Stylists Agree: This Is The Correct Order To Apply Hair Care Products

Expert tips to rethink your wash day.

The correct order to use hair care products

You’ve probably established a skin care routine that works best for your specific concerns and end goals. It could consist of a few brisk steps in the morning and a lengthy nighttime regimen or a rotating schedule that changes weekly. However, when it comes to hair care, things tend to be a lot more touch-and-go. The truth is just like skin care, the right order of applying hair care products is just as important as the formulas of the shampoo, conditioner, and deep treatment you use.

According to experts, developing a system of products that’s custom to your texture and individual needs is more than just a ‘self-care’ indulgence, it actually benefits your hair in more ways than one. “Protein and moisture are vital elements for maintaining growth and prolonging the overall health,” says celebrity hair colorist and salon owner Rachel Bodt.

It might seem as simple as using styling products after you’ve washed your hair in the shower, but the needs of hair types vary and may warrant different products. This is why TZR enlisted the help of a few experts including Bodt, celebrity hairstylist and hair artist Lacy Redway, stylist and L'Oreal Matrix artistic director Michelle O'Connor, and celebrity stylist Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, for pro tips on how to build a solid hair care routine.

Why The Order You Apply Hair Care Products Matters

Just like your skin, your hair needs to be trained in order to reap the benefits of the products you’re using. That means sticking to a process that’s streamlined and consistent. “Keeping a regular sequence is important because it allows the products to drive deeper into the cuticle,” says Bodt. A good routine starts in the shower and should begin with a clean scalp in order to prep the hair for washing and styling.

Think about it as the foundation, says Redway. “If you’re not building your hair up from within using the proper methods beginning with scalp care and strengthening shampoos, you’re not giving it the best chance to meet its full potential.” She continues, telling TZR that product buildup can lead to clogged pores and prevent oxygen needed for growth from reaching the root of the strands.

What Is The Correct Order Products Should Be Applied?

After exfoliating the scalp, the general order of application is as follows: shampoo, conditioner, detangler, leave-in conditioner, heat protectant, styling products, and finally, serums or creams for the ends as a finishing touch.

In The Shower

The first two steps — shampoo and conditioner — are familiar to most but still need attention and consideration before use. “You’ll want to choose a cleanser with protein that will restore vitamins back to hair and a moisturizing conditioner that will keep it soft while adding beautiful shine,” says Sturdivant-Drew.

For coarse and tightly coiled curl patterns, the use of a detangler in the shower will ensure a smooth transition post-washing. “Textured hair also tends to be dryer than most other types which means it requires more moisture-heavy products,” says Redway. This could include adding a co-washing step to the cleansing routine or a leave-in conditioner following shampooing. “Hair is at its most fragile when it’s wet so this is the best time to incorporate a leave-in conditioner to deeply absorb,” says Bodt.

Once thoroughly cleansed and properly moisturized the type of products you use can vary based on your concerns and textures. “Really take a look at what your hair is lacking or what it needs more of when lining up your wash day,” says Bodt.

Post-Wash Styling

Your styling routine will likely depend on how you wear your hair on that given day. If you heat style often or get chemical treatments, you’ll want to incorporate a good heat protectant to avoid damage and breakage at the ends. “Look for a conditioning product that will shield your strands and help protect them against mechanical or environmental harm,” says Bodt.

Every texture is completely different, from hydration levels to porosity to curl patterns, so styling products need to be personalized to fit your specific needs. “Your styling products tell the hair what to do,” says O'Connor. For example, if you’re looking for a voluminous blowout, you might reach for a mousse as opposed to a gel for defining curls or an anti-frizz product for a straighter style. “When it comes to styling, whether wet or dry, prioritize what your hair needs the most and address that concern,” says O' Connor.

Serums & Finishing Products

No matter what your go-to style looks like, all types can benefit from hair serums and finishing products such as oils or gloss. The key is selecting the best weight for your texture. “Fine hair tends to get easily weighed down by products and could display dirt easier, which would cause for more frequent washes,” says Redway.