The 12 Best Cheap Shampoo for All Types of Hair
Shampoo is the simplest toiletry that can make a big impact. Whether you’ve got curly hair, oily hair, natural hair, or color-treated hair, you need something that’s going to boost your texture and look without breaking the bank. That’s where a good and cheap shampoo comes into play.
Don’t assume that a shampoo has to be expensive to make a mark. Even drugstore shampoos for less than $9 a bottle can give you the luxurious locks you want. And if you look for sales, particularly buy-one-get-one-free, you can maximize your savings.
And yes, we know that even $9 for a bottle might seem a little bit high for your taste. We get it. But think about the number of uses you can get out of an 8-ounce bottle — likely around 30 washes. That comes out to about 30 cents per wash. When you do the math that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.
Yes, it’s certainly possible to buy a cheaper shampoo, like that bottle of Suave or VO5 that you can find at your local dollar store. But if you’re after a beauty routine that will actually go the distance and keep your hair looking shiny and frizz-free, you’ll want to buy these quality shampoos that ring up at way less than the uber-pricey stuff. (Yes, we’re looking at you Olaplex, priced at $30 for 8.5 ounces. Think about how much that shampoo is per wash!)
We spoke to dermatologists and hair experts for their best tips on identifying quality shampoo that’ll keep your hair clean and healthy, regardless of your hair type and style.
The 12 Best Cheap Shampoos to Try
- Best for damaged hair: Pantene Fortifying Damage Repair Shampoo with Castor Oil
- Best for swimmers: Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit
- Best for hair that knots easily: SheaMoisture Red Palm Oil & Cocoa Butter Hi-Slip Detangling Shampoo
- Best for dry hair: Hask Macadamia Oil Moisturizing Shampoo
- Best for dandruff fighting: Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
- Best for daily shampooing: Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo
- Best for light-colored hair: Hask Blonde Care Purple Toning Shampoo
- Best for curls: Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Hair Wash
- Best for dry scalps: Creme of Nature Sulfate-Free Moisture & Shine Shampoo with Argan Oil
- Best for frizzy hair: Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Shampoo
- Best for flat hair: Herbal Essences Orange Blossom Volumizing Shampoo
- Best for hair that needs a deep clean: Not Your Mother’s Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Scalp Scrub
1. Pantene Nutrient Blends Strengthening Damage Repair Shampoo with Castor Oil
Best for Damaged Hair
Got some damage? This shampoo will strengthen your hair, thanks to the castor oil, Vitamin B5, and antioxidants. More importantly, it’s free of certain chemicals like parabens, dyes, silicones, and nearly 0% sulfates. It’ll transform your locks into soft, shiny, smooth hair that feels expensive (please start making bigger bottles, Pantene!). When we switched to this shampoo, we regularly started getting asked about our “new” hair products.
Price: $10.99 CVS
2. Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit
Best for Swimmers
You may not have known this, but it’s not just your face that you’re supposed to exfoliate—your hair and scalp need exfoliating as well, and this Neutrogena shampoo is the one to do it for you. The clarifying ingredients in this shampoo allow it to cut right through the residue and build-up — think salt and chlorine — that come with taking a dip in the pool or the ocean. The pH-balanced shampoo also keeps your scalp’s natural barrier intact. And the pink grapefruit scent is a nice touch.
Price: $9.97 at Neutrogena
3. SheaMoisture Red Palm Oil & Cocoa Butter Hi-Slip Detangling Shampoo
Best for Hair That Knots Easily
If you need moisture and effective detangling, this shampoo is a universal solution, says Monica Davis, a professional hairstylist and founder of the MyStraightener blog. Due to the natural softeners, such as cocoa butter, red palm oil, and coconut oil, you can even use this to straighten your curls. “The natural components are actually cheap, and it’s not surprising that the price for this pretty bottle is that low,” Davis says.
