“Made-to-measure” – not typically a term associated with haircare. Lately, however, brands have taken a radically custom approach, offering personalised routines and innovative formulas. 

Function Of Beauty kickstarted the trend in 2015 when it launched with a custom shampoo and conditioner set (from £25). Its formulas are based on a hair quiz that determines a customer’s hair type (straight, wavy, curly or coily), structure, and scalp condition. From there they can select five “hair goals”, from colour protection to curl definition. “Any combination is possible,” says co-founder and CEO Zahir Dossa, whose model can prescribe masks, serums and leave-in conditioners. “Our algorithm adjusts ingredients to ensure they’ll work well together.” As someone with dry and (occasionally) coloured hair that sits between curly and straight, I find the algorithm lives up to Dossa’s billing – after one month, my once-brittle ends feel smooth and healthy (although still not quite curly).

Function Of Beauty custom shampoo and conditioner set, from £25
Function Of Beauty custom shampoo and conditioner set, from £25
Formulate custom shampoo, from $39
Formulate custom shampoo, from $39

According to a survey by London hairstylist Michael Van Clarke, eight out of 10 people don’t assess their hair type properly before buying products. Further disappointment comes from the fact that traditional formulas are often focused on one single need, says Dossa. As well as offering multiple benefits in one, custom brands consider a spectrum of variables. Brooklyn-based Prose’s consultation considers 85 factors including diet, stress and exercise. Meanwhile, Californian brand Formulate matches customers with a personal chemist to check on progress and make formulation changes as needed.

Strands starter set, from $40
Strands starter set, from $40
Schwarzkopf’s SalonLab Smart Analyzer scans clients’ hair to recommend the right products
Schwarzkopf’s SalonLab Smart Analyzer scans clients’ hair to recommend the right products

Perhaps the most conclusive approach to custom haircare comes from Strands. The LA-based startup gives customers a kit to test their scalp, select a fragrance and send a small hair sample. (Second prize goes to Schwarzkopf, whose SalonLab Smart Analyzer system allows hairdressers to scan a client’s hair structure and recommend the right product.) The best part? Nobody will be interested in stealing a dollop in the shower – the formula is yours and yours alone.

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