Real Simple February 23, 2024

Real Simple


The 14 Best Drugstore Shampoos of 2024


You don’t have to break the bank to achieve healthy hair.

The high-end shampoos that salons use can make your hair feel healthy and clean after a haircut, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to get comparable results at home. Drugstores offer a wide selection of shampoos at a lower price point, catering to everything from color-treated hair to dehydrated curls. Many shampoos boast being sulfate-free, paraben-free, or silicone-free, but if you’re not sure what that actually means or if it even benefits your hair type, shopping for the right product can feel like a guessing game.

“Using a shampoo that's tailored to your hair type is crucial because everyone's hair has unique needs,” says Kate Ross, a hair and beauty specialist at Irresistible Me. You’re more likely to see the results you desire if all of the active ingredients in the formula target specific concerns associated with your hair type. If a shampoo includes too many ingredients you don’t necessarily benefit from, it could result in overstripping or overloading your hair, making it harder to achieve your hair goals.

To help you figure out the best shampoo for you, we scrutinized brands that you can easily find at the drugstore, paying close attention to the ingredients in the formulas as well as what customers have said about the results. We also asked Shelly Aguirre, a stylist and extension specialist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, for insight on what qualities to look for in a shampoo, and what to avoid. No matter your hair type, you can trust any of the shampoos on this list to promote optimal hair and scalp health.

Best Overall

Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It offers a comprehensive solution for maintaining healthy hair, regardless of condition or texture.

What Could Be Improved

  • For only 10 ounces of product, it is pricier than most drugstore shampoos.

Shampoos that work for all types of hair can be hard to come by, but the Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo does a good job at addressing the concerns shared by many. It has a strong lather to leave oily hair feeling cleansed and clarified, yet it doesn't have drying sulfates, an ingredient that can be damaging to those with sensitive scalps or dry hair. Rather, the shampoo provides necessary moisture to frizzy or damaged hair and high porosity curls, but it’s still gentle and lightweight enough for thin and wavy hair.

This shampoo’s trademark feature is its Zip-Up Technology, named for its ability to "zip up" split ends with ease. The formula works to strengthen hair, condition the cuticles, and keep the color vibrant, which should help you maintain a healthy head of hair with regular use. Just bear in mind that the shampoo comes in a small 10 oz bottle, but you may be able to find larger sizes at your local drugstore.

Pair it with the Kristin Ess The One Signature Conditioner.

Hair Type: All | Key Ingredients: Keratin, pea protein, seed oil | Size: 10 and 33.8 ounces | Scent: Floral with notes of sandalwood

Best for Volume

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Volume Filler Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • Its volumizing effect can last up to 24 hours after use.

What Could Be Improved

  • The formula relies mostly on chemical ingredients and isn’t ideal for those wanting to avoid parabens and sulfates.

Hair products like hairspray and mousse are effective at enhancing flat, thin hair, but their volumizing results are short-lived. Instead of lifting your roots to create the illusion of volume, L'Oreal Paris Elvive Volume Filler Shampoo works differently by instead thickening each strand of hair with filloxane, a synthetic molecule that works by penetrating hair and reinforcing it with fibers.

The filloxane in the formula is also supplemented by wheat protein and collagen. “Protein and collagen will help the finer strands feel thicker,” explains Aguirre. These strengthening ingredients are ideal if your volume loss is due to damage or breakage. However, since the shampoo does contain parabens and sulfates in its formula, those looking for a chemical-free shampoo may want to consider less-harsh products.

Pair it with the L’Oreal Paris Elvive Volume Filler Conditioner.

Hair Type: Thin, flat | Key Ingredients: Filloxane, wheat protein, collagen | Size: 12.6 and 28 ounces | Scent: Floral

Best Clarifying

Pacifica Rosemary Purify Clarifying Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It removes many types of buildup with a formula that works for all hair types.

What Could Be Improved

  • It works best with consistent use over time, so you may not see immediate results.

Clarifying shampoos are often targeted towards people with naturally oily hair, but scalp buildup can be due to other factors such as an accumulation of hair product residue, sweat, and dead skin cells over time. Pacifica Rosemary Purify Shampoo tackles not just oil, but overall scalp congestion, making it suitable for all hair types. What’s particularly great about this product is that it effectively clarifies hair without the use of sulfates or parabens, the latter of which can clog pores. 

