Are hair serums worth the investment?

I’ve a big fan of hair serums. I see them the same way that I see color correcting primers: they’re a way to target problems and ultimately require you to use less products overall. But not everyone needs them. If you have a specific issue you want to target, however, they’re great! For example I use MAC Prep + Prime Natural Radiance  to correct the redness in my skin and as a result I use way less foundation and I use hair serums (love Kerastase) in the winter when my hair is very, very dry (even though it’s fine) and I find that I need to use less conditioning products.

“For hair serums, linoleic and hyaluronic acid are go-to ingredients for hydrated, healthy hair,” says Butterfly Studio Salon stylist, Jalia Robinson. “Linoleic acid stimulates hair growth, nourishes the scalp, and helps control the moisture content in hair while hyaluronic acid is a moisture binding humectant that fills in the hair follicle as well as hydrating the scalp. Collagen is also a major go-to to promote hair strength and elasticity.”

Clearly, like with all beauty products, ingredients matter. To help learn more about this growing category – and what exactly to look for – I spoke with Allison Gandolfo, a hair expert and colorist at the salon at Bergdorf Goodman.

What exactly are hair serums?

Hair serums are oils that tend to be more naturally based and are manufactured to mimic natural hair oil.

Who should use them? 

Anyone with dry, damaged, or thinning hair should use an oil serum.

Some claim to help hair grow – is there any truth to that?

They should only be placed on the mid shaft and ends of your hair and never on your scalp as it could clog your pores and can cause build-up on your scalp and, over long periods of time, may lead to hair loss. The exception to this is of course if the serum promises to help with hair loss. These serums help to open the open the pores on the scalp and promote healthy hair growth. 

Some of them are very expensive – are there ingredients to look for? Ingredients to avoid?

Hair serums may contain silicones that fill the hair and make them feel smooth and shiny, but only lay on the hair cuticle and do not penetrate into cortex layer giving the illusion of benefits. Some hair serums are more expensive than others due to the concentration of actual hair oil vs synthetic by products that may be added. The more concentrated the oil the more expensive it can be. Look for hair oils containing argan oil, camilla oil, or macadamia oil if you have the budget to spend more. Coconut oil, castor oil, and jojoba oil are good choices for budget finds.

What are some of your favorites?

  • My favorite hair oil I have found over the years is Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing. It’s made with camilla oil and penetrates fast into the cortex layer of the hair. It provides UV protection and leaves your hair shiny. A little goes a long way.
  • Kerastase Initialiste Scalp & Hair Serum is also great. It’s a hair serum that strengthens and grows hair fibers by restoring uniformity and smoothness.
  • Nioxin Soothing Serum is another favorite. It’s a soothing leave-on treatment to help relieve dandruff and scalp itching associated with seborrheic dermatitis, claims to leave the scalp 100% flake free.

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