The Hair Products *Actually* Worth Spending Your Money On

I’ve had the opportunity to work with various global brands throughout my career to date and have learnt first-hand that there are some wonderfully innovative and unique products that are well worth investing in, and others that are just not worth the hype. 

This is a guest article written by Celebrity Hair Stylist and Presenter Tom Smith, for content pitches please email

You’ve decided to invest in some new hair products, but where do you begin? A Shampoo can cost £2 or £50 or even more and what about a heat protector? Do you really need that as well?

I’ve been hairdressing for over 15 years and have always been passionate about the home haircare products I recommend to my clients. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with various global brands throughout my career to date and have learnt first-hand that there are some wonderfully innovative and unique products that are well worth investing in, and others that are just not worth the hype. 

Here are my go-to product recommendations that are worth adding to cart!

The science-led products that ARE worth the hype

First up, let’s talk about the most ground-breaking launches of recent years. In the hairdressing industry, when new technology appears, it makes waves throughout the best salons globally. Those who have their finger on the pulse become intrigued by the latest launches. That was me in 2014 when I started hearing about Olaplex for the first time. Patented technology and a new, unique way of repairing the hair that sounded too good to be true; I got my hands on some, tested it, and was blown away by how unique and powerful the treatment was. Eight years on, it has cemented itself as one of the most popular developments in hair science ever and I still recommend it daily. 

So which Olaplex products are most worth your investment? Where should you spend your money? The reason Olaplex became famous is thanks to a patented compound that relinks broken di-sulphide bonds in the hair, the products that are available for home use that contain this in the highest percentage are Olaplex No.0 and Olaplex No.3. I highly recommend using both when aiming to dramatically repair damaged, fragile, or weak hair, or hair that has an irregular curl/texture pattern. You apply No.0 to dry, unwashed hair and layer on No.3 after 10mins for an additional 20mins – or as long as you can. Their other products are also great, but I would prioritise these first within your ‘haircare budget’. For instance, No.3 alone is good to maintain healthy hair or repair moderate damage.

The next most innovative scientific development of recent years is the K18 Leave In Mask. Designed to repair damaged hair, it’s marketed in much the same way but works in a different way to Olaplex. Simplifying the science; if the molecular structure of the hair is like a ‘ladder’, Olaplex will help to relink the ‘rungs’, while K18 relinks the ‘sides’ which they say, in turn, helps to relink the rungs. 

My top tip is to use the products in tandem; Olaplex No.0/No.3 before shampooing, then K18 Leave In Mask afterwards. For me, this combination is the ultimate, complementary solution to getting the most from your hair on a molecular level. This will build strong foundations and can be done every wash or every 6 washes depending on how needy your hair is and how much heat styling or chemical processes you subject your locks to.

The best heat and humidity protection products

On the topic of heat styling, the next most valuable place to spend your money is on protective products. Olaplex and K18 are what I would describe as ‘reparative’, meaning they have the ability to properly repair damage. But once that damage is repaired, or while the repairs are in progress, it is super important to prevent further damage from occurring, hence the need to invest in protective products. 

The most obvious of which is a heat protector (for those of you who use hot tools, such as, hair dryers or straighteners), but also products that provide UV protection, protection against humidity and protect your colour from fading. When it comes to heat protectors, I always recommend the lightest possible product – hear me out; if you’re putting a couple of drops of oil with a view to get some heat protection, how much are those two little drops going to do? Putting a lot on is surely going to make your hair oily, and the same can be said for cream-based products or heavy serums. My go-to Heat Protector recommendation is Evo Icon Welder, which is a light mist that boasts high heat protection plus light hold and style memory. You can use a generous amount of this without noticing weight or stickiness on your hair – meaning the more you use, the more protection you’re getting. 

When it comes to humidity and UV protection it’s got to be Color Wow Dreamcoat – a cult product that fights frizz and humidity in a totally unique way. Typically, all ‘anti-frizz’ products use heavy moisturising agents or ingredients called ‘film formers’ that coat and weigh down the hair to flatten it and fight the frizz, this is no good for fine to medium hair types as it can be far too heavy, even for coarser hair. Dreamcoat uses an invisible, fine matrix that seals the hair and protects from humidity, heat and UV, keeping the hair frizz free in a totally weightless way. The trick is to use a lot of it – really saturate your hair all the way through, and always follow with heat to seal the deal. It’s heat activated, so anything from a light blow-dry to meticulous straightening with irons will get best results.

The best colour maintenance products that tackle colour fade

Colour protection is two-fold. Investing in a good quality shampoo is essential when it comes to minimising colour fade (washing in cooler water, and minimising heat on your hair will also help) as your hair colour is most vulnerable when it is wet and being ‘cleaned’. Shampoos by nature are designed to remove dirt and oil build-up but can’t differentiate between that and unstable colour molecules – this means a high-quality shampoo that has a low pH to complement the hair whilst cleansing gently yet efficiently is the best option.

There are various I could recommend depending on your hair type but my top three would be Evo Gluttony Shampoo and Conditioner for fine to medium hair types, Pureology Hydrate for medium hair and Oribe Moisture and Control for coarse or highly textured hair types. If you want to prioritise your budget on the reparative and protective products recommended above, (and I have listed all my recommendations in order of importance for most people) French pharmacy brands are a great choice for a lower cost option. Klorane does some lovely gentle shampoos that will cleanse your hair while respecting its colour and moisture levels. I really like their Gentle Oat Shampoo for almost all hair types.

The other way to tackle coloured hair and protect it from fading is to actively ‘top it up’. Evo Fabuloso is a fantastic system of Colour Boosting Treatments that are available in various shades and double up as a conditioning treatment plus a home toner. These can be used in place of conditioner and left on for a few minutes to actually deposit pigment back into the hair. There is also a professional only system called Evo Fab Pro which is available at high end salons where your colourist can mix a bespoke shade just for you – if you can’t find these products in your salon, I offer online consultations through Billi Currie’s online store where I can mix the appropriate shade for you.

The stand-out conditioner & masks

Typically, these products can be interchanged – if your hair prefers a mask over a conditioner, then just use the mask every time. If you prefer to use a conditioner daily and a mask from time to time, that’s fine too. Evo Great Hydrator Moisture Mask is incredibly nourishing and leaves the hair feeling like silk and totally detangled – plus, it smells like a French bakery in the morning! Redken All Soft is a very friendly and caring conditioner that suits most hair types. Authentic Beauty Concept Amplify Conditioner is a conditioner that isn’t really a conditioner at all – it is a gel-like consistency that ‘calms’ the hair with zero weight; ideal for very fine or flat hair that struggles to be happily conditioned. If your hair is perpetually dry (and remembering Olaplex 0/3 or K18 won’t tackle the moisture levels of your hair at all) a product I recommend a lot which has been around for decades is Philip Kingsley Elastcizer (or elasticizer extreme for an even stronger option). This treatment is the most moisturising product I know and is used before you shampoo. Properly massaging it into brittle or coarse areas will really soften and hydrate them – just make sure to wash it out well afterwards.

Manage your hair at home with these essential tools

Now you’ve got most of your product regime clear, let’s go over some of the essential tools I think are worth investing in to manage your hair at home. 

When it comes to blow-drying the biggest investment of all would have to be a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer. I know it’s pricey, but it really is worth it for various reasons but mostly because of its internal temperature gauge which literally prevents you from accidentally burning your hair. Another great option for a hairdryer is a Parlux – but only if you’re disciplined enough to use it on the medium heat setting, unless you’re a professional hairstylist! 

My favourite straightening irons are the Cloud Nine Standard Iron – you can adjust the temperature easily, meaning you can control how much heat you’re putting on your hair – for anyone with finer or bleached hair, make sure you stay below 150 degrees. Cloud Nine also do some lovely curling wands which are extremely easy to use – I find a cylindrical barrel easiest; the conical wands can tend to be a bit slippy. 

Finally, for easy hair-drying at home or when you want to lessen your blow-drying time Kitsch do some fantastic ‘Quick Drying Hair Towels’ in which you can scoop up your freshly washed locks to help them air dry faster while you’re getting ready. They also have clever towelling scrunchies that are useful for the same purpose.

A hair care regime is extremely personal and a lot of finding the right products for you can be a bit trial and error but start with some of these recommendations which are tried and tested by me, and you’ll know your money is being well spent.

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