Certain beauty products — think NARS blush in Orgasm, Clinique's Black Honey lipstick — are so good, they're practically famous and have devoted, loyal followings. While we love many of these, we've been wondering why others have been quietly flying under the radar. With that in mind, meet our series, Cult Classics, in which we'll introduce you to the products you should really, truly know about (and try, like, right now). They're not brand-new, but trust us: They've got staying power.
In November, I went ahead and made the decision to dye my hair silver. This was an impulsive decision, which mostly led to lots of mockery, some people who genuinely thought I was prematurely graying, and a little something extra: An incredibly irritated scalp, and equally irritated (I imagined), ultra-brittle hair.
This came as a shock to me, despite the fact that I am a beauty editor and I was extremely aware of the inevitable side effects of sitting with bleach on your head for six hours. This called for a complete overhaul of the contents of my shower — which was full of products like purple shampoos and conditioners that promised to keep my color intact.
Now that I’ve since gone back to black, my hair and scalp are still in recovery. It’s been a long, arduous process of dusting flakes off my shoulder — and not in a glamorous, Jay-Z way, but more in a bad-dandruff-commercial kind of way. Somehow, through the grace of God, I ended up with a jar of Christophe Robin’s Cleansing Mask With Lemon and decided to give it a go. (No, his PR did not send it to me, oddly, and I cannot for the life of me remember who did. So, I think it was angels. Or, maybe Jesus. Or, even better, Beyoncé?)
Robin, who is basically the chicest colorist to ever exist and whose product line is so expensive it’s sold at Net-a-Porter, Colette, and Saks Fifth Avenue, developed this product a whopping 15 years ago. He has been a longstanding advocate of the no-poo method, but still wanted to give his clients a cleansing product that would a) prevent the premature loss or oxidation of color, b) rebalance the pH of the hair, which is drastically altered during the coloring process, and c) soothe and nourish the scalp.
The sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free product contains ingredients like lemon extract, camomile, and St. John’s wort extracts. It’s sort of like an Italian Ice for your head. You have to let it sink in for a hefty amount of time while you shower, but it leaves you feeling refreshed like no other treatment I’ve ever experienced without the help of a trained professional. Robin recommends adjusting the use depending on the damage level of your hair — minor cases should apply to wet hair for a mild cleanse, very damaged on dry hair from roots to tips, and sensitive types (me!) should use it every time they wash for a month.
Basically, you leave it on for up to 20 minutes, then lather by adding just a touch of water each time, repeating until the product is completely rinsed. The lemon essentially acts as a light exfoliant, helping to reduce the flakes instantly, while the chamomile soothes and nourishes. “I’ve tried many cleansing cremes,” says the New York City-based colorist Lena Ott. “This one is noticeably different and more luxurious. Others I’ve tried leave a waxy feel at the root, but this doesn’t.”
In fact, this is just about the deepest cleanse I’ve ever got short of a clarifying shampoo…but, with those, my hair is always left feeling insanely dry and tangled. After using this product, there’s barely a need for a conditioner — in fact, I had to switch to a more lightweight option so that my hair wouldn’t get weighed down. Not to mention, this hefty black and white jar is way more baller than any of the current hair packaging in my shower, so I love the way it looks and works. Isn’t it great when that happens?
Christophe Robin Cleansing Mask With Lemon, $50, available at Net-a-Porter.