How I dealt with random beard baldness

Hair loss has been a fear of mine since I was old enough to start worrying about my looks.

According to my family history, there are signs it could be on the horizon. My own father is balding but not yet bald. There’s a crucial difference between ‘bald’ as a verb and as an adjective: one is the process and the other is the result. How you navigate between the two is up to you.

The thing that really bugs me about hair loss is the lack of control. You can do everything right—cleanse, tone, moisturize, repeat!—and still lose your hair. This is exactly what happened three years ago when I finally embraced my own hairiness and grew a beard.

SEE ALSO: How to be your own quarantine barber

I enjoy having a beard for a number of reasons. I like how facial hair frames my face and complements my dark features. Plus, George Michael (my style icon and general hero) had one. Nowadays, there’s a whole subculture around beard maintenance. Having a beard is not a personality trait per se, but dealing with random beard baldness can definitely build character. I would know.

I had developed a pretty reliable routine in shaping and trimming my beard line (neck beard maintenance is its own type of hell) when I noticed a small bald patch right under my jawline. The spot was no bigger than a coin but still fairly noticeable. Weird! I thought. But my body had been through weirder things and always sorted itself out. I thought these little bald spots would do the same.

This wasn’t the case. One bald spot soon became two, which then quickly expanded to four giant craters on my neck. The hairless spots were so clean, too—it was as if overnight someone had placed random patches of Nair around my beard line like a cruel sleepover prank. It made my overall beard look super uneven and patchy, and made me feel generally unsexy. Hoping to find the cause and a solution to this mysterious hair loss, I booked an appointment at Spring Street Dermatology to deal with the crop circles that had invaded my beard.

The author at his appointment at Spring Street Dermatology.

Alopecia, aka spot baldness, is a fairly common condition in “which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.” Instead of gradual hair loss, it’s as if clumps of hair fall out overnight and then refuse to grow back for months.

“The common mechanism is that the immune system essentially goes haywire and instead of attacking foreign pathogens like bacteria and viruses, it sets its sights inwards against the hair follicles,” Dr. Nikhil Dhingra, a dermatologist (and lifesaver) at Spring Street Dermatology, explains over email. It affects around 200,000 people per year in the US and there is currently no cure.

There are different types of alopecia, but some of the most common include androgenetic alopecia, AKA male pattern baldness, and alopecia barbae, which affects the beard. The latter is what I had the pleasure of being formally diagnosed with.

There’s no exact known cause of alopecia, but stress is believed to be a major factor. “The predisposing factors aren’t well known; genetics may play a role, but stress has been associated as a trigger for many patients, potentially via a spike in cortisol which can upregulate circulating immune cells,” says Dr. Dhingra. “For someone predisposed, this heightened immunologic surveillance may lead to a sudden episode of hair loss.”

Unsurprisingly, this random hair loss can be quite jarring, which in turn has the potential to cause more stress and further perpetuate the severity of the condition. Essentially, hair loss plus stress related to the aforementioned hair loss equals more hair loss. Alopecia can be a cruel, self-fulfilling cycle.

The good news is that the condition isn’t usually symptomatic of a larger health problem, and Dr. Dhingra says most cases will “spontaneously improve in 12-18 months.” Tragically, this wasn’t the case for me. But for those who lack patience, there are a few treatments available.

The most common treatment is steroid injections which are administered directly into the affected areas. “The steroids themselves don’t boost hair production, but diminish the cause of the loss,” Dr. Dhingra explains. Once applied, patients can expect to see hair growth improve naturally over time. For best results, repeat this treatment every month. It’s common for the hair growth to be light at first before resuming its normal frequency in approximately 3-6 months.

If you’re not into needles, there are other options available. “Topical steroids can sometimes be used, and off-label use of a laser with UV light has been effective for combating the inflammation that causes hair loss.”

I’ve received steroid injections intermittently over the past three years. Since alopecia is an actual medical condition, the treatment was covered by my health insurance. (The one silver lining in this whole ordeal.) “Otherwise, it’s like $50,” says Dr. Dhingra. 

The author after receiving one steroid treatment to treat beard alopecia.

As much of an aesthetic headache as it is, alopecia is not the end of the world. It’s also much more common than you think. Once I was diagnosed, I started noticing more and more people with random beard baldness. I was tempted to show solidarity with my beard-bald brethren, but if you know someone dealing with random hair loss, it’s probably best that you don’t bring it up.

Three years and over a dozen steroid injections later, my alopecia has waned and my beard is as full as ever. Since I don’t plan on giving up a life of stress anytime soon, it’s possible that the beard patches will return, but at least this time I’ll know what I’m dealing with. Until then, it’s just one less thing to worry about.

Waterless beauty is the future of the industry, and this haircare brand is leading the revolution

three hands holding owa beauty productIt’s no secret that “waterless” has become beauty’s latest buzzword.

