Are cheap shampoos just as good as expensive ones? In these penny-pinching days, reader, you would like to hear “yes.” After all, you have been to the salon and seen the hair product prices that hit the fifty dollar range, and doubtlessly, you have wondered if the dollar bottles of shampoo at the grocery store can do the trick when it comes to giving you great hair.
But the internet is loaded with product reviews that both rave over and condemn inexpensive shampoos. The truth of the matter is that maybe a cheap shampoo will work for you…and maybe not.
Try to answer a simple question like this and you will find out that it’s difficult at best. There are hundreds of shampoo and conditioning products available and they all tout their superiority in one way or another. But what does your hair really need from a shampoo and do varying ingredients make a noticeable difference?
Basic Shampoo ingredients
What are the basic elements that a shampoo needs to clean your hair and how much are you willing to pay for ingredients that claim to do more than just clean?
First of all, a shampoo should contain surfactants. These are the elements that break down the scalp’s oil and dirt so that it can be washed away. But there are several kinds of surfactant molecules. Some help create lather. Some decrease the soap’s irritancy.
Surfactants in Shampoo
But essentially, these surfactants are the cleaning crew of the shampoo and whatever its particular formulation, it should break down dirt and oil so they may be removed during a rinse leaving clean hair behind. There’s nothing tricky about the surfactant issue. All shampoos have them in order to be, well, shampoo. If we wanted to, we could all probably make our own at home.
But today’s shampoos contain other ingredients besides surfactants. Read the ingredient list of various shampoo bottles and you are likely to see colors, preservatives, conditioners, perfumes, thickening agents, plant extracts, citric acid, UV protectants, provitamins, antioxidants, etc…
At this point, you might ask yourself whether your hair type needs these added ingredients. Some of you might even wonder whether they’re good for you or not.
As an example, consider sodium chloride—also known as table salt. This is a very inexpensive thickening agent that may be added to shampoo. Depending on the surfactants used, the end result sometimes needs to be thickened. Salt makes the mixture harsh and may cause the eyes to feel irritated, but it does its job and does it inexpensively. Pricey shampoos can afford to pay for thickening agents that are much less harsh.
A harsh formulation versus a gentle formulation is what most of the shampoo research seems to say about cheap brands versus expensive, but individual product reviews frequently contradict this notion.
Sometimes it comes down to your individual hair type. Some mops might respond to one formulation better than another—and it doesn’t always reflect in the price. A strong shampoo might dry out one head of hair, but be the perfect choice for hair that tends to be oily. Checking the ingredient list is the only sure-fire way to know if a product might be right for you. If you see sodium laureth sulfate, you probably have a mild shampoo. If you see ammonium lauryl sulfate, you have a stronger brew.
For instance, most botanical extracts aren’t even able to impact your hair whatsoever in a wash; they may add to the fragrance, but do not really improve the health of your hair and they will increase the cost of the product. There are exceptions, like jojoba oil, which has been shown to benefit hair, but overall, plant extracts make for great smells at high prices.
Before you test cheap or expensive shampoos, check into ingredients
The internet is filled with useful information about commonly used shampoo ingredients. Your own hair type—dry, oily, processed—will necessarily require some of these ingredients and will need to avoid others. Product reviews don’t tell you the whole story because they tend to relate to their author’s head of hair.
Do some homework online. Check into the ingredients of some of the cheaper shampoos and see if they include any elements that would be of particular benefit to you. A cheap shampoo paired with an inexpensive conditioner might also garner good hair results.
Or, check out the ingredients for your favorite salon brand and see if any inexpensive formulations come close. In some cases, you might find that you’re merely paying a high price for a great scent. You might just as easily find a less expensive brand that smells good too.
Finally, let your hair be your guide. If you test out several shampoos and find one that does what you want it to do, make a note its ingredients.
You might find these in another product that costs less. Or, you might just need to pamper your locks with a pricey brand that works best for you.
With all the shampoos out there today competing for your dollars, cheap or expensive, you will have plenty to choose from. Learn what you need in your shampoo and go get it; hopefully, you can find it in your budget!