A Guide to Picking the Best Shampoo for You

Woman in bathtub washing hair
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Step into the haircare aisle of any beauty store and chances are you'll be bombarded with options. Between the affordable and pricy, the volumizing and sleek-inducing, it can be a daunting task choosing among a sea of perfectly lined up bottles. Still, choosing the right shampoo for your specific hair type is the first step of achieving salon-worthy results. Below, we're giving you the scoop on what makes a good shampoo and what to look for in a shampoo, from ingredients to price tag. Our goal? To help make every day a good hair day.

Shampoo Ingredients

The laundry list of tongue-twisting ingredients on shampoo bottles can be confusing, we get it. Taking the cake as the most common are sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate, which are the ingredients that give shampoo that lather factor that we've come to equate with cleansing.

However, these foaming agents can actually be irritants that strip your hair of its natural oils. Thankfully, there's a slew of sulfate-free shampoos available, proving that sulfates aren't all they're cracked up to be. And most of them aren't shy about being sulfate-free, so if that's not on the label, take note.

Affordable vs. Expensive Shampoo

Is there really a difference between drugstore and salon shampoos? That's the battle that seems to never end. When it comes to prestigious shampoos, you're investing in the research that went into developing a quality formula. On the flip side, drugstore shampoos have come a long way and many are free of harsh chemicals.

If you're on a budget, try alternating between drugstore and salon-brand shampoos.

Affordable shampoos might strip hair of its natural oils, which can be an issue for those with color-treated hair or hair that's already dry to begin with. Thankfully, sulfate-free alternatives at an accessible price point do exist.

Kristen Ess The One Signature Shampoo
Kristen Ess The One Signature Shampoo $9.00

As for more splurge-worthy options, while they tend to be pricier, they tend to be more specialized (versus their affordable, more generic counterpart). Plus, they're more likely to offer unique, quality ingredients, which accounts for the higher price tag.

Playa Everyday Shampoo
Playa Everyday Shampoo $28.00

This shampoo features capryl glucoside, a coconut-derived alternative to sulfate that offers a light foam and ultra-clean feel.

Picking a Shampoo for Your Hair Type

Just as skin type matters when picking a face mask, hair type matters when picking a shampoo. Here's a breakdown.

  • Fine hair: Thinner hair tends to get oily fast. Avoid creamy shampoos and look for clear formulas instead. Gentle and volumizing daily shampoos are good bets.
Hask Biotin Boost Thickening Shampoo
Hask Biotin Boost Thickening Shampoo $6.00
  • Frizzy hair: If you're forever dealing with frizz and flyaways, your secret to softer hair may actually be more in the conditioner than the shampoo.
Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo
Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo $29.00
  • Dry, coarse hair: While parched locks can use a creamy moisturizing shampoo, it's important to note that they should never skimp on conditioner. In fact, some people with this hair type ditch shampoo altogether and turn to co-washing instead (conditioner-only washing).
Seen Conditioner
Seen Conditioner $26.00

What Is the No-Poo Method?

Some people with dry, curly, coarse, and/or frizzy hair swear by the no-poo or co-washing method. This means using little to no shampoo and instead using conditioners to soften and hydrate hair.

Deva Curl No-Poo Conditioning Cleanser
Deva Curl No-Poo Conditioning Cleanser $23.00

Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair

Rocking colored locks? Reach for a shampoo that's specially designed for color-treated hair, as these are made to contain gentle ingredients that deposit and preserve color.

The goal is to reinforce weak areas in the hair shaft that my occur as a result of coloring, straightening, relaxing, or perming hair. Try looking for protein-based shampoos with ingredients such as wheat and soy extracts or silk amino acids.

Unfortunately, overly processed hair might have oily roots but dry ends, so washing it could require cleansing at the roots and moisturizing at the ends. In this case, it's best to wash hair every other day with a shampoo made for normal hair. Concentrate on cleaning the scalp, then use a strong conditioner only on the mid-shaft to the ends of hair. 

Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo
Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo $34.00

Reach for Dry Shampoo

If you want to buy a day between washing or you need to refresh your hair post-workout, dry shampoo (a powdered shampoo that doesn't require water) is a no-brainer.

Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk
Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk $29.00

The Best Shampoos for Dandruff

To remedy dandruff, try rotating over-the-counter dandruff shampoos. The idea is that this prevents the fungus from adapting to a single shampoo. Try the following formulas with beneficial ingredients.

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo-Scalp Build-Up Control
Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo-Scalp Build-Up Control $9.00 $7.00
Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo Medicated
Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo Medicated $7.00
Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Pack of Two $22.00

How to Get Rid of Product Buildup

If your hair needs a deep clean, opt for a clarifying shampoo once a week. You could also rinse hair with a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water to try to help dissolve dead skin cells and buildup on your scalp.

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