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Let’s get this out of the way first: No one is more skeptical of beauty brands backed by celebrities more than I am — especially when the celebrity in question is Kardashian-adjacent. And no one is more surprised than I am that I found one that I actually like.
In case you’re not familiar, Jen Atkin is a celebrity hairstylist to the stars — you’ve likely spotted her on the Instagram accounts of some of her most famous clientele, such as Bella Hadid, Chrissy Teigen and just about every Kardashian-Jenner. She also boasts 3.7 million Instagram followers of her own, making her, a celebrity in her own right at this point.
When Atkin launched her hair care line Ouai — playing off the casual way French speakers say “oui,” or yes — in 2016, I initially wasn’t interested. After all, celebrity beauty brands have a reputation for simply skating by with their front-facing famous face rather than the quality of the products in question. (Just look at the steady decline of Kylie Cosmetics and online speculation that the brand just repurposed Colourpop products. The exception might be Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty.)
It was happenstance that I picked up a travel-size bottle of Ouai’s Super Dry Shampoo on a trip to Sephora for moisturizer. (Isn’t that always how trips to Sephora go?) Of course, I’d seen endless promotion for the brand through Atkin’s celebrity clients-slash-BFFs on social media — but I’d also read rave, authentic reviews of the products, and I knew it was a genuine influencer favorite. (Not to mention, it’s hard to resist packaging that sleek and luxe-feeling.) Even though I’m usually averse to anything attached to a “celebrity,” I thought I’d give it a try.
Shop: Ouai Super Dry Shampoo, $24
The brand’s shtick is it’s for the everyday woman — who’s on the go and needs to style her hair in just about “15–20 minutes.” As a busy writer in New York City perpetually balancing several projects at once, that’s about all the convincing I really needed. Plus, the products are relatively affordable compared to other luxury hair care must-haves on the market.
Now, I usually wash my hair around three to four times a week or every other day. But with the Super Dry Shampoo, I can go up to a week without having to wash, and my hair looks great (and somehow not greasy). It was unintentional at first, as the hot water was broken in my building for a few days, making showers nearly impossible (unless I was willing to take a freezing cold one in the middle of winter — New York City, everyone!). But after that initial discovery, I realized I didn’t have to wash my hair nearly as much when I have a good dry shampoo in tow. And according to experts, depending on your hair texture, shampooing your hair too frequently can actually damage it. That’s why “training your hair” for more infrequent washing is usually a good idea.
The product had me hooked. I live for the brand’s thoughtful, carefully curated scents and the stories behind them. The dry shampoo, in particular, is the brand’s “Melrose Place” scent, aka, a mix of rose, bergamot, lychee, cedarwood and white musk. I gave Ouai another try with its Volumizing Hair Spray. Spoiler alert: It’s now my favorite hair product in my repertoire.
Shop: Ouai Volumizing Hair Spray, $26
The scented spray leaves my hair soft and silky rather than crunchy (which is, by the way, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to hair sprays). It has great, long-lasting hold and leaves curls and beach waves bouncy, shiny and — as the name implies — voluminous. (Like the dry shampoo, it’s also the “Melrose Place” scent, which I clearly can’t resist.)
Ouai has shampoos, conditioners and creams for three categories of hair: fine, medium, and thick. While the Fine Hair Shampoo and its corresponding Conditioner worked for my relatively thin, easy-to-work-with hair — giving me “fuller-looking locks,” as the website promised — I was curious how the brand fares for those with thicker hair textures and different needs. In an article with us last year titled 14 Black Women Share How They’re Caring for Their Natural Hair During Quarantine, biochemist-turned-blogger Aquila Farrell recommends Ouai’s Thick Hair Shampoo, Conditioner and Treatment Masque to other readers with 4c curls. Ouai’s Curl Crème also comes highly recommended for natural hair.
The brand also ventured beyond hair care, first releasing a body cleanser and then lotions. Plenty of Ouai’s hair products can be used on the body, too, such as the Rose Hair & Body Oil, Scalp & Body Scrub, Hair & Body Shine Mist and more. All include nutrient-rich, good-for-the-skin ingredients.
As the biggest skeptic of celebrity beauty brands, I can admit when I’m wrong — and Jen Atkin certainly squashed my doubts. While I can still get annoyed — jealous? — next time I see her sitting alongside a Jenner on a private jet during a pandemic, at least I know she’s doing one thing right: making celeb-quality hair products for the every-person. And who knows? Maybe I’ll try out Skims next, although probably not.
If you enjoyed this story, check out Sophie Ross’ list of 14 skincare products she sweats actually work!
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