Instead of using harsh chemicals, the shampoo is formulated with spirulina, a natural antibacterial agent that helps regulate sebum production and control dandruff. It also contains peppermint oil and menthol, which can help improve blood flow to your scalp and hair follicles, while also leaving behind a refreshed, clean sensation. Since congested hair follicles aren’t conducive to healthy hair growth, this shampoo also uses rosemary oil to revitalize them. We do want to point out, however, that results aren’t instant, so repeated use is necessary to get the most out of this shampoo.

Pair it with the Pacifica Rosemary Purify Clarifying Conditioner.

Hair Type: All | Key Ingredients: Rosemary, mint, spirulina | Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Mint

Best for Color-Treated Hair

Garnier Fructis Color Shield Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It makes your hair dye look fresh for up to eight weeks when used with the conditioner.

What Could Be Improved

  • It isn’t a good choice for very fragile, excessively bleached hair due to sulfates.

There’s nothing worse than washing your freshly dyed hair, and seeing all the color go down the shower drain. Garnier Color Shield Shampoo is completely free of parabens, which can fade hair color, and is designed to prevent color fade from both washing and UV rays. The product also highlights that this benefit can last up to eight weeks, which is a solid amount of time for your new dye job to look brand new.

Instead of silicones, a synthetic moisturizer that can build up on the hair and scalp, this shampoo uses plant-based ingredients like grape seed oil and acai berry extract to help your hair bounce back to its softer, smoother, pre-color-treated state. The formula also contains niacinamide to rejuvenate scalp irritation from dye chemicals. However, if your hair is damaged from excessive bleaching, you may want to opt for a different shampoo as this product contains sulfates which can dry out your hair.

Pair it with the Garnier Color Shield Conditioner.

Hair Type: Color-treated | Key Ingredients: Acai berry extract, niacinamide, seed oil | Size: 12 and 22 ounces | Scent: Citrus

Best for Oily Hair

Nexxus Hydra-Light Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It replenishes the moisture in your hair without adding oiliness.

What Could Be Improved

  • If your hair isn’t very oily before you wash it, the sulfates may be too harsh.

It’s easy to find a shampoo that can eliminate oil, but many leave your hair dry. The Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo is powerful enough to rid your hair of oil buildup, but it’s not so harsh that it completely dries out your hair and scalp. Its cleansing formula is fortified with keratin, wheat protein, and deep sea minerals to strengthen your hair instead of completely stripping away both its oils and proteins.

Shampoos containing silicones aren’t ideal for those with oily tresses since they tend to weigh hair down, but this shampoo is silicone-free. It also uses moisturizing agents that are lightweight, so it’ll leave your locks hydrated, soft, and shiny unlike other moisturizing shampoos that often leave oily hair greasy. Be aware though that this formula does contain sulfates which can dry out your hair if it isn't very oily to begin with.

Pair it with the Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Conditioner.

Hair Type: Oily | Key Ingredients: Keratin, wheat protein, deep sea minerals | Size: 13.5 ounces | Scent: Citrus

Best for Dry Hair

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It can be used daily to moisturize your hair without leaving oily build up on your scalp.

What Could Be Improved

  • The shape of the bottle is awkward to hold and can be difficult to get shampoo out of.

If you have dry hair, you might assume that conditioner is the only way to moisturize it, but shampoo can make just as much of a difference. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Shampoo is hydrating like a conditioner, yet it can still cleanse your hair and leave it feeling refreshed. Rather than saturating your hair with natural oils, it harnesses the power of hyaluronic acid, which draws in moisture and seals it within your hair.

Since dryness starts from the root, this shampoo is also formulated to maintain the natural pH balance of your skin. It won't aggravate existing dryness, because it doesn't contain any SLS or SLES,1 sulfate-based surfactants that can irritate a dry scalp. One slight quirk with this product though is that the bottle is a little awkwardly shaped, making it a little difficult to handle and use.

Pair it with the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Conditioner.

Hair Type: Dry, Damaged | Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Cucumber, Anjou Pear, Blonde Woods

Best for Frizzy Hair

Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • The formula is very concentrated, so it only takes a little amount to tame your frizz.

What Could Be Improved

  • It doesn’t lather well, which could make it feel like your hair isn’t clean enough.

