Though washing your hair is a regular part of your beauty routine, it requires more decisions than you think. After all, everyone’s hair wash routine looks different depending on their hair and skin type. Those with oily scalps may require more frequent lathers while those with more brittle strands can extend the time between shampoos. Beyond that, your hair texture influences which shampoo you should be using.
There’s a reason your hair always looks top-tier after a visit to your local hairstylist. Professionals can identify your hair’s needs based on its texture and thickness. Sure, daily trips to the salon would improve our hair game, but they would also take a toll on our wallets. In an effort to save our strands and wallets, we went on a hunt for drugstore shampoos that deliver salon-level results from your shower.
To find the best options on the market, we interviewed four professional hairstylists on their favorite drugstore shampoos as well as some of our staff favorites. Below, you’ll find options that tackle issues like damaged hair, irritated scalps, fine strands, and dry hair.
Read on to discover which drugstore shampoos made the cut.
Nexxus Ultralight Smooth Weightless Frizz Protection Shampoo
What We Love: Though it’s sulfate-free, it still delivers a satisfying lather. A little goes a long way.
What We Don’t Love: This is one of the pricier selections on this list.
This accessible cleanser earned the top spot on our list for its versatility, impressive lather, and professional endorsement. Unilever stylist and celebrity hair artist Lacy Redway has worked on clients ranging from Anne Hathaway to Gabrielle Union, and she recommends this option for those experiencing dryness. Formulated for all hair types, “the wash and care duo can block out frizz up to 98%, which is vital during peak warmer months,” she says, “The ProteinFusion formula keeps hair moisturized, which in turn prevents strands from breaking.”
It is priced a bit higher than some of the other drugstore selections, but we think the extra spend is worth it for the results.
Size: 13.5 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Fine Hair:
Monday Haircare Volume Shampoo
What We Love: This gentle gel cleanses at the root without leaving residue on the strands.
What We Don’t Love: It can take a lot of product to fully cleanse the hair.
Fine hair is often confused with thin hair, but they are not the same. Fine hair means the strands are smaller in diameter, while thin hair means there are not as many strands on your head. Unfortunately, fine hair can appear limp and become easily weighed down by styling products. Thankfully, this lightweight gel cleanses with the help of stimulating ginger root extract and nourishing vitamin E without leaving behind heavy residue or build up. To top it off, the extra large pump makes it easy to get product out of the bottle mid-shower.
It can take a few extra pumps to get enough product for the fresh and clean feeling, so don’t be shy when applying.
Size: 12 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Wavy Hair:
TRESemmé Moisture Rich Shampoo
What We Love: This supersized bottle delivers the most bang for your buck.
What We Don’t Love: This formula does include sulfates, so if you have a sensitive scalp, try another option.
“Wavy hair has more flexibility with product choices,” Redway explains, adding that she likes this option from TRESemmé for those with some extra bend to their strands. “It especially suits those who feel like their hair lacks luster, shine, and vibrancy,” she says. “Both the shampoo and conditioner are rich in vitamin E, which adds nourishment, hydration, and natural antioxidants which can aid hair growth and won’t weigh down strands when dry.”
The extra large bottle is the largest on this list, so it is especially geared towards those with longer and/or thicker strands. Despite this, it is one of the cheapest choices. It does include sulfates which means you’ll get all the satisfying bubbles, but it may be a little too harsh for those with more sensitive skin.
Size: 28 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: No
Best For Curly Hair:
Sienna Naturals H.A.P.I. Shampoo
What We Love: This vegan formula helps restore the curl pattern.
What We Don’t Love: We wish the bottle was a little bit bigger.
When it comes to curly hair, hydration is key. Adequate moisture helps hair maintain its curl pattern and reduces frizz. This option from Sienna Naturals is a favorite for celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood. “It’s a moisturizing shampoo that helps smooth frizz, restore curl pattern, and works for all textures,” she says, “It works great for dry or damaged hair and relaxed or color-treated hair. The geranium oil infused helps calm the scalp and its antibacterial properties remove build-up without stripping hair of moisture.”