As we become increasingly aware of our environmental footprint, it was only a matter of time before conscious consumers began re-evaluating the sustainability of everyday products. Water, the world’s most precious resource, has become the cosmetics’ industry key ingredient, and conservation efforts have lead some innovators to uncover what just might be the future of beauty.

But let’s back up: why on earth is something as simple as water so fundamental in the beauty industry? First off, companies know it’s cheap, which is likely why any old cosmetic can contain up to 80% water as a base. Of course, that’s without taking into account the manufacturing itself, which can require thousands of liters for one individual moisturizer or shampoo (referred to as “virtual water”).

For haircare brand OWA, one of the leaders in the market, waterless is “not a trend.” Founder and CEO, Kailey Bradt, believes beauty’s focus on sustainable packaging is a ploy to hook customers based on appealing to “what they can see,” when in reality, what’s on the outside is only one small part of the ec0-equation. Water-activated products, she says, are the future.

SEE ALSO: Have we discovered a face tanner that actually works?

“When developing a product at OWA, we consider the entire product life-cycle, everything from where the ingredients are sourced, how they are manufactured and delivered, through to what happens after they go down the drain,” claims Kailey. “It’s a holistic view of the product development process. With a waterless formula, it’s not only about the water we are not putting into the bottle. We are also saving energy and other materials in distribution.”

In embarking on an OWA beauty journey, it’s easy for doubts to creep in. How does your hair—or scalp—react to replacing an ingredient that makes up for 80 percent of a regular shampoo formula with, well, many more ingredients? Should we expect a drier experience due to a lack of H2O, or au contraire, greasier roots due to the uptick in oils involved?

OWA haircare

Photo courtesy of OWA

Well, neither, in fact. What I hadn’t considered was perhaps my hair was actually about to contend with less ingredients. Environmental implications of water-based products aside, the fact that water is highly contaminable means companies have no choice but to throw in a whole host of preservatives to keep bacteria at bay—all of which over time may irritate or inflame your skin. While most shampoos contain no less than 20 ingredients (most of which are there solely to keep water fresh), OWA’s Moondust Hair Wash requires only 10 in their unscented collection.

“Since we aren’t trying to stabilize a liquid format, you’re not only getting a more concentrated product because there is no water but because there are fewer ingredients as well,” Kailey continues. “The ingredients we use have universal benefits for every hair type. Many people with different hair types (curl patterns, hair densities, lengths) are using the shampoo.”

Still, I was concerned a product so concentrated might simply have a “co-wash” effect—washing your hair with conditioner between shampoos to keep the ends moisturized without stripping the hair of natural oils every shower. There was no way, I figured, a powdered product could achieve the lather, and thus the feeling of “cleanliness,” of a water-based product.

My misconceptions are common, affirms Kailey, with most beauty fiends figuring there must be “a compromise for a sustainable, waterless powder shampoo” before they try it.  But I needn’t have worried. The formula—which, for the record, is also sulfate-free—even eclipses the lather of regular shampoo when applied. And despite its intense concentration, the Moondust washes completely clean without the usual effort required to rid your hair of water-heavy shampoo with no leftover residue to navigate. This experience, OWA has discovered from frequent feedback, is par-for-the-course for its consumers.

“[Many people say they] get a rich, velvety lather that you just can’t get with a liquid shampoo and their hair is softer and feels lighter after using Moondust Hair Wash,” explains Kailey. “That’s because the ingredients condition without weighing down hair, compared to synthetic polymers and silicones found in most liquid shampoos. People buying it because they’re looking to green up their shower routine and are pleasantly surprised with the performance.”

OWA haircare

Photo courtesy of OWA

The packaging is also impressively compact, making Moondust a travel necessity when the world re-opens. Because of its powder format, a singular product provides its user the equivalent four bottles of liquid shampoo—a lot of bang for your buck at a $29 retail price—so don’t expect to throwing out any toiletries to save weight at the airport.

This was all part of Kailey’s master plan. When incepting OWA, the environmentalist hoped to create a brand that offered sustainable products at an accessible price that also happened to be highly competitive in the haircare market. Seeing her dreams come to fruition only further convinced the entrepreneur that waterless beauty that will inevitably revolutionize the industry.

“We are seeing the fall of fast fashion, and we will see the same fall in fast beauty,” claims Kailey. “Consumers want high-quality products that are actually sustainable and make a tangible difference in their routines. I see waterless beauty being the new norm.”

How to be your own quarantine barber

Visual of two boys to showcase them trying to do their hair

Let’s face it, what your barber achieves is art.

It may have started to look easy after years of appointments but it takes real skill to perfect a tight line, master a smooth fade or nail a sharp ear curve in seconds. Basically, recreating the same caliber of cut on your own is going to be a challenge. As we dive into yet another month of self-isolation, you may be desperate enough to try.

So how do you approach more than a month’s worth of growth, or painfully uncolored roots shooting out at a rapid rate? For AXE Hair’s Master Barber, Pedro Rosario, practice makes perfect. Still, if you don’t have the kind of natural skill and early start that might kickstart a professional hair career, don’t panic: There are ways for you to make it work. Here’s how!

