I know perfection is supposed to be unattainable, and for the most part, it is. But if searching for the perfect shampoo is wrong, we don't want to be right. For many women, choosing a shampoo and conditioner is kind of like dating—you'll settle for the one that's right in front of you (read: the bottle near checkout). But as more variety becomes available and the formulas become more refined, the pickier you want and need to become. The perfect match is out there, and once you find it, you'll never look back.
As rote as it seems, haircare needs to be taken as seriously as skincare is. Different formulas work for different types and tones, and what might work for your best friend might spell disaster for your look. That said, it can be tough to wade through the sea of new releases and old classics, which is why Marie Claire's editors wanted to offer some insight when it comes to your haircare blind dating. Some of us are curly girls, some of us rock braids, and some of us have stick-straight strands, but we've all put our heads together to share our go-to shampoo and conditioner picks for every hair type. So whether your hair is frizz-prone to heat-damaged to perfectly healthy, it's time to stock up on our faves below. And no matter that, always feel free to use "washing my hair" as an excuse get out of a date.
"I’m not the type of person to spend a lot of money on my haircare routine—I used to just get whatever drugstore brand of shampoo and conditioner smelled nice. But then I tried to grow my hair out after a tryst with baby bangs (a haircut that was described, I’m sorry to say, as "brave"). It was taking forever to get even a little bit of length and there was still a lot of damage because I tend to run my hair through the ringer—drying, straightening, curling, you name it. My stylist recommended Pureology because it’s sulfate-free and really gentle, but also works to strengthen your hair and minimize breakage. It’s not cheap, but because you only use a quarter-sized amount even for medium-length hair, it lasts me over two months, sometimes more. Now my hair is a lot stronger, I have fewer split ends, and it’s growing so much faster. It’s an investment that I’m happy to make, and I couldn’t recommend it more." —Cady Drell, Former Senior News and Culture Editor
"Those of us with thin hair know that the quest for volumized hair can feel like a lifelong and futile effort—every brush, root spray, and haircut might promise thick strands, but by mid-day, you're back to flat. Enter: OGX's Biotin & Collagen Shampoo & Conditioner. While I've worshipped at the alter of biotin supplements for years, I never thought of using a shampoo that used it in its formula until I stumbled across this purple bottle at CVS. The proof is in the pudding: The texture of the shampoo isn't water-y like others. Instead, it's almost gelatinous, and it instantly lifts your hair—so much so that I often forgo the other volumizing styling products I've splurged on over the years. And the best part? It's drug store cheap." —Neha Prakash, Senior Culture Editor
"My longstanding favorite shampoo/conditioner combo has been Paul Mitchell’s lemon sage thickening shampoo and conditioner. My boyfriend’s mom actually introduced me to this line after we bonded over our similar hair types! I have fine hair and am always hunting for ways to make it look like it’s not just hanging off my scalp.
This duo makes my hair feel like each strand is actually fuller, while maintaining the soft texture that it has naturally, instead of drying it out like a lot of other volumizing products tend to do. An added bonus is that all Paul Mitchell products are cruelty-free, so I can enjoy my fuller, shinier hair without feeling guilty." —Morgan McMullen, Visual Designer
"Growing up, I never paid attention to the shampoo I used. (Literally, I'd use anything as long as it smelled good.) That changed the first time I dyed my hair a couple years ago. I never realized how harsh and terrible brand-I-shall-not-name was until it stripped all the color out of my hair. That's when my hair colorist (and my mom!) recommended something sulfate-free, and I fell in love with this L'Oréal Ever Pure shampoo.
It's super cheap, I can easily pick it up at the drugstore whenever I run out, and it comes in a variety of formulations depending on your hair type. (Same goes for the conditioner.) I got my hair colored again while using the shampoo and the dye actually lasted. A concept!" —Rachel Epstein, Associate Editor
"I've got a ton of fine hair, which means it can end up looking greasy fast. And if I'm actually sticking to my schedule and dropping into a boxing class or sliding into my sauna blanket, that means style-killing, 'even dry shampoo can't fix this' levels of sweat. Having color-treated hair means the more I wash, the more my faux-hue fades, so I need to stick to shampoos that preserve my shade. This Swedish brand is one of my favorites, and its Color Protect formula gets my scalp squeaky clean without stripping my color." —Taylore Glynn, Beauty & Wellness Editor
"I love Moroccanoil products. Their shampoo (and conditioner) are my shiny, silky-soft hair jam. I remember trying Moroccanoil for the first time and realizing that my naturally very fine, frizzy hair can actually look smooth and—despite my total lack of skills with a hairdryer—like I’d just left a haircut. I turned my mom on to the stuff as well, so now the smell is homey and familiar to me. Plus, whenever I get a whiff of that Moroccanoil shampoo smell, it’s a nice little reminder that I’m likely having a good hair day." —Sally Holmes, Editor-in-Chief
"When I started using this, the sticker shock had me questioning my financial decisions on a higher level. Do I really need this 8oz bottle or am I just having a I-think-I’m-rich moment? Yes, to both. Had I not joined the cult of Olaplex followers my hair would have plotted a revolution against me, probably. This conditioner smooths every fly away and hydrates my split ends with every wash. The bottle is small, but mighty. I’m using half as much conditioner as I used to, and it’s working twice as hard. The only downside? Since using the product is actually making my hair healthier, it's growing longer faster. This means my once every six month cut has turned into once every three—a price I’m willing to pay." —Susanna Hayward, Associate Art Director
"I tend to fall behind on my salon appointments more than I should, especially during the summer. As a beauty editor, I should really know better—especially since the summer is when brunettes and raven-haired beauties need the most maintenance. Ever notice that after a few beach days, your strands seem to spit out all that pretty deep color and suddenly you've got roots warmer than that the surface of the sun? Here's my quick fix. A formula that deposits green pigment, like this one, can help add cool tones back to the hair as it hydrates so you can stretch out that time between salons visits. Added bonus: I promise it won't stain your shower." —T.G.
