this thing's incredible

This $9 Drugstore Potion Has Replaced All of My Fancy Hair Conditioners

Photo: Vendor

“YOUR HAIR. It looks sooooo good,” read a surprise Slack from an assistant in an office where I freelance. “Did you get a haircut?” said another co-worker when I got to my desk. No, I hadn’t. But that morning, I had used L’Oréal Paris Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water. It was $9. I got it at Rite Aid. And my hair looked fantastic.

I first heard about the serumlike treatment on the Fat Mascara podcast, hosted by two veteran beauty editors. But I didn’t expect to get hair so shiny and smooth that passersby could practically check their own reflections in it.

Admittedly, my naturally wavy, medium-length hair was in pretty good condition to begin with. Still, it’s color-treated and occasionally heat-damaged, so before Wonder Water, I relied on creamy in-shower masks to keep it conditioned. There was something about the added weight of a mask that made my hair smooth, and the shine was decent, too.

But Wonder Water is, in my experience, even better than a mask. The formula deposits ultrafine active ingredients in very thin layers — these are called lamelles — which won’t weigh your hair down like a more intense treatment. Or, if you’re familiar with the way micellar water works, there’s something similar going on here, where “the positive charges of the lamelles attract to the negative charges of damaged areas of the hair like a magnet,” says Rocio Rivera, the scientific communications vice-president of L’Oréal Paris. This results in a smoothing of the hair fiber. And because of Wonder Water’s convenient squeeze bottle, there’s no awkward scooping of a frostinglike cream conditioner from a tub. Instead, there’s seven 20-ounce doses — which are helpfully marked on the side of the bottle — for depositing the just-right amount onto wet hair.

I only wash my hair three times a week, max, which is also the recommended usage for Wonder Water. After I shampoo, I apply one dose (L’Oréal recommends two to three doses for thick textures) to the middle and ends of my strands. The formula is runny, so my trick is to gather my wet hair to one side, hold it all in one hand, and squeeze the product directly on my wet strands. Then I massage it in (there’s a warming sensation; it’s supposed to do that), count to eight, and rinse.

The box says you can follow Wonder Water with a traditional conditioner if you want, but I never have. In fact, it’s almost eliminated my need for conditioner altogether. That’s because after applying a heat-protecting detangler post-shower (I depend on this one) and blow-drying with a round brush, my hair has an unbelievable sheen and feels baby-soft. Even when I air-dry, my waves have a tousled frizz-free Rich Girl Hair look.

My over-the-top endorsement has influenced friends of all types and textures to try it. Everyone from my bleached-blonde sister, to a pal with curls down to her waist, to the thick-haired brunette assistant who Slacked me at the office now swears by the stuff.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

This $9 Drugstore Potion Has Replaced My Fancy Conditioners