Buying and trying new hair products is fun. But it can take on a life of its own and consume lots of money and time and frustration as each new product does or does not deliver. Or you get frustrated with your hair. Or accumulate product build-up.
People encounter a lot of challenges in trying to figure out which hair products to use. One is looking at somebody's hair you like or who seems to have everything figured out and think "If I just use what they use, mine will look like that too." WRONG! That almost never happens. Not unless that person's hair is almost exactly the same as yours in shape, width, density, color, and curl or lack thereof. You need to have their styling skills too. And their tolerance for hair styling time.
Your hair is your hair. Products can pull it together and add a nice finish or improve she shape of what is already there. But they cannot transform it completely. That's unrealistic. A finished hairstyle is a combination of several products (cleansing, conditioning, styling), that person's daily hair care, all the physical manipulation that went into creating the style. Products are just part of the equation.
Stopping the cycle of buying and trying new things that you don't really need and getting upset about it is like breaking any habit - difficult to do because buying and trying is also how you find good products.
How do you know if you have "product overload" or are a "product junkie?"
You hide your new purchases from your family (or yourself - put them where you won't be reminded you bought them).
You feel bad about the expense or feel guilty for making the purchases, but you keep buying new ones.
Buying hair products causes you anxiety - and thrills.
You have several products you have purchased and tried once and not used again, or used very rarely.
You have strong feelings about buying new things for your hair - feelings that you don't feel for buying tires or cookware or laundry detergent. - You develop emotional attachment to the new products (and brands) you want to try and feel anticipation about trying them. If they don't work - the let down leaves you annoyed, disillusioned.
Your bathroom is littered with different hair products - it looks like a drugstore. You have a "product graveyard" of things you don't use but won't throw away, just in case they magically start working.
You're thinking about hair products while you are doing other tasks that require your full (or nearly full) attention.
Is this a problem? If you can afford it, if nobody is giving you grief, and you're not feeling bad about yourself or about the waste (you have friends and family to give stuff to!) and hair products are not intruding into your mind when they should not be, then it probably isn't. But if you're not respecting your budget or you worry you won't, or you aren't feeling good about the quest for the perfect product - maybe you need a different approach.
Ideas to Avoid Product Overload:
- Learn about ingredients - read the ingredient lists from products you like and become familiar with the ingredients. Nothing demystifies those hair products like understanding what goes into them and why it's there. Use my product list by category. Or these posts about what ingredients do here and here. If you know ingredients, you are less likely to buy things you don't need (or already have).
- Recognize that big changes come from new hairstyles or adding or removing curls or learning a new styling technique, not from products alone.
- Search out sample sizes and travel sizes for a lower risk investment.
- Don't think one product can change everything. It can't. Sure, the right product can do a lot of nice things - but have realistic expectations and make realistic assessments.
- Set a monthly budget for hair products. Or set a per-product price (or per ounce price limit). Or allow yourself only to buy a certain number of hair products per month. Or require that you deposit an equal or greater amount of money in savings for each hair product you buy. Whatever works to bring your rational and budget-minded part of your self into the decision-making process.
- Ask yourself if the product fits into your existing routine. Are you willing to add an extra step? If not, don't buy.
- Know that people are attracted to novelty. Do you want this just because it's new? Are you being manipulated by marketing that exploits your attraction to novelty? Are you buying this because they got a great-looking new label or packaging? Is there something really innovative about this product that makes it different from everything else you've tried?
- Do you already have a product that is like this one? Have you tried applying that one in several different ways and combinations? If not - exhaust all options before buying new.
- The person in that advertisement has professionally styled hair, possibly with extensions and digital photo-editing. Be realistic about what you think a product can do based on advertising.
- Don't be fooled by the "Something-Free" label - free of silicones or sulfates or gremlins or cheese puffs. You find these even on products that never would have contained sulfates or silicones or gremlins or cheese puffs. They're just trying to sell you on what's not in the product. Something you may or may not have been trying to avoid in the first place.
- If a promise is too good to be true, it isn't true. If a product promises 50% stronger hair - 50% stronger than what? How was that measured? See right through that baloney. All that matters is how it works for your hair and your lifestyle and budget.
- Ask yourself if you already have a (shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, mousse) that works reliably.
- If yes, do not buy right away - wait until you run out of what you already have.
- If no, what is it about the one you have that does not work? Analyze what you need.
- Has everything suddenly stopped working for your hair? Maybe you need a trim or a protein treatment or a deep conditioning treatment or a chelating treatment if you have hard water or swim often or a clarifying shampoo if you have lots of product residue in your hair.
- Why do you want to buy something new? Seriously. Did you have a bad week? An argument with somebody you care about? Are you feeling lonely? Tired? Bored? Stuck? Anxiety over an upcoming event? Big life changes? Something else in your life that you'd like to change but cannot? Is having a new hair product going to solve any of those problems? That sounds trite - but it is also true. It takes self-control to avoid buying it. Self control requires mental energy. So yeah - when you're tired or busy or distracted or stressed it's more difficult to avoid wanting new products.
- If you "fall off the wagon" and buy more than you meant to, don't let that ruin your good intentions. Find a way to make peace with the situation without punishing yourself or being unrealistic. But don't lose your resolve.
- If you are in the grip of, "But I really want it!" with the intensity of a 9-year old who wants a new toy that "everybody has," compromise with yourself to wait 2 weeks and try various application techniques with what you already have. If you still want it, wait 1-2 more weeks. If you still want it at that time, either buy it to get it out of your system, or employ other means of avoidance - your emotional attachment to products is strong!
- Has the weather changed dramatically? Keep notes of what you do to deal with humidity or drizzle or dry weather so when it comes around again, you have a plan. Weather can change the products your hair responds to for better and worse.
Make the most out of "almost perfect" products.
A gel that is too stiff might need to be diluted by applying it to dripping wet hair. Or it might need to be used with plenty of leave-in conditioner to soften up and "flexibile-ize" the hold.
Try as many other application techniques as you can for an "almost perfect" product, how you apply, other products in your hair, different combinations or shampoo or conditioner and styling product, leaving in more conditioner, rinsing out more conditioner, applying products in a different order - get creative.
A leave-in that doesn't quite give the softness you're looking for can be improved by mixing with a little oil (jojoba, argan, avocado) - or layering it with the oil under or over.
A conditioner that doesn't have enough slip can be mixed with a few drops of oil (when you use it).
A creamy styling product that leaves your hair looking heavy when you use it on wet hair (to style alone) might be a perfect product to use a tiny amount of on dry hair to smooth frizz and flyaways, or for shaping up multi-day hair.
Buy a protein additive for making a protein-enriched conditioner - from a cosmetics supply company or Neutral Protein Filler or just mix in some flat beer or some dissolved gelatine.
Make your own deep conditioner with conditioner + oils + aloe vera or honey or agave nectar or baby food bananas or plain yogurt and leave it on with some gentle heat.
Take a hair vacation: If you always wear your hair down - wear it up for a week to give your mind a rest. Accessorize with scarves or headbands or whatever suits your fancy and your workplace or school. If you are striving for a certain result (hello, perfectionists!) - give yourself a week to try for something less than that. Try curling your hair or wearing it straighter - whatever you usually don't do (just don't fry it, stick to lower-heat styling). Sometimes we've got to give ourselves a break to change our attitude and break the spell of the quest for the magical, mystical perfect hair product. Saying "I don't need you" for a whole week can change your reasoning from emotional to more rational.