Here’s our review of The Ordinary’s newest hair cleanser, conditioner and leave-on scalp treatment.
We trust you’ve come prepared, having read our interview with Prudvi Kaka, the chief scientific officer at DECIEM, where he gave us the facts about sulphates and surfactants, the ins and outs of conditioner, and how to keep our scalps healthy and happy.
Now all you need to know is, did the products work? Don’t worry — we put our strands (and scalps) to the test for you. Here’s our review of the new hair care products from The Ordinary.
[Editor’s note: While items were kindly gifted, this is not a paid-for piece. All thoughts are the writer’s own]
Review: The Ordinary’s Hair Care
I’m Indian, and my hair is more or less straight, with no curl or coil to it. The individual strands are thick. I can grow my hair out to past my waist with ease, without too much thinning. These days, I keep my hair about chest-length, and it currently falls a little past my shoulders. My scalp is prone to oiliness and I wash my hair about every two days, give or take a day depending on the weather and how I feel. I’ve never straightened or dyed my hair, and the only heat I’ve used on it is a handheld hair blow dryer.
My experience with sulphate shampoo
I’ve done many, many years of a typical, what I’m going to call, a ‘high sulphate with everything in it’ shampoo. I’ve actually gone sulphate-free a few times but the only brand I’d say that that didn’t totally freak my hair out¹ was a customised combo from Function of Beauty and Olaplex (which recently reformulated after an EU ban of a previously-used fragrance)². In the past, I’ve also tried Mild By Nature, Miriam Quevedo, and OGX (which has recently faced a class-action lawsuit).
Most recently, I went sulphate- and silicone-free at the beginning of last year. It was a bad, very upsetting experience for me, unfortunately. I stuck to two Japanese brands with glowing reviews (Kracie Ichikami and Diane) and pushed myself to keep at it because Google said I needed at least six washes to successfully transition. I’d usually experience a momentary clean with no irritation to the scalp, but then immediately would start losing a lot of hair in the hours following the wash, with strands feeling dry, brittle and breakable. My hair was constantly tangled which led to overbrushing, and the shedding of hair and lots of tears.
I stuck through whole bottles, for months. I even tried switching brands, which just did not take. The result was basically an okay scalp (using a moisturising shampoo definitely decreased my scalp’s oil production!), lots of frizz and tears, and even some unsolicited advice and comments. Overall, a bad experience that sent me running back to an affordable ‘high sulphate with everything in it’ shampoo, readily available at every store.
The Products (+ Claims)
- Sulphate 4% Cleanser for Hair & Body (HK$66/240ml) — gently and effectively cleanse the hair and body, removing any dirt, grease and product residue.
- Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner (HK$66/240ml) — condition hair without a heavy after-feel on the hair.
- Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for Scalp (HK$107/60ml) — a first-of-its-kind, water-light formulation that improves scalp hydration and offers skin barrier protection without sticking to the hair and weighing down the roots.
Trial Time: 2 weeks, 5 washes. In this time, I only used the new hair care products from The Ordinary — no other shampoo, conditioner, hair treatment, masks, or oils (tears!). I just followed the instructions on both the cleanser and conditioner bottles. After my second wash, I started using the Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA scalp treatment.
The 240ml bottles are smaller than regular shampoo and conditioner but are around a similar size to more luxe and high-end options. At first glance, they’re super pretty and completely fit the brand’s aesthetic while still looking fresh and new! The Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for the scalp is near-identical to the brand’s already existing peptide hair serum.
I really would love to see a bigger bottle for the Sulphate 4% Cleanser. It’s intended for both the body and hair, but I found myself reaching for my regular shower gel or body wash over it, simply because I didn’t want to use it all up. I think the price point is okay for the size — and I do think it would be great to travel with, as it would be a 2-in-1 and its sleek, square packaging would make for easy packing.
As I used the Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner up, I found it harder and harder to squeeze the conditioner out. It’s thicker than the cleanser, and the bottle becomes difficult to work with over the weeks.
The Sulphate 4% Cleanser had little to no later on the first wash, so I did a double cleanse (wash, rinsed and washed again). It felt a little slippery as I worked the product all over the scalp and strands. It was actually a very similar washing experience to that of a sulphate-free shampoo, which scared me as I braced myself for a Bad Time™. There’s no real scent to it, and there is (thankfully for me!) no added fragrance or essential oils.
The Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner felt really nice. It wasn’t too heavy — a problem I face with lots of leave-in conditioners and hair masks, and sometimes with conditioners. It’s actually The Ordinary’s selling point with this product: a super short ingredient list without bulky additional ingredients. It was moisturising, and my strands felt soft and smooth immediately. There’s no silicone and no added fragrance or essential oils in this product.
I experienced some tangling as it dried, although once I brushed it out, I didn’t see any problems.
After drying, my immediate thought was that my hair felt clean! There was no difficulty in washing, and there was no lingering product or a feeling of product build-up. I need a shampoo that will clean my scalp and a conditioner that won’t leave my strands dry and sad or greasy and heavy. My hair didn’t feel weighed down, my scalp didn’t feel greasy or dry, and my strands felt soft and smooth. There was no frizz and no flattening effect. Honestly, it was exhilarating — my hair felt light, looked smooth, and felt soft.
After stepping out the next day, I experienced some frizz and I did think my ends were a little rougher than I’d like. (I tried working the conditioner in a little more the next wash.) Two days after washing I began to feel the tell-tale signs of oil and more tangling than I’d like, but nothing upsetting. In my next wash, I found myself going in for a proper double cleanse, which worried me, as I was concerned I was using up too much shampoo.
I think the conditioner was nice but not my favourite. I’m happy to use it up and return to a hair mask every other wash instead.
I found the Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA scalp treatment a little tricky. My hair isn’t very long at present, but I still found it difficult to get at my scalp. I think there’s a learning curve to this product and I can see myself going back to a hair mask or oil instead.
Simple but effective! I wouldn’t skip a leave-in conditioner or hair mask or oil that’s already working for you, but I think you could definitely make use of this cleanser and conditioner. In particular, if you’re looking to move away from your regular shampoo or if sulphate-free cleansers have been leaving you with unhappy strands — I think this is worth trying out.
I personally would swap out my regular sulphate shampoo for this cleanser, stick to my current body wash and keep the conditioner in my bathroom to use when needed. I, unfortunately, will skip the scalp treatment for the time being.
The Ordinary is available at Sephora Singapore
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong