Here at Who What Wear, we're all for beauty products that make you feel something special when you're using them. Whether it be a spenny lipstick or a rich, luxurious cleansing balm, we know and understand the power of a high-end beauty product. Having said that, we do also resent certain beauty brands' frivolous approach to pricing. Some products simply aren't worth the money, especially when there are plenty of great affordable alternatives out there.
As a general rule (that of course is subject to caveats), we like to say that you don't need to spend the big bucks on anything that gets rinsed down the drain—most notably wet haircare products. While we know that some of our favourite haircare brands, such as Olaplex, Kérastase, Oribe and Aveda, certainly have some shining stars in their line-ups, we want you to know that no one needs to spend huge amounts of money on their quest for great hair. To prove it to you, we reached out to some of the most in-the-know beauty editors around and asked them to help us curate a list of the best affordable haircare brands out there. Trust us—these brands guarantee high-end results.
“I think OGX is on par with some luxury brands. My hair is bleached, dyed and frazzled by heat. But it always feels brand-new when I use the Coconut Oil shampoo and conditioner, combined with the Renewing+ Argan Oil. This oil tends to last months and months, as only a little puddle is enough to condition, smooth and add shine to my thick hair. It also recently launched a clarifying Apple Cider Vinegar range, which reminds me of buzzy U.S. brand DPHue (but a snip of the price).”
“As someone who ties their hair up multiple times a day, I'm conscious that regular hair ties pull and snag my hair, not to mention leave a kink in my hair. Invisibobbles' hair ties totally changed the game. With a telephone cord–like design, they hold hair gently in place without leaving any kinks, and I'm never without one on my wrist or in my bag. They come in lots of different colours to suit your hair colour, and in recent years, the brand has launched hair grips, headbands and scrunchies, which all use the same technology. If you're a gym-goer or have long, thick hair, the Power Hair Ties and the Waver grips are great at keeping a ponytail in place without tugging your hair.”
“Call me a sceptic, but caring for Afro hair on a budget can be tricky (especially if, like me, your routine can end up becoming a five-step process). Salon quality shouldn't have to be shorthand for exorbitantly priced, and it turns out after trying a cocktail of celebrity-endorsed products, buzzy treatments and ill-fated texturisers, the best thing for my hair was actually Pantene. The Gold Series range, which is specifically designed for Afro and curly hair, is worth its weight in, well, gold. It gave my woefully dry hair the moisturising boost it needed without breaking the bank. Now, there is always a bottle of the Hydrating Butter Créme in my cabinet for curl emergencies, and the Intense Hydrating Oil is my go-to for maintaining glossy, neat braids.”
“The words Wonder Water might sound initially like you’re being sold the unicorn of hair products, but remarkably, L’Oréal Paris Elvive’s 8-Second Hair Smoother isn’t a myth. In fact, my hair kind of loves it. A wash-in, wash-out treatment that leaves your hair super-smooth and shiny in less than 10 seconds, it’s bafflingly the real deal. And it costs less than a tenner. Switch out for your conditioner a few times a week as a glossing treatment that takes literally almost no time at all. Plus, the colour-protect version is my faux copper hair’s new anti-fade best friend.”
"In my opinion, Lee Stafford is underrated. There are so many products to choose from depending on your hair type, all of which are super affordable. I don't love the packaging, it's not something I would display in my shower shelfie, but for an affordable price tag, I'm not too fussy."
"First up, is the Scalp Love Surge of Moisture Shampoo. I tend to get a dry scalp—especially in the winter or if my scalp has seen too much sun—so I focus on hydrating formulas that also deep-cleanse. I find this one strikes the perfect balance, leaving my scalp squeaky clean and ends silky smooth."
"Finally, I really like the Scalp Love Surge of Moisture Leave-In Tonic. It has a precise nozzle to target the dry patches of my scalp without getting my hair too saturated in product, leaving my irritated roots feeling comfortable and hydrated. Best of all, it dries down without making my hair look greasy in the slightest."
