Hair Care

Which is the Best Shampoo for Your Hair Type? A Complete Guide

We often get overwhelmed while figuring out the perfect shampoo suitable for hair type. The aisle is full of options but comes with limited actionable information. First things first, a shampoo is a combination of cleansing agents, thickeners, preservatives and humectants.

It is the right combination of these components which lends the answer to the question, which is the best shampoo for your hair type?


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What is your hair type?

Do you have normal hair?

If you are blessed with normal hair, which is perfect for the majority of the time and strikes the ideal balance of dryness and oiliness without any frizz, then choosing the shampoo which has a fair ratio of detergents and conditioning agents, is the answer for you.

Contrary to what you may believe, the market doesn’t offer many options for this perfect hair type. The brands make shampoos for particular hair types usually and normal hair doesn’t fit into the criteria. So, you might have to dig a little deeper.

Look for shampoos which use lauryl sulfate as the main detergent which gives good sebum removal along with minimal conditioning. Mostly men have normal hair.

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Do you have oily hair?

The hair which is too quick to get heavy with excess sebum is classified as oily hair. That’s why shampoos for oily hair are formulated to balance sebum removal from the hair shaft and scalp. Finding the right shampoo for oily hair is relatively easy.

The shampoos which contain salicylic acid are the best bet for you. It breaks down the gunk left on the scalp and hair. It is usually labeled as a clarifying shampoo. They have strong detergents and the minimal inclusion of conditioners.

The ingredients list of a clarifying shampoo should be shorter to avoid bulking your hair with extra ingredients. These should contain lauryl sulfates to remove oils and dirt.

The market is filled with shampoos catered to oily hair so you have many options to choose from.

Do you rock fine hair?

If you have fine hair, picking shampoos which have ingredients like polymers to fatten your strands will help you to look your best. Check the ingredients for “quats” (e.g. polyquaternium 7 or 10). Polymer ingredients make hair look and feel thicker.

Your fine hair will look and feel bulkier with shampoos with ingredients of film-formers like PG-propyl silanetriol and hydrolyzed wheat protein. These enhance the diameter of the hair shaft. Silicones, on the other hand, don’t play well with fine textured hair as they feel heavy.

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Do you have curly or frizzy hair?

Taming unruly hair is a task on its own. Shampoos containing high levels of conditioning agents prove to be the best choice. These enhance moisture and smoothness of hair. The brands have come out with cleansing conditioners which offer the best of both worlds in one quick step.

A cleansing conditioner is essentially a conditioner with a small amount of mild surfactants to help remove dirt. They retain the moisture level of hair while cleansing it gently and keeping the hair cuticle smooth and controlling flyaways.

Chemically treated, dry or damaged hair

If your scalp doesn’t produce the required sebum, or you have dehydrated strands by a chemical process or heat damage, a moisturizing formula in the shampoo will prove beneficial to you. These shampoos deliver mild cleansing and good conditioning.

The shampoos ideal for dry, damaged or chemically processed hair should have ingredients like Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, to deliver the shine and softness to make the hair look and feel healthier.

The shampoo should contain higher levels of conditioning agents like guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, polyquaternium, or hydroxyethyl dimonium chloride to seal the cuticle to make the hair more manageable and smoother.

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There are also two in one shampoo which contains conditioner to leave the hair soft and smooth even after the washing. These products have silicone in the form of dimethicone which makes it possible. The moisturizing shampoo contains laureth sulfates which is a mild detergent which gives good foam but mild sebum removal.

The oil-soluble silicone remains behind after removing the environmental dirt and sebum from hair as a thin coating over the hair shaft. The silicone coating makes the hair look soft, shiny and free of static electricity.

These products have, truly, revolutionized dry hair care.

Different Types of Shampoos

Everyday Shampoo

Many people don’t feel clean enough without washing their hair every day. Since using a normal shampoo every day is harmful to the health of hair, companies have come out with special kind of everyday shampoos.

Everyday shampoos have been formulated to meet the requirements of a daily bather as they contain mild detergents. These don’t have conditioners found in hair shampoos meant for dry and damaged hair.

