We Tried Formulate Haircare From the Custom Brand That Adapts Right Along With You
In my experience, very few people are truly happy with their hair 100% of the time.
It's either too thin or too thick, too dry or too oily, too flat or too unruly, and even though there are thousands of products out there designed to help at every stage, the results are highly variable, and trying them all out to see what works can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Personally, I have very straight, very black hair, and though it can sometimes be a bit flat and start looking greasy if I don't wash it daily, I've never had to go out of my way to find products that leave me generally satisfied with it.
Even so, when the team behind Formulate reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in trying out their individually designed, custom-tailored haircare formulas, I was intrigued. They gave me access to a code to try out their process from start to finish for a review, and after using their products for more than a month, I can see what makes the brand so special.
Formulate is a brand built entirely around customized product regimens for the skin, hair and scalp, utilizing feedback from users to ensure that they're getting precisely the help they need. Before you commit to anything, you go through an extensive questionnaire discussing not just your natural hair, but your lifestyle and environmental factors that might impact your hair—as well as your specific goals for your hair.
All Formulate products are free of any sulfates, parabens and unnecessary dyes, and depending on your personal needs, you can also set your products to be vegan, silicone-free, gluten-free and nut-free. Their packaging is also fully refillable, resulting in reduced waste—and a big environmental impact. For my review, I tried out a customized 8 oz. shampoo, 8 oz. conditioner and 1.7 oz. scalp serum from the brand, which usually retails for $78.
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Of course, before I could have my Formulate products delivered, I needed to go through the customization process, and it was way more involved than I initially anticipated. It began with some basic questions about me—my gender and age—before specifically getting into questions about my hair, including its natural color, my level of greying and my hair's length and texture, from straight to extra coily.
Next, it asked me whether I have fine, medium or coarse hair, and I found the question extra intriguing because it actually defined these terms. I'd always assumed my hair had a medium thickness because I didn't know any better, but for this step, the website asked me to put a strand between my fingers to determine its thickness. If I couldn't feel anything, it was fine, if I could kind of feel something, it was medium and if I could definitely feel something, it was coarse. I discovered that my hair feels like a thin wire between my fingertips, and realized for the first time that I actually have coarse hair!
Next, it asked me about whether my hair is dry or oily (or both, with an oily scalp and dry ends), whether I have any scalp sensitivity or dandruff, as well as whether I have any skin conditions or issues with hair loss. Then, it asked for my name and email address—and while I thought that would be the last step, it went on to ask me even more, in-depth questions.
I answered how many days a week I use shampoo (usually three or four, as I alternate days), how many days a week I condition (daily), whether I color my hair (I don't) and about the styling products and tools I use regularly (none). It also asked me about any shampoo and conditioner brands I've recently used, whether I've had any keratin, relaxer or perm treatments, and if I use things like extensions, hair coverings or wigs. Then, it asked me for my zip code before generating a typical temperature, humidity and UV average for the next month. Formulate even takes into account whether your household uses well water before you set any ingredient restrictions and contact allergies.
Another interesting facet was selecting my hair goals, offering 17 options from improving scalp health to thermal protection, straightening, curl-defining, moisturizing and everything in between. I picked five goals—to strengthen, volumize and soften my hair, in addition to preventing split ends and controlling oil.
And finally, I was given a number of fragrance choices (including non-scented), as well as options for a fragrance strength, from light to strong. Loving citrusy smells, I went with a strong fragrance of the "Freshly Squeezed" tangerine and sweet orange scent, before it asked me to share any additional notes with my formulation chemist. At last, it was time to select my ship date and put in my delivery details—and eight days later, my Formulate bundle arrived at my doorstep, ready to use for my next morning shower.
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Using the Products
I was pretty excited when my Formulate bottles arrived, firstly because the hexagonal pump bottles look quite cool, and secondly because I'd never used custom hair products before. There's also an app you can utilize during your experience that offers tons of info about the products you receive, and I discovered that between the shampoo, conditioner and scalp serum I received, all three used coconut-based caprylic capric triglyceride to nourish hair and skin, collagen-building vitamin C, and vitamin E in the form of tocopherol.
Conveniently, my package arrived just in time for one of my wash days, and I was so excited to try out my new shampoo. From the first pump, I was in love with the scent, which seemed to combine the orange fragrance I was expecting with spicy notes of cinnamon and clove to be extra invigorating. Since I don't wash every day, I shampooed twice to get a thorough cleanse, and found my scalp feeling squeaky clean, without being dried out.
I also adored the conditioner, which boasted the same fabulous scent and left the ends of my hair feeling super hydrated (and effortless to wet-brush once I got out of the shower). Both the shampoo and conditioner also included a coconut-derived cleanser for gentle but effective cleaning, hair-softening argan oil, nourishing sesame oil and saw palmetto for controlling oil production, with the conditioner adding all kinds of seed oils and other ingredients for volume and bounce.
I air-dry my hair pretty much every day, but it didn't take very long for me to see what a difference this shampoo had made. First off, my roots seemed to dry faster than normal, without feeling dehydrated, and secondly, it only took one use for my hair to look better than I've seen it in a long time. I'm used to my black hair looking either slightly dull, or shiny and somewhat greasy, but this formula got it looking glossy, without a hint of oiliness.
That night before bed, I also made sure to make use of the serum (also smelling heavenly), massaging it into my scalp before bed. While this process did feel slightly strange at first, I do feel like it's improved the overall health of my scalp—though I'd be the first to admit that I forget this step in my routine most nights.
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One Month Later
Now, after using Formulate for more than a month, I'm super pleased with the results. I only have to wash my hair every couple of days, and though I still condition every day, I continue to see improvements and haven't come close to running out. My trial run only includes one set, but the Formulate app also gives you access to your chemist any questions you might have about your products or share any notes of how your hair is behaving to make adjustments ahead of your next delivery.
I don't plan on immediately continuing my description with Formulate, simply because I regularly have to review different hair products, but I'd absolutely be tempted to do so in the future. It is a bit pricier than typical hair products, but the customizable (and adjustable) aspect makes it worth it, if you've got the money to spare. Since I'm more concerned with my hair health than my scalp, I'd probably opt to skip the serum and stick to just the shampoo and conditioner, as including the serum makes the price jump from $39 to $78. However, if you do have scalp concerns, the serum is definitely worth a try.
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