Size: 10 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: No | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Coily Hair:
Carol’s Daughter Water Wash Day Delight Water to Foam Shampoo
What We Love: The targeted nozzle allows you to get to hard-to-reach areas on the scalp as well as protected styles.
What We Don’t Love: Because of the watery texture, it’s easy to waste product when using it.
Just as with curly hair, coily textured hair needs moisture. That being said, thick creams and balms can coat strands and weigh them down. This lightweight formula comes out as water and quickly turns into a cloud-like foam. Leatherwood loves to use products with aloe vera for its conditioning power. This cleanser “is infused with aloe vera and glycerin, and the nozzle works perfect for protective styles such as braids and weaves,” she says. “The targeted tip allows you to go directly on the scalp and within parts of your hair without disturbing the actual hairstyle.”
Just make sure to pay attention to how much you are letting out of the bottle because the watery texture can come out quicker than you think.
Size: 16.9 oz. | Hair Type: For Curl Types 3A-4C | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Color Treated Hair:
Sexy Hair Healthy Hair Color Lock Shampoo
What We Love: This cleanser helps break down tangles and knots without washing out color.
What We Don’t Love: The shape of the bottle makes it hard to get all of the product out.
After spending a bunch of cash at the salon, the last thing you want to do is rinse the fresh color out of your hair. To prevent that, look for shampoo bottles labeled “color safe.” In addition, your shampoo should be sulfate-free as these cleansing agents can make your follicle swell and drain the color out of your hair. Celebrity hairstylist Danielle Priano loves the ColorLock collection for protecting your dye job. Rose and almond oil ensure hair is hydrated, and the SLS-free formula conserves color for up to 75 washes.
Size: 10.1 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Blondes:
L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Purple Shampoo
What We Love: The pump allows you to access the product easily while in the shower.
What We Don’t Love: Make sure to distribute evenly as this product will alter the colors in your hair.
All blondes (natural or not) struggle to keep brassiness at bay, and it is not just them. Highlighted and silver hair have the same issue. Thankfully, though, purple shampoo helps counteract yellow and orange tones in your hair. To keep your strands looking fresh, celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Colombini recommends rinsing with this punching-packing purple powerhouse. The sulfate-free formula gently cleanses while cutting out unwanted tones and tinges. Though we love the way this cleans, our favorite part of the shampoo is the extra-large pump which ensures a mess-free application.
Size: 23 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Thin Hair:
Garnier Fructis Plumping Treat Shampoo + Watermelon Extract
What We Love: After one wash, hair feels lifted and more voluminous.
What We Don’t Love: The scent is really strong, so if you prefer a fragrance-free option, pick something else on the list.
Thickening shampoos can’t actually create more strands of hair on your head, but they can make it look like you have more strands on your head. This lifting cleanser hydrates your hair with watermelon extract and amino acids which plump up the strands without weighing your hair down.
Size: 11.7 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Sensitive Scalps:
Odele Ultra-Sensitive Shampoo Clean
What We Love: This cleanser is so gentle that it is accepted by the National Eczema Association.
What We Don’t Love: We didn’t have anything we did not like about this shampoo.
Scalp health is paramount for healthy hair. The skin on your head is like soil and the strands on your head are like plants. When the soil is healthy, plants grow well, but if your soil is unhealthy, plants wither. The same goes for your scalp — certain ingredients like cleansing agents or added fragrances can irritate sensitive skin. This cleansing gel is gentle on the skin but tough on grease and oil. Amino acids plus avena sativa (or oats) help soothe skin while breaking down excess dirt and debris.
Size: 13 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: No | Sulfate-Free: Yes
Best For Dandruff:
Head and Shoulders Supreme Detox and Hydrate Shampoo
What We Love: Zinc helps soothe the scalp and irritated skin.
What We Don’t Love: This shampoo is not color-safe, so look into something else if you have color-treated hair.