There are plenty of anti-frizz hair serums and sprays that can tackle frizziness in high porosity hair. If you prefer to keep your hair routine as simple as possible, however, consider washing your hair with the Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Shampoo. Designed specifically for frizzy hair, this shampoo uses a combination of plant extracts such as algae, jojoba leaf, rosemary, and aloe that lock moisture into your hair so it won’t absorb it from the humidity in the air (which causes frizziness).

This vegan-friendly, paraben-free shampoo also cleanses your hair with surfactants that are mild enough to use on color-treated hair, leaving your strands thoroughly cleaned and soft, all without stripping your dye job. Its proprietary Super Skinny Complex also reduces drying time, making your hair easier to manage and detangle. It’s worth mentioning that this shampoo doesn’t lather very well, so it may feel like your hair isn’t clean. While this isn’t technically the case, this can lead to overuse, which you want to avoid.

Pair it with the Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Conditioner.

Hair Type: Frizzy | Key Ingredients: Jojoba, aloe, rosemary | Size: 10.1 and 33.8 ounces | Scent: Fruity

Best for Fine Hair

Aveeno Scalp Soothing Fresh Greens Blend Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • Colloidal oatmeal is the number one ingredient, so the formula is very gentle on fine hair.

What Could Be Improved

  • It has a strong scent that may be too perfume-y for some.

Shampoos full of heavy ingredients and strong chemicals are sometimes too much for fine hair to handle, so opting for a gentle formula is key in keeping it healthy and strong. Instead of dyes, parabens, and sulfates, Aveeno Refresh & Thicken Shampoo is powered by natural ingredients. With a combination of colloidal oatmeal extract, rosemary, peppermint, and cucumber water, this shampoo nourishes and strengthens hair from the root to bring out the maximum natural volume of your hair. 

Those with fine hair will likely find this shampoo to be rejuvenating, however its scent may be a little strong. This is likely due to the prominent notes of rosemary and peppermint which can be pungent to some. Despite this, the formula is also pH-balanced to help maintain a healthy environment for your scalp and hair every time you wash it. 

Pair it with the Aveeno Refresh & Thicken Conditioner.

Hair Type: Fine | Key Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, rosemary, peppermint, cucumber | Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Fresh and clean

Best for Curly Hair

Pantene Pro-V Curl Perfection Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • The formula is nourishing and doesn’t just focus on curl definition.

What Could Be Improved

  • It may over-condition your hair if you don’t have dry curls.

When not properly cared for, curly hair is prone to frizz, tangling, and lack of curl definition. To prevent this, using a shampoo formulated for curly hair is essential. Pantene Pro-V Curl Perfection Shampoo cares for curls using PRO-V, the brand’s signature ingredient elixir that mimics the naturally occurring oils in hair with pro-vitamin B5, antioxidants, and lipids.

The paraben- and colorant-free formula targets the cuticle edges of your hair, promoting bouncier, more defined, shiny curls that are less prone to frizz. With five different conditioning agents, it effectively hydrates dry curls, while citric acid and sodium citrate help balance the pH of your scalp. While we highly recommend this product for curly-haired folk, those who don’t have dry curls may find the formula to be over-conditioning.

Pair it with the Pantene Pro-V Curl Perfection Conditioner.

Hair Type: Curly | Key Ingredients: Pro-vitamin B5 | Size: 12.6 ounces and 10.4 ounces | Scent: Floral and fruity with notes of sandalwood, cedarwood, and jasmine.

Best for Coily Hair

Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It makes coils ultra soft ,and the effects of the shampoo last a long time in between washes.

What Could Be Improved

  • The formula can be difficult to pump out due to its thickness.

Shampoos that aren’t designed for the specific needs of type 4 hair lack ingredients that define and enhance coils. Oftentimes, these missing components can be moisturizing agents, or ingredients that provide extra slip to aid in detangling. The Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Shampoo is designed to address the shine restoration, softening, and hydration needs of coils or very dry curls.

The basis of the shampoo is the brand’s signature Coco Crème, a blend of coconut oil, coconut milk, mango butter, and murumuru oil. Due to how moisture-heavy these ingredients are, the product might be a little difficult to pump since it’s very thick. But those with coily hair in need of substantial moisturizing will be happy to know that the formula excludes silicones, parabens, and petrolatum which tend to overstrip hair.

