Reader's Digest March 8, 2023

Reader's Digest


7 Best Under-$15 Shampoos Stylists Use at Home


You don’t need to spend a fortune to have amazing hair—and if you choose one of these cheap shampoos, you don’t even need to spend more than a few dollars!

Slash your shampoo budget

If you’ve been searching high and low for the best shampoo for your hair type and coming up with mostly wallet-bending options, there’s good news. It turns out that top stylists actually like—and sometimes even prefer!—cheap shampoo brands. Who knew?

Investing in professional hair color and cuts is important explains Felicia Dosso, a top colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. But as long as you have a skilled stylist, “shampoos can be comparable in terms of ingredients when when there is a price difference,” she says. Even an eco-friendly shampoo bar can do the job well.

But, of course, not all cheap shampoo options are created equal. Whether you’re trying to kick oiliness, restore curls, thicken hair or grow a few inches through scalp massage, we all need a quality shampoo. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. Here are professional stylists’ top picks for every hair type, all under $15. (And some under $5!) Another easy and affordable way to ensure your locks are lustrous? Learn the truth behind these common hair myths and invest in a once-a-week clarifying shampoo.

Another tip: boost almost any existing drugstore favorite with over-the-counter hair-boosting additives. Bjor Krischker, a session hairstylist and men’s groomer based in London, England, recommends hyaluronic acid. Add a few drops of The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Hair Treatment to any cheap shampoo to transform a ho-hum drugstore formula into one worthy of salon prices.

The best cheap shampoo for your hair care routine

Best overall
Native Daily Clean Shampoo

Many people love Native for its odor-blocking, natural deodorants, but the shampoos are the true star of the show. There are only 10 ingredients in this shampoo formula, and each one is explained on the packaging so you know what you’re putting in your hair. The Daily Clean Shampoo lathers like a dream to clean buildup, add shine and works just as well as your favorite stylist. Pair it with a scalp brush and you’re good to go.


Made with only 10 ingredients, but still gentle enough for daily use
The 16.5-ounce size is bigger than most drugstore shampoo
Native has a variety of shampoos in different scents
Also comes in a smaller, travel size


Strong scents may trigger sensitive noses

Best budget
Pure Oils Moisturizing Detangling Shampoo

At less than $5, Pure Oils Moisturizing Detangling Shampoo does it all. It gently cleanses, uses grape seed oil to add moisture, reduces breakage with aloe vera and olive oil and detangles. It provides the perfect base for the perfect blowout or diffuser routine.


Cleanses and nourishes hair for less than $5—which is cents per use!
Some reviewers with scalp psoriasis noted a positive change in their hair
Works well with any hair type from fine to curly


Some users with allergies reported itchiness after a few uses

Best for curly hair
Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Shampoo

Curly hair requires moisture—and lots of it. Shea Moisture has some of the best curl friendly hair products on the market and this Curl & Shine Shampoo is no exception. This cheap shampoo for curly hair boots elasticity while replenishing natural hair oils and shine. Want to look like you went to an expensive salon for your curly cut? Try it with these curly hair products to restore your tresses.


Replenishes natural hair moisture for bouncier, healthier curls
Clean formula is free of parabens, sulfates and other chemicals
Reviews say hibiscus flower and coconut make the shampoo smell amazing


Using too much product at once can make hair heavy and oily

Best for sensitive scalps
Kristen Ess Extra Gentle Shampoo for Sensitive Skin + Scalp

Some clarifying shampoos or heavily fragranced shampoos can be too harsh for sensitive skin, contributing to dandruff or irritation. This gentle option by Kristen Ess doesn’t weigh hair down or cause buildup. The fragrance is light, so it won’t irritate your skin, either. If you struggle with a sensitive scalp and dandruff, try these natural remedies.


Gentle formula is calming for sensitive scalp
There’s no strong fragrance that can cause irritation
Vegan, cruelty-free and color safe formula


Most critical reviews on Amazon have to do with faulty or broken packaging

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Best for color treated hair
L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo

“L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo is one of my go-to drugstore buys because it’s sulfate-free, so it’s hair color– and keratin treatment–friendly,” Dosso says of this inexpensive shampoo. She adds that its special formulation not only replenishes dry hair but also leaves it super shiny and silky. Another bonus? It’s a vegan product and can easily be followed up with a hair mask to seal in hydration.


Safe to use on color treated hair
Vegan, cruelty-free formula
Boosts moisture and volume without stripping color
Works on thick, fine and curly hair


Rosemary may be an overpowering scent for sensitive noses

Best for dry hair
OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo

Dosso’s work with all types of textures has taught her a lot about the value of hair products that fight flatness and tame frizz. “I love the OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Shampoo in the winter months when my hair is feeling extra dry,” she says. “It’s made with real coconut milk, coconut oil and whipped egg-white proteins, which leave my hair feeling strong and hydrated. It works as well as a $40 product!” This impressive hair helper is also paraben-free and sulfate-free.


Coconut and whipped egg-white proteins work wonders to replenish moisture
Works on all hair types
Adds hydration without the greasy feeling


Don’t love the smell of coconut? You may not like this shampoo
Not sulfate free

Best for damaged fine hair
Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Shampoo

“This budget shampoo is one of my personal favorites for most hair types, but particularly finer hair that has damage,” explains Sophia Porter, a celebrity hairstylist at Exclusive Artists in Los Angeles. “It has a gentle cleansing formula enriched with hydrolyzed keratin to help strengthen hair strands while cleansing. I would say this shampoo is good for those who like to wash daily or those who do not need intense cleansing power.” Quick check: Are you guilty of these fine-hair styling mistakes?


Repairs damage brought on by heat and color treatments
Reduces frizz
Keratin helps strengthen weak hair


Some users reported less volume in their hair after using the shampoo
Not the best option for people with sensitive scalps

What to consider when buying the best shampoo

Not all shampoo is a one-size-fits-all situation. When determining the best shampoo for you, consider your hair type, texture, needs and preferences. Whether you have color treated, curly, oily or thinning hair, find the formula and ingredients that work for you.

How we found the best cheap shampoo

As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.


Are cheap shampoos as good as expensive ones?

What matters in a shampoo is its ingredients, not its price tag. Packaging and marketing may lead you to believe an expensive shampoo is a miracle worker, but the truth is a drugstore shampoo can work just as well. Check the ingredients and formula for your best match.

Can cheap shampoo damage hair?

Affordable shampoo isn’t the guaranteed cause of damaged hair, but harmful ingredients may be. Silicones, sulfates, parabens and other chemicals can cause hair loss, irritation and dandruff. These ingredients are cheaper for manufacturers to produce, so it’s best to find a clean formula as opposed to a cheap one.


Felicia Dosso, a top colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City
Sophia Porter, a celebrity hairstylist at Exclusive Artists in Los Angeles
Stephanie Angelone, the lead stylist and extensions expert at RPZL in New York City
Shelly Aguirre, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago
Doris Day, MD, a New York–based doctor and clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health
Bjor Krischker, a session hairstylist and men’s groomer based in London, England

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