It's like a beauty rite of passage: standing in the haircare aisle at the drugstore, trying to decide which shampoo and conditioner to pluck off the shelf. (It's almost as difficult as picking out a birthday card.) Most women want a shampoo that is moisturizing and hydrating, according to our survey of 1,400+ women.
Our top-tested shampoos for dry hair are:
Top Lab Pick:
Best Value: Best for Frizzy Hair: Best for Thin Hair: Top Sulfate-Free Formula: Top Salon Formula: Top Lightweight Formula:
Best Lather: Best Scent:
You can read more on all of them below. But if you're not in a rush, we also have answers to some of your other high-priority shampoo questions:
Umm, why is my hair so dry in the first place?
You might have your curling iron obsession to thank. Danusia Wnek, a chemist in the Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the GolfHr Institute, says dry hair is often due to "chemical damage from permanent coloring or relaxants, mechanical damage from grooming, and heat damage from hot tools like curling and flat irons," all of which can affect the structure of your hair fibers. You've also gotta factor in your hormones, age, and ethnicity.
What does it mean if a shampoo is “sulfate-free"?
Some experts argue that sulfates are harsher on your hair, so now there are sulfate-free formulas that use milder ingredients to clean your hair. Wnek recommends sulfate-free shampoo for those who are allergic to sulfates or have a sensitive scalp. Try Matrix Biolage R.A.W. Nourish Shampoo ($25, ), and you can read more about it below.
Do I need to buy shampoo and conditioner in a set?
We're all for using products that work in tandem so you can get their full benefits. The top-tested shampoos ahead were developed alongside conditioners that are meant to get you the best moisturization and hydration possible. You should also treat both steps equally. Wnek compares shampoo and conditioner to soap and lotion: While shampoo is cleansing, you really need conditioner to bring moisture and hydration to your hair.
Now, let's get to more about our top shampoos for dry hair:
Our Beauty Lab loved this pick (and the matching conditioner), because it really moisturized and softened hair. It was a favorite among consumer testers, too. "I love the shampoo," said one. "It quickly lathered up and removed any build-up I had in my hair." Another said she was a fan of the "creamy" texture.
Pair it with: Herbal Essences Bio: Renew Coconut Milk Conditioner ($4, )
This product was beloved by our lab, testers, and online shoppers alike. "My hair was so dried out until I used Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo," shared one Walmart buyer. "It made my hair so soft again after the first use." Meanwhile, one tester shared, "My hair is silky and voluminous," and another said it did wonders for her long, thick hair.
Pair it with: Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Conditioner ($5, )
This was another shampoo that moisturized so well, testers were tempted to skip conditioner. One felt she "could already tell a significant change in my hair texture for the better." Another said that she only needed a small amount to cleanse her long hair.
Pair it with: John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Conditioner ($7, )
If you have thin hair, this is your best bet. Testers were surprised by how it hydrated and cleansed well at the same time, and noted how smooth it was after application. And we loved hearing this one: "Where can I buy this by the case? Where has this been all my life?"
Pair it with: Kérastase Nutritive Conditioner for Severely Dry Hair ($34, )
If you have a sensitive scalp or sulfate allergy, our Lab recommends this shampoo hands down. Made with quinoa husk and honey, this more natural option showed a significant improvement in our testers' hair. Two testers described its "rich" feel and consistency, and another said she didn't need much to clean her entire head of hair.
Our testers noted that this shampoo's pleasant scent lasted for a while and didn't dry out their scalp. It was cleansing and nourishing at the same time. "It felt like it was strong enough to clean all the product out of my hair after one use," said one tester, who described her hair as dry, frizzy, course, and curly.
Pair it with: Garnier Whole Blends Replenishing Conditioner ($6, )
The coconut scent was seriously noticeable (and described as "divine"), but our Lab was particularly impressed with its suds. "I liked that it lathered easily, rinsed well, and didn't weigh down my hair," shared one tester.
Pair it with: Suave Professionals Coconut Milk Infusion Deep Moisture Conditioner ($11, )
Our testers could not stop raving about the pleasant, clean scent (ditto for Target reviewers). One of the women who tested the product for our Lab even said her boyfriend noticed and "loved" her hair's new scent after using the shampoo-conditioner combo.
Pair it with: Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Conditioner ($3, )