Jonathan Van Ness has been charming audiences as the resident hair and grooming expert on Netflix’s Emmy-winning “Queer Eye” since 2018 and, earlier this year, launched their debut hair care line, JVN. (Van Ness is nonbinary and shared that they go by they/he/she pronouns in a 2021 interview with Cosmopolitan.) Made for all hair types, the brand takes after Van Ness’ own celebratory ethos, formulated to build confidence by enhancing and nourishing everyone’s locks.
We put this to the test, with eight editors who have different hair types — from pin-straight to 4A curls, thick to thin, long to short, dry to oily, color-treated to natural — switching their hair care routine to JVN products for two weeks. We focused on the brand’s bestsellers and basics, with each editor testing a shampoo and conditioner, the fan-favorite JVN Complete Air Dry Cream and the option to add in the Pre-Wash Scalp Oil and Complete Conditioning Mist based on our individual hair and scalp needs. Read on to find out what JVN products are worth a try.
What we liked
$24 at Sephora and JVN
The standout product that we tested is the Complete Air Dry Cream, which proved its status as the brand’s No. 1 bestseller. Social coordinator Sarai Thomspon declares the leave-in cream her “favorite out of all the products,” for her 3C/4A curls. “[It] gave me hope that I could attempt doing wash-and-gos,” she says, explaining that she usually avoids them because her hair ends up “dry, frizzy and hard to manage over time.” With the Air Dry Cream, however, it leaves her hair moisturized and tamed — a result we saw across all hair types. It helped define curls while also giving a smoothing effect to those of us with straight hair. And a little goes a long way — all of the testers said they used too much the first time, and settled on much less product, which will be a benefit in the long run as the sizable tube will last for a while. About a dime-sized amount is enough for my waist-length hair.
The cream gives a soft hold to the hair, enhancing your natural texture or assisting with heatless styles like braids or buns, but it won’t feel crunchy like a gel or mousse. “It’s light and buildable, and for my thin waves it helped keep things non-frizzy, even in 90-plus-degree heat in New York City,” says senior lifestyle editor Rachel Lubitz. Meanwhile, senior editor Chelsea Stone says the cream is a “solid styler” for her 3A curls. “I usually go for curl-specific creams, and while this one didn’t really define my curls like others might, I did think that it tamed frizz and promoted shine well and without crunch,” she shares.
I also tried using the cream — just a dab, massaged between my fingers and then run over the top of my hair — to smooth some flyaways on my second-day hair and it helped slick them down without looking like there was product on my roots.
“It provides humidity protection and smoothes all hair types without crunchiness or flakes,” explains Joseph Singh, senior manager of global product strategy and marketing of JVN. “It includes our hero ingredient, hemisqualane, which improves hair health and strength over time as well as moringa seed oil, which adds softness, shine and luster and chia seed extract to enhance hair’s natural texture.”
$28 at Sephora and JVN
From exfoliating scrubs to detoxifying masks, scalp care is at the forefront of hair care at the moment, and JVN’s answer to maintaining a healthy scalp is the Pre-Wash Scalp Oil. Made with nourishing ingredients, including hemisqualane, rosemary extract and bisabolol, Singh explains that they work together to “hydrate and cleanse the scalp” while promoting “stronger, shinier, longer and healthier-looking hair.”
The scalp oil was a “game-changer product” for associate editor Lindsey Smith, who says, “Like most people, I’m guilty of ignoring my scalp — but it needs love too! In summer, I get a super-itchy and dry scalp, and using this has soothed it so much.”
I found that the pre-wash oil also helped with my dandruff-prone scalp, which I recently found out is an oily scalp issue, not a product of dryness. Similar to how using an oil cleanser on the face can help balance the skin and prevent overproduction of the skin’s natural oils, treating an oily scalp with an oil-based product can help tame the itching and flakes. I worked in the oil section by section, using the dropper to apply it directly to my scalp and then massaged it in with a fine-toothed scalp brush and let it sit before washing my hair as normal. “The hardest part about [the Scalp Oil] is letting it sit for 15 minutes, but it’s totally worth it and my scalp has never felt better,” Smith says — and I agree.
Thompson, who wasn’t a stranger to scalp oil treatments and does them each time before washing her hair, says that “the application [of JVN’s scalp oil] was easy, my scalp felt hydrated and revitalized and the smell was amazing!” Beyond the scalp itself, she also saw a difference in how manageable it made her hair. “I noticed my hair was easy to part and manipulate for my natural hairstyles, and I believe it’s because the pre-wash oil prevented my scalp from becoming dehydrated,” Thompson shares.
$18 each at Sephora and JVN
JVN has three shampoos and conditioners, each targeted for different hair concerns. There’s the Nurture Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, Embody Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner and the Undamage Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner. They are sold separately, so you can stick to one line or mix it up based on your hair’s needs. JVN’s website also has a handy hair quiz that can help you decide which are best for your hair type and needs. “With so many product offerings on their website, I didn’t know which product was ‘right’ for me, so [the quiz] made the process quick and easy,” senior digital content strategist Stephanie Griffin says. “I chose the Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner based on my results, to help thicken and volumize my naturally straight, thin and limp hair.”
