I've spent most of my time as a beauty journalist working directly with hairdressers covering trends, news and advice. And for the most part, I treat the hair advice I've received as gospel, and I drill home the importance of listening to pro hairdressers about at-home maintenance. However, there is one point, in particular, where I veer from hairdressers' advice: cheap shampoo. I use it all the time.
Professional and salon-quality haircare and styling products are really important for healthy hair. I just needed to say that before we continue. For the most part, you'll find that they have fewer filler ingredients and synthetics that cheat the feeling of smooth hair and actually have a higher concentration of nourishing and protective ingredients. But when it comes to shampoos, this is a step in which you can't really add much to the quality of your hair; you can only take away. So if there is any place to save money on in your haircare routine, it's here. You just have to be aware of the ingredients in the bottle and how susceptible your hair is to being stripped of moisture.
If you already have pretty dry hair or you bleach it, you’ll want to avoid shampoos with sodium laureth sulphate (SLS). This is the foaming agent in a lot of shampoos, and while many higher-end shampoos have developed clever alternatives, such as using coconut-derived foaming aids, most cheaper ones still opt for this. The same goes for people who colour their hair, as SLS can lift the colour too. But if you have natural, moisture-balanced hair or oily roots, SLS isn’t damaging for your locks. Whatever shampoo you do opt for, just make sure you’re treating your lengths and ends to hydrating masks and protecting your hair from any heat styling you’re doing.
So without further ado, please find the best cheap shampoos that a beauty editor like me would actually stand behind.
The Best Cheap Shampoos
First, if you’re a fan of sugary-cocktail scents, you’ll love the smell of this shampoo. It’s marketed as a cleansing cream, but I would say it errs more on the side of a rich, creamy shampoo.
Just like its skincare offering, the haircare from The Ordinary is super simple and effective. This contains SLS at a gentle level so is perfect for washing oilier roots a few times a week or clarifying curly or Afro-textured hair.
You’ll be pressed to find a high-street haircare brand that has as much of a focus on colour as John Frieda does. While I think the claims of this shampoo illuminating hair from within is a bit of a stretch, it does cleanse colour-treated hair without stripping colour.
I’ve found that a lot of professional hair-colour houses have amazing shampoo and conditioner formulas, but they’re all on the more expensive side of the market. Matrix is one of the most affordable and effective. This shampoo is specifically for finer hair types to cleanse, and when used with the conditioner and volumising foam in the same range, it creates an aerated fullness.
This shampoo is a part of the Toni & Guy fibre-strengthening system to help repair weaker hair. If you have hair that retains moisture well but you use heated tools multiple times a week, this is a good pick. It contains SLS and silicones, but as long as you’re using a clarifying shampoo as a refresher every so often, you won’t notice silicone build-up.
Using a shampoo bar is one of the most cost-effective ways you can wash your hair. This bar is quite clarifying, so I would avoid it if you have colour-treated or naturally dry hair, but it’s free from SLS so can be used daily for oily scalps.
The Reincarnation mask from Bleach is one I recommend all the time for dry, bleached hair, and this new shampoo pairs so well with it. (There's also a conditioner if you want something lighter.) The lather is light but effective, and the formula contains microproteins to aid with repairing weakened strands.
Ultra-fine hair can be weighed down during cleansing and conditioning, but this shampoo and matching conditioner are very lightweight and help to balance oily roots and dry ends.