If you’re trying to grow it out

“Generally, guys with coarse or tight coiled hair can just wear it naturally as it grows out for a few extra weeks,” says Pedro. The key to keeping it looking sharp in the interim? Embracing your curls. Take your sponge or go in with fingers and with circular motions tease out the hair to foster bigger, looser curls. Sponge is a must-have for longer curls, whereas you’ll need a great wooden brush for waves.

You’re also going to need to ensure the ends don’t try out in the interim, so moisturizing is everything. Look for an essential oil-infused cream or leave in conditioner, or forgo the hair products altogether and work in a few drops of aragon, tea tree or Moroccan oils, instead.

“The biggest concerns clients with textured hair have is overuse of certain products, and lack of moisture. It’s easy for coiled hair to look dry so it’s important to keep it moist and lush.”

BUY HERE: Magic Twist Brush/Sponge set, amazon.com, $10.99

If you’re ready to cut

Before you even think about getting jiggy with a pair of trimmers, make sure you’ve invested in a solid pair with an array of guard lengths (you don’t want rusty clippers to leave you looking patchy). This is crucial if you’re going for a straight buzz, but based on your hair length, type, texture and density, you may want something more specific, explains Rosario.

“The simplest rule of thumb is start long and go shorter from there without being too extreme,” he adds. “Most average guys like their hair short in the side longer on the top…trimming the side burn temple area and wearing the top natural is a safe bet.”

If you’re playing things close to the chest and refusing to touch the top, you’re also going to need a good template. This will shave (no pun intended) your sculpting time in half, and also give you a secret weapon when it comes to nailing a fade as an amateur.

BUY HERE: Wahl Color Pro Haircut kit, cvs.com, $31.99

If you need a color touch-up

No, and we repeat, no stylist is a fan of you taking color into your own hands. Professional consults are incredibly important when it comes to delving into chemical alteration, but if you absolutely can’t wait there are ways to get by.

Check in with your hair stylist, someone who knows your hair intimately and is familiar with it’s structure, and ask if they’d consider mixing you a special color kit for you to apply to your roots. It won’t have the nuances of professionally-applied color, but you will have a touch-up on hand which won’t compromise you hair.

There are also products washable products that keep blondes light, and other shades bright, so it’s worth doing research. If you can’t avoid self-coloring, many stylists recommend Clairol’s Semi-Permanent Moisturizing Hair Color, which is easy to apply to roots, temporary and won’t hurt your hair.

BUY HERE: Clairol’s Semi-Permanent Moisturizing Hair Color, sallybeauty.com, $8

If you want a switch up

It may be that quarantine inspires you to try a completely different look altogether, but it’s important to do your research.

“Most guys get their fashion cues from whatever is trending,” says Rosario. “Athletes are among the most fashionable so that’s a good place to start for a reference.”

Look for men with similar face shapes, that will give you a clue as to what will look best on you. For those with a talented quarantine partner who may have the skill to help them explore braided styles, here’s some inspiration, just make sure your hair is well-hydrated before it’s tucked away for a few months and keep your braids moisturized so your hair emerges in the best condition possible.

BUY HERE: Moroccan oil styling cream, amazon.com, $34

 

Haircut at home? Grab these must-have tools

So, the time has come to tame the beast: your quarantine hair.

Even though our social exposure is at a near zero, the possibility of stumbling on your own reflection has increased tenfold – and there’s only so much unruly poof our pride can take before a haircut is mandated. The catch is, of course, when stuck at home we can’t pay a professional to tidy things up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a clean haircut all on your own.

SEE ALSO: Let’s talk about sex (in self-isolation)

Nonetheless, if you’re an amateur attempting an at-home haircut, you’re going to need to be prepared. Most hair stylists aren’t exactly endorsing taking your tresses into your own hands well in self-isolation (the concern being that you might make a mistake, try to correct it, and eventually resemble a hedge hog emerging from a house fire), coloring should be absolutely avoided, but if you’re desperate to get cutting, there are ways to make it work.

The first thing you’ll want to do is as much research on your hair type as possible, if you can get advice from a barber familiar with your hair, do, and secondly recruit someone with a delicate touch to help you navigate the more difficult areas (if they’re comfortable with doing your whole hair, let them). Otherwise, if you’re working alone make sure you have a great mirror set-up so you can do the back to the best of your ability. You’re also going to need tools — no, we repeat, NO kitchen scissors should come near your hair — to give yourself a haircut that you might have paid money for. You might not need all the tools, but we rounded up the best, just in case.

The best haircut cape

haircut cape

Courtesy of amazon

Okay, this may seem a little extreme, but if you’re stuck indoors with no access to an outdoor area or roof and what to avoid a whole heap of sweeping, vacuuming or discovering mini-hairs for months to come, this is a game-changer. Pop her on to protect your neck, clothes and floors — for $6, it’s worth it.

