Why can’t beauty brands just be good or bad? Because being both just makes things more complicated. They do it all the time. A company will go and make something fantastic, and then turn around and make something god-awful (without telling me first). It must be how beauty company execs have their fun, by tricking unassuming beauty buyers into becoming faithful to their brand before throwing them for a loop and causing them to call into question their entire belief system… Not funny, guys. Rude.
Now, I’ve used Ion products before and have loved the ones I’ve tried. Their Clarifying Shampoo (Sally Beauty, $5.99 for a 12-oz. bottle) has its own spot on my shower shelf; I use it habitually every Friday, so it wasn’t so much a question of whether to buy their Color Defense shampoo and conditioner (Sally Beauty, $5.99 each for a 12-oz. bottle) as it was a question of which size bottles to buy (I settled on the 33.8-oz. ones for $7.99 each).
At the register, the salesgirl didn’t comment on the products as she manually entered them into the computer (for some reason, their product scanner always seems to be broken), and I found her silence unsettling. Not unsettling enough to change my mind, however, so I picked up the goodies and left the store with my heavy bag.
After having a quick snack at home (what…? Adults have snack time too), I hopped into the shower and popped open the giant shampoo bottle’s cap. First, I wish it had come with a pump, as holding a 33.8 oz. bottle of shampoo upside down in the shower with one hand is a rather risky endeavor (yes, I dropped it). What came out of the bottle was an extremely gelatinous, coral-colored goop. I’m not a naturally clumsy person, but this product just doesn’t seem to want to stay in my hands. First, dropping the bottle, and then the actual shampoo blob slipped out from between my palms twice as I worked to emulsify it. Even with rather wet hands, the stuff just didn’t seem to want to leave its singular form. After a third, careful attempt, I finally worked enough into a mild lather and massaged it through my hair.
It felt fine. Just… fine. I wasn’t expecting much texturally, as Ion tends to be a no-frills company, but I certainly would have enjoyed slightly more lather (even from a color-protecting shampoo), or a bit more slip, but I’m not one to complain if something does its job. After letting it sit for a minute or so, I rinsed it out, but my hair definitely didn’t feel quite clean.
Now, I use completely water-soluble products in my hair and rely on shampoo only to get the last tiny bit of build-up out; it was troubling that this product hadn’t seemed to have removed even the dregs of my styling efforts. But I was already halfway through and decided to continue on with the conditioner.
Fortunately, this one did come with a pump, so I didn’t have to struggle with another giant bottle. Two full pumps seemed to provide enough product for my short hair, and after coating my palms in the mildly creamy solution, I likewise massaged this one into my dripping locks. Within seconds, I was baffled.
My hair seemed to have absorbed the conditioner completely. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between then and the minute before when I had rinsed out the shampoo. But, Ion had surprised me before, so I decided to give it a few more minutes. Three minutes later, no fireworks or rays of light pierced the tiled ceiling above my head, but if any had, I think I would have been more interested in those than my hair.
After hitting my locks with cold water (that’ll wake ya up!), I stepped out of my tiled temple and into the even colder air of the bathroom proper. I grabbed a towel, blotted my hair semi-dry, and skittered out the door and through the house to my blessedly heated room to let my hair air dry.
A good 20 minutes later, I wriggled out from the embrace of my soft down comforter and scampered to a mirror. Good thing my voice isn’t high, or the glass might’ve broken. My hair looked awful! Dry, dull, frizzy. And touching it was a trippy experience. It felt as if my hair was covered in plastic; as if each and every strand had been individually laminated. It was not a good feeling.
The next seven days of testing constituted a week of hair hell. Each day, my hair felt and looked worse. The color was flat, the texture coarse, and it resisted styling product like whoa! It took me twice the normal amount of my regular serum and cream to get it even close to how I normally do it, and even then it still looked monotone and drab. It also took me twice as long to blow dry and not look like the 1UP ‘shroom, and even then my hair still gained a considerable bit of POOF!
Scent is such a personal thing, but I do feel that both products smell like that cheap hand soap you find in mall bathrooms (actually, the shampoo kinda looks like it, too). You know, that pink, pearlescent slime that I suppose is meant to smell like almonds and almost kind of like a cherry, but just comes off as artificial instead? Yeah, that. Fortunately, the scent doesn’t linger, and it’s completely gone by the time my hair is dry.
The only positive thing I can say about this duo is that the destruction they sowed wasn’t permanent. After exchanging them for another brand’s color protecting shampoo and conditioner, and washing with those a few times, my hair returned to its normally shiny, bouncy, silky shape.
I can usually find at least one redeeming quality about every product I review, but not these two. Sorry, Ion. Better luck next time.