Price: $12.98 at Amazon
4. Hask Macadamia Oil Moisturizing Shampoo
Best for Dry Hair
This shampoo is incredibly moisturizing (so much so, that if you have excess oil, this isn’t the shampoo for you), with macadamia oil to lock in the moisture. The smell is fresh and sweet, and this leaves you shiny and slick. It’s free of harmful chemicals, rich in antioxidants and is ideal for colored hair. Best part? You can use it daily.
Price: $22.41/two-pack at Amazon
5. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
Best for Dandruff Fighting
This classic dandruff-fighting product contains pyrithione zinc and other ingredients to combat the yeast that causes dandruff and itchy scalp. Plus, it keeps your scalp clean at a bargain price, says Purvisha Patel, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee, and the founder of Visha Skincare.
Price: $8.99 at Target
6. Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo
Best for Daily Shampooing
This moisturizing shampoo contains glycerin to keep hair super supple and soft, and it is gentle for everyday use. “The formula includes glycerin, which is both safe for the hair and scalp, and makes hair softer and smoother,” blogger Davis says. There is a subtle, pleasant scent. And, according to Dove, the shampoo and conditioner set leave hair “10 times more resilient to daily damage from grooming and brushing versus non-conditioning shampoo.”
Price: $3.99 at Target
7. Hask Blonde Care Purple Toning Shampoo
Best for Light-Colored Hair
It’s got a violet formula to neutralize brassy tones to bring back your cooler blond shades. This works on natural and colored blond hair to brighten it. Hask Blonde Care contains elderberry oil and Vitamin C for added shine, and it doesn’t have any bad-for-you ingredients. The vegan-friendly formula is also cruelty-free.
Price: $5.27 at Walmart
8. Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Hair Wash
Best for Curls
This shampoo may have a slightly higher sticker price than its competitors, but it’s worth the initial pain. Stocked full of blueberry fruit extracts, vitamins C and B, aloe leaf juice and even chamomile extract, it is a miracle cleanser for curls. Yes, we mean it — this product delivers soft, hydrated, healthy curls even if you start with a frizzy, dry, hot mess. It smells super sweet, which is lovely. Bonus: You may find yourself using fewer products because this takes care of all your hair’s needs.
Price: $15.99 at Ulta
9. Creme of Nature Sulfate-Free Moisture & Shine Shampoo with Argan Oil
Best for Dry Scalps
A little goes a long way for this shampoo, so make sure you stick with a quarter-sized dollop of shampoo. It’s a great shampoo for restoring your scalp oils, plus it smells delicious and it doesn’t leave any residue behind. This is especially great for natural hair and has powerful detangling properties.
Price: $5.19 at Target
10. Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine
Best for Frizzy Hair
Heading out into the humidity? Got hair that’s essentially a frizz magnet? It’ll be no match for this shampoo, which will protect your hair from frizz for up to 72 hours — even in 97 percent humidity. And the scent! It smells like a fresh bouquet of flowers that just bloomed after the rain. These products are cruelty-free and full of argan oil and plant-based amino acids, so you’ll love the natural feel.
Price: $8.47 at Walmart
11. Herbal Essences Volume Orange Blossom Shampoo
Best for Flat Hair
If you remember the Herbal Essences commercials (if you know, you know), then you’ll totally understand why this shampoo made the list. We look forward to showering just so we can smell this shampoo. It’s sweet and refreshing like a crisp orange juice, and it adds volume to hair in just a few washes. We love that it’s infused with not just orange blossom but green tea and silk extract as well.
Price: $10.93 at Walmart
12. Not Your Mother’s Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Clarifying & Detox Scalp Scrub
Best for Hair that Needs a Deep Clean
This is not a traditional shampoo, but this scalp scrub will absolutely do the trick when you need a truly good clean. It’ll remove any build-up, products, and other non-essential oils in your hair, leaving it soft and simply clean. It doesn’t strip your hair, and you’ll find that you won’t need to wash your hair as often when you use this product.
Price: 17.99 at Amazon
What Is in Shampoo?
