This Water-Saving Machine Gave Me the Best Hair of Quarantine

This Water-Saving Machine Gave Me the Best Hair of Quarantine
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

It does not matter how many shampoos I try, how many conditioners I buy, and how many tutorials I watch on YouTube — my hair is a crunchy, frizzy mess.

Wah, wah. Considering the state of the world, it feels a bit rich to complain about something as frivolous as the state of my hair. That said, allow me to at least talk about my hair in relation to a piece of cool tech: L’Oreal’s Water Saver.

The Water Saver was first announced at this year’s CES, and is the company’s attempt at wide-scale sustainability. The device is a plug-and-play machine that attaches to a salon’s sink. It sounds not-that-exciting, I know, but the cool thing is that the device smashes water droplets together to create droplets that are 10 times smaller. Supposedly, that allows shampoos, conditioners, and treatments to infuse with the water while also drastically cutting down on a salon’s water usage. According to L’Oreal, if even a couple thousand salons were to adopt the tech, it could mean up to 1 billion gallons of water saved every year — not to mention reduced plastic, chemical, and energy waste.

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It sounds nice, right? But a lot of tech sounds nice, and given that CES was completely virtual this year, it was hard to gauge just how “real” this tech was and what sort of actual impact it might have. Luckily, I got to try out the Water Saver in person at Manhattan’s Cutler Salon — one of the salons partnering with L’Oreal as part of a Water Saver pilot program.

Photo: Victoria Song/GizmodoPhoto: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Given that, well, we’re currently in a pandemic, the process wasn’t exactly a normal salon visit. Everyone wore masks at all times, I had to get my temperature checked, the washing stations were separated by large dividers, and no one was allowed in before their pre-reserved appointments. Once this was all done, I rattled off several problems I have with my hair to a stylist — dry at the ends, oily at the roots, dull all the time, and trashed from my neurotic need to wash it after every workout. After that, I was escorted to the sink where the Water Saver was set-up. In person, it’s easy to just not notice the machine is there. In my case, it was off to the side of the sink. My stylist loaded up the machine with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner. When I talked with L’Oreal before about Water Saver, the company said another perk of the device was that because it infused products into micro-ionized water, it creates a “cloud-like foam” and is a supposedly luxurious, magical experience.

Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve had my hair washed at a salon, but I don’t know if I felt a real “cloud” experience. It did, however, feel relaxing on my scalp. Also, this sort of tech isn’t necessarily meant for me, the customer (though L’Oreal is working on a consumer version). So I asked my stylist her thoughts on the device and whether it lived up to its promises.

Photo: Victoria Song/GizmodoPhoto: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

TL;DR — it’s good, fam. For starters, the shower nozzle is designed to easily rest at the side of the sink and turns on and off with a button. Seems obvious, but apparently not all sinks are set up that way and waste water in the process. Another perk is that it’s easier to get even product distribution on hair, as well as combine multiple types of shampoos to achieve a particular result.

This is the best my hair's looked since even before the pandemic. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)This is the best my hair’s looked since even before the pandemic. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

At the end of the day, though, results are results. Was my hair somehow not a giant, coarse, puffball of frizz? Yes. I no longer looked like Yoko Ono with a bad hair day. Impressively, my ends felt hydrated, my locks shiny and smooth. Was it because a hairstylist did it? Undoubtedly, but I’m also all for technology that makes it easier for a hairstylist to do their job while doing some good for the planet. Will I cry when I eventually wash my hair and it returns to being an unmanageable mess? Also, yes.

This isn’t a super flashy device. And while L’Oreal hopes that it might help spark conversations in salons between stylists and customers about water sustainability, I’m a bit sceptical. These are weird times after all, with plenty of people hesitant to go to salons, much less chat with their stylist more than absolutely necessary. Though to be fair, climate change doesn’t wait for pandemics to end, and perhaps with fewer customers, it’s a more chill time to try out experimental tech — especially since L’Oreal said it was keen on working out a business model that is financially beneficial for salons. However, not every piece of tech we write about — or praise — should be flashy. Sometimes innovations that work in the background to help tackle large, existential problems deserve a little love too.