We tried the customizable shampoo with 41,000 perfect reviews—here's what happened
Function of Beauty creates personalized formulas based on your unique hair needs. Does it deliver?
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I’ve become someone who can’t hear about a product without saying, “Oh yeah, I heard someone talk about that on YouTube.” You know where this is going—I first heard of Function of Beauty, a personalized hair care brand, from a vlogger whom the company sponsored to review the product. With that said, this post is #NotSpon.
The ads, which also run on Instagram and Facebook, target image-conscious young women who want to wash their hair with one-of-a-kind formulas—and look cool doing it. The bottles even come with a page of stickers for decoration.
What is Function of Beauty?
The trendy brand claims to be “the world’s first fully customizable hair care brand,” as it lets you create shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in treatments based on hair type, style goals, and even color and fragrance preferences.
All products are free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, and gluten—ingredients that for one reason or another have been deemed undesirable for their effects on hair (sulfates can be drying); the environment (mineral oils don’t biodegrade well); or even the user’s health (phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption if ingested, which means they could interfere with hormone production). They’re also vegan and “cruelty-free,” meaning they contain no animal-derived products, nor are they tested on animals.
The idea is that all you have to do in selecting your perfect hair products is focus on what qualities you want your hair to possess, instead of worrying about those aforementioned “controversial” ingredients (if you’re looking to avoid them, that is).
For this privilege, you pay an average of about $20 each for shampoo and conditioner, depending on the size and delivery frequency you choose. This is on par with higher end products you can pick up at the salon, ULTA, or Sephora.
What is the ordering process like?
Easy—and even fun! Before creating an account with Function of Beauty, you take its hair quiz, which includes four steps: building your hair profile, selecting your hair goals, customizing your formula, and choosing product size, quantity (you can get an individual shampoos or conditioners, or sets) and frequency of delivery. It’s not until you’re completely done answering the questions that the site asks you to input your billing and shipping information, which made it feel far less pressureful than other subscription services I’ve used.
Step 1: Your hair profile
The first step is to answer some questions about your hair type, which are illustrated by graphics, though they're more cutesy than helpful. I’ve described my hair (see above) as curly since middle school, but after a small existential crisis followed by a Google search to determine the difference between curly and wavy, I selected “wavy” for my hair profile (other options include straight, curly, and coily). The majority of my hair is more wavy than curly because it’s slightly weighed down by the length and has felt the heat of a hair dryer or straightener too many times. I chose “medium” as my hair structure out of fine, medium, and coarse—my strands are not wispy, nor are they wiry. For scalp moisture, I selected normal out of dry, normal, and oily; I can go a few days before my hair gets oily, and I don’t have a dry scalp even in the winter months when my skin suffers. Step 2: Your hair goals My favorite part of the hair quiz was selecting my goals—up to five—for how I want my hair to look and feel from the 18 options. As you click each option, Function of Beauty’s definition of the goal pops up, as well as the key ingredients the company uses to achieve each goal. For example, I chose to strengthen my hair, and an explanation popped up saying: “Increase your hair’s resilience and elasticity, stimulate healthy hair growth and protect your hair from breakage. Key ingredients: horsetail extract and evening primrose.” This is helpful if you want to make sure you’re picking the right choices for your desired locks, or if you have any allergies to ingredients. I chose the "deep condition," "strengthen," "lengthen," "color protection," and "thermal protection" options.Step 3: Your product fragrance and color Of the seven options, I opted for the “all (you) calyptus” scent, which is an essential oil blend of eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, and peppermint. This is the only scent that claims to be 100 percent natural and lists its ingredients. (The others fragrances are peach, pineapple, floral, milkshake and fragrance-free.) I don’t have any allergies, but I liked the idea of a pepperminty fresh scent that’s natural. I selected “light” under the fragrance strength section (other options are medium and strong), and moved on to my formula color.
I chose “dye free” as my color option for both the shampoo and conditioner. Under the site’s FAQ section, the company claims that none of the colors use dyes, so I think it’s peculiar that the uncolored version is referred to as “dye free”—something to consider. Still, as a blond, I didn’t want to risk putting any artificial colors in my hair. (I’ll leave that to my purple shampoo, which I use once a month to keep my blond color looking cool instead of brassy, as recommended by my stylist.)Step 4: product quantity and delivery I don’t know about you, but it takes me quite some time to finish bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I opted for the eight-ounce bottles (the smallest size available), which I’ve only now made a dent in over a month of use. If I were more of a power user, I could’ve opted for two 16-ounce bottles for $49 total. You can also purchase the bottles individually or in a combination of sizes: a single eight-ounce bottle of shampoo or conditioner is $29, a single 16-ounce bottle of shampoo or conditioner is $36, and a mix-and-match set with one eight-ounce and one 16-ounce bottle is $43.
As this was my first time using Function of Beauty, I chose to order just once. This meant I had to pay $5 for shipping instead of receiving free shipping, which is standard if you select among the automatic delivery plans of every month, every three months, or every six months. The site claims that you can cancel any time, so I could have tried an option with free shipping and then canceled before the second shipment, but I don’t have time to play games. Two eight-ounce bottles cost $36, so the total came to $41—I’d be willing to spend about $50 total normally because I want to keep the blond looking as pristine as possible. (If my hair wasn't color-treated, I'd prefer to spend less—about $30 total.)
What do my Function of Beauty formulas claim to do?
