Drugstore Shampoos That Experts Swear By

Your best hair yet—on a budget.

collage of drugstore shampoos on a blue background
(Image credit: Future)

The world of shampoos and conditioners is vast, varying greatly in terms of the ingredients, scents, and customer bases. For instance, some shampoos are made to address scalp irritation, while others work best for clarifying sweat and buildup, growing hair, or enhancing brown or blonde coloring. And while there are a number of luxury shampoo brands out there that get the job done, not all of us can afford to venture beyond our local drugstores when shopping for our next go-to hair products. Thus, we've consulted expert hairstylists and editors alike to break down what to look for when you're cruising through the hair aisle and how to find the best drugstore shampoo for you. Plus, we've included a list of some of the very best drugstore shampoos so that you can easily achieve the 'do of your dreams, no matter your budget. 

What To Look For in a Drugstore Shampoo

Celebrity Hairstylist & DIY Expert for Sally Beauty Gregory Patterson says that when figuring out what the best option is for you, you should "look for ingredients and solutions for where you’re at right now. Think of your current hair state and condition." Thus, it may be best to keep a few shampoo options on hand so that your hair and scalp's condition can determine what you use each time you wash your hair.

"It’s easier to look for ingredients that you never want to use, like color-stripping harsh sulfates," he adds. "Avoid sodium chloride if you’re using keratin treatments, as well as parabens or low quality stabilizers and preservatives that ultimately build up on your hair."

And when it comes to finding a basic shampoo suited for consistent, regular use? Natural hair expert Antoinette Bullock says, "If you are looking for a simple shampoo that will actually cleanse your hair, then I would look for some key cleansing ingredients, such as surfacents, because they will effectively clean your hair. Some surfacents to look for are Ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and sodium trideceth sulfate, to name a few."

Finally, when considering the texture of the formula, Bullock and Patterson both advise users to ensure that their chosen formula lathers properly.

"Lathering is when water and shampoo mix and create air bubbles," explains Bullock. "This lather is important when it comes to shampooing the hair because the more there is a rich creamy lather, the more effective it is at cleansing the hair and scalp from build up, oil residue or impurities. Water and oil do not mix—the surfactant lather will cleanse the hair properly by dissolving things that can not be dissolved in water on their own."

"Want to know a little secret?" adds Patterson. "You can tell the quality of a cleanser by its foam (a.k.a. lather): The smaller the bubbles and creamier the lather, the more high quality and gentle it will be in your cleanse. The airier or foamier lather you have, the more detergent and low-quality ingredients are being used."

The Best Drugstore Shampoos

Meet The Experts

Celebrity Hairstylist Gregory Patterson
Gregory Patterson

Gregory Patterson is a celebrity hairstylist and DIY Expert for Sally Beauty. He is currently based in New York City.

hair expert Antoinette Bullock
Antoinette Bullock

Antoinette Bullock is a hair expert devoted to educating people about how to care for their natural hair. In addition to being a haircare expert for Sally Beauty, she is also a prolific content creator on Instagram, Tik Tok, and Youtube.

Dr. Snehal Amin
Dr. Snehal Amin, MD

Dr. Snehal Amin is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and dermatologist. He graduated from Harvard College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Cornell-New York Hospital Dermatology Residency, and went on to serve as Director of Mohs, Laser and Dermatologic Surgery at New York Medical College. Since then, he has founded MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City and started teaching as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Antonella Tosti
Dr. Antonella Tosti

Dr. Tosti is a Fredric Brandt Endowed Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami and President of the American Hair Research Society. She received her education at Università de Bologna Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia and is currently based in Miami, Florida.  She is an expert on hair and nail disorders. 

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art