Shampoo and conditioner for dry hair? Don't tell me not to use shampoo.
January 10, 2021 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Okay, look, god knows I love you, but please don't tell me not to use shampoo. I would like a shampoo and conditioner that are good for dry hair.

As terrible a time as this is to ask, I'm just about out of shampoo, wasn't happy with what I was using and need to buy more. My hair is thick, slightly coarse and some time between 2010, when I began to keep it really short, and 2020, when the pandemic meant I could no longer visit my barber, it got a lot dryer than it was in my youth. When it's short, I use pantene and it's fine.

Shampoos I have tried but that don't moisturize in any noticeable way:
Aveda products
Most co-op brand "natural" moisturizing shampoos including those with shea butter
A fancy sulphate-free shampoo from post-Aveda brand Intelligent Nutrients which just totally stripped my hair

I am completely comfortable with better living through chemistry sorts of shampoos and indeed, historically, I have had better luck with those than with co-op brands.

Cheaper is better than more expensive, of course, but now that I live in pandemic world I am only washing my hair every other day and am willing to spend a little more. (If I live through the pandemic and am healthy enough for haircuts on the other side of it, I'm cutting it all off and going back to pantene, so this is a chance for a little holiday in fancy product land.)
posted by Frowner to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you are struggling with dry hair, I would suggest using a product designed for (and preferably owned by) POC. Regardless, you need to use a conditioner. Try Shea Moisture, the blue Hydrate & Repair. You can get it online, at Walmart, at CVS etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have dry, thick and slightly coarse hair and my hair loves New Wash. It’s...kind of a combined shampoo and conditioner? If you don’t want to spend $40 on a flyer please DM me and I’ll happily send you a sample size of mine, it’s changed my hair so much for the better and I want everyone to experience the magic!
posted by stellaluna at 12:31 PM on January 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Same hair here:

1. Costco Kirkland Signature sulfate-free stuff? I used it at an AirBnB once and my hair did feel softer afterwards. Failing that, my gym turned me on to the Dove Nutritive Solutions line, which I bought for home, and works surprisingly well (it's not sulfate-free or anything).

2. My hair is pretty long, so I use a boar bristle brush to coax my scalpoils downhair and wash it once a week. This also seems to help. (My way of determining whether it's helping is when my hair waves up on its own instead of being a giant coarsepoof.)
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2021

Came in to suggest Shea Moisture. They have a Moisture Retention Shampoo that I have purchased from Target. And I won't suggest no shampoo, but I did find that diluting my shampoo before I applied it really helped my dry prone hair. I just keep a plastic cup in the shower and mix in a bit of water to a tiny amount of shampoo.
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest taking a look at the Curly Girl scrunching method just for applying the shampoo and conditioner to your hair, one you settle on one (ignoring all the other stuff if you don't care). It's aimed at getting as much moisture into your hair as possible.
posted by telophase at 12:41 PM on January 10, 2021

Similar hair type: I use a quickie deep conditioner every time I wash (Aussie Moist) and that has worked well for rehydrating my hair after shampoo or cleansing conditioner.
posted by sm1tten at 12:42 PM on January 10, 2021

One trick that has helped my dry hair retain moisture is to reverse the order of shampoo and conditioner. I put conditioner on the ends of my hair first, let it soak in for a bit, then shampoo the roots, then rinse it all out.

Have you experimented with washing your hair slightly less frequently (every 2 days)? With longer hair, it can be tricky to find the balance between using shampoo frequently enough for the roots not to get too oily/gross, without completely drying out the ends of your hair.

For products, I've had good luck with the Shea Moisture "Moisture Retention" shampoo and conditioner linked above by Pretty Good Talker. It doesn't dry out my hair the way other shampoos often did.

FWIW, I can't do that "no shampoo" method either. I tried it, and it definitely just does not work for me.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2021

I have liked Maui Moisture's products. Maybe try the Heal & Hydrate ones (I use Curl Quench and I love it) They run about $7 for 13 oz. I don't know if that's expensive for you or not but for me, it's on the cheaper end of shampoos/conditions I've tried.

