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In the (seemingly neverending) quest for good hair, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of a good shampoo. Forget extensive styling protocols consisting of multiple products or tech-y hot tools: Good, make that great, hair starts in the shower.
In fact, choosing the right shampoo can help you address your specific hair woes or needs or can help you avoid potential irritants and hair-damaging ingredients. It’s also essential to choose a shampoo that works with any coloring or treatments you may have.
Maybe you never pay much attention and just grab whatever bottle of shampoo is in front of you at the drugstore. Or perhaps you’ve been devoted to the same salon brand since high school and have never tried many of the new iterations that have launched since then.
Either way, we strongly advise you to stock your shower with any of these best shampoos, which offer a little something for everyone.
Best Overall: R+Co Television Perfect Hair Shampoo
Soothes the scalp
Available in a range of sizes
Not for all hair types
There’s truly nothing that this all-star sudser, a favorite of Byrdie's former Senior Social Media Manager Kelly Gallagher, can’t do. It helps moisturize both hair and scalp (thanks to ingredients such as babassu seed oil and glycerin), imparts volume and shine, all while smoothing, softening, and strengthening your strands. In short, it leaves your locks looking shampoo commercial ready after every wash.
Hair Type: Wavy, curly, coily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Damaged Hair: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Helps strengthen damaged hair
Mini size available
Can be a little drying
This is a staple for Byrdie Associate Editorial Director Hallie Gould, thanks to its deeply reparative prowess. Like its in-salon treatment counterpart, it contains ingredients that work to repair broken protein bonds in your hair. Translation? Hair becomes softer, smoother, and generally looks and feels better. Another plus: The formula is sulfate-free, so it shouldn't strip much-needed moisture, and Gould points out that it’s the only sulfate-free shampoo she’s found that actually lathers well.
Hair Type: Color-treated, damaged | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 3.3 / 8.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Volumizing: Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Shampoo
Won't weigh down hair
Available in value size
Got limp strands? Shampoo choice is even more crucial for you than for most. Yes, you need something that’s going to effectively clean—fine hair tends to be naturally oilier—but the last thing you want is a formula that’s going to further weigh down your strands. Enter this pick.
The formula relies on ginseng to help make hair look fuller and boost it long-term. And speaking of instant gratification, it also contains a sugar starch that thickens hair, so it looks more voluminous as soon as you step out of the shower.
Hair Type: Fine, thin | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Floral | Size: 8 / 33.8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Drugstore: Pantene Pro-V Blends Micellar Shampoo
Hair feels fresh and clean
Helps control excess oil
You’ve seen micellar waters in the skincare aisle; this shampoo works by the same mechanism of action. Tiny micelles act like magnets to attach to and whisk away dirt and oil, yet are gentle enough to not over strip your hair. It’s a staple in our showers, leaving our manes feeling and looking completely clean every time. Plus, you can nab a big ol’ bottle of it at the drugstore for cheap.
Hair Type: Fine, thin| Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Fresh | Size: 10.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Oily Scalps: RE-fresh Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Soothes the scalp
Helps fight flakes and itching
Per the name, this is a top choice to reach for if you’re fighting flakes. But it’s also an excellent option for anyone dealing with a generally oily, itchy scalp, even if you don’t have dandruff. Credit a two-percent concentration of oil-zapping salicylic acid, which also gently exfoliates. It’s typically gentle enough to use daily, or just keep it on-hand for whenever your scalp is acting up.
Hair Type: Oily | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Herbal | Size: 13.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Frizzy Hair: Davines Love Smoothing Shampoo
Combat errant flyaways with this shampoo. Equal parts creamy and foamy, it cleanses while also helping to smooth, add shine, and helps reduce frizz. It amps up glossiness, too, and is an especially great option for thicker hair.
Hair Type: Thick | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Floral | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Curly Hair: GIRL+HAIR CLEANSE+ Water-To-Foam Moisturizing Sulfate Free Shampoo For Curly Hair
Softens curly and coily hair
Soothes the scalp
Could be more hydrating
Curly hair undoubtedly requires a little extra TLC and calls for carefully chosen products, shampoo included. This is a surefire pick, specially formulated for curly, kinky, coiled, and natural hair. Sulfate-, alcohol-, and paraben-free, this pick helps curls retain moisture with shea butter and even has tea tree oil to help address scalp issues.
Hair Type: Wavy, curly, coily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Tea tree | Size: 10.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Colored Hair: Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo for Color Treated Hair
Helps preserve hair color
Not Byrdie Clean
If you color your hair, opting for a dedicated, color-safe shampoo is a must when it comes to safeguarding your shade. This is one especially great option (and it too can be found at the drugstore). It’s sulfate-free and touts a unique blend of protein-rich ingredients to help further keep your hue vibrant and hair super strong. Yes, please on both.
