I love talking hair and skincare. And in 2021, I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole.
You may have noticed my hair used to be straight, and I now regularly style it wavy/curly. The wavy/curliness is me embracing my natural texture after almost 20 years of straightening my hair. (I officially haven’t used them in a year now.)
I’ll save you the story of how I realised my hair is wavy/curly. What’s really important is what it’s taught me.
And that’s that most of us buy products based on scents or brand names, without looking into if the ingredients will actually benefit our hair/skin. Then we wonder why it doesn’t work for us.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year learning about hair and skincare ingredients, and sharing those learnings with friends. I’ve now helped several friends with their hair and skincare problems.
Not in a ‘here’s what worked for me so it’ll work for you’ type of way (I hate that way), but in a ‘what’s your issue? Ok, here are the ingredients you need to look for, and some products with those in.’ So I’m giving them a fish to help them in the short term, and teaching them to fish to help them in the long term.
Most of the products listed below will help the majority of people. However, before investing, I’d do some research on why your hair/skin is behaving the way it does (for instance, excess oil production is sometimes a sign of dryness, so you need more hydration rather than something to absorb the oil).
Understanding why something is happening is super important to fixing it and preventing any further damage.
The products here will also suit a variety of budgets. However, in some cases, you are going to get what you pay for.
Cheap doesn’t always mean nasty, but in a lot of cases, a cheaper product will clean your hair/skin without repairing any of the damage that’s been done by the environment, other products, or life in general.
Especially if the brand/product is over five years old. A lot of the best innovations have come from newer brands in recent years.
The difference healthier hair and skin can make to someone’s confidence is hard to overstate. It isn’t about being shallow – it’s about investing in some self-care, and protecting our bodies’ largest organ (the skin), which gets water taken away from it when we’re dehydrated.
Hair is also a source of pride for a lot of people. Damaged hair that’s falling out can be traumatic regardless of what your hair’s length is.
If you look after your hair and skin, you’re going to feel more pride and have less of a reason to hide because you look so much healthier. It’s a confidence boost in a bottle (or tub).
Finding what you need
I’ve tried to organise this post so that all the hair products are together, followed by the tools, then the skincare products and tools/techniques. And they’re mostly grouped by the order in which you’d use them, too 😉
If you have any questions or want recommendations for something, hit me up in the comments and I’ll do my best to help 🙂
Grab yourself some discounts
Anything marked with a * is an affiliate link. You’ll get a discount for purchasing through the Feel Unique or Beauty Pie link, and I’ll get commission, too 🙂
Most of these products (aside from the Beauty Pie one, and a new Curlsmith one) can be bought via Feel Unique. It’s where I get most of my hair and skincare products from because they have sales on all the time, they have a great range of products, and next day delivery is only £9.99 for the whole year. Get 15% off your first order with Feel Unique by going here.* (Or following any of the links below the products.)
Feel Unique ship to pretty much everywhere, but some locations are more expensive than others.
Beauty Pie* is available in the US and the UK.
Unfortunately, I can’t link directly to products on Feel Unique or Beauty Pie and still offer a discount 🙁 But I have included some Amazon links as well.
Be careful purchasing beauty products from Amazon if they’re not directly from a seller’s store, though – it’s way too easy for cheap knock-offs that are full of ? to get sold as brand names. That’s why I prefer to buy my products from Feel Unique where possible.
A note on hair products, before we continue…
The biggest issue people face with their hair is using cheap shampoo and conditioner, then wondering why their hair is limp and lifeless. You get what you pay for.
If it cost you £1, it’s going to clean your hair, but it won’t repair or protect it. It’s like washing your face with a bar of cheap soap instead of using a cleanser with actives in.
Also, be mindful that buying anything that’s cheap and smells pretty means that:
- The fragrance is probably higher up on the ingredients list than anything that can repair your hair…
- …so it probably won’t nourish or protect your hair…
- …but it’ll clean it
You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do have to put down anything that says ‘moisturising’ without reading the ingredients (it’ll most likely make your hair greasier, when you probably need more hydration, aka water) or ‘Tresemme’ (their shampoo and conditioner is cheap and nasty and will make your hair worse, sorry. It’s really not recommended by hairdressers. Just ask one).
One of the reasons I created this post was because of how many people I see ask for help with their hair. In most cases, the cause is how useless the products they’re using are, or that the product is the wrong fit for their hair style/texture/issue.
Sometimes changing one product is really all you need to see a dramatic difference.
So, without further ado, let’s start with hair products!
L’Oreal Elvive Dream Lengths Range
This stuff is like magic. If you’re in between hair appointments, it will seal your split ends to prevent them from splitting further and doing more damage to your hair.
While it’s mostly the leave-in (pictured) I recommend, switching to the whole range is what made Ellie’s hair go curly for the first time ever.
If you’re on a budget, regardless of your hair length, you’re not going to find a better product than this. It’s designed to keep your hair healthy, and it definitely does.
Even if your hair isn’t super long, but it breaks easily and you’re on a budget, this range could help you.
Find on Amazon UK * (It’s usually on sale on Amazon.)
