Unusual Hair Care Beyond Shampoo and Conditioner

by Tori Telfer

Shampoo and conditioner are all very well and good. In fact, they're necessary, as long as we all want to live in a polite, functioning society where people don't walk around with birds nesting happily in their hair. But just like skincare has moved beyond "cleanse, tone, and moisturize" into a whole world of serums, sheet masks, alphabet creams, and things with lactic acid/sea buckthorn oil/unicorn dust, haircare is gradually embracing the world of unusual products, too.

Maybe it's all marketing, designed to make us stock up on things we don't actually need. (Décolletage cream, anyone?) But hair is much more complex than just dead keratin; there's a scalp to consider, there are follicles to nurture, and of course, like our mothers always told us, beauty comes from the inside — sometimes literally.

So maybe there's a chance that a quick shampoo, a glob of conditioner, and a spritz of hair spray aren't allowing hair to be the voluminous, shiny, effortlessly wavy, blowing-in-the-wind-machine creature it's meant to be. The below brands are looking beyond the obvious in hair care and on to the necessary-but-unexpected. (Spoiler alert: most focus on the scalp. It's the new black.) Here are nine products you maybe haven't thought of trying yet.

1. A Scalp Exfoliator

What: Ouidad Mediterranean Bay Leaf Exfoliating Hair and Scalp Treatment, $36, Sephora

Who It's For: Oily scalps, dry scalps, or those with lots of product buildup.

Why And How: It's easy to forget, but your scalp is skin, too, not just a place where hair goes to chat up other hair. You already exfoliate your face and body, but scalps want to be polished, too. This exfoliating treatment contains gently exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), as well as bamboo for manual exfoliation. A 1-3 minute rub will clear your scalp and follicles of build-up, inspiring better circulation and more hair growth.

2. A Serum That Repairs Hair Overnight

What: Ouidad Biotin Lightweight Reparative Hair Serum, $42, Ouidad

For: Weak, brittle, over-processed hair.

Why And How: We've all done the "shine serum" thing — often resulting in hair that's more greasy than luminous — but this one actually goes on your scalp. It's full of biotin (vitamin B7, the key to healthy hair), and claims to make strands stronger over time. Use after a scalp exfoliator for increased absorption.

3. A Pre-Shampoo Treatment

What: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, $51, Philip Kingsley

For: All types of hair.

Why and How: Not all haircare takes place after the shower. If you're struggling with hair that's breaking off, loosing its bounce, or otherwise succumbing to the big anti-hair conspiracy known as Life, a pre-shampoo treatment will give your hair an extra edge. The Elasticizer, by hair guru Philip Kingsley, promises visible improvement after just one use, so tired hair gets back some of its elasticity and bounce.

4. A Scalp Mask

What: Philip Kingsley Stimulating Scalp Mask, $30, Philip Kingsley

For: Hair loss.

Why and How: Like face, like scalp. When you're doing your go-to avocado face mask, why not raise the beauty stakes by applying something especially for your scalp, too? This mask stimulates the scalp with menthol and peppermint, encouraging circulation and improving hair texture.

5. Hair vitamins

What: Aviva 30 Day Hair Growth System, $40, Aviva Hair

For: Those trying to grow out their hair.

Why and How: If you want to treat hair from not just the root, but from the inside, a gaggle of hair vitamins are your best bet. You're not going to see instant results — the vitamins are designed to nourish the hair follicle, which is inside your body, so most hair vitamin companies recommend taking the supplements for 3-6 months — but it's a savvy, all-natural way to begin the long road to better hair.

6. A Follicle Spray

What: Restorsea Revitalizing Scalp Treatment, $150, Restorsea

For: All hair types that need a boost.

Why and How: The Restorsea box reads, "We are born with 100,000 hair follicles. … By the time we are 70, we only have 70,000 hair follicles." Whether you've got 82,000 or 300,000, if you're looking for healthy locks, follicles are a good thing to pay attention to. This spray promises to remove the dead skin cells around each follicle, resulting in a healthier scalp and thicker-looking hair.

7. Thickening Lotion

What: SHOW Beauty Divine Thickening Lotion, $45, Net-A-Porter

For: Fine, thin hair.

Why and How: Sometimes you want something that'll give you volume without crunch and stickiness (hairspray) or weighing fine hair down (gels or texturizers). A thickening "lotion" may sound like an oddity — aren't lotions designed to moisturize? — but this lightweight formula binds onto every strand of hair, thickening hair up without bringing you down.

8. A Hair Fragrance

What: SHOW Beauty Hair Fragrance, $70, Sephora

For: Hollywood goddesses.

Why and How: Okay, you don't need a hair fragrance. But don't you want a hair fragrance, you glamazon, you? If you're looking for the next big thing to put on your locks, this hair perfume combines rose water, coconut milk, caramel, and almond butter. And since it wouldn't be hair care without a little nutritional boost, the formula includes vitamin E and aloe vera to enhance shine and strengthen hair.

9. Hair Fibers

What: Sure Thick Hair Fibers, $10, Sure Thik

For: Fine or thin hair; anyone who wants more volume.

Why and how: Think of this product as dry shampoo's volume-creating cousin. If you're looking to plump up your hairdo, sprinkle these keratin-based fibers throughout — in whatever color best matches your locks. The fibers bond with your hair, creating better structure and volume, but wash out easily with shampoo.