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Cheap Shampoo Buying Guide

We whittled down our list to nine categories of cheap shampoos and identified one or two best products that cost no more than about 40 cents an ounce, which for a 12-ounce bottle is a maximum of $4.80. (Shampoo containers come in all sizes, and usually the cost per ounce decreases as the volume increases, and vice versa.) In certain categories we had to look beyond this limit because of the specialized nature of the shampoo (e.g., dandruff shampoo) or the limited selection.

Here are our picks: Garnier Fructis Fortifying Daily Care (starting at 28 cents/oz.) and Dove Cool Moisture Shampoo (starting at 29 cents/oz.) for everyday/normal hair; Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo (starting at 9 cents/oz.) and Neutrogena Anti-residue Shampoo (starting at $1.06/oz.) for clarifying purposes; Aussie Moist Shampoo (starting at 17 cents/oz.) and Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion Smooth Vitality (starting at 28 cents/oz.) to moisturize hair; L'Oréal EverPure Moisture Shampoo (starting at 71 cents/oz.) for color-treated/chemically-processed hair; Herbal Essence Body Envy Volumizing Shampoo (starting at 29 cents/oz.) to add volume; John Frieda Frizz-Ease Care Straight-Ahead Style-Starting Shampoo (starting at 59 cents/oz.) and TRESemmé Flawless Curls shampoo (starting at 16 cents/oz.) for curly hair; Johnson's Baby Shampoo (starting at 25 cents/oz.) and Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo (starting at 55 cents/oz.) for babies; Aveeno Nourish + Dandruff Control Shampoo and Selsun Blue 2-In-1 Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo, both starting at more than 60 cents an ounce, to control dandruff; and Suave for Men (starting at 22 cents/oz.) and Adidas 2-in-1 Shampoo and Body Wash (starting at 37 cents/oz.) for men's hair-wash needs.

Each of these cheap shampoos is easy to find in the drugstore, supermarket, or online.

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In assembling the list we were guided by the dominant opinion expressed in shampoo reviews but factored in comments from consumers with less satisfactory experiences. Our research was hampered by the relatively small number of consumer and expert shampoo reviews for individual shampoos. This isn't too surprising, though, given the enormous variety of product offerings and the frequency with which manufacturers introduce slight variants on existing formulas. We also noted that the boundaries between the various shampoo niches is quite fluid, such that any given shampoo marketed for a particular hair type might work well for consumers with another hair type. And, of course, not everyone responds the same way to personal care products; one that proves gentle and effective for dozens of users may be irritating or drying or oil-inducing for others.

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What's remarkable is how recently this explosion of hair care products came on the scene. In 1908 the New York Times explained the "rules" of shampoo: Women should aim for "soft and glossy" hair by singing split ends and applying and rinsing olive-oil Castile soap four times. In the opening years of the 20th century, specialists recommended shampooing once every two weeks, or up to every six weeks for hair in good condition. Then, in the 1930s, Dr. John Breck introduced a shampoo that was marketed with portraits of "Breck girls" who became role models for many American women, right up to the 1970s when the iconic poster of golden-tressed Farrah Fawcett hit the walls of men's dorm rooms.

Today's cheap shampoos and upmarket shampoos are differentiated one from another by little more than their packaging, marketing, and obscure ingredients. Note, however, that all hair-wash products start with water and detergent. Fragrances, moisturizers, foamers, and what have you are the value added. The detergents are all FDA-approved and shouldn't irritate your scalp, although some do for some consumers. The detergents typically used in shampoos across all price categories include ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Some shampoos may also contain the gentler TEA or MEA. So-called organic shampoos without sulfates are also available, but generally don't lather well. And some "natural" ingredients, such as menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus, can irritate your skin. More importantly for frugal consumers, organic shampoos carry rich price tags.

During our research we noticed that many women are serial shampoo shoppers. That is, they find a low-cost shampoo they like and stick with it for a while and then go off in search of the next cheap shampoo that lathers well, makes their hair shine, doesn't dry it out or grease it up or irritate their scalp. Often the incentive to try something new is a coupon or sale that makes an already cheap shampoo even cheaper but worth trying. (It could be the shampoo you've been dying to meet but were too risk-averse to try and the incredibly low price means even if you hate it, you haven't wasted much money.) We also noted that women often choose the shampoo and write the review for the guys who use the product, so this guide should prove doubly informative to female readers.

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by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Hair, Hair Dryers, Health,
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