A Step-By-Step Guide to Applying Hair Products

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If your hair product stash is anything like ours, it can be a little dizzying. We know shampoo comes before conditioner, and hair spray comes last, but are never quite sure what happens in between. Enter celebrity hair artist Jacqueline Bush. Bush, who works with Katie Couric and Gwyneth Paltrow, gave us her take on applying products in the right order. Even if you skip some steps, this general sequence will help you get the most out of your hair care routine. 

1: Scalp treatment

Bush loves René Furterer Complexe 5 Oil. “It helps your other products work better and gives a little bit of extra lift at the roots,” she says. Apply and let it sit on your scalp for a few minutes before rinsing. (Check out these other treatment ideas from our community.) 
*NOTE: This step should come first, but only once a week.

2: Shampoo

Choose a formula suited to your hair type (anti-frizz, color-safe, volumizing, etc.) “Start by shampooing the scalp; by cleansing and stimulating it, the rest of the shampoo will naturally work through your hair,” says Bush. Of course, many experts suggest shampooing only a few times a week, meaning you might just rinse and skip to step 3. 

3: Conditioner

Because brands design formulas to work together, for best results, buy the conditioner that goes with your shampoo. With conditioner, start at the ends and work upward until you’re about three-quarters of the way up the length of your hair. Then rinse. Bush recommends keeping conditioner away from the scalp. “It can make hair fall flat, especially if you have fine hair,” she says.

4: Styling product

Next, apply your preferred styling product—gel, styling cream, smoother, etc. “Start at the base of the head (at the nape of your neck), avoiding your roots, and work the product out toward the ends,” suggests Bush.

5: Smoothing or anti-frizz product

If you’re blow-drying, start after step 4. When your hair is about 40–50% dry, that’s the best time to add a smoother or anti-frizz treatment if desired. “You only need a small amount of product. If you apply when wet, you might misjudge how much product you need and could end up with greasy hair. If you wait until you’re halfway through your blowout, you’ll be less likely to over-apply,” says Bush.

6: Finishing product

When finished drying, add a shine serum, texturizing pomade, and/or hairspray to set. Done!

See Featured Products below for some of Bush’s favorite hair products. What order do you follow when styling your hair?  

Photo: Image Source