Recently, I found myself amidst yet another hair crisis. One in which my emotional turmoil led me to get an unflattering haircut (bangs) and highlights that make me look like a displaced time-traveler desperately searching for a way back. And in an effort to nourish and condition my hair back to its former glory, I decided to commit to a new shampoo and conditioner.
I typically don’t pay much attention to my shampoo or conditioner — I found a product I liked in high school and never thought to replace it. But with bespoke beauty on the rise, the chance to personalize my haircare is a flashing sign for a trend-junkie like myself. Instagram targeted ads were created to poke at your weakest spots, and all of a sudden, my strands and I found myself drawn to the customized shampoo advertisements.
I am cynical by nature and even though the ads lured me in, they sounded too good to be true. But as it turns out, I was wrong. “It is possible to customize shampoo and conditioner based on a number of factors including hair type, environmental aggressors, scalp conditions, lifestyle,” says Bianca Aguirre, product development coordinator at Amika. “While there are countless hair care options that target any and every hair concern, custom haircare provides easy solutions that can be personalized from fragrance down to hair and scalp goals. Therefore, as these custom products become more affordable and accessible, consumers will demand more.”
Armed with less skepticism, I reached out to Prose, a personalized haircare brand that creates unique science-backed formulas using clean ethical ingredients. The founders Arnaud Plas (a former VP of digital and e-commerce strategy at L’Oréal), Catherine Taurin (R&D advisor who is based in France), Paul Michaux and Nicolas Mussat noticed that haircare brands position their products to cater to everyone, but benefit no one. They wanted to design products for people, not hair types. In 2017, they launched a brand that doesn’t put people into a box based on gender, ethnicity or hair type. Prose’s research and development team are based in Paris, where five in-house chemists work to optimize their pre-existing formulas and create new ones. By listening to customer feedback and constantly researching new ingredients, Prose guarantees product efficacy. Once the formulas come to fruition, everything is bottled in their Brooklyn manufacturing facility.
The first step to getting your hands on a bottle is to complete a 25-question consultation, which has detailed questions like, “After washing, how long does it take for your hair to usually get oily again?” or “When you run your hand through your hair, how many strands do you notice in your palm?” Prose also asks you about your diet, stress levels, fitness routine and where you live so that the made-for-you formula can factor in geo-aggressors like UV rays, water hardness, humidity, wind and pollution — all things I never think about when purchasing shampoo from a retailer. Then, an algorithm will factor all of that in to create a custom cocktail of ingredients that target your unique needs. Prose’s proprietary algorithm pulls from 135 data points that lead to over 50 billion possible formulations, which ensures that the product really is custom.
After filling out my consultation quiz, I am shown a list of the ingredients going into my 8.5-ounce bottles: vegetable oil and professional silicone to tackle dryness (my primary concern) along with hyaluronic acid combined with plant collagen and lilac to repair the hair fibers, and more. Five days later, I receive my product in the mail and the packaging speaks to me, as it says my name on the bottle along with “color protect” and “fitness lover.” I immediately hop in the shower to try out my new products.
I chose Corsica as my custom scent, although you can choose fragrance-free as an option. The scent is inspired by the coastline of Corsica, France and when I lather the product into my hair, I am mentally transported to the island I have never visited but would definitely like to. There is nothing necessarily unique about the texture of the products and it easily washes out. I hop out of the shower, wrap my hair in my Aquis towel, and apply my skincare routine. One use in, I didn’t notice an immediate change (only that my hair was softer). But after a few weeks, I can see the difference quality hair products can make. My hair has a newfound shine to it, and my curls are holding better than they used to.
Prose certainly knows what they are doing, but is this product a game changer? It depends on what you value. Traditional hair care products, both high-end and drugstore, target a specific concern like color-protection, hydration or volume. And to address our different hair concerns, we end up flooding our showers with a variety of products, which isn’t feasible, cost-effective or environmentally friendly. But personalized haircare products are formulated with multiple hair goals in mind.
And while $25 per bottle is quite high, you pay for quality. You pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing a brand thoughtfully sources its ingredients. You pay for technology that constantly evolves and factors in where you spend your time and your lifestyle habits. And you pay for the subtle flex that is owning shampoo that has your name on it. Plus, Prose eliminates excess product by only creating the products once they have been sold. They also hope to be carbon-neutral by the end of 2020, meaning that everything they use will come from recycled and recyclable materials.
You can also save 20 percent by signing up for their subscription plan. The delivery frequency ranges from one to three months, and you can cancel your subscription at any time. And in the spirit of sustainability, you can exclude pumps from your shipments and reuse the ones you already have. But the best part? The brand factors in seasonal changes each reorder. Since you input your zip code during the consultation quiz, Prose knows when to infuse more moisturizing rich ingredients (cold weather), and sebum regulating ingredients (hot and humid out).
Our hair, whether we like it or not, is often an extension of our personality. And Prose lets you explore that personality, all in the name of self-[hair]care.
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