Pair it with the Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Conditioner.

Hair Type: Coils, dry curls | Key Ingredients: Coconut, mango, murumuru | Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Coconut

Best for Wavy Hair

Aussie Miracle Waves Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It moisturizes and reduces frizziness of waves without making them go limp.

What Could Be Improved

  • It may cause color-treated hair to fade.

Those with wavy hair can technically get away with using shampoo for curly hair, but the heavy moisturizers that are usually present in them can actually result in loss of wave definition. If you want a lighter formulation that focuses more on enhancing the natural waviness of hair, consider trying Aussie Miracle Waves Shampoo.

The product uses two powerful yet natural ingredients — kakadu plum and Australian hemp seed extract — to provide essential nourishment to your waves. As a result, it’ll improve the elasticity and reduce the frizz of your waves, maximizing their bounciness for healthier looking hair. While this product is great at accentuating waves, it’s not the best formula for color treated hair as it may cause fading.

Pair it with the Aussie Miracle Waves Conditioner.

Hair Type: Wavy | Key Ingredients: kakadu plum, Australian hemp seed extract | Size: 12.1 ounces | Scent: Fruity and floral with notes of vanilla and lavender

Best for Damaged Hair

OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Extra Strength Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • The formula repairs existing damage, and also protects your hair from it.

What Could Be Improved

  • The thick, rich consistency may feel greasy on oily scalps.

A shampoo with harsh ingredients can wreak havoc on hair that’s already been damaged by heat tools or over-processing. OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Extra Strength Shampoo is made with restorative, soothing ingredients that help bring your hair back to life and prevent it from deteriorating. The shampoo accomplishes this by repairing breakage with water-based silk proteins, and treating dehydration with cold-pressed Moroccan argan oil.

The surfactants in this shampoo are not sulfate-based and are free of parabens, ensuring it cleanses your hair without making the damage worse. This will allow your hair to properly heal, and with regular use it’ll become softer and stronger. Just note that this strength comes from the formula’s rich consistency, which can make oily scalps feel greasier.

Pair it with the OGX Argan Oil Morocco Extra Strength Conditioner.

Hair Type: Damaged | Key Ingredients: Argran oil, silk proteins | Size: 13 ounces | Scent: Coconut milk, tangerine, and warm vanilla

Best for Dandruff

Dove Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It helps keep dandruff flakes and itching under control.

What Could Be Improved

  • If the itchiness or dryness on your scalp is not from dandruff, it may not be effective.

Though you might assume that you can treat dandruff with a hydrating shampoo, the truth is that the flakiness and dryness isn’t caused by lack of moisture, but rather an overproduction of yeast on the scalp. Aguirre recommends looking for products like Dove DermaCare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo which contain Pyrithione Zinc, an antibacterial ingredient that fights the yeast that causes dandruff. 

In addition to its anti-dandruff properties, the shampoo is also pH balanced to maintain scalp health and alleviate itchiness — a common side effect of dandruff. Although scented, the fragrance comes from hypoallergenic coconut oil and shea butter, which also contribute to smoother, less frizzy hair. It’s worth noting, however, that those who suffer from itchy or dry scalps due to skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may not find this formula to be effective.

Pair it with the Dove DermaCare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Conditioner.

Hair Type: Dandruff-prone | Key Ingredients: pyrithione zinc, coconut oil, shea butter | Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Coconut and shea butter

Best Strengthening

SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo

What Stands Out

  • It can both restore the strength of damaged hair and make already healthy hair even stronger.

What Could Be Improved

  • The moisture levels in the shampoo are not tailored toward oily hair.

Whether you have split ends or want to boost the strength of your natural hair, the right shampoo can help bring your tresses to their healthiest, strongest state. SheaMoisture Strengthen & Restore Shampoo is made up of keratin, wheat protein, and rice protein, all of which work together to fortify hair. 

To create an optimal environment for healthy hair growth, this shampoo uses peppermint extract, which balances how much oil and sebum your hair produces, in combination with the clarifying effects of apple cider vinegar and the nourishment of vitamin E. It also restores lost moisture with Jamaican black castor oil and shea butter, reviving brittle and dry strands to prevent breakage. Like other moisture-forward picks on our list, we recommend that those with oily hair or scalps search for another product to avoid extra grease. 

