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The Best New Shampoo Is Made From Human Hair

Keratin is an amplifying component of hair care: too little of the protein and your hair is extraordinarily weak and unmanageable; too much and your hair is alarmingly stiff and brittle. The perfect keratin algorithm dwells at a sweet spot that cosmetic companies have spent decades trying to hit. Virtue, a hairbcare line that employs the use of human keratin, has hit that sweet spot for me. I think I love it? (Yes, I love it.) ItsSmooth line in particular makes my hair glossy and strong, like the hair you see in a commercial, but real.

First, a quick primer on keratin. Hair is mostly keratin — about 90 percent, in fact — but that doesn’t mean much. Straightening treatments, dyes, heat, and wear and tear all work to weaken your hair’s natural supply. This results in porous strands and damaged cuticles that in turn, generate short, broken-off hair. Products injected with keratin can temporarily strengthen damaged hair, but not for long, and not particularly well.

That’s where Virtue is a bit different. It uses keratin extracted from human hair, which the company was able to do when the biotech firm from which Virtue was spawned, KeraNetics, isolated human keratin proteins while trying to find a cure for baldness. While baldness is still an eternal threat, weak hair really isn’t, thanks in part to Alpha Keratin 60ku, the keratin protein KeraNetics extracted from unprocessed (read: unadulterated by hair dyes or straighteners) human hair. Because it comes from humans, the protein binds to hair more effectively than the plant- or animal-derived configurations found in every other protein product on the market today.

Virtue’s Smooth shampoo is thick and tacky, and appears counterintuitive to any notion of a cleansing agent. But that’s all a red herring, because once it hits hair and water, the brown, paste-like goo melts and feels light as air. It’s sulfate-free, but it’s still foamy because of a sodium-derived surfactant. And it cleans my curl-cream-loaded scalp without drying or stripping my hair. Alongside Iles’ floral creation, it’s the best shampoo I’ve ever tried.

There are three lines from Virtue: Recovery, for seriously wrecked hair, and Full for hair that naturally wants to be flat, but Smooth is the most hydrating. It’s perfect for my thin curls. It doesn’t build up in my hair and render each strand stiff and crisp, like some protein treatments, but it does strengthen, based on the fewer hairs that land on my comb. And it works immediately, which is fortunate for me, given that patience has never been one of my virtues.

Virtue Smooth Shampoo $36, Virtue Labs

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