Shampoo consists of two basic components: water and surfactants, which is what’s responsible for the lathering and cleansing. Those two elements comprise between 50 to 80% of the contents, says Nikki Goddard, a certified hair stylist from San Jose, California, and senior editor at The Right Hairstyles magazine.
The rest of the shampoo can made from silicone, thickening agents, perfume, natural oils, and extracts.
Why Are Some Shampoos So Expensive?
Sometimes the higher prices are simply due to marketing, says Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist based in South Florida. Higher prices may also be because the shampoos include more expensive fragrances and conditioning agents, says Vanessa Thomas, a cosmetic chemist, and founder of Freelance Formulations.
And some professional product lines made for hair salons can include components and formulations that actually do improve the health of the hair and the scalp, says Goddard. For example, she says, sulfate-free and all-natural products usually cost more.
Shampoo Ingredients to Seek Out — and Ones to Avoid
You can figure out which inexpensive shampoos still are of good quality with one important tool: the ingredient list. Look for these ingredients, all of which help keep your hair clean and healthy:
- Moisturizing agents (glycerin, hyaluronic acid, lanolin)
- Anti-sebum ingredients (ketoconazole, piroctone olamine, zinc)
“Note that adding vitamins, fruit acids, antioxidants, SPF agents and less than 25 to 30% herbal extracts makes no point,” Goddard says. “They won’t penetrate and nourish hair.”
If you see superficially active substances (SAS) like magnesium laureth sulfate, decyl glucoside, or lauryl glucoside along with those moisturizing agents, you can safely assume the shampoo will be an effective product.
A word to the wise: it’s important to also take your own specific needs into consideration.
Advice for People with Sensitive Skin
Hair experts have plenty of advice for people who have skin issues and need to find the best shampoos.
If you have skin-related infections, like eczema or dandruff, you’ll want to look for shampoos that contain ketoconazole, selenium sulfide and/or pyrithione zinc, which are antifungal agents that can help treat itching, flaking and dry skin on your scalp, says Dawn Clemens, founder of LarweHair, a former company that sold wigs and hair extensions.
On the other hand, try to avoid sulfates, paraffins, silicones, and peroxides within haircare products, as they add frizz and can damage your hair, Chacon, the South Florida dermatologist, says.
Make sure that a cheap shampoo does not include toxic SAS (which includes the majority of sulfates, cetrimonium chloride, lauramide DEA, and PEG-150 distearate), mineral oil, BHA and BHT, stylist, and magazine editor Goddard says.
You should also try to avoid formaldehyde, triclosan, dimethicone, cocamide MEA, and artificial perfume agents. These chemicals have come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. For instance, the FDA banned triclosan for use in hand and body washes in 2016, while formaldehyde can pose a problem for people with sensitive skin.
Should You Ever Opt for More Expensive Shampoo?
Women who have specific hair concerns — and we don’t just mean dry ends or hard-to-control frizz — may need to opt for something a little pricier. If you have damaged hair due to overtreatment, fine hair, or thick, coarse hair, you may need a specialized shampoo. Typically, a cheaper shampoo brand will sell products that aren’t necessarily geared toward a specific hair type.
If you have specific needs for your hair, here’s what you should look for when shopping for shampoo:
- Dry, damaged hair: Avoid clarifying shampoos, which are clear shampoos focused on removing oil from the scalp. Instead, opt for shampoos and conditioners with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and avocado oil.
- Fine hair: Avoid heavy moisturizing shampoos, especially those containing silicones, as they will weigh down the hair. Silicones are best for controlling frizz, as they coat the hair follicle, locking out moisture.
- Thick, coarse hair: Opt for a product containing oils and humectants in a creamy formula, and avoid volumizing shampoos, Thomas says. Those with drier and textured hair may only want to wash their hair once per week or may co-wash, which is washing with only a conditioner. Dry, brittle hair that’s washed too often will become damaged.
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple, and more.