Personalized boxes are nothing new, and neither is sending a sample of your DNA to a random genealogy company to find out about your ancestry (I fully admit that I was one of many who jumped at the chance to see if I had any distant cousins secretly living down the street). But it never occurred to me to do the same thing for my hair. If anything, sending out a hair sample sounded like a Black Mirror episode waiting to happen.
But then I heard about Strands, a personalized hair care company that just launched in November, and I jumped right on that too. I have, as the curly hair community would say, 3b/3c thick, curly hair. It takes a lot of special care to maintain, but I’m constantly overwhelmed by the collections of natural hair products crowding the aisle at the beauty store (honestly, where do I even start?).
The Strands kit is $60 and requires sending in a sample of your hair to be evaluated in a lab. When they’re done, they make product recommendations that are super customized to what they’ve decided you need, and you can choose to subscribe to their products so you never have to think about your hair care again. That sounded pretty good to me, and I decided that learning what actually works for my hair was reason enough to give it a try.
I ordered the kit online, and once I received it in the mail, I went back online to activate it and start the pre-testing process, which includes providing a hair sample. Don’t worry, you don’t have to cut off an entire chunk; the instructional booklet will tell you exactly what to do. In fact, I just combed through my curls and put the few stray hairs that came out in the little sample bag provided.
I also included a scalp test strip and chose the fragrance card I thought smelled the best. I’ve used products in the past that left a heavy scent (or a gut-wrenching scent that smelled like detergent…I wish I were kidding), so having the option to pick my own was a small detail but a huge bonus in buying products. Then I sealed the envelope and off it went to the lab.
Then I waited patiently for the fun part: the results.
After about a week or two, I opened my inbox to find an online report, and shortly thereafter, I received my subscription box containing my very own shampoo, conditioner and scalp massager.
The report was a little intimidating at first glance, with a lot of scientific jargon about “protein this” and “microscopic that.” But I appreciated the level of detail—it simplified each term and justified the products they sent.
Now, for my results (drum roll, please): Turns out my hair is in great condition with a score of 9.1 out of 10. Nice! But the most surprising part of the results was finding out my hair texture is actually really fine (inches away from medium hair). This whole time I thought I had thick curly hair and was treating it as such. But in reality, my hair is thin and fragile. According to the report, I can experience low volume and breakage as a result of my texture, which is starting to make more sense when it comes to my curls’ ability to hold moisture and shine. It also explains why my hair is so prone to frizzing up at any condition.
The second thing that really surprised me was that my scalp is slightly oily. Here I was thinking (and treating it like) it was super dry every day. I was experiencing an itchy scalp and was prone to dry flakes, which I thought was due to a lack of moisture. The report explained that it’s pretty normal to accumulate oil and buildup, and a scalp massager was included in my subscription box to help soothe and remove any built-up oil while I’m washing my hair.
Now that I’d been reeducated on exactly what kind of hair I truly have, it was time to get washed. First of all, the personalized shampoo and conditioner came in black bottles with my name, the scent and my results printed on them. (Love.) The bottles also came with pumps to make limiting the amount easier (because apparently, we’re all using way too much shampoo).
Both products are free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates and dyes, which is a major bonus to all hair types, especially curly-haired gals. Since the test showed my texture is fine and my scalp is slightly oily, Strands added ingredients like avocado oil and vitamin E to the products. The test also concluded that mango seed butter, silk protein and shea butter, to name a few, will help provide long-lasting nourishment, boost shine and moisturize my curls.
My first impression of the shampoo and conditioner was that the scent was amazing. It wasn’t too strong, which is just how I like it. The consistency of both products wasn’t that thick, but it was enough to feel like I was putting something in my hair. I wished for a little more conditioner (since I rely heavily on conditioner to keep my hair moisturized before the rest of my routine), but it still got the job done.
What I liked the most was that both the shampoo and conditioner helped make the detangling process easier. I could easily slip my fingers through my curls without having to rely only on the conditioner to do it (which happens with most shampoo products because they unfortunately create even more pesky knots than I had in the first place).
Once I rinsed out both products and continued my hair routine, I saw a change in my curls. While it wasn’t a huge difference, my hair definitely looked and felt softer, shinier and a little more moisturized. It didn’t completely get rid of my frizz (and I have yet to find a product that does), but it was great to discover some ingredients I can start incorporating into my washes.
So is it worth it? Overall, the price is a little steep ($60 for the kit, then $30 per bottle if you continue your subscription), but just think about all the money you spend testing products, only to have most of them fail you. Instead, this takes an informed approach to create your perfect product cocktail, so it’s arguably worth it. And if I decide not to renew my subscription, I now know the ingredients that will keep my hair healthy, which will make doing my own hair care shopping that much easier. All in all, it’s totally worth a potential Black Mirror moment in the name of better hair.