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Best Shampoo

By: Angela Stringfellow on March 15, 2017

Editor's Note:
Sure, you can buy a shampoo that makes big claims, and carries a price tag to match, but our research found affordable products that work every bit as good. Our recommendations include great everyday shampoos, effective dandruff fighters, deep cleaning shampoos, dry shampoos and more.

Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sizes – 12, 25.4 fl oz Additional scents – N/A

Best shampoo

Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo

Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo earns high marks from users as a daily shampoo for most hair types. Users say it leaves hair feeling smooth and silky without leaving residue behind, moisturizing and nourishing hair without weighing it down. It contains no irritating fragrances or dyes. It's relatively affordable, and readily available at most drug stores and grocery stores.

Nizoral Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sizes -- 7 fl oz Additional scents – N/A

Best dandruff shampoo

No other shampoo achieves such reliable results in the battle against dandruff as Nizoral. It contains ketaconazole, an antifungal that beats dandruff even when other treatments fail. Users find it also helps with other skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, and it can even fight hair loss. However, it's pricey, smells unpleasant, and can be drying to hair -- all tradeoffs that most users happily accept for a dandruff shampoo that really works.

Buy for $14.84
Batiste Original Dry Shampoo Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sizes – 6.7 fl oz Additional scents – Fresh, Tropical, Cherry, and 6 more

Best dry shampoo

To keep hair looking clean between washes, reviewers recommend Batiste Original Dry Shampoo. You just spray it on and brush it out to remove oil, leaving the hair clean, soft, and full of body. Users like it because it doesn't leave a powdery residue like most dry shampoos. It's useful for freshening hair in the middle of a long shift and for those with hair that tends to get oily in between daily showers. Though it's too strong for some, most say that they also like the scent. Its low price tag is another plus.

Buy for $3.70
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sizes -- 6 fl oz Additional scents – N/A

Best clarifying shampoo

Reviewers say Neutrogena Anti-Residue does a great job of clearing the hair and scalp of excess oil and styling products. Users say their hair comes out soft, shiny, and squeaky clean, and some even find the shampoo helps with their dandruff. Most users also like its woodsy, herbal scent. However, reviewers warn that shampoo is strictly for weekly deep cleanings; daily use can leave the hair too dry.

Buy for $4.83
Aveeno Baby Wash Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sizes – 8, 12, and 18 fl oz Additional scents – N/A

Best baby shampoo

Not just for babies, reviewers say Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo is suitable for infants, children, and adults alike, offering gentle cleansing that can alleviate an itchy, dry scalp, soothe eczema, and more. Containing natural oat extract for a gentle clean without over-drying, Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo is both soap- and paraben-free with a light scent that appeals to most, though a few users find to be overpowering.

Buy for $8.97

Most shampoos are effective cleansers

Contrary to popular belief, no shampoo can permanently alter the natural state of your hair. The most a product can do, experts say, is temporarily improve its appearance and manageability. Pretty much all shampoos on the market today contain the same basic ingredients: water, cleansing and lathering agents, and a few preservatives. The main difference between brands is in the additional ingredients they include to treat specific types of hair. In general, shampoos fall into five basic categories:

Types of Shampoo

Moisturizing Shampoos

Also called conditioning shampoos, moisturizing shampoos are the most common type. Ideal for users with naturally dry or frizzy hair, these products contain conditioning agents such as silicone, panthenol, and natural oils. These compounds smooth and nourish the hair shaft, resulting in a softer, sleeker appearance. Conditioning shampoos are also excellent for hair that's been damaged by heat styling or color treatments.

Dandruff Shampoos

These shampoos contain antifungal ingredients to reduce the fungi that cause dandruff. They are considered over-the-counter drugs and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many dandruff shampoos are harsh on hair and should be rotated with a regular shampoo to keep hair from becoming too dry.

Dry Shampoos

While traditional shampoos are used in the shower with water, dry shampoos are becoming an increasingly popular alternative. These powder or spray products, which are applied to the roots of hair, contain ingredients like cornstarch that absorb oil, making hair appear cleaner in between washings. Most dry shampoos also contain fragrance to give hair a fresh, clean scent. Experts say these products are good for adding volume to fine, limp hair. They can also extend the length of time between wet shampoos, which makes them handy for travel, and they're useful for people who spend long hours working or studying and who don't always have time to shower and need a mid-day refresh. However, they don't clean hair well enough to completely replace your standard shampoo.

Clarifying Shampoos

Clarifying shampoos, also known as deep-cleansing shampoos, contain extra detergents to rid the hair and scalp of buildup. These shampoos are ideal for individuals who use a lot of styling products, such as gels and hairsprays, on their hair. Over time, such products can coat the scalp and hair shaft, leaving a residue that can reduce manageability. The high levels of cleansing agents in clarifying shampoos clear away that residue, but they can also strip away the hair's natural oils. Experts recommend following up with a good conditioner after using a deep-cleansing shampoo to replenish any moisture that was washed away. Clarifying shampoos are often intended for periodic use, and users find that even those made for daily use can be too drying if used every day.

Baby Shampoos

To avoid stinging babies' eyes or irritating their sensitive skin, baby shampoos contain mild, low-foaming detergents. The downside is that these gentle shampoos aren't as effective as other types at cleaning dirt, oil, and product buildup from adults' hair. However, if you don't use a lot of styling products or need a shampoo suitable for extra-sensitive skin, a baby shampoo may be all you need for basic cleaning.