BUY HERE, $6

The best buzz-cut clippers

Conair Trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

So you want to maintain a sharp, close cut without the whole to-do? You’ll be a Jason Statham lookalike in seconds with this little number, a handheld clipper that’s waterproof so you can touch-up in the shower. If you’re embracing facial hair in quarantine and want it in 5 o’clock shadow territory, permanently, this might just be your best friend.

BUY HERE, $50

The best neck hair guide

Neck hair guide

Photo courtesy of Ebay

This is for those of you weathering the pandemic solo (or with anyone reluctant to come near with your hair). Pop on this headband-esque contraption and enjoy the cleanest line that money can buy.

BUY HERE, $7

The best multi-directional trimmer

Multidirectional trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Ditto for this product, you’re going to want to get your mitts on this ASAP if you don’t have an extra pair of hands to work on the back for you (pulling a trimmer up the back of your scalp is no easy feat). This cordless wonder comes with four comb guides so you have options for hair length, and lets you get at your cut from all directions. Genius.

BUY HERE, $52

The best intricate razor

Hair engraver

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Oh, you’re fancy huh. If you’ve become accustomed to an expert fade with an engraved design that stops traffic and simply cannot bear for it to grow out, there’s a way you can stay looking sharp without the stylists touch. Proceed with caution, though, without a steady hand things can quickly get out of control with this trimmer, so make sure you’re ready to contend with whatever the outcome may be.

BUY HERE, $10

The best beard trimmer

Beard trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

We can’t overstate this one, this beard trimmer is the industry’s Cadillac — and priced at over $150, we know it will last you a lifetime. It boasts expert precision, neck-clean-ups and all-round evenness. This may just be the sole tool to get you through self-isolation.

BUY HERE, $162

The best beard template

Beard template

Photo courtesy of amazon

Listen, there is no excuse for a wonky line — even if you haven’t seen your barber in weeks. This handy tool with keep your beard cut with absolute precision, serving as a stencil for you to shave down from your cheekbone. It comes in two different shapes (curved and straight), so whichever way you wear your beard, you can keep yourself looking clean.

BUY HERE, $15

The best cut template

Haircut template

Photo courtesy of Amazon

And speaking of stencils, never worry about keeping your cut even again with this little number. From aligning your part, to keeping your earline in tact to maintaining your taper for maximum blend, this purchase will halve your haircut time and is perfect for those who are on their own. Did someone say MVP?

BUY HERE, $34

The best cut kit

Remington haircut kit

Photo courtesy of Amazon

If you want to skip the nonsense and go back to basics, this haircut kit pretty much encompasses any needs when it comes to a trim. With a cordless trimmer, 11 different guard sizes (so you can avoid that too short cut) and clips to boot, anyone with this kit and a penchant for YouTube tutorials can give themselves a pretty passable haircut. Hey, you might even look pretty good.

BUY HERE, $47.50

The best clip guard

2 inch clip guard

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Across most clip guard kits, just one size (arguably the best size) is often overlooked: the two-inch. This is ideal if you want to tame the top without buzzing it all off. It may seem ridiculous to purchase a solo guard on top of a comprehensive kit, but trust us, once this puppy is in your hands — and on your head — it will be worth it.

BUY HERE, $10

Everything you need to know before your cut your own hair

On our third quarantined Saturday, my new roommate emerged shirtless armed with an array of clippers, combs and a vision.

His hair — which was stubbornly thick, wave-inclined and fast-growing — had reached a boiling point, he claimed.  The small, ‘self’-square on Zoom calls had not been kind to him, and he simply could not continue to confront an unruly mop every time he took a meeting. His hair, for a lack of a better description, was becoming a Chia Pet. As he handed over haircutting tools to myself and two other roommates, we became aware that his hair – and workplace clout – were now in our hands now.

This is maintenance in Coronavirus-mandated self-isolation. Not only do people attempt to DIY the beauty regimen they usually pay professionals for, but the constant confinement, countles distractions and more frequent exposure to mirrors is enough to drive anyone to a pair of scissors. Throw in dwindling self-esteem from a lack of social stimulation, and you’re in experiment territory.

For all tips, we asked Beverly Hills celebrity hair stylist, Philip Wolff, all about his best self-hair cutting tips. Philip says to temper yourself, warning against doing anything too dramatic.

“Even though it may feel so difficult and frustrating, be strong and be patient, you will regret making any drastic decision during this stressful time,” he says.

As for those whose hair has, for whatever reason, become completely unmanageable (and a mess!) there are definitely ways to approach it. Below, are some best practices!

Combat frustration with creativity

When your hair hits an in-between phase and is refusing to cooperate, bust out the accessories.

“A few ways men can navigate through a grow out is beanies, hats, bandanas, etc — this way weeks even months can go by during the awkward phases of grow out without being bothersome,” shares Philip. By the time quarantine ends, you’re hair will likely be much more manageable, or you’re hair will be primed for a stylist to work their magic.