"A lot of hair products on the market tend to do absolutely nothing for those of us with more textured, porous hair, so finding the perfect shampoo and conditioner to implement into my regiment has taken some time. My hair has transformed quite a bit over the years—from a giant afro to a cute tapered cut to my current a low caesar—but OGX's shampoos and conditioners have been my go-to. I swear by its argan oil of Morocco line. At any length, both the shampoo and conditioner keep my hair hydrated and shiny, and the smell is everything!" —Ineye Komonibo, Former Editorial Fellow
"Whenever I need some sexy waves for an event, I pop in and see David Cotteblanche at Fekkai's Soho salon. Since my hair is fine and naturally lays flat against my scalp, Cotteblanche always adds some much needed volume to get that dramatic look we both love. Starting with a good lather of this formula at the sink ensures weightless, lifted roots and a perfect base for a style that'll last as long as the night does." —T.G.
"I've been using this Adama brand for a couple years now. The shampoo feels rich and the conditioner leaves my hair smooth and relatively frizz-free. I wash my hair every single night, and the conditioner is light enough not to weigh down my very fine, straight hair. They are both sulfate- and paraben-free, so the hippie side of me is satisfied. They also smell really nice and pear-ish." —Bridget Burns, Photo Editor
"After years of frying my hair with blow dryers and flat irons, this shampoo gives me back the feeling of smooth, refreshed hair. I never know what my hair is going to look like after a wash-day, but this formula gave me consistency that I love. When I use it, I feel like at least a year of damage has been repaired in just one wash." —Tatjana Freund, Beauty Freelancer
"I turn to this clarifying shampoo when my scalp is in need of a major reset. This shampoo does wonders for itchy dry scalp and keeps dandruff at bay. What I love most about this peppermint tea tree formula is that it’s so soothing and doesn’t strip my hair of moisture. 10/10 would recommend!"—Chelsea Hall, Assistant Beauty & Fashion Editor
"I switch on and off between two different shampoos because I read that always using the same one can cause buildup and make it less effective over time. I have straight, fine hair so I try my best to use only the most gentle products. I love Briogeo’s gingseng shampoo because it smells amazing and it's sulfate-free. The formula also contains biotin, which helps to grow hair and that's something I currently need since my hair has been shedding like crazy.
I wash my hair every other day, but if I have back-to-back washes (i.e. I worked out on Monday and Tuesday) I use—surprise!—baby shampoo for day two. It cleans my hair really well and if it’s safe/gentle enough for babies, it’s definitely good for my thin hair.
The one thing I have not used since high school is conditioner. I found that no matter what brand I try, my hair feels greasy the next day even though I just washed it the night before." —Marina Liao, former Fashion Editor
"I change my hair color a lot and I’m lucky it’s stayed healthy. However, I noticed that my roots were changing texture, and were a little drier as they grew to be deeper shades of grey. I tried a sample of this conditioner, and after three uses, I really noticed that my hair was more lush and silky, and it even punched up my curls. I eventually splurged for a full size bottle and bought the shampoo, too. Pure gold!" —Megan Victoria, Senior Visual Researcher
"There’s a cheap British drugstore brand called Alberto Balsam that, I kid you not, has the most luxurious shampoo I’ve ever used. You can order it on Amazon, but it needs to ship all the way from England, so the shipping costs make it decidedly not-cheap. #BringABToAmerica" —Jenny Hollander, Director of Content Strategy
"I thought my fine hair and effort to be more zero waste would never find a common ground. Shampoo bars were always too waxy or drying for my picky hair, and I was ready to give up on them completely until I randomly tried HiBar. The solid bar (ideal for carry-on travel) comes in a paper envelope as packaging, and makes my hair insanely soft, more so than any other shampoo in a bottle I’ve come across. It is a complete game-changer!" —Julia Gall, Accessories Director
"Shea Moisture products are a favorite of mine, since it gives my hair moisture and I love the smell of the castor oil. Growing up in a Caribbean household, my Mom used to use castor oil to massage my scalp. A friend of mine recommended Shea Moisture products and I tried it for the first time 2 years ago. I use their Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strength and Restore Shampoo and Conditioner. Then afterwards, I apply their leave-in conditioner. The castor oil itself is a great nutrient for hair growth so that's one of the reasons I gave this product a try and I'm glad I did, as it works. " —Nicole Clacken, Visual Researcher
"I’m nowhere near a natural blonde, so a few weeks after I get highlights my icy color turns brass fast. I keep this shampoo in for at least 10-15 minutes (that’s the secret!) because the longer the time, the better results. After using it for a week, the ashy color comes back in full force. This shampoo can be slightly drying, so I focus on my ends and use a deep conditioner after to lock in the moisture." —S.H.
