04/08/2021 UPDATE: I received an email from Michael, the co-founder of Formulate, regarding past issues with customer service:
Another challenge we recently faced was we outgrew our original facility and had to shut production down for 5 days as we relocated and set up at the new facility. This naturally created a backlog but we have since caught back up.“
I have not used their products again since I initially wrote this review (too busy testing new brands), so I can’t confirm or deny his explanation. But it does seem like the negative comments on this blog have stopped.
01/02/2021 UPDATE: It seems that Formulate’s customer service has gone downhill since I last tried them. Negative reviews are being ignored, and instead customers are posting about their poor experiences here. This is extremely disheartening, and I will be updating the ratings to reflect these changes.
I reviewed the personalized Prose shampoo a while back, and now I’m ready to share my experience with a third custom hair care brand: Formulate.
For those of you not familiar with personalized hair care, there are now a few brands (3 that I’m aware of) that will formulate (hehe) custom shampoos and conditioners based on your hair and scalp’s needs. If you’ve tried a million shampoos and nothing seems to work, personalized is definitely the way to go. The question is just which brand.
The Formulate Experience
If the Functions of Beauty consultation was too generic and Prose’s was too wordy (not necessarily a bad thing in this case), the Formulate consultation is the perfect middle ground.
They look at your environment, lifestyle, current hair + scalp condition, and hair care goals – all which impact the key ingredients in your shampoo and conditioner. My favorite part is the acknowledgement of an oily root and dry ends – something that always drives me nuts when I only see dry, oily, OR balanced as the only options!
The formula is already paraben free, sulfate free, and cruelty free, There is also a fragrance-free option, or you can select from one of their 11 scents. I chose Green with Envy, which is a refreshing and beautiful green tea + honey blend. You can also opt for the strength of the scent, if you want more noticeable fragrance that lasts all day.
Overall I enjoyed the consultation process and felt they asked just the right number of questions to fully address my hair and scalp needs. In case they missed anything, there’s a notes section at the end for you to enter your own comments as well.
Formulate Shampoo + Conditioner Review
Sleek geometric pump bottles that would look elegant in any bathroom, plus with braille for the visually impaired. 10/10 for the thoughtful and beautiful design. I also love that they come in large 14oz bottles, it means repurchasing less often, which means less waste.
There are 12 to pick from, ranging from fresh to floral to fruity to fragrance-free. I don’t get a distinct green tea or honey scent from Green With Envy, but it’s beautiful and fresh nonetheless. Tidal is your typical “ocean” scent and a good unisex option, though I was hoping to get more coconut notes.
Sulfate, paraben, and cruelty-free by default, you can further tweak it during your consultation to avoid silicones, nuts, gluten, or go completely vegan. Once you’ve completed your order, you can view your custom formula in detail in your dashboard. Formulate breaks down each ingredient and how they help accomplish your desired hair goals!
Both of my Formulate shampoo and conditioner were on the lighter side. The shampoo lathers wonderfully, but the conditioner doesn’t have the usual slip found in conventional products since I opted mine to be silicone-free.
$19 for both with 4oz each, $39 for the 8oz, and $49 for 14oz. You must order them as a set your first time, but you can reorder them individually. No minimum free shipping!
Formulate Shampoo Experience
So for my Formulate formula, I focused on replenishing, lengthening, color protection, increasing shine, and scalp health, and let’s just say that the shampoo nailed it. I raved about it as one of my recent hair care favorites, because it’s everything I wanted from my Prose shampoo minus the initial scalp tightness.
The Formulate shampoo has also helped maintain my hair color, which after 6 months usually turn 50 shades of orange, but so far so good. Something else I noticed is that my hair has grown longer than it’s ever been able to, though that may also be the vitamins I’m taking. Either way, hair loss is slightly minimized, and that’s always a welcome change!
Formulate Conditioner Experience
Now the conditioner….there’s a reason I don’t use them, because they do nothing for my strands. I tried the Formulate Conditioner in place of my hg Sachajuan Hair Repair, and sadly it made my hair significantly drier. Not sure if it’s conditioners in general or this specific formula, but
Formulate’s support was fantastic and sent me a reformulated conditioner asap in hopes of improving the situation.
It seems that for a while Formulate’s customer service suffered due to their rapid growth, but the brand is aware and has since addressed these problems (see co-founder statement above). Would love to hear from anyone who’s had recent experience with their cs – both positive and negative!
The second Formulate conditioner was definitely better. Still not as smoothing as Sachajuan, but for a conditioner, it’s not bad. It leaves my hair slightly shinier, smoother, and softer compared to sans-conditioner, which is impressive since the formula is silicone-free.
If I use conditioners in my routine, this would be a great replacement, but don’t expect this to take the place of more intensive hair treatments.
Formulate vs Prose vs Functions of Beauty
Overall I'm really happy with my Formulate experience, especially their shampoo. If I was rating the shampoo alone, it would be a 9+ for sure, but the conditioner just isn't enough for my hair.
To be fair, all the personalized conditioners from the 3 different brand I've tried fell short of my expectations, and I think it's because my hair needs more than just conditioner. Luckily I'm able to reorder the Formulate shampoo on its own, which I will be doing next time. And yes, it has dethroned the Prose shampoo, though I'm still a fan of Prose's custom hair masks.
However it seems their customer service has gone downhill since and issues with unsuitable formulas are not being addressed. As such, I will no longer be recommending their products.
I was impressed that the co-founder personally reached out to let me know they've addressed their customer service issues. Based on their response and the lack of negative comments lately, it does seem like things have gotten better.