Topanga from Boy Meets World has her own hair-care line—is it any good?
Is Topanga just good at everything?
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Think back on the ‘90s. If you were anything like me, your decade was dominated by women you wanted to live like. I wanted Baby Spice’s fashion sense, Matilda’s mind powers, and Topanga’s hair. I’ve been told platform shoes aren’t cool anymore and I’m still trying to harness my telepathy, but I’m thrilled to report that I have finally unlocked the secret to Topanga’s glorious hair—and it comes straight from the actress who played her: Danielle Fishel.
That’s right, Topanga—the leading lady from ‘90s sitcom Boy Meets World—has her own hair care line, and I am so happy to say that it is every bit as magical as I hoped it would be.
I first heard of Be Free by Danielle Fishel at the beginning of the year, and it didn’t take more than hearing “Topanga makes her own shampoo” to get me to buy. I’ve been using my shampoo from Be Free by Danielle Fishel for about five months now, and here’s what I think of the experience.
What is Be Free by Danielle Fishel?
All of Topanga’s—ahem Danielle’s—hair care products are free of controversial ingredients thought to harm your hair and the environment, such as sulfates, phosphates, sodium chloride, gluten, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. The brand also says its hair care products are “cruelty-free,” vegan, and safe for color-treated hair.
When it comes to chemicals, I’m not the most knowledgeable—I recognize some of the above words, but they don’t mean much to me. I’d obviously like my beauty products to be cruelty-free, and because I dye my hair, I need my products to be color-safe. But I didn’t even know shampoos could even be non-vegan (what animal-derived ingredients are in my products??), and I’m not sure what kind of damage the listed chemicals could do to my hair, so I did some research:
- Sulfates and phosphates: These are cleaning agents that you’ll also find in household cleaners and detergents and are responsible for the suds that we all equate with getting clean, but they can be irritating, especially for people with sensitive skin, and drying on the hair.
- Gluten: Gluten can't be absorbed through the skin and shouldn't pose a problem for you in this case if you have an intolerance or allergy, but it made it onto the list of undesirable ingredients that this product doesn't include, if it matters to you.
- Sodium chloride: This is just salt, which is used in some shampoos as a thickener, but some people believe this may lead to dry scalp and hair loss. There’s nothing concrete to back this up, but salt may slowly fade your hair’s color and natural oils over time.
- Parabens: These are preservatives. Similar to salt, people worry parabens may cause dry and irritated scalps, as well as color loss. But again, the current science doesn’t back this up.
Phthalates: These chemicals are potentially harmful for hormone production in large doses.. The FDA has restricted the use of phthalates in cosmetics, so this is one you won’t see in many formulas across the board.
So overall, this sounds good—“bad” chemicals are gone, and good stuff remains. But what is the good stuff? According to the Be Free by Danielle Fishel shampoo ingredient list, it’s a lot of “organic” products—oils, extracts, and alcohols, as well as more chemicals I can’t translate without the internet (though I understand this one: “Water”).
The site sells shampoo for $19, conditioner for $19, a scalp refresh for $30, and a t-shirt featuring Danielle Fishel and her glorious mane for $25. There are only three actual hair products at the time of publication, but in the six months that I’ve been following Be Free by Danielle Fishel, the brand has added a digital gift card, a subscription service, and a load of promo codes that come through the email newsletter every month or so (given that the total package combo costs $60, the promo codes are especially appreciated).
How do products from Be Free by Danielle Fishel arrive?
OK, it’s important to me that the packaging gets its own section in this review, because the presentation of the hair care products alone is enough to make me want to keep buying it over and over again.
My first package arrived at our labs in a compact white box with green tape that said, “Be Free by Danielle Fishel.” Upon opening, we found the t-shirt on top, then an informational insert featuring Danielle Fishel, and finally, the hair products, nestled in a bed of purple paper confetti-like packaging. We’re talking packaging that looks like it’s been professionally gift wrapped and is begging to be reused next time you need to send a gift.
I figured this elaborate packaging was only because I’d ordered every product on the site. Surely if I was just replacing shampoo and conditioner, it’d be less extravagant… right? Wrong—I’ve ordered from Be Free by Danielle Fishel three separate times now, and each time, the packaging has been the same. The bottles arrive in perfect condition and I’m greeted with those happy purple paper confetti pieces.
It’s important to briefly discuss the scents, too. The products are fragrance-free, but they still have a scent, thanks to the essential oils, which make them smell, frankly, incredible. When the package arrived at our office, we took turns passing around the shampoo and scalp refresh to smell them. The scalp refresh is pungent—it’s peppermint, so you could smell it as soon as we opened the package. But the shampoo and conditioner are less intense. They smell like lemons and honey—delicious, but not as powerful as the peppermint.
