Prose’s custom haircare ads have followed me around the internet for years, promising to deliver the best hair of my life through shampoo and conditioner designed specifically for me. But as someone who used to buy all her beauty products at the drugstore, plucking products off the shelf as I rushed somewhere else, the sticker shock always prevented me from trying Prose. The company’s bespoke haircare runs at $25 each for shampoo and conditioner and $38 for a scalp mask. I didn’t even want to know what expensive shampoo was like: I didn’t need that added expense in my life.
But then, of course, the pandemic happened, and I had more time to rethink my beauty routines as my products ran out. So when Prose offered to send me a set of products to try, I thought, Why not? I was skeptical that they would be that much better than the regular stuff, but given how infrequently I was going out or dressing up, a custom shampoo seemed like a small, attainable indulgence. And so it is with incredibly soft and voluminous hair, and a lighter wallet, that I inform you: This custom shampoo is so worth it.
The process of ordering Prose starts with taking the company’s online assessment, a multiple choice quiz of sorts about your hair length, texture, and goals. It also takes into account your environment (including climate, urban or rural setting, and even zip code) and health habits—a set of questions that felt slightly invasive. After I selected my traits (length: long, texture: straight, location: suburban, climate: temperate), the Prose algorithm came up with a set of custom products. In my case, that meant a pre-shampoo scalp mask, a shampoo and conditioner, a leave-in conditioner mist, and a dry shampoo. This was, admittedly, several more steps than I typically include in my haircare routine, but in the interest of giving the system a fair shot, I ordered all five.
The products arrived—in two batches—a few weeks later, neatly packaged in individual boxes with accompanying instructions. The formulas themselves come in dark brown bottles with purple, peach, coral, and light blue labels, which list your name, the two main goals of the product, and, oddly, your zip code. I dove into them almost immediately and tried (at least for the first few run-throughs) to follow the instructions to a T.
The first thing I noticed about my Prose products was the scent. My scalp mask came in a beautiful, expensive-smelling eucalyptus fragrance. For my shampoo and conditioner, I had selected the Perle scent (“a powdery and musky scent made up of bergamot, white lilac, and musk”), and I found it a little too mature for my taste. Which is to say: It smelled like my grandmother’s perfume. But that one is on me—the company has a half-dozen options for scents, so I’m optimistic that my next order will suit my taste better.
As instructed by the notes that came with my set, I started my shower routine with the scalp mask, a dense, dark, herbal goop with a gritty texture. I have a lot of hair and found it difficult to apply the mask in a way where it felt like I was actually reaching my scalp, not just coating my hair, but it smelled nice and washed out easily. The real magic came in the shampoo. My current home has really hard (mineralized) water, which makes getting soap and shampoo into a lather difficult. Prose’s shampoo immediately bubbled into a satisfyingly sudsy state that made me feel like I was able to scrub every strand down to the roots.
Having selected “volume” as a major hair goal, I was interested to see how the conditioner turned out, as they often are too heavy on my fine hair and weigh it down. But Prose’s light formula (featuring plum and poppy oil, according to my quiz) delivered perfect moisture, before washing out completely and leaving my fine strands soft and smooth but not at all oversaturated. After I got out of the shower and towel-dried my hair, I applied the leave-in conditioner mist and had a very easy time combing out the ever-present knots that appear whenever my hair gets close to waist length.
I was pleasantly (and a bit begrudgingly) surprised to see how quickly my hair seemed to react to Prose. It was shiny and smooth and did indeed have more volume than it had with my drugstore go-to. Two months into using the products, it seems like I can go longer between washes than I once did (from three times per week to two or even one), with hair that stays soft, buoyant, and flower-scented much longer. I’ve noticed that, unlike some other “volumizing” shampoos I’ve used, Prose seems to nourish my strands, keeping the ends smooth and soft, while still giving my roots a boost. And to top it off, Prose’s formulas are “clean,” meaning they don’t use any harsh chemicals, parabens, phthalates, or other icky and scary chemicals.
There are a few caveats: I’m not convinced that I need the entire system Prose recommended. After testing it out a few times, I rarely reach for the $38 pre-shampoo scalp mask, which seems unnecessary unless you have specific dandruff or sensitivity issues. And while the dry shampoo the company sent certainly works, I find it inefficient for my life; it comes in an eco-friendly, nonaerosol bottle, and while I appreciate the gesture, I find it hard to style with and no more effective than some of my drugstore staples.
Overall, I’m impressed with Prose, and I will definitely continue ordering the shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in conditioning spray. The formulas feel bespoke, the scents are rich and elegant (if you pick the right one for you), and the results—for me—were pretty undeniable. The company also sent me one of its boar-bristle brushes, a beautifully crafted hair tool that feels like a little bit of luxury every time I use it. These days, having a custom haircare routine—and great results—seems like a wonderful, attainable indulgence well worth the cost. And hopefully soon I’ll be able to show off my well-manicured mane in the real world.
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