According to our sources, a shampoo's effectiveness has little, if anything, to do with its price. Because there are only a few effective ingredients used for cleaning hair, there isn't that much variation from one shampoo to the next. We found at least as many recommendations for drugstore shampoos costing less than $10 a bottle as we did for the pricey salon brands with their fancy packaging and celebrity endorsements, which can cost $20 or more. The one exception is dandruff shampoos: here, pricier products with stronger ingredients can handle tougher cases than inexpensive brands.

Finding The Best Shampoo
Our Sources
"Dry Shampoos"
"Best Beauty Buys: Hair"
"16 Hair-Thickening Shampoos and Conditioners, Recommended by the Pros"

The most reliable way to evaluate shampoos is a blind comparison test, in which the users don't see the product's label and can't be influenced by the brand name. However, we found only one test of this type: Good Housekeeping's evaluation of dry shampoos from 2014. To pick the best shampoos in other categories, we looked at recommendations from style pros at beauty magazines like InStyle and Allure, as well as reviews from thousands of users on sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Makeup Alley. Based on these reviews, we've identified the shampoos that do the best job of getting hair clean, soft, shiny, and manageable, without irritating the skin.

The best shampoos leave hair clean, soft, and shiny

Most shampoos that aren't otherwise labeled are moisturizing shampoos, which contain extra ingredients to soften and condition the hair. Some products promise to do this with exotic botanical ingredients, like argan oil or shea butter; others use scientific-sounding compounds like "conditioning polymers" and "lipid agents." In the final analysis, though, what matters most is not what's in the shampoo but how well it does what it's supposed to do: get hair clean, shiny, and soft, and for that job, we found the most positive reviews for Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo (Est. $5 for 25.4 oz.).

Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo earns strong ratings of 4.4 stars out of 5 or better in thousands of reviews on sites like Walgreens.com, Walmart.com and Amazon.com. Users say that it leaves their hair soft and smooth without weighing it down with residue. Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo is designed to leave hair up to five times smoother (compared to standard, non-conditioning shampoo). Formulated with Dove's proprietary Pro-Moisture Complex, this shampoo progressively nourishes to leave your hair healthier over time.

Reviewers say Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo works well on a variety of hair types, from normal hair to dry, frizzy, or curly hair, leaving users with smooth, silky hair. Some reviewers say they turned to Dove shampoo after having success with Dove's other products and wanting a shampoo that doesn't contain irritating fragrances or dyes, noting that this shampoo left their hair feeling clean without stripping it of natural oils. We did read a few isolated complaints from users who say this formula left their hair feeling dry or that it irritated their skin or scalp, but the majority of reviewers report excellent results. A drugstore brand, Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo is affordable and readily available at most grocery stores and drug stores.

If Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo doesn't work for your hair, Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Hydrating Shampoo (Est. $7 for 25.4 oz.) is a solid alternative, earning a recommendation from editors at InStyle as the best inexpensive shampoo and conditioner for normal hair. Hundreds of reviewers at Amazon.com agree, contributing to a rating of 4.7 stars out of a possible 5. Reviews elsewhere are a touch lower, with a few hundred contributing to a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 at Walmart.com.

Reviewers say that Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Hydrating Shampoo leaves their hair soft, smooth and shiny, and most say it has a pleasant scent. Some users say that it helps to repair hair that's dry and damaged from the use of other products and leaves their hair thick and full. There are some detractors, however, including a few who say this shampoo made their hair drier, and some who say that it's too thick and heavy for fine hair, leaving a residue that makes hair flat, greasy and sticky. Many users say it's an excellent shampoo for people with thick, curly or frizzy hair, offering the moisture and smoothness they need for more manageable hair.

If you have coarse, curly hair but want to avoid residue build-up, experts recommend DevaCurl No-Poo Shampoo (Est. $14 for 12 oz.). About.com's beauty expert Julyne Derrick says DevaCurl's non-lathering formula cuts down on frizz, cleansing hair while simultaneously moisturizing it for a smooth, silky result without stripping your hair of natural moisture or artificial coloring. DevaCurl No Poo Shampoo works for all curl types, but the company also makes DevaCurl Low-Poo Delight (Est. $22 for 12 oz.) for wavy hair and DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence (Est. $15 for 12 oz.) for super-curly hair.

Experts at InStyle magazine say DevaCurl No-Poo Shampoo's non-lathering formula contains peppermint and grapeseed oil to stimulate and cleanse both the scalp and hair without stripping it of the natural oils that are essential for healthy, nourished hair. Reviewers at Amazon.com rave about DevaCurl No-Poo Shampoo, with hundreds of users contributing to a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. Some users say that it works great for straight hair, too, although the majority of reviewers turn to DevaCurl No-Poo for coping with coarse, dry and curly hair that's typically unruly and difficult to manage without the right hair care products. A few dozen reviewers at MakeupAlley.com are less enthusiastic, contributing to a lower rating of 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewers typically say their curls come out clean, soft, and shiny, but a few of them feel this shampoo doesn't really moisturize well enough to be worth the price. Also, not all users are fans of this shampoo's scent, which they describe variously as resembling mint, citrus, eucalyptus, and cold cream. All DevaCurl hair care products are free of sulfates, parabens and silicones, making them a great choice for people who want a more natural option.

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Shampoo buying guide

What every best Shampoo has:

  • Good cleaning power.
  • Gentle ingredients.
  • Pleasant smell.

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