As a kid, I always hated my thick, frizzy hair. I’d wince in agony as I muscled my hairbrush through layers of Gordian-like knots, tangled in accidental dreadlocks, unmanageable in mornings before school. I’d weep silently as I ventured into the heavy summer humidity, where my hard work quickly unraveled and my long locks clustered into chaos. Unlike my prim-and-proper neighbor, whose spaghetti-thin strands never wavered, I was constantly re-fixing my pony tail as my hair always spilled into my face.
Now, many years later, I can only dream of such full, thick locks. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my hair stopped growing past my shoulders, or when its volume whittled down the wispy strands I used to covet, but I often shrugged it off as the usual suspects: stress, aging, hormonal changes, maybe even nutritional deficiencies that I’d long since neglected.
But maybe, suggested my red-haired running friend – whose own, long mane was ever-flowing – the blame belonged to a more controllable culprit: split ends and breakage.
— Be Beautiful (@BeBeautiful_In) August 24, 2021
I yanked out my loosened hair tie and let my limp curls fall free. “Oh, yeah,” confirmed my running partner, “You definitely have split ends.”
From spending so much time in the scorching sun, I figured I had heat-damaged hair that was prone to dry out and fray. I also knew that my tendency to pull it back all the time was not doing my follicles any favors. What I didn’t realize, though, was that the hair-care products on my shower shelf were literally the death of my scalp.
Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole. But when my friends learned that my favorite shower staple was the ultra-time-saving, 2-in-1 bottle of shampoo and conditioner I snagged on sale at CVS, let’s just say, they were horrified.
Here’s the thing: I’m an incorrigibly impatient person, so I’m easily wooed by convenience. Plus, my boyfriend always swore by the magical 2-in-1 mixture, so I thought I had scored gold. But I should have remembered the wise old adage: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And since shampoo and conditioner serve opposite purposes (shampoo strips away your oils, while conditioner adds moisture back in), you can’t lump them together and expect hair-replenishing results.
Damn just found out that the 5 in 1 shampoo I’ve been using was actually referencing it’s benefits to my hair and didn’t actually mean it was shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and meal replacement. This is arguably one of my worst discoveries to date. pic.twitter.com/Z32EkOAVnU
— cody 🦝 (@TheLastHimbo) January 28, 2019
Basically, if I really longed to reclaim my once thick, wavy locks, I had to start lathering with something different. But I knew not to set too-lofty goals: the likelihood of my seeking out a specialty beauty store for shampoo was slim to none. The local drugstore would remain my mecca for protein bars and hair products alike, but it was time to break up with the mega-bottle. The question was, if not the convenient cleanser I’d latched onto for so long, what kind of shampoo should I be buying?
Which Drugstore Shampoo Is Right For You?
Hungry for the holy grail, I set out to ask the experts. The solution, they said? It depends.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for this answer, as it is strictly based on the person’s hair and hair type,” explained Dani Everson, a Denver-based hairstylist and salon owner. “I love any and all ‘clay’ ingredients for oily hair, an oily blend for coarse, curly hair, and a protein source for fine, thin hair.”
As for ingredients to avoid, “I would recommend anyone to stay away from sulfates,” Everson advised. “Also, stay clear from too much alcohol in products for fine hair – in the moment, they can give you some ‘ooh-la-la’ volume, but [alcohol] can be really drying and can be damaging to the hair if used consistently.”
Speaking of damage, how should a basket case like me repair my fantastically fried ends?
“This is where technology comes in to soothe frizzled strands. Look for shampoos that contain hair-bond-repairing ingredients for the inside of the hair shaft,” explained Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and beauty consultant from Chicago. “You also want something to smooth and stand in for missing hair cuticle shingles on the outside. Keratin shampoos can help here, as can shampoos that contain hydrolyzed proteins and silicone,” she said.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a rush to grab and go from the convenience store, I don’t tend to scrutinize the label on my shampoo bottle. But as I quickly learned while scouring the sea of available hair products online, many of them tell you exactly what to expect (or not to expect) within the product name. For instance, some shampoos clearly advertise that they’re sulfate- or paraben-free, which means they’re less likely to dry out your hair. Others boast that they contain proteins like elastin, collagen, or keratin, which – like the experts explained – can help to restore healthy locks.