Hair Type: Color-treated | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 13.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for All Hair Types: Alterna My Hair My Canvas Me Time Everyday Shampoo
Works on all hair types
Balances hair and scalp
Could be more hydrating
Consider this a foolproof, universal crowd-pleaser. It checks all of our shampoo criteria boxes, effectively cleansing while potentially strengthening strands with a vegan, botanically-derived, protein-rich caviar and delivering protective antioxidants to boot. Happy reviewers note that it tends to work just as well on fine, thin hair as it does kinky curls, and we’d be remiss, not to mention the clean, fresh scent we can’t get enough of.
Hair Type: All| Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 8.5 / 16.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Splurge: Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo
Hydrates dry hair
Gould vouches that this pick is worth every penny. While it starts as an oil, it quickly transforms into a luscious lather that seriously purifies both strands and scalp. It’s choice for a deep clean, though it still leaves your hair hydrated and soft (even before you reach for conditioner). Not to mention, it’s also an excellent pick for all hair types and densities.
Hair Type: Dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 13.4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Sensitive Skin: SEEN Skin-Caring Fragrance-Free Shampoo
Won't irritate the scalp
Simple, soothing formula
Could be more hydrating
We know what you’re thinking—this is a shampoo story; why are we talking about skin? Well, because not only is your scalp skin, but shampoo can also be the culprit behinds all kinds of skin issues, from breakouts to weird rashes. That’s why we think this pick is so excellent; the dermatologist-designed shampoo is non-comedogenic (so it shouldn't clog pores) and is formulated without a long list of possible skin irritants. But don’t worry, it still does a superb job as a shampoo. File under: Why didn’t we think of that?
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 8.6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Scent: Authentic Beauty Concept Glow Cleanser
Of course, it’s essential to find a shampoo that meets your hair care needs, but let’s be honest—if it doesn’t smell good, you probably aren’t going to want to use it, right? At least, we aren’t. There are so many shampoos that smell amazing out there these days, but it’s this one that truly could take the place of your favorite perfume. It’s rich and just a little bit spicy, with notes of cinnamon and date. (Sounds strange, but it works—trust.)
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Original | Size: 10.1 / 33.8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What to Look for in a Shampoo
Choose a shampoo that targets your specific hair type and concerns. There are varieties for all sorts of issues, whether you need volume, moisture, curl-enhancement, oil, or frizz control. Some shampoos offer strengthening with special botanicals or proteins like keratin.
If you have a condition such as scalp psoriasis or dandruff, choose a shampoo with active ingredients that help prevent it, such as salicylic acid for the former and zinc pyrithione for the latter.
Popular ingredients in shampoo can actually damage your hair, stripping it of its natural oils and leaving it prone to breakage. One of these ingredient types is sulfates, including sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate, which are chemical detergents that can remove too much of your hair's protective oils and moisture.
You may also wish to avoid parabens, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. The FDA has not banned the use of parabens or determined that they lead to cancer but says more research is warranted.
Some people are more sensitive to fragrances than others. Fragrances might lead to irritation and dandruff in some susceptible people. Choosing essential oil-based scents or avoiding perfumed shampoos might be your best bet in that case.
Color and Treatment Safe
If you color or treat your hair, look for a shampoo that won't counteract your results. Some shampoos will fade color-treated hair, and others are too harsh to use with treatments like keratin or relaxing. Avoid sulfates, sarcosines like sodium lauryl sarcosinate, and sulfosuccinates in particular.
What is shampoo?
Shampoo is a cleanser that removes dirt, oil, hair product build-up, pollutants, and sweat. Surfactants are present in shampoo, which are surface-acting agents that react with water and help to break down dirt and oil.
What shampoos are bad for hair?
Some shampoos are harmful to hair because they contain ingredients that can strip it of its natural oils and moisture, leaving hair dry and brittle and prone to breakage. Depending on your hair type and needs, some ingredients that may be best avoided include sulfates, parabens, polyethylene glycols, triclosan, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances and colors, dimethicone, and retinyl palmitate.
Can I use conditioner without shampoo?
Some people prefer to use conditioner without shampoo, at least some of the time. This may work for some, especially if you find shampooing too frequently leaves your hair dry. Some people use an apple cider vinegar or baking soda rinse before conditioning. However, never using shampoo might leave you with too much oil and product build-up in your hair.