Last updated: September 26, 2020

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No matter what color or what kind of hair you have, there is likely a shampoo out there designed specifically for you. While different people like different kinds of hair (as a personal preference), there is one thing everyone can agree on: there is no substitute for healthy and shiny locks.

To achieve healthy hair, you are going to need to invest in certain products. Shampoo, for instance, is non-negotiable. Shampoos are made for more than just washing hair, however. Below we will detail some of the wide range of shampoos on the U.S. market, and the diverse functions accomplished by each.

Key Facts

  • Shampoos, in general, are made to clean and take care of your hair. Most basic ones work by getting rid of excess oil on your scalp.
  • Shampoos are, in reality, much more diverse than simple hair and scalp cleansers.
  • There are various types of shampoos with different functions and characteristics, and for different types of hair. We can also find shampoos with specific properties. A shampoo’s ingredients will dictate what it does to and for your hair, and the results can sometimes be unwanted if you don’t get the right shampoo for you.

The best shampoos on the U.S. market

In the below section you will find a list of our five best shampoos currently found on the U.S. market. We have provided summaries of the main features of each, all while focusing on value-for-money as the overarching principle. From this selection you should be able to pick something that makes the most sense for you and your hair needs.

OLAPLEX – No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo (8.5 Oz)

OLAPLEX’s No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo is a specially designed moisturizing and repairing shampoo that is made with OLAPLEX’s secret bond building chemistry to help bring hair back from the dead. If your hair lacks shine and strength, this product is a great option, especially given that is formulated to work well with all hair types. OLAPLEX is comprised of a team of chemists who wanted to create a product line of shampoos and cosmetic items that were based on nothing but pure science.

If you need to get rid of errant frizz and fly-aways, need better luster and shine, protection against breakage and split ends, and all around stronger hair, than this product is hard to beat for the price. After just a couple of uses, watch damaged, dry, unhealthy hair regain its natural brilliance and health. If you have damaged your hair from years of dying, drying, and other treatments, then seriously consider OLAPLEX No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo.

Pure Nature – Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner Combo (2 x 16 Oz)

Pure Nature makes a great line of natural oil-infused products for the whole body, and their Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo is a great addition to the collection. If you suffer from damaged or dry hair, or have curly and/or frizzy hair in need of some serious taming, this is a fantastic product made with one of the most nourishing and restorative essential oils out there. It is also great for Americans who live in, or spend a considerable mount of time in sunny climates, with its built-in UV and thermal protection.

Argan oil is one of the most hydrating and health-restoring essential oils out there and is used in a wide range of natural cosmetics and beauty products. This product contains zero sulfates, parabens, gluten, phothalates, or sodium chloride. You get nothing but all natural volume and frizz control with Pure Nature’s Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo, and the added conditioner provides with a dual therapy for dry and damaged hair.

Pureology – Hydrate Shampoo (33.8 Oz)

Pureology’s Hydrate Shampoo does exactly what it advertises it will do: it hydrates. This shampoo is a must have for anyone with color treated hair that wants to do everything in their power to protect it. One really great feature of this product is that there are absolutely no carcinogenic color stripping sulfates that are commonly found in other cheaper products. With Pureology you get a thick, luxurious lather that saturates your hair, yet rinses out surprisingly quick.

Made to gently cleanse colored hair without dulling or getting rid of the color you paid so much for, no more dry, faded, and damaged hair. All it takes is a quarter-sized amount of this product lathered into rinsed hair, and you will notice a tremendous difference in hair quality, while still enjoying your full color. Recommended by stylists and beauticians all over the United States.

Era Organics – Natural and Organic Sulfate Free Shampoo (8 Oz)

Era Organics Natural and Organic Sulfate Free Shampoo is everything healthy hair care should be. Containing all natural argan, kiwi, moringa seed oil (and more), this shampoo revitalizes and soothes thin, frizzy, dry, and overall damaged hair. If you don’t completely love this product, Era Organics will give you your money back. Your hair needs a range of vitamins and minerals in order to be at its healthiest, and this shampoo makes sure it has them all.

Don’t live life with dull, shabby hair that doesn’t shine and impress. Grab a bottle of Era Organics and moisturize and strengthen every single follicle from root to tip. Completely free of parabens, SLS, sulfates and 100 per cent cruelty free, this is a shampoo that will make you feel good inside and out. So many people spend so many years mistreating their hair, and doing nothing to help rebuild it. Treat your hair the way it deserves with Era Organics Natural and Organic Sulfate Free Shampoo.

