When it comes to easy, affordable and truly effective products, The Ordinary is pretty much unrivalled. This year the brand has expanded its offering to include the Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution and relaunched a cult classic (Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, £5.10) to help combat our pandemic-induced skin gripes. But it seems as though the stress has taken a toll on our scalp and hair, too.
Recently there have been reports of hair thinning, hair loss and increased dandruff as we navigate the effects of the past two difficult years, proving that the scalp really is an extension of the skin on our face — and requires the same amount of care. It makes sense, then, that The Ordinary would branch out into hair products, today unveiling a brand-new shampoo, conditioner and scalp treatment. Prudvi Kaka, chief scientific officer at Deciem, is especially excited to release the new range: "Maintaining optimum scalp health by protecting the skin's barrier alongside effective cleansing and moisturising is very important," he said. "We are able to achieve this with minimal ingredients tailored to target specific hair and scalp needs. With our haircare launches, we are providing solutions that can be combined to offer cleansing, conditioning and hydration but can also be used as standalone products."
Fans of The Ordinary will know that this isn't the brand's first foray into haircare. Its Multi-Peptide Hair Density Serum, £15.80, recently went viral on TikTok for boosting hair growth fast — and I'm proof it works a treat. In response to demand The Ordinary has been beavering away to further the collection and as a longtime fan of the brand (I can't get enough of the glow-giving Ascorbyl Glucoside 12% Solution, £11) I was one of the first people to try the new hair products.
First up, The Ordinary Sulphate 4% Cleanser for Hair & Body, £6.80. You might be thinking: Sulphate? Isn't that to be avoided? Not necessarily, is the honest answer. Over the past few years hairstylists, colourists and beauty brands have drilled into us a fear of the ingredient, encouraging us to purchase sulphate-free shampoos to preserve colour and to avoid ravaging the scalp and hair of moisturising oils. But here's the thing: sulphates aren't all bad. In a press release, The Ordinary claims that sulphates have been demonised by the 'clean' beauty movement but it's on a mission to champion the misunderstood ingredient — and for good reason.
Sulphates are needed to provide a good, deep clean and The Ordinary states that when formulated properly, they won't disrupt the skin's barrier or cause irritation like we've been made to believe. "Sulphates are detergents that are very beneficial in products within the hairdressing industry," hair expert Sophie Ruggiero previously told R29. "They are an active ingredient, which makes shampoo foam and they really work to clean the hair's surface as well as the scalp." Sophie added that the amount used in most shampoos is actually very minimal, while hairstylist Paul Edmonds continued: "Sometimes hair feels cleaner and lighter if you use a product that harnesses sulphates occasionally."
My hair is dyed brown after a stint with bleach and colourists tend to advise me to avoid shampoo with sulphates as they can break down hair dye when used over time. But this shampoo isn't stripping in the slightest. It contains only 4% sodium laureth sulphate, which The Ordinary says is "gentle enough to be used on hair and body with minimal chance of irritation". I wash my hair two to three times a week and use quite a lot of styling product (leave-in conditioner, hair cream and occasionally dry shampoo) so my hair didn't lather up very well on the first attempt. I was disappointed but I always double-cleanse my hair and on the second go the shampoo transformed into a luxuriously creamy lather. What threw me off completely is the fragrance — there is none. I'm used to heavily scented shampoo and love the lingering, clean hair smell so this took a little getting used to. Intense perfume can be irritating, though, so I welcomed the change.
Having used this shampoo every other day for almost two weeks, I can say that my hair looks and feels better for it. Every single strand is left ultra clean but not zapped of moisture and my lengths appear to be much thicker and stronger, too, as it eradicates product buildup. Before using the shampoo I'd experienced an annoying, flaky scalp but that's all gone. Because the amount of sulphate is so minimal, I haven't noticed much of a change to my hair colour at all. It's still a vibrant brunette and the product hasn't uncovered any stray bleached blonde strands. This shampoo also doubles up as a body wash and reminds me of Sanex body care: simple but gets the job done. One small matter is the amount you get for the price (240ml). Most affordable shampoos I like by brands such as L'Oréal or Aveeno contain around 345ml to 400ml and are a little cheaper. However, The Ordinary did explain recently that its prices are changing and the brand really has done a lot to ensure the formulas are super gentle.
Next up: Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner, £6.80. Behentrimonium chloride is a common ingredient found in many conditioners to enhance the feel and appearance of hair, making it soft and shiny. The texture is a gel-cream and much lighter than any other conditioner in my shower. I have a lot of hair and made the mistake of doubling the amount I used, thinking it wouldn't be nourishing enough — but I was wrong. This stuff is intense. I let it work its magic for all of five minutes before rinsing it out and I noticed the smoothing, moisturising effects almost instantly. Even when all the product was washed away, my hair felt slippery, not straw-like as it usually does thanks to the bleach. I rough-dried my hair as normal and I was so impressed with the condition. Like magic, there was no frizz and my hair was seriously silky, swishy and bouncy. The Ordinary says that the product was formulated to avoid the heavy feel that some conditioners and masks leave behind — and I can attest to that. I don't believe in matching shampoo and conditioner, either. You can absolutely use this alongside the shampoo that's in your shower currently. My only wish is that the brand brings out a bottle that's double the size, it's that good.
Lastly, the Natural Moisturising Factors + HA For Scalp, £10.90, which would be the final step in your hair routine and doesn't need to be washed out like many other scalp treatments. The Ordinary stans will know that Natural Moisturising Factors is the name of a facial moisturiser in the collection. This is the scalp-care version. Both are boosted with hydrating hyaluronic acid and ingredients that protect the skin barrier. In all honesty, I could take or leave this product. The texture is a nice, light milk but I found that it runs, collects and then absorbs in hair strands before it has a chance to reach the scalp. As it's so thin, it doesn't make hair greasy but it didn't do much for me. If you have very dry skin on your scalp, you might like to boost your hair routine with this but I concentrate my hydrating styling cream (George Northwood Moisturising Cream, £15) to my scalp as well as my strands and that seems to be enough.
All things considered, the conditioner gets my most enthusiastic vote and will no doubt reach cult status, like the brand's glycolic acid toner and hair density serum. A small amount goes a very long way to transform dull, dry, frizzy hair — no matter the type, texture or condition. If you buy anything from the new collection (which launches today at 3pm on the dot UK time) I'd recommend making it this.
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