When I met with veteran hairstylist and colorist Jason Lee via Zoom to learn about his new brand Mela & Kera, which has been 15 years in the making, I was not only captivated by his passion for hair care, but I was also introduced to a product duo I hadn’t realized I’d needed for my balayaged hair: Balayage Exceptionnel Shampoo and Conditioner. Here’s why they are front and center in my shower right now.
My Hair Type:
I have long, dirty-blonde, fine, balayaged hair. It doesn’t always look fine because I have a lot of hair, but I promise it is.
“The name Mela & Kera comes from melanin, the pigment in the hair, and keratin, the protein that helps build the hair,” Lee says. “This is a new generation in luxury hair care: beautiful packaging, but there are also so many layers behind it. We’re clean, sustainable and EU compliant, which is such a strict regulation in terms of what is allowed in products, and we’re made for all hair textures.”
So what makes these products specific for balayaged hair? “I became obsessed with balayage 10 years ago—it just felt so fresh and new, but it was actually created in the ’70s in Paris, which speaks to its timelessness,” says Lee. “The hair industry changed so much when balayage was introduced because clients were coming in less and the techniques we used were different, and I wondered why products weren’t changing too. Sometimes the ends of balayaged hair look frayed and the processing of the hair lifts the cuticle. This shampoo and conditioner lock down the cuticle to give softness and shine and make light reflect off the hair in a better way.”
I’ve tested many shampoos and conditioners that promise softness on color-treated hair, but failed to deliver. This duo succeeded, leaving my strands feeling silky-soft and smelling salon-worthy, even after blasting them with a hot blowdryer (the scent has that sexy, addictive quality you can’t get enough of). The shampoo managed to clean my scalp and get rid of all my dry shampoo buildup and the conditioner noticeably moisturized my ends.
“These formulas took forever to develop,” says Lee, noting that they’re vegan and gluten-free. “Each one had more than 20 iterations. I wanted to find newer ingredients that delivered moisture in a new way. We would test everything in the salon to make sure it was lightweight yet really performed.” What he found was star ingredient Rose of Jericho, which is known as the resurrection plant and has deep conditioning properties when used in hair care. “It locks in hydration in a lightweight manner,” Lee explains. “It’s a tumbleweed that’s grown in the desert, and what makes it so special is that when you submerge it in water, it comes back to life. It’s in every one of our products and it’s an incredible ingredient for hair.”
Other standout ingredients include vegan proteins, which help tame frizz and prevent breakage, and green caviar, which provides intense hydration. The recyclable packaging looks gorgeous in my shower niche and was “inspired by architecture with very clean lines,” Lee says, but also made with 30 to 50-percent PCR material.
Rose of Jericho, green caviar, vegan proteins, chamomile extract, rosemary leaf extract, quinoa and ricinus plant
What They’re Free From:
Parabens, sulphates (SLS or SLES), DEA, formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing agents, phthalates, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, petrolatum and mineral oil
What They Smell Like:
“The fragrance itself represents my muse—a lot of times that’s my clients—and I wanted it to feel fun and fresh, yet also intelligent and sexy,” Lee says. “We worked with some of the top fragrance houses around the world to create it, and it’s very sophisticated.” It has fresh top notes of lemon, white peach and green apple, a floral heart of orange blossom and muguet, and a base of cedarwood, musk and amber.
The Bottom Line:
Everything screams luxury, from the smart formula and the sexy scent to the statement packaging and the way it makes my over-processed hair feel.
Price/Where to Buy:
Shampoo, $36, and Conditioner, $38, melaandkera.com
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