Tigi Bedhead Resurrection Shampoo and Conditioner
I need to be honest here: my hair loves this stuff. My nostrils? Not so much.
I began to use this product in lockdown of 2020, after my hair was bleached (sorry, lightened) for the first time and looking lacklustre. It worked miracles, showing me my hair’s natural wavy/curly texture for the very first time.
However, it smells like Calpol. Which made me feel sick. So I’d have to hold my breath while using it. Thankfully the smell didn’t linger, but the sickly smell did make me want to switch to something else instead.
If that doesn’t appeal to you either, their Colour Goddess range, which my hairdresser uses, smells like toffee and is just as magical.
Feel Unique and Amazon regularly have sales on Tigi Bedhead stuff, so you can usually get the shampoo and conditioner for £10-15.
Or, you can get a smaller size to see what your hair/nostrils think before you fully commit (those can sometimes be harder to find, but worth it).
Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore Leave-In Conditioner
I heard a saying recently, which is that conditioner brings out your hair’s true texture and your styler holds it in place. I totally butchered the phrasing of it, but you get the idea.
The first time I tried this, my hair went wavier than it ever has. It loved it. It didn’t stick because I didn’t use a gel on top, but my hair drinks this up like I do a pumpkin spice latte.
It’s suitable for all hair types, and given how little you need and how big the tub is, it’s great value for money. As it’s quite thick, if your hair is virgin or fine, you probably won’t need much.
And it smells like Playdough 😀
This product has convinced me that everyone should use a leave-in conditioner. Prior to this, I didn’t use them very often ?
Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore Shampoo
I can’t believe I almost forgot to add this in! ?♀️
Because of how fine my hair is, it gets weighed down by products really easily. Which then means the roots aren’t as wavy/curly as they could be. Over time, the rest of the waves/curls become less defined, too.
Using this shampoo a couple of times a month (I wash it twice a week) revives my hair and brings lacklustre curls back to life.
Because it’s a clarifying shampoo, you only want to use it every few washes, or it will be too stripping. Regular usage will keep your hair healthy, though, especially if you follow with decent rinse-out and leave-in conditioners.
I really love it for wavy hair, but the brand itself is designed for curls so you should be fine to use it on most textures 🙂
Curlsmith Feather-Light Protein Cream
This stuff is like crack for my hair. I always get the best waves if I’ve used it. It brings out the waves without weighing my hair down, something which most curl creams do. It’s perfect for wavy hair, and a good fit for curly hair, too. (As are all Curlsmith products.)
I don’t have a specific gel I’d recommend to go after it – I like to experiment – but I’d recommend a hydrating one so that you can maintain your hair’s protein/moisture balance, which is key to healthy, defined curls that last.
Curlsmith Bond Curl Rehab Salve
This is designed to fill in gaps in your hair caused by things like heat styling and lightening, preventing the damage from getting any worse. My hair LOVES it.
My hairdresser actually said my hair was super healthy when I saw her just before Christmas, and part of that is down to this product.
It’s designed as a pre-shampoo treatment for curly hair, as that needs lots of protein and can get super dry, but it would work on all damaged hair types. If you have straight, virgin hair, you probably don’t need it unless you heat style a lot.
I this it a couple of times a month, sometimes more if my hair has recently been lightened.
If you’ve heard of/used Olaplex, it’s similar to that. I can’t comment on Olaplex as I haven’t used it, but my hairdresser did say how good it is when I asked her about it.
Curlsmith Bonding Oil
Yes, I am slightly obsessed with Curlsmith. But when their stuff is THAT good…well, of course I’d be obsessed. It’s one of the few ranges that’s helped my hair to embrace its (temperamental at the best of times) natural waves.
This stuff is so nice for scrunching out a gel cast. It gives my hair more of the protein it needs after lightening. A little goes a long way, too – I generally only need one pump as more than that makes my hair go slimy and weighs it down.
So, while it may seem expensive, it’s going to last you several months.
(Currently only available directly from Curlsmith. They also have a curl quiz on their website which can help you work out what sorts of products you need, and free delivery over £25.)
Another oil that goes a long way. I use this as a pre-shampoo treatment, or if my hair already has enough protein but is looking dry. It smells heavenly.
Traditional bobbles can pull at your hair, causing breakage. These are designed to be more gentle because you don’t need to wrap them around as much and they come out of your hair much easier.
I purchased some knock-off ones a few months ago and they didn’t last very well. The first one broke within seconds. The second one lasted a few weeks. I still have the third one.
I bought the real thing from TK Maxx recently, and wow are they better. The coils are tighter and bounce back faster, and I only need to wrap them around my hair once to hold all my hair in place. As I don’t have much hair, that’s pretty impressive.
I first heard of these when I was a teenager, but I only invested in one recently. And I’ve already noticed a difference after just a few weeks.
I brush my hair in the shower, after applying conditioner. Switching to this brush has meant I lose half the hair I would’ve using my other (still detangling) brush. The brush was the only thing in the routine that I changed.
Even after lightening my hair, it still pulls out far fewer hairs than any other brush I’ve ever used has. I can literally count the number of hairs on my brush. With my older ones…well, let’s just say it looked more like a cat’s hairball ?
Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
It’s pronounced ‘boom boom’. Get your head out of the gutter.
We got a sample of the hair mask for this and adored the smell (it’s also a great hydrating mask), so I decided to buy a set containing the shower gel and moisturiser.
The smell is gorgeous – like mangoes and nuts – but it can be overpowering after a while. It lasts 18+ hours.
One thing I did notice was that the cream improved the cellulite on my hips with just a couple of applications. If I’d used it regularly enough it probably would’ve helped even more.
Not going to lie, the cost of this teamed with the overpowering smell did put me off buying a full-sized tub, but it definitely works, which is why I included it.
First Aid Beauty Cleanser
This is a product that’s really good for redness, due to ingredients like oats.
I keep trying other cleansers and getting annoyed because my skin just doesn’t like it as much.
It doesn’t really lather, so it’s good for dry/dehydrated/sensitive skin, but it still removes make-up.
(I hate any skincare products that lather. It’s a personal vendetta of mine.)
This does have the faint smell of oats, though, so if you don’t like that it might be worth finding something else.
The Ordinary Niacinamide
This was one of the first products I tried to help with the redness I get on my face. And wow does it work. It takes a few weeks to kick in (I started to see real results on my second bottle), but as soon as I stopped using it, the redness came back.
Niacinamide can help with:
- Pigmentation issues
- Oil production (and balancing it)
- Minimising fine lines and wrinkles
- Protecting against sun damage
- Minimising pores
- Probably some other things I’m missing – it’s a popular ingredient for a reason
The Ordinary’s version is unscented, which I really like.
If you’re using another product with niacinimide in, you don’t need this one too. More isn’t always better.
Origins Ginzing Eye Cream
I have naturally purple bags under my eyes, complete with two very visible purple capillaries under my left eye. This is the only eye cream that makes a difference.
It’s brightening, it’s moisturising, and a little tub of it lasts several months. I stopped using it for a few months last summer and the bags under my eyes were more purple than Barney the Dinosaur…
The Inkey List Symbright Moisturiser
This worked wonders on my skin’s (hormone-triggered) pigmentation issues over the summer. It’s super light, sinks in quickly, and I don’t remember a fragrance.
I don’t like it so much in the winter as it isn’t thick enough for me in the cold/dry weather, but it does sink in quickly and work well as a day moisturiser in the summer.
If you have oily skin, you’ll probably be fine with this in the winter.
Beauty Pie Jeju Cream
I cannot tell you how much I adore this moisturiser. It’s taken me years to find one thick enough for my dry/dehydrated skin to be happy in the winter. And now I have found it I’m never letting it go.
(This is likely where Beauty Pie discontinue it. That always happens when I adore a product ? )
It’s so thick it comes with a spoon (not pictured as I forgot ?).
Once you apply it to your face, it melts into your skin. It’s sooooo nice.
I treated myself to a silk pillowcase at the start of last year, when I began my wavy/curly hair journey. It’s supposed to help with frizz, be gentler on your skin, and absorb less of your product than a traditional cotton pillowcase would.
I didn’t realise just how much of a difference it made until I went away for a few days and slept on a nylon pillowcase again. OMG the frizz. After just one day! I’d never seen anything like it.
I have one from John Lewis and one from Only Curls. You can get them from Amazon as well, just make sure it’s actually satin or silk as some claim to be on there but aren’t.
SPF 30. Any SPF. Just wear one. I beg you.
You know the UV index? It only measures UVB rays – the ones that cause skin cancer.
UVA rays stay pretty consistent throughout the year, regardless of where you live.
And they’re the ones that can cause/exacerbate:
- Redness/pigmentation issues
- A whole host of other skin problems
So, if you’re not using an SPF of 30+ all year round (or 50+ for damaged/sensitive skin), and wondering why your skin isn’t healing as well as it could, this may be what you’re missing.
Windows are also not enough to protect you from the sun. You still need to wear an SPF indoors, and top it up at least a couple of times a day.
And no, darker or tanned skin does not mean that your skin is protected. The sun causes pigmentation issues in darker skin. And any tan is a form of DAMAGE. That’s right. That ‘lovely’ tan you get when you come back from holiday is your skin SCREAMING at you to protect it better from the sun. It makes you more likely to get skin cancer, wrinkles, pigmentation issues, acne…you get the picture.
The earlier you start protecting your skin from the sun, the less damage you’ll have to repair. Regardless of your skin tone or type.
All right. This one is a bit of a cheat.
But have you SEEN the skin on people in their 50s who exercise regularly? It’s incredible.
It makes sense. Exercise increases blood flow and helps us build collagen. Both of which our body gets worse at doing as we age. Unless we exercise.
The secret to many celebrities’ epic skin? Exercise.
Think about how much they do to keep up their amazing physiques and be able to sing and dance onstage. It’s hours a day.
Of course, they also have money for procedures. But the exercise routine is their first line of defence.
What are your favourite products?
I’d love to hear what your favourite products are and why in the comments 🙂 Let’s share some tips below so that we can help each other!