It is recommended to use an instant conditioner to replenish the moisture in the hair due to washing it every day.

Deep Cleaning Shampoo

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The other side of the spectrum of everyday shampoos is the clarifying shampoos. Clarifying shampoos are formulated to thoroughly eliminate sebum from the hair shaft along with removing retained hair styling products like hair gel, spray or a mousse.

The remnants of hair styling products can’t be removed from every day or shampoos for dry hair. Thus, the polymer film remains on the hair even after cleansing. These polymers can build on the hair shaft after 7 days making the hair look dull and harsh.

The clarifying shampoo contains harsher detergent which removes the polymer. It is advised not to use a clarifying shampoo more than once a week. These shampoos use lauryl sulfates as their primary detergent.

Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoos don’t irritate the eyes and contain mild cleansing agents since the babies don’t produce sebum as much as adults. The shampoos meant for babies contain detergents which actually act as an anesthetic and numb the eye tissues to prevent stinging.

So, keep in mind that the eye damage can still happen if the baby gets the shampoo in his or her eyes. The injury might not be painful if the anesthetic effect of the shampoo is still present.

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Medicated Shampoo

Medicated shampoos go an extra mile than regular shampoos and deliver benefits beyond the cleansing. The benefits include relieving scalp scaling or scalp itch.

The medicated shampoos are classified as over the counter drugs and they contain one or more active agents like salicylic acid, tar derivatives, sulfur, sulfide, selenium, chlorinated phenols, polyvinylpyrrolidone-iodine complex, or zinc pyrithione. These shampoos work very well to remove scalp scale, sebum and minimize scalp scale production.

The medicated shampoos also work as antibacterial and antifungal. The detergent present in them eliminates the sebum while you manually rubbing the scalp while shampooing removes the scalp scale.

Salicylic acid works as a keratolytic. Menthol in the medicated shampoos gives a tingling sensation which some people find relaxing and pleasant while also working as an additional stimulant. The additional stimulant neurologically diminishes the perception of scalp itching.

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Professional Shampoos

Professional shampoos are nothing but the extra concentrated version of the ordinarily available shampoo. That’s why it is recommended to dilute a professional shampoo 8 to 10 times to make it ideal for cleansing hair at home.

There are two types of professional shampoos, one which is ideal for washing hair prior to cutting them or those intended to follow or precede a chemical process.

You might hear from your hair stylists that professional shampoos are superior to those ordinarily available shampoos. This claim is hard to evaluate as the hair salon makes a considerable profit from the sales of high-end shampoos.

It should be noted that the professional shampoos don’t contain ingredients which are not otherwise present in other kinds of shampoos.

There are also shampoos which come with hair dyes and are used to wash hair after bleaching to neutralize the residual alkalinity of the hair along with preparing the hair for upcoming dyeing. These shampoos are important as they prevent permanent damage which your hair might incur due to hair bleaching.

The acidic shampoo restores the normal cuticle of hair which gets expanded after being exposed to an alkaline pH during the dye job making it more porous thereby preventing excessive dye damage.

The shampoos which are used after the completion of dyeing procedure are cationic, acidic shampoos which act as a neutralizing rinse. These products diminish the cuticular swelling of the hair to prevent the new color moieties from exiting the hair shaft which results in quick color fading.

You might have heard these shampoos as color revival shampoo or color protect shampoo.

We have tried to help you choose the best shampoo for your hair needs. Filtering through the selection of different kinds of shampoo available in the market can be a daunting task. By understanding the different functions and attributes of different kinds of shampoo will help you take the best decision. We want to help you beautify your crowning glory.

Ni’Kita Wilson, CEO, and director of innovation at Catalyst Cosmetic Development in Union, N.J.
Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist in Chicago.
Wilkinson JB, Moore RJ. New York: Chemical Publishing; 1982. Harry’s Cosmeticology; pp. 457–8.
Spoor HJ. Shampoos. Cutis. 1973;12:671–2.