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This $10 Target shampoo was designed by a celebrity hair stylist — and it left my hair feeling smooth and healthy
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This $10 Target shampoo was designed by a celebrity hair stylist — and it left my hair feeling smooth and healthy

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Kristin Ess Facebook

  • The cult-favorite Kristin Ess for Target line is an affordable collection of luxury hair products. The signature shampoo and conditioner cost $10 per bottle.
  • Ess has a large following as the co-founder of TheBeautyDepartment.com, which includes beauty trends, tips, and how-tos, and for styling the likes of Lauren Conrad and Lucy Hale’s hair.
  • The line’s development relied on Ess’ expertise from 20+ years as a hair stylist and colorist. Formulas have a proprietary Zip-Up technology that combats split ends, and shoppers will find hair-care tips and tricks on the back of each product.
  • I tried the Signature Shampoo ($10) and Signature Conditioner ($10), and I came away impressed. The products are hydrating, smoothing, and luxurious. They definitely compete with more expensive formulas I’ve tried.

How many times have you watched a behind-the-scenes video of a star-studded event to think: “If only I had a team of seven professional cosmetologists to help me get ready.”

For me, that thought typically pops up once in the moment and then again later, perniciously, right before something like a date. I’m standing in front of a mirror, and I’m sawing through seven advanced-level sailor’s knots in my hair with a plastic hairbrush. I am late.

But, thankfully, the twenty-first century is a great time to have aspirational style on a shoestring budget. Affordable luxury — and luxuries — are relatively easy to attain. Direct-to-consumer companies like DSTLD are making real leather leggings under $900 (how does $350 sound?), MIT grads at Maelove are making a $28 vitamin C serum that works like a $166 one, and RTR’s unlimited subscription is bringing the runway to your office’s blandly carpeted hallway for pennies on the dollar. Just by being savvy, you can almost afford to live like the other half lives.

For haircare, luxury can be as cheap as a $10 bottle of shampoo at your local Target. Social media may be guilty of showing you the perks you’re missing out on, but it also gives rise to partnerships between the people you already trust and the fields they’ve become masters in.

Kristin Ess’ Target hair care line is a great example of this. If you’re unfamiliar, Ess has gained fame for a 20-year-long career as a stylist and colorist for the likes of Lauren Conrad and Lucy Hale. She co-founded TheBeautyDepartment.com, which houses beauty tips and how-tos, and runs an informative and disarmingly interactive Instagram with over 500,000 followers. In other words, she’s a passionate stylist with a desire to educate and a handle on transparency.

Kristin Ess Facebook

Ess’ partnership with Target is a natural fit. It’s affordable, approachable, and, more than anything, surprisingly good for the price, like much of what you’ll find at Target. The line launched officially in 2017 and has continually dropped new products since — the latest being hair glosses ($14) and cool metallic essential styling accessories ($5-$20). Core Kristin Ess products are priced under $14. Her new hot tools are $80. Hair dryers are $50. The One Signature Shampoo and Conditioner is $10 per bottle, and they’re formulated for all hair types and everyday use. On the back of each bottle, Ess includes personalized tips and tricks for how to get the most out of it — gleaned through a six-month stint of using only her own products on celebrity clients and beauty appointments.

In a nutshell, it’s an affordable line of hero products engineered by a reputable, enthusiastic, expert stylist. It may not be the same as having Ess kick the door down to wrangle your hair into a blowout before dinner and a movie, but it’s an upgrade to have access to the products she might use if she did — especially if they’re only $10 each.

To see if they’re worth the $10, or if they stand up to the hype they generated online, I tried the One Signature Shampoo and One Signature Conditioner for myself. It has Ess’ proprietary Zip-Up Repair Technology (a strengthening complex) that works to target weak areas of the hair, smooth the appearance of damaged cuticles, and protect hair from environmental stressors and color fade.

My experience using the Kristin Ess $10 shampoo and conditioner:

First of all, while the aesthetic of the packaging is far less important than the formula, it doesn’t hurt that the Kristin Ess line is so pretty to look at. I actually like leaving these bottles out. And when I see them, I get excited about using them. It’s a simple thing, but it makes the whole process feel more like a luxurious treat-yourself experience than a Tuesday night shower.

Without a good formula, though, the looks don’t matter. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be a problem here. It’s sulfate-free, has lathers well, and can be used every day.

Overall, I was really pleasantly surprised. It performs like a much more expensive line. My dry, unruly hair felt healthy and moisturized after using it, without any grimy product buildup or added weight. It looked shinier, felt smoother, and had fewer flyaways. It also smells amazing.

Most importantly, the One Signature Shampoo ($10) and One Signature Conditioner ($10) nourish hair really well. And while I really only use the T3 BodyWaver as my main hot tool these days, my hair looked nicer on its own without any hot tool intervention. Even though sulfate-free formulas can fail at making hair feel both clean and moisturized, I didn’t have that issue here. Having said that, my hair is a huge, thick mass. It has been colored, and it’s far more dry than greasy. If your hair is thin or fine and prone to oil, this may not work for you.

The tips and tricks on the back are a welcome touch, even if it’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s a small, personal detail that closes the distance for you between this product designed by a hair stylist, and another designed by a vague, faceless team. Ess told Allure in 2017 she carted around the whole line for six months to ensure she could rely on her own products to style every client’s hair. The knowledge of 20 years of styling hair, and then using these exact products to create professional looks, is why you’d appreciate her specific tips and tricks. She knows hair, she knows these products, and she’s a good authority on how to get the most out of them.

The bottom line:

All in all, they’re cheap, luxurious products — as promised. They leave my hair feeling clean and silky, I have fewer flyaways and frizz, and I wouldn’t guess in a blind test that they’re $10 each. They compete with more expensive formulas I’ve tried and loved, and while I’m often testing products too frequently to be consistent with my own routines, I’d gladly buy these again. However, if you have fine strands or hair prone to grease, this may not be for you. Consider John Frieda’s Luxurious Volume Conditioner ($6.99) instead.

Insider tip: There have been complaints that the Kristin Ess line isn’t reliably in stock in physical stores. To save yourself time or disappointment, you may want to order online.

Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo, available at Target, $10

Kristin Ess The One Signature Conditioner, available at Target, $10

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