My Cruelty-Free Hair Care Routine

The number one compliment I get from people (you, strangers and friends on TikTok and Instagram, strangers at the grocery store, my students…) is that I have really pretty hair. People have been DMing me and stopping me to ask what I use for so long that I decided to finally put together a post of all my products (all cruelty-free btw) and hot tools that I use. I hope this post bestows upon you the same smooth, shiny hair that I strive for!

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Okay, honestly, it feels so narcissistic writing a post all about my hair, but you asked for it… literally. You seriously asked for it.

Keep reading for all the products and tools I use to get this hair!

The most frequent comment I get on Instagram and TikTok (and at the grocery store and Starbucks and…) “OMG I love your hair 😍” I’m absolutely here for it, and it’s not because I’m vain. Let me tell you why:

I used to genuinely hate everything about my hair. I hated that it was too red to call myself blonde, but the roots were dark enough that in elementary school, teachers accused my parents of dying it (there was once mention of calling CPS) and my fellow 5th graders asked why I would ever choose to dye my hair red. 

The texture was confusing, too. It was coarse and thick and wavy… not like anything anyone in my family had. And it was frizzy. Think Hermione in year one… but also red. It was definitely a look, and one that I hated.

So the fact that so many people now compliment me on my hair amazes and flatters me to no end, and I’m so happy to share my favorite products with you, all of which are affordable and cruelty-free 🐰

Before I get to the products though, I need to give my hairstylist some love. Melissa is the absolute best. She keeps my hair healthy and my color vibrant, and I strongly believe that a good stylist is the basis for good hair. I used to box dye and use the cheapest shampoo and conditioner and just wasn’t giving my hair the love it needs. Then I met my stylist Tiffany (Bay Area friends, check her out) and then Melissa when I moved to LA (LA friends, pay her a visit). These ladies have rescued my hair without costing me my firstborn child, and I am forever grateful.

Alright, let’s get into what you came here for: the products. Just a head’s up, some of these links are affiliates, meaning I might make anywhere between .01 to $5 if you buy something 🤣, but this post is in no way sponsored and all opinions are my own (but you know I’d never share something I didn’t love anyways). 

Let’s start with the very basics: the wash.

Shower Products

In case you didn’t know, JVN recently came out with their own hair care line and I am over the moon about it! I went to the website to take a quiz to find the best products for my hair type and *surprise, surprise* the Hydrating Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner were right for me.

Why I Love Them
  • In addition to being cruelty-free, the products are vegan, and are sulfate and silicone-free.
  • The packaging uses minimal plastic (the pump is plastic, but the container is metal).
  • They’re color-safe.
  • Cost: $18 each.

I know $18 a pop can get pricey, but when a product works this well, I don’t mind paying a little extra. That brings me to another very important reason I love them: they actually work. After I started using this duo, I asked my stylist if my hair was sucking up less product than usual, and she said it was. My hair feels shiny, smooth, and smells incredible after using these.

I usually only wash my hair once or twice per week, depending on the time of year, my activity and sweat level, and how I style it. I also like to do a hair mask every other week. I bounce back and forth between the Raw Sugar Healing Power Masque and Mixed Chicks Deep Conditioner. Both are cruelty-free and leave my hair feeling so soft, shiny, and healthy. I feel like the Mixed Chicks helps fight my frizz a bit more, but I vacillate between these two and highly recommend either.

Why I Love Them
Raw Sugar
  • Cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free, sulfate-free, uses natural ingredients.
  • Thick, non-greasy, softening, light scent.
  • Cost: $10
Mixed Chicks
  • Cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free, sulfate-free, uses natural ingredients.
  • Black-owned and woman-owned.
  • Thick, non-greasy, light scent, detangling, softening.
  • Cost: $16

Drying Products

Since I have super thick hair, I’ve always used two towels: one for my body and one for my hair. The one for my hair used to take FOREVER to dry, and then I discovered this nifty little product: Microfiber Hair Wraps.

Why I Love It
  • It takes up less space in my tiny bathroom than a second towel.
  • It dries quickly (goodbye, mildewy towel stank 🤢), and dries my hair faster than a regular towel.
  • The microfiber fabric leaves my hair less tangled and frizzy than a traditionally woven towel (the loops on regular towels cause minor pulls and can cause breakage that leaves hair damaged and frizzed).
  • Cost: 2 pack for $10

Depending on about 50 different variables, I may choose to let my hair air dry and either wear it in its wild, naturally wavy state, or straighten it later, or I might blow dry right then and there. For the sake of this post, let’s say I’m immediately blow drying, in which case, I’ll use my Wet Brush and Kristin Ess Style Assist Blow Dry Mist.

