I’ve put my hair through a lot over the years — red, platinum, and everything in between. This means it’s important that I use a lot of hydrating, conditioning hair care products to help repair my brittle, damaged strands. Certain brands — Christophe Robin, Gisou, and Sachajuan — can keep my fried hair soft, shiny, and bouncy, but those products are definitely not cheap. Repurchasing Christophe’s $71 prickly pear mask every few months can be downright upsetting. Sometimes, when I’m low on money or just need a cheap alternative (typically when traveling), I gotta go to the drugstore. And while I really do adore all my fancy hair products, I must say my drugstore favorites have held me down in some pretty tricky situations. Below, some of my low-budget faves for my intensely high-maintenance hair.
Best Hair Oil
While Paul Mitchell might not be the cheapest drugstore option (most of their stuff is over $20), their products are reliable — and some, like this cult-favorite hair oil, are genuinely great. I’ve been using it regularly since high school — it’s lightweight, doesn’t give your hair that sticky feeling, and quickly smooths out any frizzies or flyaways, ensuring that your hair looks silky smooth. Plus, I love the light floral smell.
Best Hair Mask
When I was icy platinum, I used this at a friend’s house and was completely dumbfounded — it left my strawlike, stripped locks feeling soft and bouncy. I’ve tried a lot of deep-conditioning products and can honestly compare how my hair felt after I used this to how it felt after using Gisou’s Honey Mask.
Best Single-Use Hair Mask
If you’re looking for a single-packet drugstore hair mask, this is your girl. It contains, of all things, antioxidant-rich blueberries, which promotes hair strength, and probiotic-filled greek yogurt, which helps your hair retain moisture. Leave it on for ten minutes, wash it off, and your hair will look shiny and smooth. A great thing to have in your toiletry bag for traveling!
Best Neutral Shampoo & Conditioner
I’m currently trying to grow out my natural hair, which has created a very specific predicament. On top of my head is my oily and flat virgin hair; on the bottom, my strands are still double-processed (so completely dry and bleached). This means if I use a too hydrating shampoo and conditioner, the top of my hair gets oily, and if I use something too volumizing, the bottom of my hair gets upset. When I was in L.A., I picked up this shampoo and conditioner on a whim — and it’s become my new go-to. It’s really simple and neutral — nourishing enough that my temperamental ends don’t wither up, but not so overly moisturizing that my hair gets greasy. Since it works so well for both sides of my half-and-half hair, I think it would work well for almost hair types, whether you’re dry or oily or somewhere in between. And as a side note: My curly-haired mom tried it and liked it as well!
Best Hair Spray
I have to admit that this hair spray was first introduced to me by a middle school classmate whom I can only describe as a “scene kid.” Her hair was always amazingly big and voluminous and managed to stay that way for hours. Ever since then, if I ever have a blowout or particular hairstyle that I really want to stay put, this is what I reach for — it doesn’t leave hair feeling crunchy or crispy and really works.
Best Dry Shampoo
This is one of the best dry shampoos I’ve ever used. [Editor’s note: We’ve written about this dry shampoo before.] What I love most about this product is that it really volumizes your locks and lasts all day long — if you wake up with limp, oily hair, a few spritzes and rubs of this in the a.m. will help your hair look matte and full well into the evening. I also love the smell — the subtle coconut scent is pleasant without becoming a full-on hair perfume.
Best Texturizing Product
It can be easy to overdo it with sea salt sprays — and when you overdo it, your hair can start to feel ultracrunchy. What’s nice about this is that it’s a balm rather than a spray, which means you have a lot more control over how much you apply. I take a tiny, pea-sized amount and rub it right into the roots of my hair for that perfect, subtle lift. It lasts all day long and doesn’t make my hair feel dry at all.
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