Choosing the correct shampoo for your hair type can mean the difference between feeling really good and feel "eh" about your hair on any given day. Shampoo is meant to remove dirt, sebum (oils), and product buildup from your hair. But there are dozens of different brands to choose from—and even more types within those brands.
The same goes for conditioners. Conditioners are meant to add shine, nourish, and protect hair from drying out, and allow for easier combing. Here, we run down the best shampoos and conditioners for four different hair types.
Curly hair is prone to dryness because oils produced in your scalp don't travel as easily down the hair shaft. So, look for formulas that offer a ton of hydration.
Shampoos: You need a shampoo that helps to soften, hydrate, and protect your hair, all the while maintaining your curl pattern. Creamy, moisturizing shampoos work best in that respect. Look on the ingredients list for wheatgerm oil, shea butter, and nut oils (almond and macadamia, for example) in your shampoos. Glycerin is also great for deep hydration as it tends to coat the hair shaft, trapping water inside.
Conditioners: Look for an ultra-moisturizing conditioner made especially for curly hair. Once a month (or more) use a hot oil treatment. In fact, when your hair is feeling extra dry, use a deep conditioning treatment as often as you'd like.
Extra tip: Curly hair doesn't need to be washed every day. In fact, cleansing your hair that often will likely dehydrate your strands and cause other damage (like breakage). Another alternative to shampoo washings is to rinse your hair with water and then follow with a conditioner. Also, lay off the hot tools (they tend to dry out your hair even more) and let curls your curls dry naturally.
Fine, Oily or Limp Hair
Fine hair is most susceptible to looking oily, so opt for clear, clarifying shampoos and stay away from the creamier ones.
Shampoos: You want a gentle shampoo marked for daily or frequent washing. The secret to fine-hair shampoo lies in a body-building ingredient called panthenol. Hair experts swear that panthenol penetrates the hair cuticle, making each strand feel and look thicker. Women with fine hair might also want to keep a good dry shampoo on hand to help buy time between shampoos. Not only will the dry shampoo soak up oils, but it adds body as well.
Conditioners: Not everyone with fine, oily, or limp hair needs conditioners. If you find you can easily comb out hair after washings without a conditioner, you can skip it. Conditioners are good for combing out fine hair. Just don't let the product touch your scalp, as it can weigh down hair at the roots. Massage a light-weight conditioner from mid-shaft down and no need to leave it on for long. If you have extremely greasy hair, look for oil-absorbing tea-tree oil in your conditioner.
Extra tip: Consider using a spray conditioner. They tend to be more lightweight and therefore don't weigh the hair down. Also, unless your hair is extra-oily, there's no need to rinse and repeat. One shampoo will do you. You don't have to lather twice.
Colored or Chemically-Treated Hair
Your goal is to reinforce weak areas in the hair shaft that comes from coloring, straightening, relaxing or perming your hair. Look for protein-based shampoos with ingredients such as wheat and soy extracts or silk amino acids.
Shampoos: Unfortunately, overly processed hair can suffer from oily roots but a dry shaft and ends. Therefore, washing processed hair can be a bit trickier. You want to cleanse the roots while moisturizing the ends. Concentrate on cleaning your scalp, then use a thick, protein-packed conditioner from your mid-shaft to ends. Here are other shampoo tips for the following processed hair types:
- Colored. Hair experts often swear color-protection shampoos contain gentle cleansers and ingredients that preserve color. Other experts suggest shampoos for color-treated hair are just another way for companies to make money off you. They suggest using a gentle cleanser such as baby shampoo instead of the pricey specialized shampoos. We say: Go with whatever works for you. Don't mind paying for the fancy stuff? Then do it. If you like it, then stick with it.
- Permed or relaxed. Any moisturizing shampoo will work for your hair type but apply it only to roots and rub it in well. Then apply a quick burst of water. While the water is running down the hair shaft, massage hair to remove any dirt and grime. Rinse well. You don't want to skip the conditioner. Make sure to keep conditioner from weighing down the roots.
Conditioners: Look for a rich conditioner to be used primarily on the ends of your hair. Avoid conditioners that contain silicone, since they tend to strip color.
Extra tip for processed hair: Wash your hair only every few days to prevent drying out (and color fading). You can use a dry shampoo; or if you're blonde, a talcum powder, in between washings.
Dry or Damaged Hair
Shampoos: Avoid clear shampoos and go straight for the creamy ones. These smooth, de-tangle, and diffuse static. Look for glycerin and collagen to help restore the moisture balance to your hair.
Conditioners: Again, moisturizing is key. You'll want to look for an ultra-moisturizing conditioner.