It’s worth also experimenting with a different part for longer styles (think: 90s curtain style) without cutting, as a means of satiating your appetite for change. “Seek out a stylist or barber who does styles you particularly admire and start from there. Another way is to look up men’s styles, and find what you like on someone who is similar to you feature-wise.”

Philip also suggests experimenting with strong-hold products as a tool to either mix up your daily style, or encourage hair to follow an alternative growth pattern so it begins to fall differently.

Do your research

So you still want to cut? That’s okay, but start off right. Contact your stylist or barber (you can likely be connected with them via the salon’s Instagram), someone who has experience with your hair — “We are all in this together and us professionals are here to help via social media,” Philip assures. “[Reach out] to someone who has worked wit your hair and give techniques or ideas for home cuts or DIY-hair fixes, but make sure that’s what they recommend.

If you’re going to try do it alone, your primary fool-proof option is a full shave — try a two-guard, that will leave you with a length that will grow out nicely. For those not wanting to go the full Monty, have a partner use your clippers to trim the sides and avoid touching the top for a lighter, but still relatively easy update. Have them start off with the higher guards before going lower/shorter,  depending on your desired length, start blending out when it reaches the natural straight hairline at top of the forehead.

Get the right tools

via GIPHY

This is crucial. Philip says that before coming close to cutting, you need the essentials: clippers, trimmers, guards, scissors, comb(s), clips, cape or towel, extra mirrors. Your scissors don’t necessarily need to be professional cutting scissors, but you should absolutely avoid using anything that’s primary purpose is as a kitchen utensil or for crafting. If you’re really digging in the bottom of the barrel, try nail scissors — they won’t take off too much.

Again, staying in contact with your hair stylist will serve you big time here — they can advise you as exactly which guard size, or general tools they use to style your hair.

Avoid coloring at all costs

via GIPHY

Maybe you have a few grays, perhaps you went a Riverdale-red right before quarantine and it’s not pairing well with chocolate brown roots. Regardless of the situation, if you have no experience with color, walk away from the box dye aisle.

“Dying your hair at home, with no knowledge of the basics or foundation of chemically changing your hair in any way, is not advised at all,” says Philip. “You should contact a professional as there are so many variables to coloring hair — simply choosing a color off the shelf is not how the hair will turn out 99 percent of the time.”

If you are accustomed to the dynamics of box dye, by all means go ahead, otherwise, your perfect color will be worth the wait. This may an ample opportunity to give your hair time off from chemicals, giving it time to without anyone having to actually see you in the awkward re-growth phase.

Make sure you maintain

via GIPHY

On that note, if you’re looking for methods to return your hair to its virgin state, Philip suggests really exploring your haircare — you have a lot of extra time, after all.  Invest in shampoo and conditioner that fits your hair needs and is free of parabens and sulfates, and really invest in hydration: leave in conditioners, sprays and masks can have a huge impact on your hair over time.

“Product selection is like shoes, not everyone fits the same — every situation can be very specific so it’s difficult,” he explains.”But if you have color-treated, chemically-treated, dry or brittle hair, hair health during any period of time should be at the top of the concern list, so make sure you’re using proper hair care.”

If you’re still antsy to dive into hair, Philip suggests learning to stye your partners hair — or alternatively, asking for a scalp massage if you’ve been trying to keep your tresses in place with hats or beanies. “Try to make the best out of it and turn this “hairy” quarantine situation into fun new ways to connect, relax and be creative.”

We have all the secrets to Timothée Chalamet’s tousled, sexy hair

While we may be currently gripped in the coron-unknown, summer slows for no pandemic — enter: our mandatory re-embrace of bedhead.

Beachy, lived-in, I-stayed-in-bed-all-day hair has been dominating the runway as of late and we’re pretty sure they’re inspired by none other than actor Timothée Chalamet. If you’re stuck indoors self-isolating, don’t worry, there’s no need to shear your head — simply grow it out like Timmy, the spring inspo we all need.

Timothee Chalamet tousled hair

Timothee Chalamet on the cover of L’Officiel Hommes, grooming by Jessica Ortiz

His New York-based groomer, Jessica Ortiz, affirms to Very Good Light that the style is trending pretty much all over. We’re witnessing a resurgence of pre-millennium skate and surf fashion, she says, with both street style gurus to celebrities jumping on board.

“I think a lot of men are looking to Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves who are looking youthful and still rocking long hair,” Jessica tells us. “Right now, I have a lot of clients who are in the process of growing their hair out and I think that evolution is coming from 90’s nostalgia; looking to the past for low maintenance hair that reminds us of a carefree era.”

SEE ALSO: What bob? Meet the ‘Dora the Explorer’ movie actor with the scene-stealing hair

That said, not everyone is blessed with naturally wind-whipped locks, and even Chalamet needs a helping hand to achieve the hair that looks permanently styled by a Barbados beach. Below, we get all the tea when it comes to every one of Timmy’s hair secrets. Jessica gives us her do’s and don’ts and everything you need to “accomplish that second-day bedhead that everybody wants.” No leaving your apartment, required.

