The Right Way to Layer Your Haircare Products, According to Experts

Oils, leave-ins, and creams — oh my!

How to Layer Haircare Products
Photo: Unsplash

You may have mastered the art of layering skincare, but haircare products are a whole different ball game. While applying conditioner after shampoo is straightforward, things may get a little more confusing once you factor in heat protectants, smoothing creams, hair oils, and more.

Similar to skincare, there's a correct way to apply hair products, and using them in the wrong order could even damage your hair. It goes without saying that each hair type may approach hair care and styling differently, but there are general tips for how to best apply your products.

Step One: Shampoo, Conditioner, and Mask

Your haircare routine begins in your shower. Start by using a shampoo and conditioner that cater to your hair type. If you have curly hair, for example, use a formula that'll boost curl definition. The same goes for your hair conditions and goals. For instance, those with colored hair should use a shampoo and conditioner that keeps your dye looking fresh, like a purple or blue set.

If you want to take your in-shower haircare routine a step further, use a hair mask after your conditioner to give your strands a deep treatment.

Step Two: Leave-In Conditioner, Detangling Spray, and Heat Protectant

All hair types, from thick and curly to fine and straight, should begin their post-shower routine with a leave-in conditioner and detangling spray to prevent breakage and boost hair nourishment. If you blowdry your hair, always apply a heat protectant before you get started.

"In terms of order, leave-in conditioner is always the first product to add as it acts as the foundation for your hair," explains Michelle O'Connor, a celebrity hairstylist and global artistic director for Matrix. She adds that many leave-ins double as a heat protectant, so you can skip that step if your formula has heat and UV protection in it.

While all hair types can benefit from a leave-in, there is a difference in how they should apply it. "People with straight hair types should apply [leave-in] on clean, towel-dried hair, whereas those with curly hair types should apply on clean, wet hair," says Justin Toves-Vincillone, a professional hairstylist and Authentic Beauty Concept Advocate. He adds that doing so will ensure maximum absorption of the product.

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Step Three: Mousse, Cream, and Gel

The next step is dependent on your hair type and how you plan to style it. If your hair is thick and you wear it smooth, Tippi Shorter, a L'Oréal Professionnel colorist and Mizani global director, says to use a blowdry cream. However, those with curly or kinky hair who want to enhance their texture should opt to use a curl styler such as a gel. "This will provide the right hold for your curls," says O'Conner. Lastly, if your hair is fine and needs a boost of volume, Shorter says to use a styling mousse as it'll add volume and hold for those with fine and straight hair.

Step Four: Oils and Creams

In the same way that a facial oil works to seal in moisture, hair oil does the same. O'Conner explains that adding one in at the end of your routine will not only nourish the hair, but will add shine, too.

Step Five: Styling Sprays

Wrap up your routine by using your favorite dry texture spray, hair sprays, and shine sprays — just make sure your hair is dry so the product can stick. "It'll add volume, texture, and hold for finer hair types, and it'll add another reinforcement of moisture to curly hair types," says Shorter.

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