Nizoral – A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (7 Oz)

Dandruff is one of the most common, and one of the most annoying hair conditions suffered by men and women in the United States. That is why it is vital to have a good quality and affordable anti-dandruff shampoo like Nizoral’s readily available. Designed to be use alongside your normal shampoo and conditioner, you only have to use this product twice a week to see great results. The active dandruff fighting ingredient in this shampoo is Ketoconazole, and at just 1 per cent concentration, it binds to your hair’s protein to help get rid of dandruff.

There is no need to suffer from dry, itchy, flaky scalp, and little white flecks on your clothes anymore. If you have tried drug store anti-dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders or Neutrogena to no effect, it might be time to switch to something more specialized. Even people who have been life-long severe dandruff suffers will be amazed by just how effective this product really is. Nizoral doesn’t just control dandruff symptoms, if drives right to the heart of the issue and gets rid of the fungus that causes it in the first place.

Shopping Guide: What you need to know about shampoo

Before purchasing a shampoo, you are going to have to factor in some important attributes. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the most relevant features to consider with any shampoo. We have also attended to some of the most commonly asked questions by shampoo buyers.

It is important to correctly use your shampoo in order to get the best results and avoid undesirable effects.
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What exactly is shampoo?

Most shampoos are personal care and hygiene products that are made for cleaning scalp and hair. When we go about our daily lives, our hair become dirt and oil traps and needs to be cleaned. Oil glands in our hair produce sebum as they do all over our bodies, and this oil is one of the primary contributors to dirty, smelly hair.

Furthermore, as your scalp sloughs on and peels, small pieces of it (aka dandruff) can stay in your hair and even end up falling onto your clothes and surroundings. The places we go during the day also make our hair dirty, especially in polluted urban areas. Lastly, the leftover residue in our hair from things like gels and other products can build up over time.

Shampoo is necessary in order to guarantee a healthy scalp.
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After a while, all of this build up can contribute to dirty, greasy-looking hair. Shampoos, therefore, are an essential part of keeping our hair and scalp clean. Many of them also contain ingredients that provide the healthy, shiny-looking hair that everyone wants.

What benefits does shampoo have for my hair?

As previously mentioned, shampoo is meant to clean your hair. They get rid of sebum build up, and help wash out chemicals and product accumulations. A good quality shampoo keeps your hair healthy-looking and shimmering.

However, these days the composition of shampoo has been updated to provide many more benefits.

For example, many shampoos available on the U.S. market are designed to hydrate your hair. Others are designed to help cut down on oil. Others still pack frizz fighting ingredients, and ones designed to straighten curly hair.

In summation, shampoo is a must-have hair care product. It cleans and fortifies your hair, keeping it healthy looking and soft to the touch. Every type of hair, and even every individual has different shampoo requirements. That is why there is such a varied range of products available.

As more Americans become conscious of their environmental footprint, they are switching to products that generate less plastic waste. Shampoo bars are a great example of this.

What is shampoo made of?

This is not a one-answer question. Different products contain different ingredients. The ingredients of individuals shampoos allow them to be grouped into eight primary categories that we have laid out below.

The principle constituent part of all shampoos are what’s known as surfactants. These are what produce the foam and clean your hair and scalp. The rest of the ingredient list contains things like preservatives, acids, conditioners, scents, essential oils, and other active ingredients in things like anti-dandruff shampoo.

The below table lays out the 8 major ingredient families in shampoos, along with what each does:

Category Function Examples
Surfactants  Cleaning and foaming  Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium lauryl ether sulphate and sodium lauryl ether sulfosuccinate
Conditioners Offset the dryness of the detergents, replacing part of the eliminated oils Diethanolamine of coconut fatty acid, lanolin, lecithin
Thickeners Make the shampoo easier to use and apply Sodium chloride
Acids Balance the pH Citric acid
Preservatives Prevent fungi and bacteria Methylparaben
Opalescents Create a pearly effect for dry and normal hair Derivatives of waxes
Essences and essential oils Perfume Plant extracts: lavender, rose etc
Active ingredients Enrich the product Vitamins A and E, keratin, collagen, aloe vera, chamomile

Despite a wide range of different ingredient options out there, all shampoos have a number of shared goals. They must rinse out effectively and make your hair cleaner than it was prior to application. They should avoid chemicals that damage your skin or mucous membranes. They should also, ideally, be as biodegradable as possible.