(I have also liked the Shea Moisture products in the past too.)
posted by edencosmic at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

One thing to try is, every other time you wash your hair, just use conditioner and not shampoo. Still scrub and rinse like normal. Not at all the same as the no-poo thing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Did you try the Aveda Damage Remedy line? I just started using it and it’s like I’ve got somebody else’s hair on my head. Okay that sounds gross. But the difference is amazing!
posted by HotToddy at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2021

My hair is dry on the length and oily scalp (I have wavy hair). I've found using a deep repairing conditioner and letting it sit for 15-20 minutes !ales a big difference. I use Aunt Jackie's fix my hair right now, but I've used shea in the past. I use it about 2-3 x a month.

For routine shampoo/conditioner, I use Mop top. I still leave the conditioner while I wash my face and body.

I'm a combination skin/hair in general (dry+ oily). When nothing seems to help, I will just not do anything but a sponge bath for a weekend. It's mostly for my skin, but my hair always seems healthier after.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:10 PM on January 10, 2021

I've had a good experience with Living Proof moisturizing line (I know some others have said it dries out their hair, but it doesn't mine), but what really helped was using a moisturizing oil that I apply on wet, combed hair after I've washed and conditoned it. I really like OGX's Argan Oil of Morocco Penetrating Oil, which is $6 at most typical places like Target or Ulta. I was also introduced to MOREMO Hair Essence & Delightful Oil, which is more expensive at $30, but extremely effective and with a (IMO) nice, delicate floral scent.

When I use either of these products, I rub a nickel sized or so amount between my palms and then rub my hands gently down the length of my hair, after it's been toweled but not dried. I do the whole length of my hair except for the few inches closest to the scalp.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:17 PM on January 10, 2021

My hair is like yours; it's gotten drier as I've aged, and the stuff I used to use doesn't cut it any more.

I find there is little correlation between how expensive a shampoo is (or how "natural") and how well it works. I've had a lot more success learning what ingredients don't work well for me and choosing my shampoo and conditioner that way.

One big epiphany I had about two years ago (discovered after I desperately googled "hair like straw") is that protein in any form makes my hair terribly dry. Many, many, many shampoos AND conditioners contain protein or protein-mimicking ingredients. I'd start by avoiding proteins and see if that helps.

So you will need to check ingredient lists to make sure they don't have any of the following:
  • anything with the word protein in it, obviously
  • also coconut oil and shea butter; they mimic protein by filling in gaps in the hair shaft, which prevents moisture from getting in and hydrating the hair
  • words like hydrolyzed, collagen, keratin, oat, soy, wheat, silk, milk, amino acids, peptides
This made the biggest and most immediate difference for me. My hair returned to normal within a few days after I washed my hair with a clarifying shampoo to strip off the protein buildup and applied a deep conditioning hydrating hair mask, then started using new non-proteiny daily shampoo and conditioner.

As for what to use, look for things that are "hydrating" or "moisturizing" that don't have any of the above ingredients. Oils are your friend. Argan oil is great for me, as long as there is no coconut or shea along with it. This is what I use; I'm in Canada and they're easily available here but I'm not sure if they are where you live. I think you can order them all online, though.
  • daily or every other day: Marc Anthony Strictly Curls shampoo (I don't actually have curly hair, just wavy, but it doesn't have any of the stuff I have to avoid and isn't drying). The conditioner of this line is pointless on my hair though, so I use...
  • after every shampoo: Inecto Naturals Argan Conditioner (the conditioner is great, but do NOT use the shampoo because it's very stripping and drying)
  • after washing and conditioning: a small amount of OI Beautifying Potion hair oil, concentrated on the ends of my hair but swiped lightly through the length
  • once a week: Whole Blends Argan and Almond mask
Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:32 PM on January 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm dealing with much longer hair than I've had in a very long time and went through this a few months ago. I've been using basic Dove brand shampoo and conditioner for years and it was fine when my hair was short. I had already been doing an every other wash is conditioner only thing because my hair tends to be dry even if my scalp is greasy.

Among a few conditioners I tried, the thing I like the most is a Fructus brand conditioning mask.

I tend to take long showers. First thing I do is wash my hair, and then I goop a bunch of the mask conditioner into it and leave it in for the rest of the shower. (I did this with regular conditioner too but this mask stuff does, for me, work a LOT better.)
posted by phunniemee at 1:41 PM on January 10, 2021

My hair is thick, long, curly, and tends towards dryness. I use Olaplex N4 shampoo and Kiehl's olive fruit oil conditioner. Good conditioner seems to be the key for me. I let it sit for about a minute and rinse it out. My hair is shiny and soft despite all the straightening and heat I subject it to.
posted by Stoof at 2:20 PM on January 10, 2021

So much complicated advice!