Even with these guidelines and a firmer grasp of the lingo, the options can seem overwhelming – especially when you’re making a change after years of product loyalty. But if you’ve read this far and you’re still feeling frazzled with your frizzy hair, worry no more: we’ve performed the painstaking research and rounded up a list of the best drugstore shampoos you can buy basically anywhere, without making a beeline to the beauty store.
Whether you’re like me and desperately seeking to salvage your split ends, or you want to keep your color-treated locks looking shiny and smooth, there’s a shampoo on this list that can perfect your summer ‘do. So, hold all the chemicals, pack in the proteins, and pump up the volume with our newest lineup of beautifying bottles:
Best All-Natural Drugstore Shampoo: Native Volumizing Shampoo, Cucumber & Mint, Sulfate & Paraben Free, 16.5 oz
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Curly/Frizzy Hair: MONDAY Haircare Smooth Shampoo, SLS- & Paraben-Free, 354ml (12 oz)
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Damaged Hair: L’Oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Daily Shampoo & Conditioner, 2 Piece (12.6 oz each)
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Color-Treated Hair: Hairitage Color Check Color Care Moisturizing Shampoo For Color Treated Hair, 13 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Fine Hair: L’Oreal Paris EverPure Volume Sulfate Free Shampoo For Fine Hair, 8.5 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Hard-To-Grow Hair: Not Your Mother’s Way To Grow Long And Strong Shampoo For All Hair Types, 8 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Volumizing: Burt’s Bees Very Volumizing Nourishing Moisturizing Sulfate-Free Daily Shampoo With Pomegranate, 10 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Dry Hair: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, 8.5 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Oily Hair: Headquarters Oil-Away Shampoo For Oily Scalp And Hair, 12 oz.
Best Drugstore Clarifying Shampoo: Nexxus Clean & Pure Clarifying Nourishing Repairing Daily Shampoo With ProteinFusion, 16.5 oz.
Best Drugstore Shampoo For Brunettes: Not Your Mother’s Triple Threat Brunette Moisturizing Blue Treatment Shampoo, 8 oz.
Best Drugstore Dry Shampoo: Dove Care Between Washes Detox And Purify Oil Control Dry Shampoo, 5 oz.
The Native brand is known for its commitment to natural ingredients, and this cucumber-scented concoction is no exception. The all-natural volumizing shampoo provides weightless lift in its vegan, cruelty-free formula to unleash your fullest locks. Real 5-star review: “I love that it has only 10 essential ingredients that I can pronounce. They give the reason for every ingredient listed. It was light on my hair and my scalp and hair felt very clean. My hair is fine and thin and it never felt weighed down like some I have used. The fragrance was perfect and smelled incredible for two straight days. I would highly recommend this shampoo.”
If your goal is cleansing while combating frizz, this smoothing shampoo is for you. The vegan, cruelty-free cream contains coconut oil, shea butter, and vitamin E to soften and nourish. Real 5-star review: “This MONDAY Haircare SMOOTH Shampoo has left my formerly dry and brittle hair softer and shinier than it has ever been. I love this shampoo, and it has restored health and beautiful bounce to my hair. Excellent product.”
For dry and damaged hair, you won’t find a better total-repair system than this shampoo and conditioner pair. The protein-based blend is specially formulated to fight these five signs of damage: weak, fried, brittle, tangled, and split ends. Real 5-star review: “I got a free sample to try in the mail! I will be purchasing this in the shampoo and conditioner for sure! My hair felt so soft. It smells amazing! Gave my lifeless hair its shine and body back! Love these products! Highly recommend this if you process your hair with heat and chemicals!”