DO: Know your hair type

Before you start anywhere, you’re going to need to know what you’re working with before you start putting in, well, work. For curly hair you’re going to need high moisture and low hold, so as to “best define,” claims Ortiz. If we’re dealing with Chalamet-like waves, try something with a higher hold that emphasizes texture.

THE GO-TO: Oribe Curl Gelee (curly), Oribe.com — $44, Fatboy Sea Salt Promade, Fatboy.com $21 (wavy)

DO: Use foundation spray

Like most things, regardless of what exactly you’re trying to achieve, you’re going to need to lay a strong base. What do you need to do so when it comes to hair styling? Two magic words: foundation spray. If you’re taming a particularly unruly mop, says Ortiz, foundation spray is your new best friend. Take a good foundation spray to damp hair and “finger comb” the product, then it’s up to you whether or not you want to really dive in with tools to create the ultimate canvas.

“I section the hair and twist around my finger while using a blowdryer on high heat and a low setting,” Ortiz reveals. “Once you have gone around the head you want to break up the pattern with a finishing product that will define and hold your style.”

THE GO-TO: Baxter Clay Effect Style Spray, amazon.com – $27.

DON’T: Overheat

This is the most common mistake men make, Ortiz explains. Lower the air intensity setting on your hair dryer and take it slow, we can guarantee it will make the process a whole lot easier when it comes to style control and save you frizzing out your natural wave. Oh, and a lower heat is going to save you from unnecessary damage. “Learning to use tools like a professional can cut your styling time in half,” she adds. 

THE GO-TO:Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000, dermatstore.com – $169.

Do: Know when to define

If your experiencing an off-day and your Prince Charming-waves just aren’t cascading the way you’re used to, never fear — there are tricks of the trade to make it work despite the circumstances. While this may be a little advanced for styling novices, there’s no time like the present to up your game.

Defining your tresses is made easy by setting clips, Ortiz recommends. “Pin your finger twisted sections with clips, like the Harry Josh Wave Setting clips, then attach a diffuser to the Harry Josh blow dryer to set the style.” Just be aware of the social distancing implications that may arise from the hoards of screaming girls when you ascend to Chalamet-level sex hair-greatness. 

THE GO-TO:Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000, dermatstore.com – $169

The Lightning Award 2019 Winners for Best Hair Products

Best Hair products 2019

Best Natural/Black Hair Co-Wash: Shu Uemura Shusu Sleek Conditioner

Great slip, great smell, great results. Our hair was noticeably softer and more manageable and the shower knots we thought would be nearly impossible to tackle succumbed without a fight. Definitely worth the price tag to save yourself a (literal) headache on wash day. 

BUY HERE: Shu Uemera Shusu Sleek Conditioner, $58

SEE ALSO: Lightning Award for Best 2019 Cosmetics 

Best Natural/Black Hair No-‘poo Shampoo: Pattern Hydration Shampoo 

Yes, there was (and still is) plenty of hype surrounding actress and #hairgoals goddess Tracee Ellis Ross’ debut product line, but we’ve gotta say she’s done good. Because she knows what black hair needs, her new shampoo cleans without stripping and is infused with moisture-boosting goodness like aloe vera leaf juice, coconut oil and honey. You did that, TER. 

BUY HERE: Pattern Hydration Shampoo, $9-20

Best Edge Control: Bumble and Bumble Gel

A good edge control can be the difference between a good day and a truly WTF day. With a high-performing edge control, you’re slicked back and locked into place all day without a care in the world. Bumble and bumble’s Bb. Gel is the key to achieving that level of good hair day with a light and tight formula that never flakes and looks natural. 

BUY HERE: Bumble and bumble, Bb. Gel – $27

Best Hair Mask: Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturising Masque

Even our best intentions for a treat yoself moment can sometimes go awry when products don’t perform the way we thought or take too long to get the job done. Fortunately, none of that is a factor when it comes to Aesop’s luxurious, fast-acting hair and scalp mask that gets to the root of the problem – literally – in record time so that you can feel and see a difference without resorting to sitting in a shower cap for a half hour. The mask’s simple key ingredients list: rose petal, beta-carotene, lavender stem calms and softens hair, making it more pliable and responsive for frizz-free natural styles like twist-outs and flexi sets. 

BUY HERE: Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturising Masque, $33-95

Best Anti-Frizz Hairspray: Davines This Is A Strong Hairspray

Humidity: the mortal enemy of natural hair, weather it’s worn textured, straightened, picked out or in a puff. Davines: the dragon slayer for said natural styles. The brand’s This Is A Strong Hairspray, holds, protects and repels moisture like a champ, all without feeling heavy, sticky, stiff or flaky. Bravo. 