Hair is pretty tricky. One thing I've noticed is that after a lot of use of sulfate/silicone free hair products, people's hair feels dryer and bad sometimes.

I'd like to recommend you try and old fashioned sulfate/silicone containing shampoo and conditioner. I was using sulfate free for a while, and my scalp and hair dried out a TON. I picked up a $5 two pack of pantene, and I finally felt the relief after a while. At the end of the day, despite what your stylist says, sulfates existed because they cleaned well. Silicon existed because it made your hair feel and look good. I don't think either are technically evil.

After 6 months of pantene, my hair didn't feel quite as amazing. Sometimes I use a scrub or a leave in, lately I've been experimenting with shampoo bars. I still recommend you try it out because it's so cheap and easy!
posted by bbqturtle at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2021

Kiehl’s sulfate/silicon free shampoo and conditioner have done the trick for me. Now I barely use styling product and only since texting the ten months since my last hair cut mark have I been adding a separate argan oil to the ends once or twice a week after I shower.

They have a new customer 15% off coupon and I usually stock up at the holidays or during FNF when things are 30% off.

There was an awkward week or so when I switched from regular shampoo/conditioner to this where my hair didn’t look clean as my scalp adjusted to the new product. I wash my hair daily and tend to condition four or five days a week and use the shampoo on the other days. When I swim, I use Paul Mitchell’s clarifying shampoo to remove the chlorine. Without swimming during the pandemic, I’ve used it a few times when I felt like my hair could use a thorough washing.
posted by icaicaer at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2021

I'm a toxicologist. That sounds off-base for this question, except I work with a lot of solvents and detergents. If you're worried about harshly drying shampoos, do what hospitals do: use an extremely gentle cleanser that isn't marketed strictly as a shampoo. Cetaphil's gentle cleanser, for example. I have a beard, a very dry beard, and I use this stuff instead of beard soap and/or shampoo. It sort of replaces both a shampoo and a conditioner because it's so gentle. Cleanses just fine. It isn't cheap but a little goes a long way.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding stellaluna; New Wash has been the answer for me.
posted by minervous at 3:55 PM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do you have hard water now and you didn't before? Hard water is hard on hair.
posted by aniola at 4:42 PM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have thick coarse dry hair and I haven’t found that the shampoo or conditioner make too much difference for me. Some are worse than others, but none of them have made my hair noticeably better.

What has been a game-changer though is coconut oil. It really was a revelation. I just scoop out an amount roughly the mass of a dime, rub it between my palms, and then disperse it over my hair while it’s wet. When it dries, it’s perfectly moisturized and shiny and healthy-seeming. I’ve stopped using all (other) styling products, because I stopped needing them.

Bonus is it’s cheap and lasts forever and you can buy it practically anywhere :)

On preview also aniola is totally right about hard water: it’s brutal for hair. If you suspect that might be the problem you can buy this which will pull all the problematic hard water stuff out of your hair. It’s cheap and you will only need to use it once a month or so. (It’s science-backed: a woman in Chicago did her chemistry thesis on products that claim to remove minerals from hair and this was the only one that worked.)
posted by Susan PG at 5:11 PM on January 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Squish to Condish is the method telophas mentioned above and it's life-changing. Basically you put conditioner on sopping wet hair and scrunch it in. Then more water and more scrunching. It's counterintuitive that more water would make conditioner work better - you'd think it would thin it out and make it less effective. But I suspect what is happening is that you're breaking up the big oily globs of conditioner into teeny globs that stick to the hair better. Sort of like shaking a bottle of oil and vinegar salad dressing to disperse the oil layer throughout the dressing. When your hair feels slimy like seaweed you've done it right. Don't over-rinse, you want a good amount of conditioner left on the hair. This method makes even cheap conditioner work better.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla shampoo and conditioner. Add a pump of conditioner to the shampoo when you cleanse.
I have also used a few different hair masks 1-2 times a week. The best I have ever used is IGK Expensive.
posted by oflinkey at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2021

