I consider myself lucky that I can leave the home with wet hair and, hours later, don't have a frizzy nest to hide under a hat. A fair share of my friends feel compelled to keep up regular Japanese straightening appointments or to spend hours in the shower applying products. But I am generally satisfied with my God-given head of hair and its minimal level of upkeep. When I want to smooth down my naturally wavy hair and don't have time for the flat iron, I reach for my Matrix Extreme Styling Creme. Though it has been supplanted by MoroccanOil as my go-to styling product, I prefer Matrix when I plan to blow dry and want a flawlessly sleek look.

Matrix Extreme Styling Creme has been my hair hero for just about every major event in the past five years. I trust it wholeheartedly in tropical climates when the humidity (and potential for hair disaster) is 100%. And I even rely on it for milestone moments like graduation and wedding photos. Its texture is comparable to MoroccanOil Hydrating Styling Cream, but Matrix is a hair heavier. It is also easier to apply in excess and especially dangerous near the roots, where I have more than once created a greasy effect that looked like I hadn't showered in days.

In spite of a few bad hair days, Matrix has been one of my favorite hair care lines for years, and I have tried every single product in the Sleek.look collection, characterized by its orange-colored bottles. While the shampoo (#1) and conditioner (#2) seem suitable for nearly every hair personality, the Extreme Styling Creme (step 3 in the system), is ideal for dry, damaged, or color-treated hair- not hair that is naturally fine or oily. I apply a generous dollop all over the tips of my damp hair after showering, blow it dry, and get treated to a smooth head free of frizzies and full of shine. This magical cuticle-sealing effect only seems to work when followed with a blow dry.

Though the creamy straightening balm has an alluring (artificial) fragrance, it also has an admittedly imperfect formula. Matrix is doing no favors for the environment with its pocketful of parabens and silicones, both of which have shown to accumulate in marine life. As conditioning agents, silicones are good for their tendency to impart a temporary silky feel, but bad for their ability to build up and eventually weigh hair down. With the dominant presence of phenoxyethanol, you'd think this styling cream was made to survive multiple generations of unruly hair.

Mineral oil and petrolatum are cheap additives that can clog pores on the scalp. As with silicones, they are more useful for cursory smoothing than deep conditioning. Besides being bad for skin, mineral oil and petrolatum may harm hair more than help since by coating each strand with chemicals, they make hair more prone to breakage and retard hair growth in the long run. In contrast, natural oils (i.e. jojoba oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil) penetrate the hair shaft to hydrate and nourish. The only botanical in the formula is shea butter, which replenishes moisture and restores luster to damaged hair from the roots to the tips. Not only is it beneficial for dry, processed, and heat-treated hair, but it also absorbs quickly into the scalp to rehydrate without clogging pores.

The rest of the formula has a few bright spots. An anti-static agent and film former, polyquaternium 37 conditions hair without weighing it down. By providing a positive charge to counteract the negative charge found in many shampoo products, polyquarternium 37 can also increases shine, elasticity, and even volume. At the tail end of the formula are silk amino acids, or hydrolized silk, which dries to form a transparent crystalline protective film that seals the hair cuticle, thus strengthening hair and preventing drying. The downside to silk amino acids are that they can build up over time like silicones, thus negating their benefits and resulting in one very bad hair day.

 

Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Petrolatum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, PEG 100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Polyquaternium 37, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, PPG 1 Trideceth 6, Triethanolamine, Shea Butter Fruit (Butyrospermum Parkii), Silk Amino Acids