“I’ve been a huge fan of Aussie haircare since my teens. Those were the days when I’d enthusiastically volunteer to help my dad with the weekly shop so I could sneak a bottle of 3 Minute Miracle into the trolley. Back then, it was hard to find affordable haircare that worked well on my 3c curls, I needed products that hydrated my parched tresses, made brushing easier, defined my curls and added enough moisture so my hair didn’t look dull. Decades on, my requirements haven’t changed much at all, and Aussie is still one of my go-to affordable haircare brands. Invariably, when I go for a professional blow-dry, I eek it out by using straightening irons on my hair in the days that follow. By the end of the week, my ends usually look like they have seen better days, so I often smother my locks with the 3 Minute Miracle Moisture after a week of straightening, while the Work That Curl Serum can always be found in my gym kit, as it’s a one-stop, quick and easy product that visibly nourishes, defines curls and tames frizz.”
"What do I look for in an affordable haircare range? Formulas that feel and smell luxurious and leave my hair silky, shiny and strong. No one does it better than The Body Shop, whose problem-solving products leave hair and scalp in the best of nick. Currently obsessed with the energising Ginger line for dry and flaky scalps. With vegan silk protein, the shampoo and conditioner help alleviate the itchiness that often accompanies dryness while fortifying each strand from the inside, out."
"When it comes to beauty products that typically excite me, haircare tends to fall low on my list. However, while I stick to a fairly basic routine for a beauty editor—shampoo, conditioner, oil, texture spray and dry shampoo—the brands that I gravitate towards always land decidedly on the higher end of things. Premium names like Living Proof, Kérastase and Oribe are my usual go-tos thanks to a combination of trustworthy formulations and broad ranges that cater to a wide array of hair types and concerns. Plus, importantly, they all have that fancy hair salon smell. However, there is one affordable haircare brand that has truly earned its place as a mainstay amongst my haircare staples, and that’s Kristin Ess.
"The eponymous brand was founded by a hairstylist and colourist, and you can really tell. All of the products are high-performing and versatile and work just as well when used in conjunction with each other as they do when mixed and matched with my regular favourites. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the packaging is wonderfully chic, and all of the products smell way more expensive than their price tag. For me, though, the most exciting thing about Kristin Ess is how innovative the brand is. Sure, it's got brilliant haircare staples (like moisture-rich curl shampoos and blonde-brightening conditioners), but it's the scalp scrubs, clarifying shampoos and wave sprays that really make this a brand to rival its luxury counterparts."
"As someone with a bit of a dry-shampoo obsession but who is prone to an itchy scalp, this deep-cleansing shampoo is a total delight. I use it weekly to help gently remove buildup and treat my scalp to a bit of a deep clean. The nozzle applicator can feel like a bit of a faff, but it allows you to get the shampoo right into your roots, and it leaves my strands and scalp feeling light and refreshed without being stripped of moisture."
"I have always found it difficult to find decent texturising sprays on the high street and am a devotee to Oribe's cult Dry Texturising Spray. However, at £45 a pop, it's definitely an investment, and while this one from Kristin Ess doesn't offer as much of the oil-absorbing benefits of my luxury favourite, the tousled texture, lightweight volume and general 'cool-girl' finish that this provides is almost identical."
"Although I love the results that hair masks give, I am too lazy to use them regularly. This one, however, only takes five minutes to get to work and really makes a noticeable difference to my often frazzled locks. It has a shea-butter-and-coconut-oil base and feels really thick and decadent, so I'm not sure how well it would fare on ultra-fine hair types. However, if you have wavy, coarse or frizz-prone hair like I do, then it does a great job at smoothing, detangling and adding shine. Plus, it smells really good."
"Ever since Maui Moisture launched a few years ago, it's been the brand I always hunt for in drugstores and supermarkets. Made by OGX, which so many curly girls love for its coconut- and argan-oil lines, Maui Moisture is even friendlier towards all hair types and textures. The main thing that sets it apart from other haircare brands—both luxury and budget—is its use of aloe juice as the main ingredient instead of water. My parched curly hair drank up the shampoo the first time I tried it, and I even could've skipped conditioner afterwards. My hero range is the blue Nourish & Moisture + Coconut Milk one."
"I am very fussy when it comes to hair product—mostly because I hate 90% of the ones that come my way. My hair is long, very fine and poker straight, so I hate any product that adds even a smidge of weight to it. I want my haircare products to leave my hair feeling like my hair, just softer and sleeker. I'm a big fan of luxury hair brands like Oribe and Kérastase, but equally, I love L'Oréal Elvive. In fact, I've never met an Elvive product I don't like. My favourites at the moment are from the Hydra Hyaluronic range. They cleanse and conditioner my hair to just the right level, leaving my lengths free from tangles and dryness without leaving a weighty film behind."