Choosing a biodegradable shampoo means that you can safely wash it down the drain without worrying that it is doing damage to America’s beautiful fresh water ecosystems and groundwater.

How does shampoo work?

Shampoo’s main job is to get rid of excess scalp sebum. This oil is produced by sebaceous glands all over our bodies. Sebum is a double-edged sword because it protects our skin, while allowing dirt to accumulate.

A shampoo’s surfactants are its cleaning agents, and help break up sebum from the scalp and hair, thus removing all of the accumulated contaminants with it. Soap accomplishes a similar task, but it tends to mix much more with our sebum. This is the major reason why you shouldn’t wash your hair with soap that is not intended for your scalp.

What are the different types of shampoos?

There are a wide range of shampoos out there with different properties, ingredients, and purposes. Over time, different manufacturers have come up with myriad shampoos to suit every hair type and texture, as well as for all different ages.

Some of the most widely used shampoos out there include anti-dandruff shampoos that help fight the common fungus that causes dandruff. Many new shampoos also feature a more organic ingredient list and fewer chemicals. There are shampoos specially designed for babies and their extra sensitive skin and eyes, as well as dry and solid shampoos.

Did you know that American astronauts on the international space station take dry shampoo with them in order to wash their hair in zero g?.

Below is a table with the main types of shampoos on the market and there most important characteristics.

Category Function
Antidandruff Contain ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, tar, salicylates and ketoconazole that reduce the fungi which cause dandruff.
Natural Shampoos made from natural ingredients (vegetable extracts) combined with surfactants. Their effectiveness is controversial.
Alternative Shampoos with lower levels of potentially harmful chemicals, especially sulphates. They require more frequent usage compared to traditional shampoos for the same results.
For babies The contain less eye and skin irritants. Additionally, they use more gentle surfactants.
Solid shampoo/shampoo bars A special type of shampoo which is in a solid form that you can then rub into your hair. Less effective than liquid shampoo.
Dry Shampoo Shampoo applied by spraying onto the dry hair. Removes localized oils in the most problematic areas such as the roots without needing to wash the hair.

What specific properties can shampoos have?

  • Oily hair: gets rid of excess oil from hair and scalp
  • Anti-hair loss: fortifies hair and prevents further hair loss
  • For dry hair: provides more hydration
  • Color protective shampoo: designed to ensure dyed hair maintains its color
  • Balancing shampoo: helps provide a normal pH balance
  • Moisturzing shampoo: restores hair that is lacking in hydration.
  • Volumizing shampoo: provides additional body and volume to thin hair.
  • Straightening shampoo: helps tame curly or frizzy hair that just won’t straighten.

How should you use shampoo?

As with any personal care product out there, you have to know how to use it in order for it to work. Below is a list of detailed instructions to ensure you are getting the most out of your shampoo. This might seem like something to file under “goes without saying”, but there are probably some things you didn’t know.

The first step is to make sure your hair is wet. Use warm water, but not too hot, or you risk drying out your hair. use a small, coin-sized amount of shampoo. Going overboard doesn’t give you superior results. Spread the shampoo evenly across your hands and gently work it into your hair and scalp with your fingers.

Washing your hair daily is not advisable. Generally it is recommended to wash it 2 or 3 times a week.
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Starting at the roots, work your way to the tips of your strands. After you have thoroughly distributed the product throughout your hair, make sure you rinse it just an thoroughly. Take the same amount of shampoo and repeat the process. Following that, vigorously rinse a second time and then wrap your hair with a towel and dry completely.

How often should I use shampoo?

Everyone wants to have clean and well-maintained hair. You don’t achieve this by shampooing your hair seven days a week, however. It is actually advisable to not wash your hair too frequently, or you risk losing too much oil, and your scalp is under-protected.

There is not hard and fast rule governing how often you need to wash your scalp and hair. It depends entirely on the individual. The most commonly thrown out number is two to three times per week. People with dryer hair might be advised to wash less often. Those with especially oily hair, conversely, might need to wash more often.

Conditioner is shampoo’s best friend and best practice is to apply it after washing your hair.
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What are the adverse effects of using shampoo?

Despite the vast majority of Americans using shampoo, they are not completely side effect-free. Adverse reactions normally happen when people don’t use their shampoo properly. Using too much shampoo, washing too often, or not paying attention to the needs of your skin (i.e. sensitive skin) are usually the culprits.