Dandruff is made of shedding built-up skin cells on your scalp. The good news is that dandruff is fairly easy to treat. The most important thing when looking for a dandruff-friendly shampoo is finding one that includes zinc. (Zinc, or zinc pyrithione, is anti-inflammatory and antifungal.) It helps diminish the growth of yeast which exacerbates flaking. Head and Shoulders is a staple when it comes to scalp care. This formula in particular uses zinc as well as Argan oil and coconut water to soothe the scalp.
Size: 11.8 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: No
Best For Dry Hair:
Dove Beauty Nutritive Solutions Strengthening Solutions Shampoo
What We Love: At under $5, this cleanser is a steal.
What We Don’t Love: For some, this shampoo can weigh down their hair.
Dry hair is prone to breakage and damage. So, to combat this, look for a strengthening shampoo. Redway recommends this pick for anyone experiencing breakage and/or looking to repair their hair. “It is formulated with a bio-restore complex, which means it can stop up to 98% of daily damage,” she explains. This shampoo is meant to improve your hair with each wash, so expect to see results with continued use.
Size: 12 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: No
Best For Damaged Hair:
L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo
What We Love: It helps rehabilitate damaged or chemically treated hair.
What We Don’t Love: The bottle is prone to leaks, so be aware while using.
From coloring to chemical treatments to regular heat styling, we put our strands through a lot. Over time, all of these behaviors can result in damaged and over-processed hair. The first step to rehabilitating your strands begins in the shower, and Colombini suggests you start with this option. Loaded with strengthening proteins, he recommends following the full system (aka using the conditioner and the mask) for maximum results. “This is great for curly hair or hair that tends to naturally lean more on the dry side,” he says.
Size: 12.6 oz. | Hair Type: All | Scented: Yes | Sulfate-Free: Yes
What To Keep In Mind
Just like skincare, ingredients in your shampoo influence your outcome. If you are looking for hydration, keep an eye out for moisturizers like coconut oil or shea butter. If you are looking for dandruff relief, look for shampoos with zinc. If a product contains SLS or sodium lauryl sulfates, you can expect a richer lather.
There is no set size for shampoos — they can range anywhere from eight ounces to 24 ounces. Depending on how much hair you have, an eight ounce may not take you very far. Before purchasing shampoo, compare the cost to how much product comes in the bottle to decide if it is worth it.
Your Questions, Answered
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
If you look online for an answer to this, you will find a variety of answers as everyone’s hair is different. Redway recommends washing as often as your hair needs. “Some of our hairstyles and hair types tend to have buildup a lot sooner than others,” she says, “For oily hair and scalp, I say two to three times a week, and for dryer types, I recommend once a week unless you style your hair with heavy products that cause buildup.”
Shab Reslan, a trichologist and hair expert says scalp type is another thing to take into account. “Shampoo frequency depends on one’s scalp type and how oily they are the day after washing their hair,” she explains. “Those with thicker and more textured hair can extend their shampoo days, compared to those with thinner and finer hair who are encouraged to shampoo more frequently to prevent their hair from appearing flatter and even thinner.”
Are Sulfates Bad For Your Hair?
Simply put: not necessarily. Sulfates act as a cleansing agent or the ingredient responsible for suds. They help rid the hair and scalp of dirt, oil, and debris. Sulfates usually appear on labels as sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate. Sulfates are beneficial as they clear build-up that can irritate the scalp. However, those with sensitive skin and dry, coarse hair may want to avoid it. For some, sulfates can strip the hair of natural oils or irritate the skin on your scalp. If you have used sulfates in the past without issues, chances are you don’t have to worry. But if you are experiencing irritation without understanding why, try an SLS-free option and see how you like it.
Why Trust InStyle
Anneke Knot is a full-time fashion and beauty freelance writer. Before freelancing, she wrote for Real Simple and Health magazines. Now, she writes about beauty and fashion for multiple publications. In order to find the best drugstore shampoo, Knot put top cleansers to the test. In addition, she interviewed professional hair stylists, so they could provide their top recommendations.