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We already know that applying our skin care in a specific order is important. The same logic applies when it comes to your hair.

By Rebecca Norris
March 10, 2021
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Have you ever looked at your hair product collection only to wonder whether or not there's a right way to apply each formula? It can feel like trial and error—but according to curl guru and international hair expert Daisy "DAZE" Henson, there's a method to the madness. Whether you use one, two, three, or even five products at a time, understanding the correct order in which to apply them will help you maximize their efficacy. Ahead, exactly how to layer them, according to the experts.

There's a right way to layer your hair care.

Here's a foolproof routine to stick to, courtesy of Henson: Apply leave-in conditioner, mousse or foam, styling cream, gel, and oil—in that exact order. But that doesn't mean you must utilize all five to have great hair. Depending on your desired look, hair texture, and the current condition of your strands, you may need as few as one or two. "For example, if you're going for a soft style with a light hold, you may opt for only a leave-in conditioner and a mousse," she shares, noting that the general order of application would still apply. "The leave-in conditioner would be first and the mousse last," she says.

Always begin with a leave-in conditioner.

You might be wondering why, exactly, this order matters. But there's a clear reason—each formula builds upon the last or prepares the hair shaft for the next step. As Henson notes, it's best to begin with a leave-in conditioner, thanks to its hydrating properties. "This product adds extra moisture to parched hair," she explains. "It also adds slip, which makes the detangling session easier." As far as application goes, spritz your formula onto wet or damp hair directly after showering. If you have finer strands, target your spritzes towards your ends, so you don't weigh down your roots.

Then add mousse (or foam!) and styling cream.

"Foam products are lightweight, provide definition with a soft hold, and are great for reducing frizz," Henson continues. For the best results, apply the product into your roots for added lift. If added definition and volume are your goals, Henson affirms that you can apply the product all the way down to the ends, too. Styling cream follows. "Cream stylers—like Olaplex No. 6. Bond Smoother ($28, sephora.com)—combat frizz, as well as moisturize and hydrate the hair," Henson explains, adding that these products are designed to trap water inside the cuticle for optimal hydration. "Apply styling creams mid-shaft (or the area towards the middle of your hair strands) down through the ends," she says of proper application.

Last, but certainly not least, go in with gel and oil.

While not everyone requires this last step, gel locks in the moisture provided by the leave-in conditioner and styling creams, says Henson, making it a great choice for those with curly textures (which are drier by default). "It also provides curl definition by keeping the hair strands from expanding, which can contribute to frizz," she adds, explaining that gels can range from a light to strong hold. If necessary, follow up gel with an oil, "which are great for providing shine and further reducing frizz," Henson shares. The caveat? Too much oil can weigh down your hair and create a long-lasting moisture barrier. Because of this, she recommends removing buildup from your hair—try a clarifying shampoo, like this one from Suave Essentials ($3.39, target.com)—more often to allow natural moisture to re-enter the hair shaft. Jamila Powell, the founder of Naturally Drenched, agrees, noting that it is important to clarify your hair at least once a month, whether you are using oils or not; product build-up, she says, can take a toll on the appearance of your hair.

Styling your hair? Don't forget about heat protectant.

While the above routine is foolproof for anyone looking to air-dry their strands, if you plan on using a hot tool, you'll need to work another product category into your rotation: heat protectants. As for where they fit into the above order? If you're layering products, apply this formula before or after mousse for the best results. Comb it through thoroughly to ensure every inch of your hair is sufficiently protected.

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