A close up of a girl smiling for the camera

The Costly Mistakes You Make With Your Choice of Shampoo

Come on … ‘fess up. You feel guilty using $.99 shampoo because it’s really bad for your hair. And anybody knows the $24 salon variety is so much better especially for chemically treated hair, right? Wrong!

I’ve got the facts to prove it and truth to counteract lots of myths out there—plus some great tips to get you on the right path, too!


A close up of a girl smiling for the camera



Fact:  When it comes to selecting the best shampoo, the price has nothing to do with it. Some of the best are super cheap.

Mostly H2O

Fact: All shampoos are 80 to 90 percent water. The rest is detergent with a few drops of fragrance, additives, and preservatives. By the way, agua and eau are water in Spanish and French, respectively.


Fact: There are basically two kinds of detergent found in shampoo: Anionic (harsh) and cationic (gentle).


Fact: The only part of the shampoo bottle that’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the list of ingredients. Manufacturers can make any claim they like on the unregulated portions of the label. Sometimes the hype has some merit, often it has none. Manufacturers can make just about any claim they can think up!

We are a Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you., an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.



Myth: Shampoo builds up on hair so you need to change brands occasionally to counteract this.

Shampoo cannot build up on hair. However, conditioners, chemical processes, and other products do build-up so you may need to use a stronger type of shampoo from time to time. Or do this once a month: Mix a little baking soda with your shampoo in the palm of your hand. Shampoo as usual, rinse well. There you go. No need for an expensive “rid” product to wash away the build-up of hair spray and other products.

Salon brands

Myth: Salon-brand shampoos outperform inexpensive store brands.

Not true. Salon brands may have more fragrance, foam more or have more ingredients, but all of it goes right down the drain with the detergent.

Repair and nourish

Myth: High-quality shampoo can repair and nourish damaged hair.

Hair is dead and cannot be repaired. Any hair product can only provide temporary benefits to the look and feel of hair.

No tears

Myth: Baby shampoo (no-tears) is great for adults because it is so gentle.

The detergent in baby shampoo is way too gentle and not designed for cleaning adult hair especially when a lot of styling products have been used.

RELATED: Stop Making These 5 Costly Hair Mistakes

Here’s the secret

The secret to shampoo intelligence is to know your detergents. Pay little if any attention to anything on that bottle or packaging except for the list of ingredients. Water (or some fancy name for good old H2O) will always be the first ingredient. Next comes the detergent. Examples that you might find:

  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – very harsh
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate – harsh
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – still harsh
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – mild, great choice
  • TEA Lauryl Sulfate – gentle, good choice
  • TEA Laureth Sulfate – gentle, also a good choice.

Good choices

Many in the Herbal Essences and Suave lineup of shampoos—found in most supermarkets and drug stores and online—contain the gentle option Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). But don’t assume—read the labels.

With the money you save on the shampoo, buy a quality conditioner. Unlike shampoo that washes down the drain, the quality of the conditioner does make a difference!

Bottom line

When purchasing shampoo, consider just two things:

  1. Price
  2. Type of detergent

Interestingly, the “rinse and repeat” instruction you will read on every shampoo bottle goes back to a marketing campaign one manufacturer created to increase sales. It does that all right, and you can make your shampoo last twice as long if you skip “repeat.”

Rinse thoroughly. If your hair turns out dull and lackluster the problem may be inadequate rinsing. Tip: Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar through hair during the rinsing process. This will remove all traces of the shampoo and leave your hair sleek and shiny.

If you clip shampoo coupons and match them with shampoo sales in your grocery store, you may never pay more than a dollar or two for shampoo again!

First published: 6-01-17; Updated 4-26-19


More from Everyday Cheapskate

A person smiling for the camera
Healthcare cost concept using US Dollars with white medicine pills spilling from medicine bottle.
A cat sitting on a chair
closeup of female hands pouring hydrogen peroxide into a clean cloth
pickles in a jar and a bowl
wool dryer balls in a basket

Please keep your comments positive, encouraging, helpful, brief,

and on-topic in keeping with EC Posting Guidelines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
27 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Dylan Peterson says:

    I like what you said about cationic detergent in your shampoo being more gentle. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to take better care of her hair in the coming weeks, and I think that this information can help her with that. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for shampoos that can help her with this.

  2. Helen says:

    Totally disagree with you Mary, sorry. I invest a lot of money into my hair and if I’m spending over $200 on color or highlights and want to retain what my stylist did, a $3 shampoo is going to dull and fade the color. I know this first hand especially if you dye your hair blonde or red tones…not to mention if you do chemical straightening or perms, these procedures will need very specialised products in order to keep your healthy! Stay away from the drugstore stuff!!!Those cheapo shampoos will definitely make your hair look brassy and unless you use the right shampoo and conditioners to help extend the color you will be at the salon every few weeks to tone it out. If you use boxed color then go ahead and use whatever you find on sale. The difference in the detergents and chemicals you speak of vary from brand to brand and the amount and type of detergent could be compared to generic vs brand name, yes they all fundamentally have the same cleansing agents but the formulations and how they are used differ immensely. You can often find that a liter of a very good salon quality shampoo lasts longer and is much better for your hair than the drug store brands because yes, they contain more water whereas the salon quality ones are thicker, and you require much less product which will end up costing you about the same as the drugstore stuff. Also, many salons stand behind the products they sell and often let you use an item a couple of times and if it doesn’t agree with you they let you exchange it or as my salon does, they provide samples of products that are often best sellers. I notice that with salon quality shampoo and conditioners I can also go longer between washes and my blow-outs and roller sets last longer. Please do your own research on this and invest in your hair, its the crown you never take off. This coming from someone who used the drugstore stuff for years, I will never use it again after finding something that works wonders for my hair at my local salon.

« Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *