We Tried 8 Drugstore Shampoos and This is the Best

By   

View as:

girl choosing hair conditioner at store
Photo credit: JackF/istockphoto

SPLITTING HAIRS

There are so many shampoos on drugstore shelves that it can be hard to figure out which to choose. Some are sulfate-free, some feature keratin, others rely on tea tree oil or goji berries. Many advertise salon quality for less. But do they live up to their promises to make hair shinier, silkier, and more manageable? We tried eight drugstore shampoos on thick, normal to oily, color-treated hair with a slight wave, using each one daily for three days. We paired all the shampoos with the same conditioner and abstained from using conditioner on one of the three days to see the effects. Here are the contenders, starting with the cheapest (by price per ounce) and culminating in our pick for best drugstore shampoo.

Prices and availability may vary.

Tresemmé Keratin Smooth Color Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

TRESEMMÉ KERATIN SMOOTH COLOR SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $4.99 for 22 fl. oz. | Buy it at Target
Scent: Pleasant, sweet, and floral
Recommended For: Dry and color-treated hair
Not Recommended For: Straight, oily hair
What It Claims to Do: Tresemmé's recently revamped Keratin Smooth system is designed to fight humidity with its frizz-calming formula and give hair a natural, healthy-looking shine.

smiling woman holding shampoo in supermarket
Photo credit: CandyBoxImages/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF TRESEMMÉ KERATIN SMOOTH COLOR SHAMPOO

This product goes on smooth, forming an ultra-rich lather. It leaves hair feeling nice and silky and helps even out split ends and frizz. If you already have straight, shiny hair (and, well ... good for you), this line may be a bit too intense. It leaves hair heavily conditioned, and while it feels great, it doesn't always look great. After multiple washes, it leaves hair on the oily side. And you don't want flat, greasy hair after you've just washed it. But if your hair is frizzy and damaged, this keratin-based shampoo is an excellent option.
Suave Professionals Black Raspberry and White Tea Nourishing Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

SUAVE PROFESSIONALS BLACK RASPBERRY AND WHITE TEA NOURISHING SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $2.94 for 12.6 fl. oz. | Buy it at Walmart
Scent: Wild raspberry
Recommended For: Unmanageable, frizzy hair
Not Recommended For: Fine hair
What It Claims to Do: Use the antioxidant properties of black raspberry and white tea to replenish moisture and keep color-treated hair vibrant. In combination with its conditioner, this Suave shampoo is allegedly "salon-proven" to achieve the same results as the more expensive Aveda brand.

Asian man washing hair in shower
Photo credit: torwai/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF SUAVE BLACK RASPBERRY AND WHITE TEA NOURISHING SHAMPOO

The best thing about this shampoo is that it's very inexpensive, delivering what seemed to us like salon-quality results at a fraction of salon shampoo prices, even without the corresponding conditioner. The second-best thing about this shampoo is its yummy smell — akin to a freshly baked raspberry pie. It's effective for battling split ends and frizz and leaves hair with a polished, satiny gloss. If we have a complaint, it's that a few days of using this shampoo left our hair needing a volumizing pickup.
Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of cvs.com

PANTENE PRO-V BEAUTIFUL LENGTHS SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $4.99 for 12.6 fl. oz. | Buy it at CVS
Scent: Powder-fresh linen
Recommended For: Long, dry hair
Not Recommended For: Oily hair
What It Claims to Do: Strengthen hair against breakage and split ends and nourish the scalp so hair grows faster. Ingredients including pro-vitamin B5, or panthenol, along with lipids and antioxidants, are credited with restoring hair to its original luster.

women comparing shampoo in supermarket
Photo credit: kitzcorner/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF PANTENE PRO-V BEAUTIFUL LENGTHS SHAMPOO

We love the way Pantene Beautiful Lengths smells. Think about snuggling with your favorite, freshly laundered blanket. This shampoo delivers rich lather, effortless detangling, and lasting shine at a low price. If your scalp tends toward the oily side, you need not condition your hair after washing, and consider using this shampoo every other day to avoid buildup. This is a product that makes more than just your hair feel good: Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program has collected more than 800,000 ponytail donations to be made into wigs for women undergoing cancer treatment.
Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

AVEENO PURE RENEWAL SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $5.97 for 10.5 fl. oz. | Buy it at Walmart
Scent: Scintillating sea foam
Recommended For: All hair types
What It Claims to Do: This moisturizing, protein-rich shampoo is infused with seaweed extract to naturally cleanse hair and remove impurities. It's also sulfate-free (formulated with Johnson & Johnson's Natrasurf, a bio-renewable, plant-oil-based polymer) and safe for color-treated hair.

woman taking shower pouring gel on her hand
Photo credit: LarsZahnerPhotography/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF AVEENO PURE RENEWAL SHAMPOO

Unlike many sulfate-free shampoos, you don't need a lot of Aveeno Pure Renewal to get a good lather going, which makes it economical. It can be used daily without fear that it will weigh down your hair or leave a dingy residue. Add this one to your hair arsenal to combat frizz and dryness and restore hair to its natural shine.
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

NEUTROGENA ANTI-RESIDUE SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $4.89 for 6 fl. oz. | Buy it at Target
Scent: Men's aftershave
Recommended For: Oily and fine hair
Not Recommended For: Dry or color-treated hair
What It Claims to Do: Touted as a gentle formula that won't cause irritation, this shampoo is supposed to remove 90 percent of dulling residue caused by conditioners, styling products, and other shampoos. It's a clarifying shampoo designed to combat greasy buildup and leave hair squeaky clean.

woman washing hair by shampoo in shower
Photo credit: skynesher/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF NEUTROGENA ANTI-RESIDUE SHAMPOO

Yes, Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo does indeed remove residue, but watch out, because it may leave hair on the dry side. It's supposed to be used only once a week, and you may need to deep-condition your hair afterward. This is a good product for fine hair, as it tends to add volume while clarifying. On our color-treated hair, however, it stripped away gray coverage. It definitely makes hair feel clean — just maybe a little too clean.
L'Oréal Everpure Repair & Defend Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of bedbathandbeyond.com

L'ORÉAL EVERPURE REPAIR & DEFEND SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $6.99 for 8.5 fl. oz. | Buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond
Scent: Metallic
Recommended For: Dry hair
Not Recommended For: Straight, oily hair
What It Claims to Do: The EverPure line from L'Oréal is designed to provide luxurious formulas free from harsh salts, parabens, and sulfates — nasty particles that destroy the hair cuticle, make it harder to dry your hair, and strip it of its natural oils. Goji berries are said to strengthen and protect color-treated hair.

woman in shower washing hair
Photo credit: ariwasabi/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF L'ORÉAL EVERPURE REPAIR & DEFEND SHAMPOO

This 100 percent vegan shampoo produces an incredibly rich lather, which is a surprise, because sulfate-free typically means lather-free. One downside to this product is the slightly metallic smell, which is not at all appealing. A slight residue remains on the hair after rinsing, but supposedly it's connected to keeping hair perfectly conditioned. Although our locks felt sticky when wet, they were perfectly soft and lustrous once dry. L'Oréal EverPure Repair & Defend Shampoo smoothed split ends and left our hair supple.
Paul Mitchell Original Awapuhi Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

PAUL MITCHELL ORIGINAL AWAPUHI SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $10.59 for 10.14 fl. oz. | Buy it at Target
Scent: Hibiscus and coconut
Recommended For: All hair types
What It Claims to Do: Gently cleanse hair and prevent moisture loss with awapuhi, which is from the ginger family. Paul Mitchell learned of the Polynesian "canoe plant" and its use in modern beauty products during trips to Hawaii.

woman buying body care products in supermarket
Photo credit: nd3000/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF PAUL MITCHELL ORIGINAL AWAPUHI SHAMPOO

We love the smell of this product. It's light, fragrant, and reminiscent of hibiscus flowers. If you have oily hair and need to clean it daily, you can count on this shampoo to cleanse and moisturize without stripping essential oils from your scalp. If you have dry hair, it will smooth the ends and lend a brilliant shine.
Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

PAUL MITCHELL TEA TREE SPECIAL SHAMPOO

Est. Price: $17.99 for 10.14 fl. oz. | Buy it at Target
Scent: Peppermint and lavender
Recommended For: Dry and color-treated hair
Not Recommended For: Oily hair
What It Claims to Do: Rid hair of impurities and promote vitality and luster. Tea tree oil, peppermint, and lavender invigorate the scalp and leave it tingling. Tea tree oil is also recommended by some dermatologists as a natural remedy for a flaky scalp. This shampoo is touted as paraben-free, vegan, and color-safe.

man washing hair in shower
Photo credit: grinvalds/istockphoto

OUR REVIEW OF PAUL MITCHELL TEA TREE SPECIAL SHAMPOO

There's way too much peppermint and lavender in the mix to make this shampoo smell pleasant. The scent is simply too strong. We also found that, after a few days, a slight oily residue builds up on the hair — enough to warrant limited use. This shampoo is also the most expensive one we tried.
Paul Mitchell Original Awapuhi Shampoo
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

AND THE WINNER IS ... PAUL MITCHELL ORIGINAL AWAPUHI SHAMPOO

The scent, the lather, the versatility — Paul Mitchell's Awapuhi Shampoo is hands-down the best drugstore shampoo we tried. No matter how many times we washed our hair, it came out soft and luminous. This product was also consistently the best for combating frizz. Although it was the second-most expensive, at about $1 an ounce, the price easily beats salon brands.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.