After trying them out, Griffin noted that the conditioner was especially great at detangling her hair in the shower, which she expresses “says a lot, because I usually have to brush my hair while conditioning because it is so tangly and hard to brush after it starts to air-dry.” She also liked that the shampoo and conditioner were both made with clean, color-safe ingredients, as she colors her blond hair every three to four months and looks for products that will keep her hair bright in between appointments. “I can’t really say for sure if my hair looks more volumized or more full than it did before, but it definitely feels clean and didn’t strip my color at all,” she says. “That being said, one of the main ingredients in the conditioner is biotin, so I do feel that after consistent use and over a longer period of time, my hair could actually look thicker, so only time will tell! In the meantime, the prices are super affordable and I would definitely buy both products again.”
Lubitz, who also tested the Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, saw a noticeable difference for her thin, curly hair. “After just one use I noticed my hair was softer and much more voluminous throughout the day,” she shares. “It actually made my thin, curly hair feel thick. The shampoo is light enough so I actually didn’t have any buildup issues even the next day, and the conditioner was light enough to not weigh down my curls.”
Softness was a result that all of the testers experienced across the different shampoos and conditioners, thanks in part to the hemisqualane found in all of them (and each of JVN’s whole line of products). The key ingredient is derived from sugarcane through a biofermentation process. It’s an alternative to silicone (which isn’t harmful to the hair or body, but can lead to buildup), and helps with adding strength and shine to the hair. TikTok strategist Hannah Lauson, who has dry, wavy hair, said that she usually struggles finding shampoos that don’t make the dryness worse. The JVN Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner, however, “actually left my hair feeling soft,” she says, adding, “plus, it smells so good!”
Smith tested the JVN Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner for her thick, wavy hair and says that “even after one use my hair felt so much softer.” My thick, straight hair, which sometimes feels wiry, was noticeably softer to the touch after using the Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, and stayed that way until my next wash two days later. Although Smith, like myself, didn’t notice a visual change in her hair, she did notice less fallout in the shower, and says “by touch alone, I can tell my hair feels so much better and nourished.”
What we didn’t like
The only product some of us struggled with was the Complete Conditioning Mist ($18 at Sephora and JVN Hair), but it still worked for those who needed extra moisture. Even though it’s called a mist, the spray is really the consistency of a traditional conditioner that dispenses in a single stream from the nozzle. Because of this, Lauson says, “I had to use a lot of the product to see a difference,” although, she continues, “When I did, it worked well and kept my hair less frizzy throughout the day.”
Those with curly hair types were the biggest fans of this product, with Thompson saying it helped combat frizz and kept her curly hair from looking “fuzzy,” and Stone even proclaiming it her favorite product in the line. “I thought the spray dispersed the product nicely throughout the hair and made my curls easy to comb through,” Stone says. “I’ve been really into leave-in conditioners as of late, and I’ll definitely continue to use this one.” Business development coordinator Richa Srivastava, who has long, color-treated hair, says it gave her “instant shine and my hair detangled within seconds. My hair also absorbed this product pretty quickly.”
However, for my thick, waist-length balayage hair, the leave-in product felt like it stayed on the surface rather than sinking in. I applied it from mid-length to the ends because I was worried about it weighing my hair down toward the roots. Usually, I can go two to three days without washing, but I found that my hair was starting to look stringy after just a day. It might work better for those with extremely dry hair, but I found that the Air Dry Cream offered a detangling and moisturizing effect without the greasiness that the Conditioning Mist caused.
How it compares
For the JVN Complete Air Dry Cream, we found the formula to be a lighter weight than other styling creams we’ve tried. “I really loved the texture of this product,” Lubitz says, echoing the general consensus of the testers. “It didn’t leave my fingers or hair feeling sticky, which so many air dry creams tend to do.”
Other elements that stood out to us were the clean formulas, products’ fragrance and the sustainability of the packaging. I’ve tried other clean shampoos and conditioners, such as the fragrance-free Augustinus Bader Shampoo and Conditioner, and the user experience and results of the JVN products were far more favorable. The lather of the shampoo that left hair feeling clean and the nourishment from the conditioner that made my hair soft outperformed the other clean formulas. Plus, the fragrance of the JVN products really do smell salon-worthy, nodding to founder Jonathan’s decades spent working behind the chair. While some may prefer a fragrance-free option, all of us loved the floral and fruity notes incorporated throughout the line.
As for the packaging, we appreciated the focus on sustainable materials, such as recyclable aluminum for the Air Dry Cream tube as well as shampoo and conditioner bottles. Other products, such as the Pre-Wash Scalp Oil, come in recyclable glass vials and glass jars. The plastic that is used for pumps and caps is made from postconsumer recycled plastic. These extra steps toward sustainability were another factor that makes JVN stand out against other salon-quality brands like Oribe and Kérastase. Not to mention, JVN’s shampoos and conditioners are about half the price than the ones offered at those brands.
The products we tested cover the basics of hair care — cleansing, conditioning and styling — and are a good introduction into JVN’s line. If you’re looking to switch up your hair-washing routine, JVN’s shampoo and conditioners are worth a try — for all hair types, and especially if you’re looking for softer locks. The Air Dry Cream is also a worthy addition to your hair care arsenal if you prefer no-heat styling, and the Pre-Wash Scalp Oil may help ease irritated scalps. Overall, we loved the quality of the products, and most of the editors said they would be repeat buyers of the shampoos and conditioners as well as the Air Dry Cream. And perhaps the most immediate effect of the line: “It smells like a fancy salon — the best,” says Lubitz.