Pair it with the SheaMoisture Strengthen and Restore Conditioner.

Hair Type: Natural, brittle | Key Ingredients: Jamaican black castor oil, shea butter, peppermint extract, apple cider vinegar | Size: 13 ounces | Scent: Lavender

Final Verdict

Given its ability to work on all hair types, we recommend the Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo as our top pick for drugstore shampoos. It leaves out ingredients that many people try to avoid in shampoo, including sulfates and parabens. It also features Zip-Up technology to target universal hair concerns like split ends, strength, and shine.

How to Shop for Drugstore Shampoo Like a Pro

Hair Type

While you can’t go wrong with a shampoo suited for all hair types, knowing the natural characteristics of your hair will help you choose the best possible option. Hair that’s curly or prone to frizz will generally need a shampoo that can lock in moisture, while hair that’s thin and flat would benefit from a volumizing, lightweight shampoo. Naturally dry hair and naturally oily hair won’t react the same way to the same shampoo because the former needs hydration, while the latter requires scalp clarifying.

Hair Concerns

Hair concerns — such as dandruff, loss of volume, or heat damage — can arise regardless of your hair type. If you have wavy hair but deal with dandruff, for example, opting for a dandruff shampoo focused on scalp health might be more beneficial than one emphasizing wave definition. Similarly, if your hair is naturally oily but has become dry and damaged due to color treatments, a hydrating shampoo or a pH-balanced formula could be more suitable. 


When shopping for a drugstore shampoo, our experts say there are four elements you want to evaluate: cleansing agents, moisturizers, proteins, and nutrients.

  • Cleansing agents: All shampoos will have surfactants that cleanse your hair, but some are gentler than others. According to Ross, you should look for sulfate-free surfactants such as cocamidopropyl betaine if you have dry, damaged hair, or a sensitive scalp. However, if you have oily hair or scalp congestion that needs clarifying, sulfates are okay to use.
  • Moisturizers: Even if you don’t have dry hair, moisturizers are an important component in a shampoo because they help replenish any moisture lost during the cleansing process. Both Ross and Aguirre recommend natural oils such as coconut oil, argan oil, and jojoba oil. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid can also deliver serious moisture.
  • Proteins: Hair is primarily made up of a protein called keratin, and over time, it can become damaged due to factors like heat styling, chemical treatments, and environmental stressors. Protein-infused shampoos that contain keratin, biotin silk protein, or wheat protein, can help penetrate the hair shaft and fill in gaps or cracks.
  • Nutrients: Not all shampoo contains added nutrients, but they are worth seeking out to maintain optimal hair and scalp health. These include ingredients like vitamin E, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil to help soothe irritation, reduce inflammation, and maintain a balanced scalp environment. Minerals like zinc and antioxidants found in botanical extracts also help protect the hair from dullness, dryness, and brittleness.

Questions You Might Ask

What are some of the best drugstore hair brands?

When it comes to drugstore hair brands that not only have high quality shampoo but have a consistent level of quality across the board, a few brands stand out. Pantene and Dove are among Ross’s favorites: “These brands have been consistent in delivering quality results at an affordable price,” she says. While these expert-approved brands offer trustworthy products, it’s more important to consider your hair concerns before picking a label.

Are expensive shampoos better than drugstore shampoos?

High-end shampoo is expensive primarily because there is a higher concentration of active ingredients. They also tend to lack that “cheap perfume” smell, because they rely on essential oils to scent their formulas. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting proper hair care when you buy lower-priced drugstore shampoos. “Many drugstore brands offer excellent results that rival their luxury counterparts, so it's more about finding the right product for your hair's needs than the price tag,” Ross notes.

When is it worth it to splurge on shampoo?

The only time you should really consider splurging on a shampoo is if your hair concerns are a bit more specific than what most formulations address. Ross says it can be worth investing in a more expensive shampoo if you want to treat hair loss, deal with severe scalp conditions, or if you’re looking for salon-grade color protection. 

Take Our Word For It

This article was written by Kalea Martin, a lifestyle and commerce writer for Real Simple. To determine the best drugstore shampoos, she did extensive research on hair care brands and shampoo ingredients. She also consulted Kate Ross, a hair and beauty specialist at Irresistible Me, and Shelly Aguirre, a stylist and extension specialist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, for expert tips and recommendations for different hair types.