Price Tag Cage Match: Root Boosters



Ah, summer. The season for pedicures, natural highlights and bronzed skin. And flat, droopy-ass hair.
If your hair is anything like mine, you know what I’m talking about. Your hair goes totally splat at the slightest whiff of humidity. You leave the house with a decent amount of body and volume, but then it’s plastered to your scalp by lunchtime. Awesome.
But volumizing products can be pretty tricky — the hair that needs them the most is usually pretty fine and easily weighed down. It’s possibly on the oily side. Which means the wrong product is just going to make a bigger mess of things.
Enter the root boosters. These are lightweight mousses you apply directly on your roots. No product weighing down your ends, and no sticky product-y residue. Targeted oomph in a bottle.
But, you know, do they really do that?
Today’s Cage Match is a three-way battle, and without further ado, let’s meet today’s contenders:
First up, priced at a mind-blowingly cheap $3.99 is Garnier Fructis Volume Inject Mousse. $3.99! That’s crazy talk.
Next is TIGI Catwalk Root Boost, which retails for around $9.99, give or take a buck.
And in the insanely frou-frou holy-crap-that’s-expensive corner? Pureology Root Lift Spray Mousse. Twenty bucks. Or more! Or less. (The bottle I purchased at my salon, bizarrely enough, cost $12. I can’t find this stuff priced that cheap ANYWHERE online, so I’m guessing my salon messed up. Either way, the moral of the story is to SHOP AROUND.) I’d used this stuff before, several years ago, back before Noah, in my heady days of disposable income. I remembered liking it a lot, but was curious to see if it really was better than the cheaper versions.
I used each product for a couple days in a row. Every day, I started with Pureology’s Volumizing shampoo and conditioner. I applied the root booster directly to my roots, in straight lines across my scalp every inch or so. Then I massaged my scalp, combed it out, then blow-dried. I tested both a quick-and-dirty blow-dry (just the roots, upside down, leaving the ends to air dry) and a full fancy blow-dry with a round brush.
Okay, let’s start with the worst and go from there.
I have to be honest, I do.not.get.why the Garnier Fructis line is so popular. Yes, they are cheap. Yes, they smell very pretty and they offer a bazillion and one products. Yes, who doesn’t like the idea of “fruit micro-waxes” (schwaa?) being the key to all your hair woes? But I have never had any luck with any of their styling products, and this one was no exception.
On one hand, it made my hair very shiny. Really lovely and shiny. But on the other hand, it did not give me any extra volume. At all. None. I might as well have skipped the product altogether and just blow-dried. It didn’t make the blow-out last any longer either, as the volume around my roots deflated after about an hour. I tried applying it from roots to ends as well, just to see if that made any difference, and…no. Shiny! But stringy and flat.
(I also hated the nozzle, which shot gobs of mousse out like a sprinkler head and made it impossible to target my roots.)
The TIGI stuff definitely added volume and didn’t leave any residue. It was all-around totally okay. I still noticed a lot of deflating by the end of the day, which is frustrating since you can’t touch-up dry hair with a mousse. But yeah. Is an okay product, and probably would have ranked higher if I hadn’t tried the Pureology.
Because this stuff is miraculous. Oh my WORD. After day one I knew it was the winner, since the volume is BIG and LOUD and NOTICIABLE. My hair felt thicker but not product-y. It looked just as good at the end of the day as it did in the morning.
And it looked good when I GOT OUT OF BED THE NEXT MORNING. Seriously, the next day my hair still had more oomph than it did with either of the other two products.
The only drawback? Well, my hair was not very shiny. And all this volume resulted in a small amount of frizz. (I tried Frankensteining the Garnier and the Pureology together to see if that did anything for the shine problem, but it didn’t. Curses!) I solved the problem with a dab of Bed Head After Party Smoothing Cream (rub in palms, run hands gently over hair), but I think any type of spray shine or even just rubbing your hair after applying your hand cream would also work.
So. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for. I’m completely addicted to the Pureology product now and use it every day — even if I’m just shooting some hot air at my roots and putting my hair in a ponytail. (The key to a cute ponytail IS volume at the crown of your head, after all.) If you’ve got really flat, blah hair, it’s worth the $20. It’s a bigger bottle (10 ounces) than the cheaper options, and it actually does what it says it does, unlike the Garnier.
Man, think of all the Easter candy I could have gotten on sale with that $3.99.
(Although if you happen to be in the DC area, you MIGHT want to think about checking out the PR @ Partners salon on Wisconsin Ave. in Tenleytown. Act casual! Don’t let them know we’re onto them and their crazy low prices!)
(But don’t you dare book all of Phillip’s open appointments. I will cut you.)
(Geddit? Cut you? Hair? Heh? Well, fine. Shut up.)