Do Be Free by Danielle Fishel products actually work?
The brand prides itself on its chemical-free and “guilt-free” formulas. But do they work as well as other shampoos, even high-end ones you can get at the salon?
Prior to switching, I used Surface Trinity on my thick, naturally straight hair, at the recommendation of my hair stylist. It’s made specifically for colored hair (my hair is brown with blonde highlights, or balayage), and it costs about $30 per bottle of shampoo. Before Surface, I was a Pantene Pro-V superfan.
I didn’t love spending $30 for 10 ounces of shampoo, but I thought I needed a stylist-approved, color-safe brand, so I stuck with it. Surface is also a “chemical-” and fragrance-free brand of shampoo. It made my hair feel denser than Pantene—so I would wash with it, then feel like it was flatter than usual (not the look I was going for). It also didn’t make my hair feel sudsy while washing. As mentioned, sulfates are what give shampoos that soapy, lathery ability, so without them, Surface felt kind of like washing my hair with just water (again, undesirable).
Before trying Be Free by Danielle Fishel, I figured it’d be similar to Surface. It’s slightly cheaper ($2.96 per ounce, while Surface is $3 an ounce), but touts the same chemical-free and color-safe benefits.
I have no plans to stop purchasing Be Free by Danielle Fishel hair products. The shampoo smells just as amazing in my hair as it did in the bottle, which is a huge win for me—and my husband, who really missed the way Pantene Pro-V smelled until he got a whiff of the new stuff. It gets incredibly sudsy in the shower, despite the fact that it doesn’t have sulfates. The conditioner smells equally great—you have to leave it in your hair for a few minutes before washing it out, but it’s easy to apply and has made my hair feel much smoother and fluffy.
With Pantene Pro-V, my hair had a lot of body. With Surface, that went away a bit—it was flatter, and it lacked that attitude, if you will, I had come to love. After a few days of using the new shampoo and conditioner, one of my coworkers commented on my hair, telling me it looked extra voluminous recently. I was thrilled. My volume had come back in full force.
What I love about Be Free by Danielle Fishel
Obviously, there’s a lot I love about the hair products. Here are some of the standouts:
- The scent is heavenly: I know I keep repeating it, but goodness—that scent can’t be ignored. It’s lemony and refreshing, and it smells just as good in my hair as it does in the bottle.
- It gave my hair more volume: Results will vary depending on your own lifestyle and hair style, but for my medium length, thick hair, the shampoo and conditioner gave my hair way more volume than it had with the products I had been using previously.
- It makes me feel more ethical: There’s something that just feels good about using ethical and sustainable products. Good for the earth? Good for the animals? Good for my hair? I’ll take those odds every day of the week.
- It’s easy to order (and fun to receive): The website is incredibly easy to navigate and use. Plus, the packaging itself is attractive and reusable.
- They’re fun to follow on Instagram: Danielle Fishel posts heavily on the Be Free by Danielle Fishel account, so if you’re a fan of Topanga or Boy Meets World, it’s a lot of fun to follow. Plus, the company is really engaged with its followers, so it often posts promo codes and poses questions about what fans would like to see on the site in the future.
What I don’t love about Be Free by Danielle Fishel
As with all products we love, it’s not perfect. There are a few things I’m not too crazy about, including:
- It’s more expensive than other brands: Drugstore brands, even the big names like Pantene Pro-V, won’t cost you more than $8 or $9 per bottle, and even then, they can come with up to 24 ounces (compared to $19 for eight ounces). Still, it’s more affordable than luxury brands like Surface and Paul Mitchell.
- I wish it came in bigger bottles: Each bottle only comes in eight ounces, so I’ve been buying multiple bottles at once to make sure I have enough. I’d love to see larger options for people like me who have a lot of hair and like to stock up.
- The product line is limited: There are only a few hair care products you can purchase right now: shampoo, conditioner, and a scalp refresh. I’m hopeful the brand expands in the next few months, but for now, there are only three products to choose from.
Should you order shampoo from Topanga?
For me, it’s a no-brainer: Yes—I highly recommend hair care products from the Be Free by Danielle Fishel line. The shampoo and conditioner are safe to use on my colored hair, they give me a near-instant volume boost, and they’re free from chemicals that you may not feel comfortable putting in your hair every day.
It’s not the most affordable hair care line you’ll come across, and the variety won’t wow you, but when it comes to simple, safe, and effective hair products, Be Free by Danielle Fishel shines.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.