En español | Do you ever wonder why someone would pay $30 for shampoo when they could buy a drugstore/supermarket brand for $5? Costly hair products are harder to ignore now that mass retailers like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart stock them online along with low-cost ones. Prices are inching up as new technology and trends develop. So, can low-cost hair products keep up? You're in for a surprise. Not only can inexpensive shampoos, conditioners and stylers compare, but they often surpass pricey brands in innovation. Here are 10 not-to-miss categories for you.
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PHOTO BY: CVS (2); Target
1. Healthy shampoos
Any shampoo at any price will clean your hair and scalp effectively. However, premium brands with a “green” focus like Aveda, Living Proof and Davines helped bring the benefits of botanicals and sulfate-free formulas mainstream. (Some sulfates have a detergent-like moisture-stripping effect on hair that's dry, color-treated or damaged.) Affordable brands have gone healthy with hydrating shampoos like Pantene Nutrient Blends Miracle Moisture Boost Rose Water Shampoo for Dry Hair, Sulfate Free ($9, cvs.com), Carol's Daughter Wash Day Delight Shampoo ($11, target.com) and Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Honey & Vitamin B Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo ($7, cvs.com). All are sulfate-free naturally and pair up with a same-brand conditioner.
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PHOTO BY: Walgreens; Target (2)
2. Scalp scrubs
Exfoliating scrubs that deep clean your scalp are another high-end wellness trend found in upscale brands like Christophe Robin, Briogeo and Ouai. While low-priced medicinal shampoos with pyrithione zinc or salicylic acid still treat dandruff, scrubs relieve itchy, oily, flaky scalps caused by dirt, oil and product buildup. Budget-minded scrubs like OGX Smoothing Coconut Coffee Scrub & Wash ($7, walgreens.com), Love Beauty and Planet Delightful Detox Charcoal Shampoo Scrub ($7, target.com) or Pacifica Rosemary Detox Scalp Scrub ($11, target.com) feature deep-cleansing ingredients like charcoal, coconut and coffee with hints of mint, and smell delish. Try one!
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PHOTO BY: Walgreens (3)
3. Salonlike conditioner
Expensive conditioners are like designer clothes — very nice but not really necessary. Fast-fashion and budget-minded shampoo fills that trend gap. The real allure of pricey conditioners (aside from the beautiful packaging) is the ultra-rich, in-shower texture and the soft, glossy hair that emerges. Now low-cost conditioners — like L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner ($5, walgreens.com), Pantene Daily Moisture Renewal 3 Minute Miracle Daily Conditioner ($5, walgreens.com) and TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Conditioner ($5, walgreens.com) — are giving us the same silky formulas and salonlike results at a fraction of the price — and in elegant tubes and bottles, too.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty; Target; Walgreens
4. Invisible dry shampoo
This modern life staple pops up in glam aerosols by Oribe, R+Co and IGK for around $20 to $30. Once again, mass brands such as Freeman Psssst! Instant Dry Shampoo Spray for Dry/Damaged Hair ($7, ulta.com) or Garnier Fructis Invisible Dry Shampoo Coco Colada ($6, walgreens.com) have good-as-it-gets versions at a much lower price. Funny, since the original dry shampoo Psssst! launched this category back in the 1970s! The appeal is in the application without leaving residue or a tacky feel at the roots as well as clean absorption of oil and odor.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty
5. Maxi-moisture masks
Giving your hair TLC once a week is smart whether the goal is bouncier, glossier curls and coils or a glass-smooth bob. Expensive at-home masks like those by Kérastase, Leonor Greyl and Phyto really do transform dehydrated, brittle locks, but at $40 to $50 a jar they're a huge splurge for most mortals. More affordable versions — like Carol's Daughter Coco Crème Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask ($12, target.com), Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Hair Mask ($9, ulta.com) or Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Argan Oil & Aloe Repairing Hair Mask for Dry Damaged Hair ($6, target.com) — reset dehydrated, dry, damaged hair with intensive botanicals and oils so you're not playing catch-up months later with splits, dullness or lifeless locks.
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PHOTO BY: CVS (2); Walgreens
6. Nourishing oil treatments
Top-of-the-line hair oils like those by Oribe, Bumble and bumble, Rahua and Moroccanoil do restore a healthy shine to dry hair damaged by heat styling and color processing. But then again, so do more budget-friendly versions — like Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Argan Oil & Aloe Hair Oil Mist ($8 cvs.com), OGX Nourishing Coconut Oil Weightless Hydrating Oil Mist ($9, walgreens.com) or L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil ($8, cvs.com) — that include a variety of hair-boosting oils, from argan to coconut to sunflower. The products are concentrated, so a very little goes a long way. Apply as a prep to a blow-dry, to calm flyaways and frizz or for a glossy finish on dry, styled hair.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3)
7. Nongreasy de-frizzers
Posh frizz-beating creams and sprays by brands like Living Proof, Fekkai and Color Wow are amazing — except for the $30+ price. Don't get discouraged. John Frieda's Frizz-Ease — a drugstore product — launched this category in 1990, and today's low-cost offspring transform all unwanted kinks, crimps and fuzz as effectively as the swanky stuff. Formulas such as TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shine Serum ($5, target.com), Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum ($5, target.com) or the updated John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects Serum ($10, target.com) require just a brush and blow-dryer for sleek chic. No flat iron follow-up needed, either!
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PHOTO BY: Target; Ulta Beauty; CVS
8. Natural-looking volumizers
Who doesn't want fuller, thicker-looking hair at age 50-plus? You can spend tons on biotin supplements and gummies, and drag out your Velcro rollers — or just grab a volumizing styling product and smile. Sure, many of us use dry shampoo to reboot body and lift between washes, but there's no substitute for starting out with some oomph. Try a lightweight styling spray such as TRESemmé Pro Pure Invisible Styler Volume Hair Styling Spray ($6, target.com) for plumping smooth styles, and a texturizing spray like Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray ($7, cvs.com) or a mousse like L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Boost It Volume Inject Mousse ($6, cvs.com) for airy waves. There's no crunch, no stiffness — just a flat-to-full finish.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Walmart; CVS
9. Color-correcting shampoo
This is another category that started out low-cost with Clairol Shimmer Lights in 1985 and then was hijacked by upscale brands like Redken, Drybar, Kérastase and R+Co. If your hair is blonde or gray and looking brassy, a color-correcting violet shampoo is definitely on your to-buy list. Since this is basically a once-a-week or once-a-month addition to your usual routine, go low with John Frieda Violet Crush for Blondes Purple Shampoo ($10, target.com), Nexxus Blonde Assure Purple Shampoo ($12, walmart.com) or Not Your Mother's Blonde Moment Purple Treatment Shampoo ($10, cvs.com).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Target
10. Helpful hot brushes
How did we ever live without this? Hybrid hot air styling brushes that combine a brush, straightener and flat-iron benefit in one are real game changers. While expensive models like those by Drybar, BaByliss and Dyson have a few more bells and whistles (like a rotating bristle barrel, extra speed settings or digital controls), lower-priced models — such as the Revlon One-Step Volumizer Hair Dryer ($60, ulta.com), InStyler Straight Up Mini Ceramic Straightening Brush ($30, ulta.com) or InfinitiPro by Conair Dry & Style Hot Air Paddle Brush ($18, target.com) — do a more-than-adequate job of drying, smoothing and adding body and a sleek finish in half the time we used to spend with separate tools. No need to spend more.
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