There are plenty of $30 hair sprays out there, but not always a reason to buy them. But that's just as well: We're now in a golden age of innovative, affordable hair-care options, with everything from conditioning treatments to "miracle" sprays retailing for less than $15. We dug through (and tested) piles of drugstore hair products, looking for unique concepts, quality that belied the price point, and products that pulled double-duty and served more than one function. Click through our slideshow of the 11 best products that are simultaneously affordable, innovative, and actually effective.
Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner, $7.00
People are starting to replace classic sulfate-laden shampoos — which can strip and dry hair — with other options. The concept of the cleansing conditioner (which is nothing like those two-in-one shampoo/conditioners you find in cheap hotels) has been picking up steam and is now hitting the drugstore. It’s not foamy, but this product left my hair clean, shiny, and not weighed down. Plus “the herbal mint fusion” scent smells delicious.
L'Oreal Paris Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray, $3.99
I had a beauty-product junkie friend (who has much longer hair with more texture than mine) try this product. She reported that after flat ironing, this product delivered on its promise of 48 hours of sleek hair.
Vidal Sassoon Pro Series ColorFinity Dry Shampoo Rich Darks, $2.49
The same long-haired tester, who has dark hair, had sworn off all dry shampoos forever because they left her with a white residue that made her look like she had a scalp disease. She proclaimed this one “hands down, the best I have ever used.” There’s no residue at all — the product comes out clear, yet still has the feel of a traditional dry shampoo.
Toni and Guy Texturising Glue, $14.99
It you have short-ish hair and want to avoid the dreaded “mom hair,” use this. It’s softer and not as greasy as traditional waxes, and just a teeny bit provides texture without being crunchy.
Black 15 in 1 Miracle Treatment, $9.99
This brand (beloved by Olivia Munn, Kiernan Shipka, and Taryn Manning, according to the company) launches in Target this month. This do-everything spray works great as a pre-styling product. I’ve used it on my wet hair for both straight and wavy styles. It seems to protect hair from heat and left everything very smooth and soft.
Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Conditioning Treatments, $5.99
This is a classic Aussie product that the brand has updated to include fived specialty treatments called Moist, Strong, Color, Shine, and Smooth. They’re all rich, and Smooth is a standout. Would also be a great leave-in conditioner at the beach.
Sally Hershberger Major Body 3-in-1 Volumizing Spray, $12.99
This multitasking product, which claims to act like a dry shampoo, a volume builder, and a finishing spray, delivers. It’s not heavy and sticky, and it got rid of my day-two greasiness.
Dove Pure Care Dry Oil Non-Greasy Shampoo, $5.19
Cleansing facial oils are starting to become more popular, and so are the hair versions, as people realize that oil does not always translate to “greasy.” This shampoo is a nice hybrid of an oil cleanser and a traditional sudsy shampoo (full disclosure: It contains sulfates) that left my hair really soft and not stripped-feeling.
L’Oreal Paris Volume Filler Fiber Amplifying Concentrate, $5.59
One box includes three weekly treatment ampules. You mix it with conditioner and let it sit for a minute. It’s supposed to instantly make your hair feel more texturized and also provide volume over time. After one treatment I noticed a big difference in my hair’s subjective “bounciness.” (Hint: If you have a bob or shorter, you could get two treatments out of one tube. They give you a lot of serum.)
Pantene Damage Detox Weekly Rehab Creme, $7.99
I appreciate any product that (1) is not too heavy and (2) allows a little to go a long way. This is both: a super-efficient cream that left my parched blonde hair so soft.
Tigi Pro Shaping Shine Spray, $10.99
This spray provided hold and shine without crunchiness, plus survived a trip to the gym without frizzing out, which is usually what happens when I sweat.
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