This color-care shampoo is specially formulated with UV filters that prevent color washout, oxidizing, and fading. The elderberry blend is also vegan, cruelty-free, and free of sulfates or parabens. Real 5-star review: “[This is] the best clean color shampoo I have used, and I’ve tried very expensive, high-end [products], thanks to my hairstylist friend. Smells great, gentle, and does the job leaving a nice sheen and softness. What a find!”
This body-boosting shampoo is best for color-treated hair that feels flat and fine. The sulfate- and paraben-free formula features lotus flower that cleanses gently with a fresh, floral fragrance. Real 5-star review: “I LOVE that it’s 100% vegan, paraben-free, sulfate-free, free of harsh salts, and easy on colored hair. It does give light volume, and I love the way my hair looks after drying. Even though it is sulfate-free, it does have a good lather to it. Definitely give it a try!”
This strengthening shampoo is packed with vitamin E, keravis, and biotin to promote healthy growth for all hair types. The protein-based formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and free of harsh chemicals, for a lather that will leave your hair long and strong. Real 5-star review: “This is the only shampoo that stopped my extreme hair loss after COVID. Thank you for a quality product!!! Only shampoo I will use from now onward. My hair stylist even said I have plenty of new growth coming in – very grateful.”
Burt’s Bees Very Volumizing Nourishing Moisturizing Sulfate-Free Daily Shampoo With Pomegranate, 10 oz.
This antioxidant-rich, volumizing shampoo is infused with pomegranate seed oil and avocado oil, plus jojobas protein to promote fuller, healthier-looking hair. The formula is 99.6% natural and sulfate-free and nourishes your hair with a fresh pomegranate scent. Real 5-star review: “My hair is fine and this product really does give it volume. Does not weigh it down like some products do. Plus, it smells amazing! Highly recommend for any hair type but especially if you need volume.”
This moisturizing shampoo helps restore your hair’s hydration through reparative bond-building properties. The natural antioxidants also improve strength and shine for all hair types without sulfates or parabens. Real 5-star review: “Olaplex products, although a little pricier than regular hair products, truly improve my hair. This shampoo needs very little to lather, so I know in the long run, it’s not too costly. My hair feels and looks healthier than ever.”
This oil-reducing shampoo washes away dirt and build-up without stripping your scalp of its natural moisture. The proprietary, cruelty-free formula is free of sulfates, parabens, and drying alcohols and leaves your scalp with a fresh grapefruit and basil fragrance. Real 5-star review: “I absolutely love it! I have extremely oily hair, especially if I don’t wash my hair consistently, so this came in handy. That leaves my scalp feeling purified and extremely healthy.”
This nourishing, clarifying shampoo includes a protein fusion of elastin and marine minerals to repair and replenish your hair. The moisture-locking formula is paraben- and silicone-free and can help all hair types look silky and smooth. Real 5-star review: “This shampoo leaves my hair feeling and looking so amazing. My hair is so soft and silky-feeling. I also noticed if I skip a day of washing, my hair tends to be less oily, which I believe is because this shampoo properly balances my hair. I have sensitive skin and this also doesn’t make my scalp itchy like other shampoos do.”
This blue-pigment shampoo is the bomb for brunettes with color-treated hair. The deep blue shampoo combats brass and orange tones while gently cleansing in a sulfate- and paraben-free formula (that’s also vegan and cruelty-free). Real 5-star review: “I picked this up after reading some reviews and WOW! With the first use there was a noticeable difference in the brassiness, the brunette appeared more brunette and the blonde was a little more cool toned. I’ve used it a few more times and keep seeing differences in the tones, and I’m super pleased with this product.”
This weightless dry shampoo removes excess oil from your hair between washes, without leaving any residue. The spray shampoo is specially formulated for oily hair but can also revive limp or dry strands. Real 5-star review: “I love this dry shampoo! The fragrance is really fresh and pleasant and it isn’t overwhelming. After spraying it on my hair and brushing it, I noticed it leaves a bit of residue on my brush and hands, but not on my hair. It does grant it a clean look for an extra day, which for those with oily scalp is a big win already.”
Which hair type are you? What shampoo do you swear by? Tell us in the comments!
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