Based on my designated hair goals, Function of Beauty formulated my shampoo and conditioner to deep-condition using shea butter and avocado oil; strengthen using horsetail extract (derived from a plant, not a horse—to be clear) and evening primrose oil; lengthen using pea sprout extract and blue-green algae extract; protect the color using palm fruit extract and rice bran oil; and provide thermal protection using grape seed oil and linseed oil.
As a beauty writer, I know that some claims are proven (shea butter and avocado oil are absolutely conditioning, as most oils are) while others are questionable (there isn’t a magical treatment for lengthening your hair, although pea sprout extract has been credited with stimulating hair growth). Going into this testing, I had recently gotten a balayage treatment, which involved bleaching and toning my hair. Hair coloring chemically damages strands, making hair drier and potentially more brittle—and when I’d gotten my hair colored, we opted not to trim it, so the bleaching did no favors to my ends.
I didn’t expect this shampoo and conditioner, or any such products, for that matter, to reverse the damage done to my hair. The only way to “repair” split ends is to chop them off, and the best way to maintain “strong” hair is to not bleach or otherwise chemically damage your hair in the first place. Even though my hair is still relatively healthy (the ends are dry, but they’re not hay, by any means), my hair is still considered damaged because it’s been chemically altered. That’s something no hair product can change. The shampoo or conditioner could help some of the visible signs of damage, though. I can tell that the ends are more frayed than they were pre-balayage and my hair isn’t as shiny. Hypothetically, could these products make my hair look sleeker and less dry on the ends while protecting against further damage? Absolutely.
What is it like to use Function of Beauty?
I can confidently say that I enjoyed using the products. The shampoo lathers a tad, despite being sulfate-free (sulfates are cleaning agents that usually cause soaps to suds up), and made my hair feel clean without drying it out. This made my hair feel even cleaner than shampoos I’ve used in the past, including the Biolage Advanced Keratindose Shampoo for Overprocessed Hair, which I used before switching to FoB. My hair falls to about six inches past my shoulders. I used one-to-two pumps and easily washed my whole head, then used another one-to-two pumps to wash again (on the two days a week that I use shampoo, I’ve become a rinse-and-repeat-er) with emphasis on the roots and midstrand section. One the second shampoo, the product lathered even more—maybe because the formula was met with even less resistance as most grime was already rinsed out—and left my hair squeaky clean-feeling.
The conditioner felt lightweight and runnier than my usual product, the It’s A 10 Miracle Hair Mask, but I expected this because hair masks are typically thicker in consistency. When applying the Function of Beauty conditioner, I gathered my hair into a ponytail (sans tie) and ran two pumps of conditioner down the length of my hair, focusing on the ends. It immediately made my hair feel softer, and when I got out of the shower, I could brush through my hair without any detangling product, though it’s not as snarl-free as it is with my conditioning mask.
My hands-down favorite aspect of the shampoo and conditioner is the fragrance. The eucalyptus and peppermint oils make my shower smell minty fresh but there’s a delicious sweetness to it, too. The scent doesn’t linger much in my hair, but I chose the lightest amount of fragrance, so I’m not surprised.
Does Function of Beauty do what it claims?
As a rule, I wash my hair two to three times a week, and I used the shampoo and conditioner every time over the last six weeks. When it comes to explaining if the products work, let me first say: I don’t know. Function of Beauty set itself up for scrutiny in providing that long list of checkboxes to fulfill at the outset: to deep condition, strengthen, lengthen, protect color, and improve heat damage. Not only that, some of those claims—in particular "strengthen," "lengthen," and "improve heat damage"—would happen at a microscopic level and may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.
That said, I believe that my hair was conditioned well and color-protected. Despite the damage from going blond, my hair feels soft to the touch and as "strong" as it did before I began using Function of Beauty. The products I used before this, the Biolage shampoo and the It’s A 10 mask, provided the same effect, but I'm impressed that FoB can measure up to them at a lower cost (together, my original products cost over $50, though that shampoo bottle contains 5 ounces more). As for my hair color, the Function of Beauty didn’t strip or alter it in any way, and cleansing with my purple shampoo once a month (or one time during this testing period) helps to keep the blond even fresher.
Is Function of Beauty worth it?
For $36 per set, assuming you get the eight-ounce bottles like I did, I think this is a good product. As you now know, I’ve spent almost as much on just one bottle of shampoo or conditioner, which puts in perspective how much money I am willing to spend on my hair. And with all of those other expensive products, I haven’t had the freedom to handpick my goals, fragrance, and color, as I did with Function of Beauty. These added elements make your experience feel more luxurious and may offer a placebo effect that the products are working because they are literally designed to do so.
If you're not like me, that amount of cash may seem exorbitant when spent on something you effectively wash down the drain. And if you love your drugstore products (and prices) and find that they work for you, all of this may be moot. Function of Beauty is not a necessity for great hair in any way, but it is a fun and different experience in the haircare realm.
If you read this because you were looking for a magic bullet, having become dissatisfied with your hair’s condition or care, my advice is to turn to your hair stylist before turning to Function of Beauty. I personally rely on my colorist for product advice. I don’t necessarily buy all the specific products she recommends, but I look for the ingredients or even the marketing terms she mentions. For example, she suggested I look for products that specifically claim to restore damaged hair because these are better at replenishing hydration.
In my mind, talking to a stylist about your desired hair goals and whether they’re achievable is the first step to choosing products. Then, once you learn what might work, there's no harm in looking for customized solutions in Function of Beauty.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.