"When this shampoo was gifted to me by a friend who happened to get it in a swag bag, I was skeptical of the word “oil,” thinking it might leave my hair greasy. But as a curly-haired person with dry, frizz-prone hair who’s spent a good chunk of her life searching for the magic combo of products, I decided to give it a try. I love the scent and the fact that after I rinse it out, my hair feels soft and manageable. I follow up with a conditioner and my usual array of products and my curls look shiny and defined (not frizzy, even in NYC in July!). I only wash my hair once or twice a week and I’ve still managed to run out of that original bottle and buy at least two more, which is a sure sign that this one’s staying in the mix." —Hanna Varady, Deputy Art Director
"I have a ton of hair, but its texture is very fine, which means the wrong shampoo will make my scalp really greasy...really fast. On top of that, I color it a vampy shade of espresso every couple months, and non color-safe formulas suck the cool-tones out of my strands. Living Proof’s Color Care line give my roots the bounce and squeaky-clean feeling I crave, and it keeps my color as rich as the day I left the salon." —T.G.
"I’m a serial shampoo dater. Anytime I run out of a bottle, I feel the need to try out something else because who knows what else is out there?! But sometimes when you find the one you have to stick to it, and that, my friends, is the wonderful Redken Curvaceous Lo-Foam Cleanser. It has no sulfates, takes me around six months to go through the jumbo bottle, and just understands me. I've bought it twice in a row now (does this mean I'm in a committed relationship?) and I have more curls than waves, which is why I go with the Lo-Foam. If you have wavy hair, go for the High-Foam." —Bianca Rodriguez, Editorial Fellow
"I have a very thick kinky-curly mane that requires a ton of moisture. Deep conditioning once a week is an absolute must in order to keep my hair hydrated and manageable. What I like most about this conditioner is the nice slip it gives my coarse strands, allowing me to easily detangle them. I apply the conditioner, then apply a conditioning heat cap, and I let it sit in my hair for about 30-45 minutes. The directions say to leave it in for 15-20 minutes before rinsing, but personally I believe the longer it stays the softer the curls." —C.H
"When I cut my hair pixie short I switched to this shampoo so it doesn’t get too fluffy post shower." —Aya Kanai, Former Editor-in-Chief
"Natural girls know that dryness is the enemy. Hydration comes first with my curls no matter the season. During the summer, fall, winter, and spring, dryness finds a way to creep back into my coils and leave my hair looking a hot mess. But when I nourish my hair with the hydrating agents, like olive oil and botanicals found in this creamy conditioner, my hair feels healthy and strong for a whole week. (Yes, I go a whole week without washing my hair. It's FINE, I'm alive.)
I love using a wide-tooth comb and raking this conditioner through my hair from root-to-tip to make sure it's evenly distributed throughout the hair shaft. Then, with this still on my hair, I use my fingers and the comb to detangle. Afterwards, I put on a shower cap and let my curls steam in a hot shower to penetrate the hair follicle even further." —Maya Allen, Former Digital Beauty Editor
"The brand calls this scalp cleanser their “secret sauce” for a reason. The unique packaging is what sets this shampoo apart from the rest—it’s a shampoo that doubles as a hair tool. I mean, just look at those applicator claws and image how good they’ll feel massaging your scalp. All I do is twist the cap to allow the product to dispense, then section my hair to get the claws as close to my scalp as possible. The creamy lather feels tingly and refreshing, since it’s full of mint and tea tree oil, and rids my curls of any build-up. Thank you, Taraji! I’m obsessed." —M.A.
"I only condition a couple of times a week, so I like to use hydrating hair masks instead of conditioner (yes, I’m lazy). I’m hooked on Kérastase Masquintense, which is specifically developed for dry, thin hair. I went through a phase in my late teens of straightening my hair every day without heat protection—look, it was the early ‘00s—and the only thing that saved my hair was this." —J.H.
"Growing up, I wanted 'hair like the girls in the Pantene commercials,' so I started using...no surprise here...Pantene Pro-V. I've tried countless of their formulations over the years, and ultimately landed on the Smooth & Sleek version with argan oil. I have A LOT of hair, so I definitely don't need volumizing shampoo. And I don't color or heat style it. I just need something basic that will allow me to wash my straight, kinda kinky, flyaway-filled hair and go without looking like I stuck my finger in a light socket. After using this shampoo and conditioner pair, my hair dries straight, shiny, and slo-mo-hair-toss-worthy." —Danielle McNally, Deputy Editor