My shampoo shelf tells the story of my many failed hairstyles. There’s the purple shampoo from my DIY-beach escapades — and the bond-builder that recovered the damage. There’s the hydrating shampoo for when I’ve gone too heavy with the heat, and the color-safe shampoo I use to preserve my ruby-red color. After so many experiments, I know how to nurse my hair back from brittle and split to shiny and plump. And while I’ve written stories about the best shampoos for those different hair types — from fine to color-treated — here, I’ve thought about the best shampoos for any type of hair.
While testing out these shampoos, I learned that what makes a shampoo great is going to depend on your hair type. So, I’ve focused on some sub categories throughout, while also considering whether my picks will predominantly work for all hair types. In my testing, I kept these factors in mind: People usually shampoo more than they condition (I double shampoo, once to get rid of any build-up, and once to truly cleanse the hair), so if you’re someone who notices your hair drying easily, looking for hydrating ingredients like glycerin, oils, and butters is wise. Those who notice oil gathering at their roots might want to look for clarifying shampoos instead — they contain sulfates which deeply clean the hair of any impurities. Those with color-damaged hair will by now know that once salon-exclusive brands like Olaplex are readily available online — but that doesn’t change the fact they’re still pricey, so I tested whether or not it’s worthwhile to spring for the brands that your stylist reaches for.
Beyond that, I tested all the fun stuff (the scent it will leave lingering) and the practical stuff, too (the value you’re getting.) I’ve used several of these shampoos for weeks or months at a time, but the parameters I looked for were always the same: how clean does my hair feel, how healthy does my hair feel, and does it have that shine and bounce that I crave.
What we’re looking for
Sulfate free vs non-sulfate free
Sulfates are a divisive product, but the TL;DR is: They’re okay as far as experts are concerned, but those with easily irritated skin or extremely brittle hair might want to steer clear. So, if you’re someone with really dry hair or skin, you’ll be better suited to a sulfate-free option. (And in all honesty, you likely don’t need them: sulfates are basically like really strong detergents, and are better for oiler hair types who need that really deep clean.) One thing to note though is sulfates are what usually gives a shampoo that satisfying lather — so many sulfate-free options won’t foam up as much as you’re probably used to. For more in depth information, read my deep dive into sulfates.
The way my shampoo smells is super important to me — I don’t want a cloud of fragrance I hate following me around all day. I’ve noted below the types of scents each shampoo has — if you’re torn between two formulas that will both suit your hair, this just might be what swings it.
As someone who always has a few bottles in rotation, I know shampoo can get expensive. Below, I’ve noted how many ounces of you get for the cost of the shampoo, so you can get a sense of value for your dollar.
Best shampoo overall
Sulfate free | Scent: Fresh | Size: 8 oz.
I started using this shampoo a year ago on the recommendation of several hair care experts — and despite the many testers on my shelf, I’ve kept reaching for it ever since. Firstly, it’s formulated with plenty of hydrating, nourishing ingredients. I no longer have bleach damage, but I do still use heat, and have noticed in the past that the ends of my hair will feel dry within minutes of me stepping out of the shower. I no longer notice that with this shampoo. It has intensely hydrating ingredients — like glycerin — and is sulfate-free, so it won’t overly strip dryer or chemically treated hair. And despite the lack of sulfates, the shampoo does have a nice lather to it, which always makes me feel like it’s doing its job.
In the place of sulfates are organic amino acids derived from coconut, which still give that thorough cleanse. That’s why it’s suitable for both oily and dry hair types: It’s cleansing, but not stripping. “I like the Malin and Goetz shampoo because it’s not 100 percent organic and it’s also not 100 percent chemical,” says Masami Hosono, founder and creative director of Vacancy Project. “It has both, and you really need both, especially if you have a color or anything chemical in your hair. It’s really for any hair type, and it’s not too heavy.”
The shampoo is also vegan and cruelty-free — meaning it’s truly suitable for anyone. That, along with the fresh botanical scent it leaves, its mid-price point on this list, and the fact it cleanses my roots and consistently delivers moisture to my once brittle ends, is why I’m calling it our best shampoo overall. It’s worth saying that while I liked the Malin and Goetz conditioner (you can see my reporting here), I didn’t call it our best in class. That’s fine! You don’t need to look for the same formulas within your shampoo and conditioner, and in fact, mixing and matching them can help you unlock a routine that’s tailored to your hair.