Why I Love Them
Wet Brush
  • This brush is designed specifically for thick hair (they also have one for thin hair).
  • Minimizes pulling, pain, and breakage by having flexible bristles.
  • Works on all hair types.
  • It’s super cute and ergonomically designed.
  • Cost: $11
Kristin Ess Style Assist Blow Dry Mist
  • Cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, gluten-free.
  • Color and Keratin safe.
  • Smoothes, protects up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and cuts down on dry time (a BIG bonus for me, and I’ve timed it… it actually does cut down my drying time).
  • Uses what they call “zip-up technology,” which strengthens weak areas to help with the appearance of damaged cuticles and breakage while protecting from color fade and environmental stressors.
  • Super light-weight – no sticky or heavy feeling left over.
  • Cost: $14

Hot Tools

This is undoubtedly the most expensive portion of my hair care routine: the hot tools. When I started seeing the blow dryer brushes pop up all over the place, I knew I needed one. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend a ton on one. In did some shopping around and found that the Revlon Hair Dryer Brush has decent ratings and is much more affordable than something like Dyson’s version, but Revlon is not a cruelty-free brand, so I didn’t want to purchase from them. Instead, I found an equivalent from a brand that does not test of animals and purchased my Hot Tools Hair Dryer Brush.

Why I Love It
  • Takes the stress out of managing a hair dryer and brush.
  • Blows less hot air on me than a hair dryer (am I the only one who gets a little sweaty with blow drying? 😓)
  • Dries fairly quickly.
  • Adds volume and reduces frizz.
  • Multiple settings including high and low, hot, warm, and cool.
  • Cost: $49 (BUT keep your eye on them… this baby goes on sale often. I got mine for $35.)

And where would I be without my trusty straightener? Yes, I often blow dry, but my straightener gets used almost daily, whether it’s straightening out after an air dry, curling, or touching up some wayward strands. My favorite straightener is surprisingly affordable… so surprising that I was certain I was making a poor purchase and letting the cost sway me too much. I’m happy to report that my Remington Straightener is still going strong and has proved to be a great purchase.

Why I Love It
  • The 1″ ceramic plates are the perfect size… I can get down to my roots to straighten, and I can use it to create waves and curls.
  • It heats up insanely fast and goes up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • It uses anti-static technology for fewer fly-aways and a smoother finish.
  • Cost: $20 (so you can see why I was skeptical, but wow is is great!)

Styling and Finishing Products

Here we are, at the end of my hair care routine. These last two items, Aussie Mega Hairspray and Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil, put the finishing touches on my har, giving it some shine, hold, and wow factor.

Why I Love Them
Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Hair Oil
  • Cruelty-free, paraben-free, salfate-free, gluten-free.
  • For all hair types.
  • PH balanced, UV and heat protection.
  • High shine and repairs breakage.
  • I use this at the end of my styling to smooth over fly aways and I have found just a few drops is plenty for all my thick hair.
  • Cost: $28 (I know this one is on the pricier side, but a little goes a long ways… I’ve been using this regularly since December and as I’m writing this in mid-February, the bottle is still like 9/10 full).
Aussie Mega Hair Spray
  • Cruelty-free, paraben-free, silicone-free.
  • Smells incredible and reminds me of my childhood (okay… this is specific to me, I guess. My mom used this stuff when I was a kid, so it triggers some core memories).
  • The flexible, yet strong hold means that my hair will never feel stiff but will stay in place.
  • Great for all hair types.
  • Cost: $3.50

Dry Shampoo

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t wash my hair super often. I feel like it adds to the breakage and frizziness, and honestly, I’m lazy. I have a lock of thick, coarse hair, and I’d rather not devote 30-45 minutes washing, drying, straightening, and styling daily. I have better things to do, so I rely on dry shampoo at least 1-2 times per week. My go-to is Not Your Mothers Clean Freak in Warm Sugar, but I’ll also use Colab Overnight Renew. Like the hair masks, who knows why I bounce back and forth, but I love them both!

Why I Love Them

NYM Clean Freak
  • Cruelty-free, vegan, sulfate-free, gluten-free.
  • Smells incredible (especially the warm sugar).
  • No white residue when used correctly.
  • For all hair types including color-treated.
  • Cost: $5
Colab Overnight Renew
  • Cruelty-free and vegan.
  • Works while you sleep and adds volume when you wake.
  • Dermatologist-approved.
  • Smells incredible (amber, tonka, lavender, and eucalyptus).
  • Cost: $8

I hope this helps to demystify what sorcery I use to get my hair looking and feeling as nice as it *often* does. If not, drop a comment or DM me on Instagram and let me know what questions you have. I am in no way a hair care professional, but I have hair, I care for it, and it’s usually pretty happy 😊 so I’m happy to offer any insight I can.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! And I wish you many happy hair days ahead 💁‍♀️

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