Virtue Labs products - pick the right one for your hair. A friend recommended them to me and.. yesssss. Beautifully luxurious hair.
posted by VioletU at 7:08 PM on January 10, 2021

I have a very different hair type, and I don’t know what works for dry hair, but I realized that chlorinated city water dries my skin out. I installed a chlorine filter (Rainshow’r) to my shower, and it helps my skin. Maybe it would help your hair.
posted by Comet Bug at 7:26 PM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding Kerastase. I've been colouring and dying my hair for almost 26+ years. The first time I used their coloured hair shampoo and conditioner, the textural difference was quite profound. soft, springy, pleasant. Have never changed, since then.
posted by lemon_icing at 9:15 PM on January 10, 2021

I get dry hair, especially in winter. The best combination of technique and shampoos + conditioners + other treatments I have found thus far, and I shampoo daily:

- I massage vitamin e oil into my hair before bed (I shower in the morning), making sure to reach my scalp.
- I shampoo with warm water (to open the cuticle of the hair) and condition with cool water. Hot water is just going to damage it and dry it out further (took me a while to get this through my thick skull because I love my hot showers).
-Shampoo and condition with REF Intense Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner (if I feel like spending the money but it has seriously been worth it as I am someone with thick, coarse hair).
-Use a deep conditioning mask at night once or twice a week, depending on the dryness level.

A cheaper alternative to Ref that I really, really like is Kristen Ess's products.

Other than that, having my estrogen levels balanced (re: increased) helped immensely as well, but that's a specific problem to me and may not be the issue with most people.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:39 AM on January 11, 2021

I can vouch for No Nothing Color Shampoo. I don't color my hair but it is coarse and dry and it likes this shampoo. Follow with Free & Clear Conditioner. This is straight moisture, no silicones, no proteins. Then I put a little bit of Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Hydrating Conditioner, which does have silicones over the Free & Clear. This seals in the moisture. Please note that none of these products have proteins and you may need to add that back in if your hair starts to get too elastic. I use It's a 10 leave-in treatment.
posted by fozzie_bear at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2021

I bleached my hair recently and now it's dry AF. My scalp is always a mess so I've been trying a whole range of things and tea tree oil shampoo has been a godsend for scalp and hair. I also do a hair treatment every week or two (giant handful on my dry hair before breakfast, wash out in the shower), and use oil. A kind of horrifying amount of it but my curls are back and it's not always a frizzy mess. I don't work well with coconut oil so mine is a mix of basic vegetable oil with rosehip and bergamot mixed in.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:18 PM on January 11, 2021

Not a shampoo rec - I have a totally different hair texture from you - but popped in to mention that I actually have found that collagen supplements have helped a lot with my hair dryness. I have a vital proteins creamer that I use on occasion - usually no more than 2-3 times a week, sometimes as little as once a week, and even still it has made a huge difference. I also only use a half serving, which stretches the jar longer. Might be worth a shot.
posted by amycup at 5:54 PM on January 11, 2021

I have no idea if this will help, but this is what I use.
Chagrin Valley shampoo bars. My go-to in winter is the butter bar conditioner, but your mileage may vary. I like using something I can carry that does not spill, is not a detergent, lathers and cleans well, and lasts a long time.
The breaking in period of transitioning from shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfates (looking at you, Lush solid shampoo bars) to a natural shampoo bar is brutal for some. I just used the shampoo bar, used an apple cider vinegar/water rinse, and a couple of times used a cheap conditioner if my hair felt weird. After a week, I used only the shampoo bar with no problems.
I do have hard water, which is counterproductive.

Mane 'n Tail Moisturizer - Texturizer Conditioner. I began using this decades ago at the suggestion of my children's swimming instructor. It works for chlorinated water and salt water, as well as general winter static.
I use the conditioner on damp hair after shampooing, and do not rinse it out. It dries stiff, and the texture may not appeal to some, but it doesn't bother me after I comb it out.
Mane 'n Tail also has a shampoo which keeps hair from being a hot mess from chlorine damage.
I go to the pet supply section of Wal-Mart to get it, but it is also available in the regular cosmetics aisle.
I've stepped away from using this, only because I have not been in a swimming pool for months.
posted by TrishaU at 2:13 AM on January 12, 2021

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