Best less-expensive shampoo
Sulfate free | Scent: Floral | Size: 12 oz
For less than a third of the price of Malin and Goetz, you can get this sulfate-free shampoo from Monday. They’re a New Zealand hair-care line that offer simply outstanding value for money. Myself and fellow Strategist writers love their volumizing shampoo, but the brand also has smoothing and moisturizing options at the same price-point. Instead of sulfates, their volumizing shampoo has moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, as well as rice protein, which adds some plumpness to thinner hair. I added this to my routine only recently, but I’ve noticed that my roots have become more receptive to my hair drying brush. I also like the floral scent, which merges nicely with the botanical scent of my Malin + Goetz (as I mentioned before, I’m a double shampoo-er.) As someone with dyed hair who likes to wash less frequently, I like the fact I don’t have to be precious with this shampoo when I do wash. Hair stylist Jenna Perry, the founder of Jenna Perry Hair Studio (which caters to clients including Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and Chloë Sevigny), agrees. She says it’s a “great smelling” shampoo that “doesn’t break the bank.”
Best shampoo for in-between hair
Non–sulfate free | Scent: Fruity floral | Size: 8.4 oz.
What is in-between hair, you ask? Hair that’s not too oily, and not too dry. That means you don’t need intensely hydrating ingredients, nor do you need a bunch of clarifying ones. While our best overall is suited to most hair types, perhaps you find moisturizing ingredients weigh your hair down, or sulfate-free formulas aren’t cleansing enough. That’s why Sachajuan’s shampoo is great: It treads that line perfectly. Although Sachajuan uses sulfates, stylist Brooke Jordan tells me all those ingredients are produced in “small batches in Sweden” and that “in Europe, they have so many more regulations for their beauty products than we do, so essentially anything that’s made in Europe is sort of automatically going to be a little safer than what’s produced here.” I’m someone whose hair falls on the drier side of normal, but when I tested this shampoo, I didn’t find it stripping at all. And my hair really felt clean: With the help of some dry shampoo, I was getting away with a solitary wash each week. It has a nice lather, and it smells absolutely lovely — again scoring a perfect balance, sweet but not offensive.
Best shampoo for curly, coily, and tight textured hair
Non–sulfate free | Scent: Jasmine, bergamot, and sandalwood | Size: 9.8 oz.
I don’t have curly hair, but I do know how to spot curly hair-appropriate shampoo. Curlier hair types can trap oil at the root, meaning that lengths and ends can feel drier and more brittle — so hydrating ingredients are advised. This shampoo from Tracee Ellis Ross’s hair-care line has precisely those, with honey, aloe vera, biotin (which is a vitamin), and ten oils including coconut and avocado oil. Although it has sulfates to deeply cleanse, you’re getting plenty of moisture back into your hair, which makes it easy to untangle and style after washing. “It’s really incredible,” says Stephanie Louis, the chief executive and operating officer of Stylebox Salon. She also tells me that it’s a hydrating shampoo suitable for all curly hair types — including very curly hair with 3B-4C curls.
Best smoothing shampoo
Sulfate free | Scent: Grapefruit and oatmeal | Size: 12 oz.
Verb is one of my favorite hair care brands — they make my favorite conditioner of all time — and this shampoo was a contender for best overall. While stylists have told me it works for many hair types, I think it’s best suited to fine, frizzy hair (for me, Malin and Goetz has the edge when it comes to universal appeal). It’s a clean shampoo, meaning it’s paraben, sulfate, and cruelty free. It also still has a lather despite its lack of sulfates, which is a huge pro for me. Ingredients like moringa oil and sunflower seed extract are included to help smooth out hair from root to tip — and banish frizz. “No matter the hair texture or type, it detangles with ease, moisturizes immediately, and doesn’t leave hair feeling heavy with product,” Louis tells me. “It’s really amazing, top-shelf stuff,” Louis tells me (it’s her favorite shampoo to use with clients.) With a pleasant grapefruit scent, and a rather good 12 ounces for just $20, this shampoo gets a huge thumbs-up from me.
Best thickening shampoo
Non-sulfate free | Scent: Floral musky | Size: 8.5 oz
Some hair types are just prone to thinning, and some hair thins as a reaction to stress, or as a natural part of aging. No matter why your hair is thinning, shampoos packed with plumping, moisturizing ingredients can not only make the hair appear thicker, but strengthen it and encourage it to grow. Kérastase’s is a particular favorite of beauty writer Linda Dyett’s. “[It] contains the same hyaluronic acid that hydrates and plumps the skin. It has a similar effect on my hair,” she says. “It’s also got a complex called Intracylane that, intriguingly, was inspired by a chemical process used in glassmaking. It appears to fill in surface gaps on and thicken individual strands of hair.” Intracyclane is a molecule that enters and strengthens strands of hair, from root to tip. The shampoo also has moisturizing ceramides, and stemoxydine, which is a topical used to promote hair growth. It appears gel-like at first, but has a satisfying lather, and leaves lighter floral notes with a slight musk lingering in your hair.
Best volumizing shampoo
Sulfate free | Scent: Fruity, woodsy | Size: 8.5 oz.
