Forget traditional creamy conditioners, lightweight hair waters are the new way to nourish your locks with zero heaviness or build up

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When L’Oreal’s  Dream Lengths Wonder Water,  £9.99, first landed on my desk I was sceptical. After all, it looked just like a bottle of water, yet claimed to help soften, hydrate, and detangle hair in just eight seconds. As someone who can easily lose five minutes in the shower trying to work a comb through my unruly hair, even with a generous dose of conditioner, I couldn’t see how a water could do as good a job.

According to L’Oreal, a bottle of the Dream Lengths Wonder Water, just launched in the UK, sells every minute in the US. It is a clear liquid conditioner that looks like water, that you apply post-shampoo then rinse out, just like a normal conditioner. Redken has also just launched a hair water, the  Extreme Bleach Recovery Lamellar Water Treatment , £29.99, for 200ml, with the tagline the ‘ultimate invisible bandage for your hair.’

How does hair water work?

It uses 'lamellar technology', which works rather like  micellar water technology.  Whereas micellar water uses small oil bubbles called micelles to trap dirt and remove it, lamellar technology deposits healing ingredients such as proteins and amino acids into the hair cuticle in areas where it needs to be repaired. The positive charge of the lamelles attracts the negative charges of damaged areas of hair. The upshot is you only get product where you need it avoiding build-up.

“Lamellar treatments contain a high concentration of cationic polymers (the positively charged molecules) which drive conditioning agents into the hair, creating a second cuticle by bonding the hair then filling the thin layers,” says Redken educator Jack Cunningham-Rose. This makes it especially good for hair damaged by heat or bleach.

The result? Hair looks smoother, shinier and reflects the light better. "The very nature of the liquid [consistency] means the formula seeps into the natural texture of the hair,” says Kerys Mullen, senior scientific advisor for L’Oreal UK and Ireland. “This provides a fine but intense conditioning layer which leaves your hair feeling smoother and shinier than before without any weigh-down.”

How are hair waters better than cream conditioners?

They penetrate hair better rather than a thicker conditioner. “The nature of the lamellar treatment's technology means it has the ability to bond to the hair fibre,” explains Jack. “Traditional cream conditioners contain emulsifiers (a mix of oil and water) and do not work in the same way.” Both the hair waters we tried are are silicone-free.

Who can use hair waters?

As someone with curly, tangly hair, I wasn’t sure whether a hair water could be effective. I imagined this would be something that would only work on straight hair. Not the case – a liberal dousing of hair water worked on my hair in exactly the same way as creamy conditioners, with none of the weight. Although it felt like water when it came out of the bottle, when it was on my hair, it felt like a normal conditioner.

L’Oreal tested Dream Lengths Wonder Water was on multiple hair textures, from fine to coarse, and found that all hair types were ten times smoother, shinier and detangled, with less hair breakage after use.

Redken’s hair water was designed especially for bleached hair like mine and made light work of the matted tangles I’m often left with after shampooing. There are 10ml markers on the 200ml bottle and it recommends using between two and four markers each time which is the only downside I found with hair waters. I couldn’t see how much I was using each time, so definitely drenched my hair more than was needed!

GTG’s commercial projects manager Catherine put the L’Oreal hair water through its paces and had much the same feedback. “I’m used to using excessive amounts of conditioner as I have a lot of hair so I found myself using more than the recommended 20ml. However, my hair looked and felt just as conditioned and lighter than if I’d doused it in a thick gloopy conditioner.”

How often do you use hair water?

Use it every wash in place of traditional conditioner. My only concern with this is how much I used. I calculated I'd get around five uses out of my 200ml bottle.

Our verdict on hair water

Both Catherine and I were pleasantly surprised (and impressed) by how well hair waters conditioned our hair. After years of using thick masks, I thought gloopy was the way to go to really nourish my hair. I couldn’t believe when a water could deliver the same results, without my hair feeling weighed down. I won't be switching to hair waters every wash, mainly because of the amount of  product I'd go through, but when I want a quick shower and for my hair to feel extra light, I’ll definitely reach for it.

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