An irritated scalp and surrounding skin is one of the most frequently observed reactions. This is more often the case with shampoos that are filled with irritants like alcohol. Many people also report eye irritation from shampoos.

It’s important to choose the shampoo appropriate to your hair type.
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Other shampoo ingredients can come with other adverse impacts. There have been reports of SLS poisoning, for instance. Sodium sulphate can damage vision. Ingredients like DEO (diethanolamine) can even damage the digestive system. Some components of shampoos can cause other changes and impacts. For example, there have been cases of SLS poisoning. On the other hand, sodium sulphate can damage vision. Substances such as DEO (diethanolamine) have harmful effects on the digestive system. Lastly, there are simply people out there who have allergies to one or more ingredients used in a given shampoo.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of shampoos?

Below is a comparison table of the key benefits and disadvantages of using shampoos.

  • Cleanliness
  • Hydration
  • Seboregulation
  • Healthy hair
  • Allergic reactions
  • Scalp, skin and eye irritation

Shopping criteria

While shopping for a shampoo you need to have certain buying criteria in mind. In the below section we have laid out the most important considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a shampoo. This will ensure you are buying a product that makes the most sense for you, and is best for your hair:


A shampoo’s ingredients is one of the most important features. The ingredients dictate how well it will work, what it will do to your hair, and delineate any potential side effects. It is paramount that you carefully analyze a product’s ingredient list before making a purchase.

Additionally, based on your hair type, you might be looking for a product that focuses on certain aspects, or delivers specific results. This might entail fighting dryness or oiliness, or combating flakiness and dandruff. you also need to make sure that what you are buying doesn’t contain any ingredients that are going to provoke an allergic reaction.

Hair type

Another key feature of any shampoo is the hair type for which it is designed. Based on this criteria, different shampoos contain different ingredients in order to accomplish certain things. You need to know what kind of hair you have, as well as what kind of hair you want to have before buying a shampoo.

For example, there are special shampoos for straight or curly hair. There are also products made especially for colored hair, that will enhance and protect it. Additionally, damaged, dry, dull hair requires a product that strengthens and nourishes it. At the end of the day, there is something out there for every hair type.

If your hair is delicate or sensitive you should opt for something that doesn’t contain any salts or parabens.

Desired results

You also need to understand what you want your shampoo to do for you. Shampoos are made to clean your hair, but they do other things too. All of them are going to clean your hair, but many of them have other features you need to consider before buying.

For instance, you might be after a shampoo that helps combat frizz, or you might want one that increases volume and shine. If you have flat, dull hair, you likely want something that gives you both volume and shine. The list of options is nearly endless.


Many people fail to consider how their age impacts the kind of shampoo they likely need. Children and adult hair have different needs. Children also have more sensitive skin, so they need products that avoid using some of the harsher chemicals that are frequently found in adult shampoos.

Such child-friendly products tend to have a pH more conscious of skin and eye irritation. They also frequently include ingredients that make combing and maintenance much simpler. Then there are shampoos that claim to be appropriate for all ages. These products often don’t consider the special needs of kids, so it is better to get shampoos that factor in age.

Illnesses or allergies

Lastly, you need to factor in skin issues, and allergies. Certain shampoos are even designed for skin conditions like dandruff, where the active ingredient is formulated to combat the fungal cause of this condition. Other shampoos are hypoallergenic, or have a neutral pH to avoid exacerbating allergies.

On the other hand, people with certain diseases or conditions might be more prone to suffering the potential adverse effects of certain shampoos. You need to be aware of these things when selecting a shampoo. Always get a shampoo that takes into consideration any condition(s) you might have to avoid problems.


In summation, shampoos are essential personal hygiene products. You need shampoo to get rid of sebum build up in your hair, but there are many other functions and features of shampoo than just cleanliness.

Correctly applying shampoo will help you maintain healthy, shiny, strong, fabulous, and of course, clean hair. A good shampoo also makes sure you are looking after your specific hair type. Modern shampoos are designed with all ages, all hair types, and all hair styles in mind.

If you want to control and accentuate your curls, then you are going to need a product designed for curl maintenance. If you want to repair damaged, dry hair, you are going to need something with that in mind. Do your kids cry when they get your shampoo in their eyes? Then something kid-friendly is in order.

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