About the author

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

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Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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13 Responses to “Price Tag Cage Match: Root Boosters”

  1. Jaycee Apr 30 at 11:05 am Reply Reply

    Thanks, Amy, because this is my EXACT problem. My hair is just like yours only older and not as purty! Now if only I can bring myself to spend that much on product! Curse my midwestern frugality!

  2. Virginia Gal Apr 30 at 11:46 am Reply Reply

    I’m loving the SunSilk anti-flat weightless lotion. 99 cents after the $2 coupon (yes, I like me some cheap hair products that actually work; down with Garnier!) It leaves my hair fluffy and not crunchy even without a full blow dry (yay! less time in the morning spent is a good thing) and seems to last all day.

  3. Amy Apr 30 at 12:32 pm Reply Reply

    I have good results with the Garnier mousse on my short (6 inches at the crown), layered, thin, fine hair. It works best if I use it sparingly and blowdry upside-down. Thanks for the tip on the Pureology spray mousse, though. I’ll try it for when I want special-occasion big hair.

  4. Stacitee Apr 30 at 12:43 pm Reply Reply

    Agree about Fructis. I tried so many of their products and hated them all. The reason I tried them is that my 13 year old niece has insanely shiny hair and she uses Fructis.
    Fructis = shiny + cool if you are 13. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

  5. Cindy Apr 30 at 3:10 pm Reply Reply

    I use the Pureology Root Lift and I love, love, love it. When the chicky who cuts my hair used it, I was amazed as I have hair just like yours — fine and tends to go flat very quickly. I was not happy with its price tag at my overpriced salon in Loudoun County, but because I’m not good with peer pressure, I bought it. And man, oh man, am I ever glad I did.
    And, by the way, it last for-frickin-ever. If you use too much, your hair will be severely stiff, so once I learned that lesson and used the right amount, the bottle didn’t go down as quickly. I honestly don’t remember when I bought the last one.
    Wow. That was a long way to say that I agree with you!!!

  6. Cindy Apr 30 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    And … I’m so heading to that place to buy me some at said cheaper price. I’ll be discrete though.

  7. leahkay Apr 30 at 5:27 pm Reply Reply

    Mousse goes on when the hair is wet? That explains so much…

  8. ihopeyoudontmind May 01 at 1:07 am Reply Reply

    Can I say that I love you? Because I love you. Seriously, this issue has been bugging me for YEARS. My hair is actually very frizzy – fine but frizzy – but it’s totally flat & limp when I straighten it (which is the only way I’ve ever been able to tame it). I’ve been looking for a product that wouldn’t make it any more icky than it already was from the straightening products and would still volumize it. Thanks!

  9. KS May 01 at 3:43 pm Reply Reply

    Am I the only one who feels special when you recommend a product I already use? I use the Pureology Root Lift in combination with their Super Straight Relaxing Serum to tame the frizzys. I’m addicted to the Rusk Sensories shampoos and conditioner though. Love the smell and won’t give it up for the Pureology.

  10. AJMICK May 01 at 5:11 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, gotta get me some more Pureology. Currently I use Aquage Uplifting Foam which I like (and is cheaper) but I’m intrigued by Pureology esp. since I already use their Pure Volume Amplifier (21 bucks at my salon – yikes). But first I have to work through my 2 cans of Aquage (had $100 gift cert. not for my salon but for one I hate… ugh…). I too am victim of blonde droopy lifeless hair if I don’t use tons of expensive product. Lucky me! Anyway, I ramble, thanks for the tip! Love your site!

  11. AJMICK May 01 at 5:11 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, gotta get me some more Pureology. Currently I use Aquage Uplifting Foam which I like (and is cheaper) but I’m intrigued by Pureology esp. since I already use their Pure Volume Amplifier (21 bucks at my salon – yikes). But first I have to work through my 2 cans of Aquage (had $100 gift cert. not for my salon but for one I hate… ugh…). I too am victim of blonde droopy lifeless hair if I don’t use tons of expensive product. Lucky me! Anyway, I ramble, thanks for the tip! Love your site!

  12. Kelly J May 01 at 6:18 pm Reply Reply

    Hmm, may have to try me some of that Pureology sometime. One thing I’ve been using (for the last two months, I guess) that is giving me a LOT more body is Soda Shampoo made by Fresh. You can get it at Sephora. It’s like $24 for a bottle, but I’ve been using it since early March and I’m only halfway through the bottle. I tend to shower at night (can’t stand going to bed feeling dirty), and within the first week I noticed a drastic difference – even my morning bed-head had serious body! I’ve been using it with TIGI’s Dumb Blonde conditioner (VERY twee amount)…

  13. Ice Queen May 02 at 10:49 am Reply Reply

    Finally something I can comment on! Biolage Bodifying Créme Gel. It’s something you absolutely must try if you have limp hair. I seriously did not believe my stylist when she told me that a dime size dab would give a whoomp of volume to my limp locks. Oh.My.God. Amalah, try this stuff and tell me what you think!

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