sounds silly, but the way it dispenses is much more user friendly than the baby powder-esque holes poked in the top of most non aerosol dry shampoo bottles. It's $19.99 for a .35 oz bottle, which makes it a bit more expensive than our second option.
✓Manic Panic Hair Refresher (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* I've tried several non aerosol powder dry shampoos, and I liked Manic Panic for three reasons. One- they don't have a product-y "after feel". Some of the others I tried had a very horrible feel to them afterwards, as though you loaded your hair full of hairspray. Two- as long as you apply it correctly, it doesn't leave behind a powdery residue. There were others I found that left the hair feeling cleaner, but they also left behind a visible light colored powdery residue that was very obvious on dark hair. Three- cruelty free and vegan. It also sells at $17.99 for a .35oz bottle at Ulta. This year (2023) they massively upgraded their packaging to match that of arctic fox's (and their price, more than double jeesh), but I prefer the smell of AF so they retain their #2 spot on my ranking list.
Olaplex Dry Shampoo *Vegan and cruelty free.* This shit literally just came out so all I know is this: It smells good, it doesn't leave behind any kind of product-y feeling or residue, but it also doesn't feel like it gets the hair super clean. Which is why it ranked at #3.
Kenra Professionals Alcohol Free Shaping Spray (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.*I wish there was an aerosol free hairspray that didn't suck, but alas! I've found no such thing. Alcohol free is the next best thing. Kenra's is light, buildable, has a pleasant smell, and isn't super stiff. It's $19 for 8oz at Ulta.
✓Olaplex No. 6 (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* I use at least a pea sized amount every time before I blow dry a client and I'm in love. It's safe to say if they ever discontinue the Part 6, I will start a protest. It's $28 a 3.3oz bottle. Killer, but worth it.
✓Olaplex No. 6 (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* Wait, didn't you just read this? Why yes, yes, you did. Olaplex part 6 smooths my curls out without being crunchy or heavy, smells absolutely heavenly.
✓Olaplex No. 7 (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.*If you're hooked on hair oils of any type, dump them. This is the only one that you'll ever need again. It's super light weight, water soluble (it rinses out with water and doesn't cause heaviness or buildup), and it doesn't stain hair (despite its gold color, it doesn't even stain platinum! I tried a 30 day submersion test.) RIP though, it's also priced like liquid gold at $28 for 1oz.
CurlySexyHair Curl Power Spray Foam (click here to buy) I prefer Olaplex part 6&7 mixed together for my curl routine, but before they came along, this was one of my favs. Aerosols aren't good for curls long term, but the way the aerosol distributed the foam to every curl evenly without having to comb through my curls was pretty neat. Super light, not crunchy, and if you overdo it, you just have to rake through the over saturated curl. They also have a curl cream for stronger curls, and a gel for even stronger curls or for people who like the wet curl look. It tends to go for around $18 for an 8oz bottle.
Short Hair Styling
✓Puff Me (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* This stuff is volume and control in a bottle! It gives your hair a ton of texture and reworkable hold, but works best with hair from 1-5 inches long, or in the crown area of someone who wants volume. It appears completely matte (it's a powder). I've found it from $22-28 for 3.2oz
✓American Crew fiber (click here to buy) This product is mostly matte and meant for hair shorter than 4 inches long unless you're using it to tame flyaways. It will give you control, shape, and texture. But a little goes a long way. It's $11-14 online for a 1.75oz "puck".
✓K18 Masque (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free* Olaplex has been bumped to number 2 on the list as of 6/7/2021. WOAHHH that's right, a treatment I liked EVEN BETTER. Of course I like it better, it's $75 for a 1.7 oz bottle. But I did a blind test with my girlfriend and coworker and they both picked the hair bleach treated with K18 over Olaplex. If money is no object, this is the cream of the crop.
Olaplex No. 8 (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* Olaplex No. 8 is the newest baby in the Olaplex family and is specifically meant for dry hair that needs moisture. It's different from the rest of the family in that it is meant for temporary and routine healing rather than permanent and occasional healing. If your hair is dry, and you seem to be getting more split ends than normal (common in summertime), this one may be right for you. It's $28 for a 3.3oz bottle.
✓Olaplex No. 3 (click here to buy) *Vegan and cruelty free.* This is a treatment to rebuild broken disulfide bonds in your hair. If you have damage of any kind, and ESPECIALLY if your hair is on the brink of disaster, no. 3 is what you need. I'll shut up about Olaplex, you get it. $28 for a 3.3oz bottle.
Joico KPAK therapy luster lock (click here to purchase) If you love your hair feeling extra slimy and full of moisture, this one is lovely. I use it when I encounter dread-like tangles. $22 for a 5oz bottle from Ulta