If it’s more the limpness of finer hair you want to address, a volumizing shampoo will help you work some oomph into your roots. I was curious about the Davines Volu shampoo after our resident beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton (who also has fine hair) recommended it. It works by using turnip extract, which gently lifts the hair from the scalp to give volume at the roots, says Jordan. I’ve been using the Davines in my routine for about six months now, and my flat hair has responded well. There’s not only more lift at my scalp, but more body throughout all my hair after I’ve given it a bouncy blow-dry. I also like the fact that the shampoo is sulfate free, and has moisturizing ingredients — great for fine hair, which usually needs to be washed on the regular side to keep oil at bay, but is also thinner and more prone to breakage. (For even more lift, Jordan recommends using the Volu shampoo with Davines Volu hair mist.)
Best for color-treated hair
Sulfate free | Scent: Citrus | Size: 8.5 oz.
Olaplex and I are old friends — if you’ve really done some damage to your hair, there’s nothing that’s going to soothe it better. For me, that damage was repeated DIY-bleach jobs back in 2021. After a couple of months of Olaplex shampoo, my hair emulated something hair-like, and after a year of consistent use it was in the best shape it had ever been. Olaplex is what’s called a bond builder — you can read an in depth guide to those here, but essentially they don’t just clean your hair, they repair the damaged bonds that make up its structure with keratin. Damaged bonds are what cause snaps and split ends, and you can get them from bleaching, pollution, or heat damage. “Bond builders contain specific active ingredients, like amino acids and protein, which are responsible for reconnecting and strengthening the disulfide bonds within the hair’s protein structure,” explains Min Kim, color specialist.
It’s worth saying that there is a salon-only formulation and a retail formulation. This version of the shampoo contains a lower solution of Olaplex you can get from a stylist. That said, it does as any good bond builder should, “repairs protein bonds in hair, limits split ends and subsequent hair breakage, and helps keep hair smooth and frizz free,” says Louis. There are plenty of dupes on the market, and other brands have entered the bond builder space (K-18 being the most popular), but Olaplex is still the leading option, as experts agree it works so well. I also recently named it the best shampoo for color-treated hair overall in our in-depth guide, and give it singular credit for nursing my hair back from the brink of snapping clean off.
Best shampoo for blonde hair
Non-sulfate free | Scent: Floral | Size: 16 oz.
Blonde hair can grow brassy over time — even natural blonde hair, which can dull and become discolored from too much heat or harder water. That’s where blonde-specific shampoo comes in. It’s been several years since I was blonde myself, so I deferred to Mary Ann Hennings — hair-department head on Daisy Jones and the Six, for her recommendation. She likes Clairol’s drugstore classic — Shimmer Lights. Hennings finds that the shampoo brightens hair with just a couple of uses. As well as brass-neutralizing purple tones, the shampoo also contains vegetable protein to nourish the hair, and contains sulfates which thoroughly cleanse the roots of oil. Strategist writer Liza Corsillo agrees — she tried it on her golden-blonde hair. The one downside: Shimmer Lights has a strong, “old lady” like smell according to Strategist contributor Hesper Desloovere Dixon. “But it knocks the yellow right out of your blonde,” she says. “A once-a-week routine is enough to keep cooler blonde tones fresh and bright.” For the price point, it’s hard to beat.
Best shampoo for scalp issues
Sulfate-free | Scent: Unscented | Size: 12 oz.
Those with sensitive scalps will want to steer clear of any potentially irritating ingredients, such as dyes, parabens, masking fragrances, and sulfates. Strategist writer Erin Schwartz has to avoid those ingredients; after realizing they were allergic to them, they switched to Vanicream. “The first time I used this shampoo, I was incredulous that I didn’t feel any stinging or itchiness, which I had thought was a normal aftereffect of cleaning your hair,” says Schwartz. Crucially, Schwartz says that as well as being scalp-friendly, the shampoo does its job of keeping the hair clean. “My hair routine has gotten easier and cheaper, and reliably produces boy-band-floppy hair days,” they say. Instead of parabens, the shampoo uses a mild surfactant (the ingredient that separates the dirt from the hair) which is derived from coconut. It cleanses, has no harsh smell, and keeps oily roots and dandruff under control.
• Haley Campise, stylist at Keith Kristofer
• Rogerio Cavalcante, stylist and owner of the Second Floor Salon
• Maria Elizabeth, hairstylist and founder of Salon deZEN
• Jessica Prince Erlich, beauty writer and editor
• Shirley Hagel, retired advanced creative stylist at Parlor salon
• Mary Ann Hennings, hair department head on Daisy Jones and the Six
• Masami Hosono, founder and creative director of Vacancy Project
• Brooke Jordan, co-founder and master stylist at the Bird House
• Stephanie Louis, chief executive and operating officer of Stylebox Salon
• Dhiran Mistry, hairstylist
• Patti O’Gara, colorist at Blackstone NYC
• Gregory Patterson, celebrity hairstylist
• Chelsey Pickthorn, master stylist at Pickthorn studio
• Clariss Rubenstein, hairstylist
• Marco Santini, hairstylist
• Erin Schwartz, Strategist writer
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