BUY HERE: Davines This Is A Strong Hairspray, $32 

Best Holding Hairspray: TREsemme Compressed Micro Mist Curl Hold Hairspray 

If we’re being honest, this marvelous little multi-tasker is so much more than just a holding hairspray. Yes, its flexible hold is off the charts, but because it emits a fine, weightless mist and has the most insanely addictive scent, we basically have started to use it as a holding/dry shampoo/finishing spray. Best $5 you’re going to spend. Trust me.

BUY HERE: TRESemmé Compressed Micro Mist Curl Hold Hairspray, $5 

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Best Brush/Comb: Pattern Shower Brush

Sorry to that man, but the “cult fave” Wet Brush is basically pointless when it comes to natural hair. So, we were thrilled to see Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern introduce a new tool that could adequately handle all. of. this. hair. What makes it so fab is the two-pronged approach to top-notch curl definition: detangle and clump.

BUY HERE: Pattern Shower Brush, $17

Best Shampoo: Shea Moisture Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil Lush Length Shampoo

What we love about this shampoo is that, thanks to the moisturizing properties of hemp seed oil,  it’s super-hydrating enough to smooth thick or coarse hair, but lightweight enough to work on fine hair without making it greasy. The subtle citrus scent is unexpected for a hemp product and we love the fresh feeling it brings to a superior shampoo.

BUY HERE: Shea Moisture Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil Lush Length Shampoo, $11.99

Best Conditioner: Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Conditioner

We have strong feelings about conditioner. If you’re not using it, you should, but not all conditioners are made for all people. Some can be too heavy for thin hair and others can be too lightweight for dry or textured hair. This one is like the goldilocks of conditioners – it’s just right. It’s even safe for color or chemically-treated hair and will make any locks look healthy and shiny no matter what.

BUY HERE: Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Conditioner, $8.99

Best Leave-in Conditioner: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray

If you have dry or curly hair, you know just how important leave-in conditioner can be. The problem is, so many of them are heavy and can leave your hair looking wet or, worse, greasy. This innovative conditioner is a spray, which means it’s easy to apply and hard to go overboard with, and is light enough to use on thin or fine hair. The secret is the botanical oils which help tame frizz and moisturize hair quickly.

BUY HERE: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray$20

Best Hair Mask: R+Co Television Perfect Hair Masque

Our favorite thing about this hair mask is that it’s so easy to use you don’t have to cancel plans. Instead of blocking out half an hour like some masks, this one takes only two to five minutes to work wonders. It’s ideal for anyone with hard to manage hair; use it instead of conditioner a few times a week to keep your hair shiny, healthy-looking, and easier to style.

BUY HERE: R+Co Television Perfect Hair Masque $42

Best Hair Cream: Fellow Styling Cream

More of us are going for longer, more natural-looking hairstyles these days (instead of the shiny, shellacked ‘dos of years past) and to get that look, you need a styling cream. This cream contains shea butter and meadowfoam seed oil to help moisturize your strands for less frizz and better manageability, but still has enough hold to get the texture you want without needing to reapply multiple times a day.

BUY HERE: Fellow Styling Cream, $25

Best Wet Pomade: Maapalim Strong Pomade

For shorter styles that need a little extra elbow grease, this pomade rises above the rest. Maapalim uses naturally-derived ingredients in all their products, which in this case means you get enough hold without worrying about what it’s doing to your hair. It washes out more easily than others we tried, not to mention the scent is a cut above the rest.

BUY HERE: Best Wet Pomade: Maapalim Strong Pomade $25

Best Hair products 2019

Best Matte Pomade: Johnny’s Chop Shop Sports & Social Hair Fibre

This multi-use product is called Sports to Social because it can literally do anything. The matte paste keeps texture and shape through both an intense workout and a long night partying till the sun comes up. The secret is the fibers, which allow you to reshape your hair easily without applying more product.

BUY HERE: Johnny’s Chop Shop Sports & Social Hair Fibre $9.98

Best Clay Pomade: Triumph & Disaster Coltrane Clay

Clay is ideal for anyone who wants the superior hold of pomade but doesn’t want the shine. This clay uses naturally derived ingredients like beeswax and kaolin clay to keep your hair exactly where you want it but look like you hardly did anything to it at all. 

BUY HERE: Triumph & Disaster Coltrane Clay, $30

Best Cream Pomade: Kelsen Signature Pomade

When you want your hair to look as natural as possible, but still shaped and styled, reach for a cream pomade. This new pomade uses natural ingredients to nourish and control hair and both the product and packaging are microplastic-free. It takes “natural look” to a whole new level.

BUY HERE: Kelsen Signature Pomade, $28.50

Best Hair Gel: Harry’s Sculpting Gel

Seriously, nothing holds like a gel, so if you’re going for a classic side part or a sleek  slick-back, you need to use one. This new gel is buildable, so you don’t get helmet-head right off the bat, and dries quickly without the crunch associated with old versions. It can easily become one of the most versatile products in your routine no matter what look you’re going for.

