Is there any significant difference between cheap and expensive shampoos and conditioners?
January 10, 2004 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Is there any significant difference between cheap and expensive shampoos and conditioners? This question can be extended to all sorts of personal care products, and bunches of other products I suppose, but I'm mostly interested in knowing whether you're a sucker for buying high-end shampoo.
posted by kmel to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am not a sucker for buying high-end shampoo... i just buy what makes my hair look and feel the best. And i usually get the results that i pay for.
For some reason and i dont just think it is my specific hair, but my hair looks and feels better when i stay away from pantene, suave and V05. And usually combs out nice, looks and smells better when i buy Matrix or paul mitchell.
I dont know about shampoos that cost more than $20 per bottle but i have no problem paying a few more dollars for better quality.
posted by Recockulous at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2004

reversing shampoo
posted by deadchia at 3:24 PM on January 10, 2004

A good source for personal care product information is Paula Begoun's books (too lazy to provide links, sorry). She's a consumer advocate who has tested thousands of products on herself and her staff and done research on a complete range of personal care products and procedures. She says there are good products in all price ranges. She's written a number of books you've probably heard about - Don't Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me and Blue Eyeshadow Should Be Illegal, The Beauty Bible etc. There's one on hair care products too, and all of these books will be available at your local library.

That said, I have never noticed a difference between expensive and cheap shampoos. I use a very cheap one ($2 a litre) on my long hair and it seems to be fine.
posted by orange swan at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2004

I've never noticed much difference besides scent, altho dirt-cheap no-name shampoos I find are thinner and more watery--Finesse and Suave (both cheap) work well for me, but it depends on your hair. Here's a basic Good Housekeeping test of different ones.
posted by amberglow at 3:35 PM on January 10, 2004

Hmm. I'm male, have been growing my hair for over six years now, and am slightly obsessed with shampoo. Here's what I've noticed. $4-6 for an 11 ounce bottle of shampoo == clean, strong, manageable hair with good texture and fewer problems. It also equates to a healthy scalp, one of the oft overlooked functions of shampoo.
Cheaper shampoos tend to work OK, but not for long term use (I wash my hair daily), and more expensive shampoos, while nice, aren't worth it. At the moment I use Garniet Fructosis (SP?), in the past I've used Clairol 5x and Herbal Essences. Pantene also works quite well.

I don't like spending a lot of time on my hair. I want to wash it, towel dry as much as possible, and brush. That's it. No styling, no snipping at the ends, no fuss. Good shampoo makes this possible. Cheap shampoo usually do one of two things: they leave tons of residue that continues to build up, OR they strip all the natural oils out of the hair, thus making it brittle, weak, and all around bad.

Just my experience, but yes, spending twenty bucks or more a month on shampoo is not unreasonable, and the same goes for most products. Soaps, lotions, detergents, doesn't matter.

Now, with all natural products you need to be careful. Many of them are chock full of rare plant extracts that do nothing to clean but smell nice, these can be worse in the long term than the highly chemical, industrial scented $1 soaps and shampoos.
posted by Grod at 3:58 PM on January 10, 2004

I seem to remember a Consumer Reports article that narrowed down the field to two shampoos. One was expensive (can't remember which it was) and one was Suave.

Being cheap, guess what I use? (when I'm not using the free stuff at the health club.)

I have used Pantene on sale, and it does smell very nice.
posted by konolia at 4:48 PM on January 10, 2004

I think with this, as with most things, you get what you pay for.

Now that I have hair, I find that it likes what comes out of a $10, not-overly-largish bottle of Modern Organic Products' Mixed Greens shampoo just fine - certainly as well as the stuff you get in hotels, which tends to be either Aveda or Origins.

By the same token, though, I just read that Bath and Body Works sells a product for $15 that its upmarket outlet relabels and offers at $40. So there is also the issue of paying for packaging and merchandising to consider.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:52 PM on January 10, 2004

This is the book that orange swan was referring to above. While it has some good reviews of tons of hair products, there is an updated version that amazon doesn't carry yetn . Alot of times, it really is just pure personal preference of the products smell, appearence, etc. rather than the product itself that makes the difference, imo.
posted by thatothrgirl at 6:25 PM on January 10, 2004

Caution: long thread, but good advice within - avoid products that include any form of silicone (many mid-range products do (i.e. Pantene), though interestingly, most low- and high-end shampoos and conditioners do not). And yes, my hair is growing back in.
posted by vers at 6:51 PM on January 10, 2004

I hate to sound new-agey, but I've found a good way to strip all the redsidue-heavy crap from my hair. Y'see, I have to use various dandruff shampoos on my head, and I condition with pro-V, which I know is basically water and sodium laureth something. Anyway, I find that rinsing with a 1:4 vinegar mixture strips all the crap outta my hair, as if I'd never put anything in. I do this once or twice a week. In the summer for some "sun", I use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

I know this doesn't directly address the Ask Me question, but I've found that it makes all the various shampoos and conditioners my girlfriends over the years work better. FYI.
posted by notsnot at 9:32 PM on January 10, 2004

I once bought a 30-dollar bottle of Aveda conditioner targeted at people with thin hair. It did not smooth my hair, left it frizzy, and I gave the bottle away mostly unused. Meanwhile Pantene's curly hair conditioner leaves me with sleek, unfrizzy curls.

As someone with thickish, color-treated curly hair that dries and frizzes easily, I have learned that shampoo and conditioner make a much bigger difference for me than for many of my straight haried friends. Without conditioner, or with the wrong conditioner, it takes me a good 30 minutes to brush the tangles out of my hair. With good conditioner, I get my hair smoothed in the shower and don't really have to brush at all.

When you use conditioner and other stying products regularly, your shampoo starts to matter more. You want to make sure that the shampoo is capable of cleaning the product out of the way so you're starting with a clean slate each day. Alternately, try buying Neutrogena's "Clean" products and washing with them a few days a month, they'll get your hair fresh and new.

The most important factor when choosing shampoo and conditioner, however, is making sure they're formulated for your hair type. If your hair is straight, short and low-maintenance there is no reason to buy anything but Suave. Otherwise, you should be able to find a good shampoo and conditioner for $3 to $10 per bottle, depending on your hair.

Finally, if you dye your hair you should really invest in color-protecting shampoo and/or conditioner.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:40 AM on January 11, 2004

There is so much hype in hair care products. Hair is dead protein. There are only so many things you can do to it. You aren't going to "rejuvenate" it or anything. You can:
  • clean it
  • coat it
  • glue it together
  • cut it
  • burn it
I can't think of anything else.
posted by RavinDave at 5:05 AM on January 11, 2004

Suave starts to activate my dandruff in a big way. Spendier shampoos do not.

Discussion on Misc.Frugal-Living. More than you probably ever want to know.
posted by mecran01 at 6:15 AM on January 11, 2004

Paula Begoun is always taking the helium out of cosmetics and shampoo hype. I read her newsletter just for that monthly nyah-nyah satisfaction.

I personally like cheapo Flex - smells nice, cleans well, no buildup - and then I use pricey conditioners and silicone smoothers.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:40 PM on January 11, 2004

My hair and scalp are less dry and feel better with the Biolage (I think) shampoo and conditioner. Haven't yet found another pair that works, but I've only just begun looking.
posted by callmejay at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2004

Hmm, I just did a search and see that there is a new Suave Biolage knock-off, whatever that means, for like 2 dollars. I'll have to try it.
posted by callmejay at 8:20 AM on January 12, 2004

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