BUY HERE: Harry’s Sculpting Gel, $7.99

Best Hair Spray: Fatboy Flexible Finish Hairspray

Hairspray is the ultimate secret weapon for any hair style, no matter how long or short. You can even use it without any other product to help keep your hair in the shape you want. This hairspray is flexible, which means you can run your hands through your hair and still not mess it up, and is lightweight enough to prevent crunchy helmet head.

BUY HERE, Fatboy Flexible Finish Hairspray, $28

Best Salt Spray: Fellow Mineral Spray

There’s nothing like salt spray to give natural-looking tousled texture without weighing down hair. The problem is that some sprays leave your hair feeling dry and brittle, particularly if you have curly or dryness-prone hair. Not this one. It contains algae to help give texture yet still keep hair soft and hydrated

BUY HERE, Fellow Mineral Spray, $28

Best Volumizing Spray: Oribe Thickening Treatment Spray

Most volumizing sprays give lots of superficial volume, but you lose it as soon as your hair gets wet or, more often, throughout the day. This innovative spray not only gives an immediate hair plumping effect when sprayed on damp hair, but it also improves hair density with continued use thanks to high tech ingredients. We were skeptical till we actually tried it ourselves.

BUY HERE, Oribe Thickening Treatment Spray, $76

Best Texturizing Powder: Alder New York Texture Powder

Hair powder isn’t just good at keeping your hair looking fresh between washes or after the gym. It can also help add weightless volume and texture to thin or fine hair. This powder is easy to use (just shake a bit onto your scalp and run your hands through your hair) and doesn’t leave your hair looking chalky or powdery.

BUY HERE, Alder New York Texture Powder, $27

Best Mousse: Leonor Greyl Alcohol Free Styling Mousse

We’re hard pressed to find a product that adds volume as well as a mousse, but so many of them can leave your hair feeling dry and crunchy (particularly if you have texture). This one is the only one that kept our hair full and gorgeous the whole day while still being able to get our hands through it. We finally understand the meaning of “the higher the hair, the closer to god.”

BUY HERE, Leonor Greyl Alcohol Free Styling Mousse, $46

Best Dry Shampoo: Ouidad Clean Sweep Moisturizing Dry Shampoo

We understand the appeal of dry shampoos, but so many of them leave our hair feeling like straw (that’s the price of cleaning on the go). This one, which was specifically formulated for curly hair, is so moisturizing we could barely remember we used it a few minutes later. It doesn’t leave any tell-tale residue either, which is why it’s become a fixture in our gym bags.

BUY HERE: Ouida Clean Sweet Moisturizing Dry Shampoo, $20.80

Best Hair Dryer: T3 Cura Luxe Hair Dryer

So many professional hairstylists we know use the T3 Cura Luxe Hair Dryer religiously and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. Nothing else compares to this small wonder in terms of drying speed or ease of use. The regular size is small enough that our arms didn’t get tired mid-way through drying and we can even pack it in our suitcase without buying a travel dryer.

BUY HERE:T3 Cura Luxe Hair Dryer, $229.99

Best Hair Oil: Prose Custom Hair Oil

Hair oils are one of the most important multi-use products in our arsenal. We use them as a pre-shampoo treatment to help maintain moisture and shine and a styler to help cut down on frizz and keep our hair under control. It could be the fact that this oil was custom mixed just for us, but when it comes to lightweight oils, this one is the best bar none.

BUY HERE:Prose Custom Hair Oil, $48

Best Non-Shampoo Cleanser: IGK Smoke & Mirrors Conditioning Cleansing Oil

Anyone with dry, curly, or textured hair knows the havoc a traditional shampoo can wreak on their locks. The answer is cleansing conditioner, which cleanses hair without stripping it of it’s natural oils. This version is ideal for even thinner hair since it comes out of the can already foamed like a mousse and leaves your hair feeling clean and healthy instead of stripped.

BUY HERE: IGK Smoke & Mirrors Conditioning Cleansing Oil, $25

Best Scalp Scrub: NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub

Someone once told us that “good hair is healthy hair” and to get it, you have to take care of your scalp. Enter scalp scrubs which are like exfoliators for your head: they help remove built-up dead skin cells, debris, dirt, and old product so your hair follicles can flourish. Using this scalp scrub once a week instead of shampoo left our hair shiny, healthy-looking and easier to manage and our scalp feeling great.

BUY HERE: NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub, $16

Best Refresher: TREsemme Between Washes All-in-1 Style Refresh Spray

We’ve all been there: when we look in the mirror at the end of the day and our hair is flat and lifeless. It’s in those times that this spray shines. A few quick spritzes reactive product and help shape hair back in place so it looks like you just came from the hair salon instead of that 4-hour lecture.

BUY HERE, TREsemme Between Washes All-in-1 Style Refresh Spray, $5.99

Photos by: Chad Chisholm, Custom Creations Photography @chadjchis

2019 Lightning Award Winner Judges