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Drugstore Hair Products That Rival the Pricey Ones

Top picks that are easy on the wallet and make hair look great

spinner image A woman taking a close look at a bottle of a hair care product in the aisle of a store
JackF/Getty Images

Who doesn’t like to save money? All of us, right? But who can’t help wondering if drugstore hair care is equal to the higher-priced stuff ... not when there’s a possibility of having shinier, healthier, head-tossing locks. So, is a $36 shampoo better than a $7 one? You’re in for a surprise. Bargain brands sold at drugstores and mass retailers often match, outperform or sprint ahead of more expensive brands to address grownup hair concerns. Here are penny-pinchers from $2 to $21 to count on.

1. Moisture-boosting shampoos and conditioners

spinner image Anomaly Hydrating Shampoo; Suave Almond & Shea Butter Moisturizing Conditioner; Love Beauty and Planet Smooth & Serene Argan Oil & Lavender Shampoo
(Left to right) Anomaly Hydrating Shampoo; Suave Almond & Shea Butter Moisturizing Conditioner; Love Beauty and Planet Smooth & Serene Argan Oil & Lavender Shampoo
Target; Rite Aid (2)

Premium brands look glam, smell great and are often featured in the best salons, specialty and department stores. At $50-plus a bottle they grab social media attention and get raves from celebs and their stylists. Affordable shampoos and conditioners have stepped up their formulas with more moisture, humectants and emollients via plant-based oils and extracts (same as dry skin care!) — and a clean, green agenda to top it off. Try a cruelty-free duo in sustainable packaging like Anomaly Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner ($7 each, target.com) with aloe vera, coconut and jojoba oils, murumuru butter; Suave Almond & Shea Butter Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner ($5 each, riteaid.com) with those headlining nourishers; or Love Beauty and Planet Smooth & Serene Argan Oil & Lavender Shampoo and Conditioner ($7 each, riteaid.com) in a bottle that is 100 percent biodegradable.

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2. Volume-builders

spinner image John Frieda Volume Lift Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray; Bed Head Queen For A Day Thickening Spray for Fine Hair; Verb Volume Dry Texture Spray;  Tresemmé One Step Volume Mist for Fine Hair
(Left to right) John Frieda Volume Lift Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray; Bed Head Queen For A Day Thickening Spray for Fine Hair; Verb Volume Dry Texture Spray; TRESemmé One Step Volume Mist for Fine Hair
Target; Ulta Beauty (2); Walmart

There are very few people over age 50 who think they have the same amount of hair they did at 30 or even 40. Whether your locks are limp, flat, thin or fine (and this is true of straight, wavy or curly hair), women are always seeking extra amplification. Expensive body boosters by brands like Kerastase, Bumble and Bumble, Oribe and Ted Gibson (at $32 to $52) are great, but so are their lower-priced cousins — such as John Frieda Volume Lift Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray ($13, target.com), Bed Head Queen For A Day Thickening Spray for Fine Hair ($20, ulta.com), Verb Volume Dry Texture Spray ($20, ulta.com) and TRESemmé One Step Volume Mist for Fine Hair ($7, walmart.com) — that effectively (but temporarily) expand the height, width or overall oomph of your hair. These mist-on formulas are light and leave hair looking voluptuous, bouncy and touchable.

3. Leave-in conditioners

spinner image NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Texture Leave-In Conditioner; It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Lite; Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Leave-In Conditioner; Odele Leave-In Conditioner for Wavy to Curly Hair
(Left to right) NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Texture Leave-In Conditioner; It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Lite; Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Leave-In Conditioner; Odele Leave-In Conditioner for Wavy to Curly Hair
Ulta Beauty (3); Target

Designed to be added to hair after shampoo and regular conditioner, no-rinse leave-ins offer extra benefits like extended moisturizing, easy detangling and heat-protection with plant extracts and oils. They’re an extra but vital step for mature hair, not an alternative. Look for a texture that suits your hair — lighter formulas like the NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Texture Leave-In Conditioner ($17, ulta.com) and It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Lite ($21, ulta.com) for fine, thin or short hair; and creamier ones like the Odele Leave-In Conditioner for Wavy to Curly Hair ($12, target.com) and Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Leave-In Conditioner ($11, ulta.com) for thicker, wavy, curly or textured hair. All are infused with a range of do-good ingredients like plant extracts, botanical oils and vitamins.

4. Shine makers

spinner image Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Thermal Shine Spray; Cantu Coconut Oil Shine & Hold Mist; Tresemmé Gloss Color-Enhancing High-Shine Deep Conditioner; John Frieda Luminous Glaze Clear Shine Gloss
(Left to right) Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Thermal Shine Spray; Cantu Coconut Oil Shine & Hold Mist; TRESemmé Gloss Color-Enhancing High-Shine Deep Conditioner; John Frieda Luminous Glaze Clear Shine Gloss
Target (3); Walgreens

Dull, dry hair is another fact of mature hair life whether your color is natural or chemically made. Thankfully, a category of shine products has emerged and — like glow-producing makeup — restores a healthy sheen instantly while defying frizz. Expensive brands such as Rahua, Moroccanoil and Drybar offer excellent splurge products, but wallet-friendly options more than do the job. Superlight mists like the Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Thermal Shine Spray ($10, target.com) or Cantu Coconut Oil Shine & Hold Mist ($6, target.com) can rev up a lustrous look at the last minute to any finished do. Or try an in-shower clear gloss like the TRESemmé Gloss Color-Enhancing High-Shine Deep Conditioner ($8, target.com) or John Frieda Luminous Glaze Clear Shine Gloss ($12, walgreens.com). Three minutes in the shower in lieu of conditioner polishes the drabbest hue to shiny new.

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5. Strengtheners

spinner image Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Glass Hair Lamellar Rinse Out; L’Oréal Paris Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water Rinse-Out Treatment; Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Conditioner; Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Moisture Boost Protein Pack
(Left to right) Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Glass Hair Lamellar Rinse Out; L’Oréal Paris Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water Lamellar Rinse-Out Treatment; Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Conditioner; Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Moisture Boost Protein Pack
CVS (2); Target (2)

Anyone who colors and/or straightens their hair knows it feels drier, weaker, more prone to breakage and has low porosity — meaning, the cuticle is frayed in spots, so hair takes longer to dry and doesn’t absorb products well. For a little TLC you can’t beat two low-cost solutions like lamellar water, which is designed to target and fill porous gaps in the hair shaft (sort of like replacing missing shingles on a roof), and protein conditioners with ingredients like keratin and amino acids that reinforce the hair. To restore and revive traumatized locks, try lamellar water in Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Glass Hair Lamellar Rinse Out ($10, cvs.com) and a protein boost in Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Conditioner ($16, target.com), Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Moisture Boost Protein Pack ($2, target.com) and the L’Oréal Paris Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water Lamellar Rinse-Out Treatment ($11, cvs.com).

6. Color promoters

spinner image Alba Botanica Colorific Plumeria Shampoo; Hair Biology Sulfate-Free Color Sealing Mask; Eva NYC Tone It Down Blonde Shampoo; Not Your Mother’s Triple Threat Brunette Shampoo
(Left to right) Alba Botanica Colorific Plumeria Shampoo; Hair Biology Sulfate-Free Color Sealing Mask; Eva NYC Tone It Down Blonde Shampoo; Not Your Mother’s Triple Threat Brunette Shampoo
Target (4)

Every hair color is prone to change and loss of vibrancy — whether chemical blond or authentic gray — thanks to hot tools, sun exposure, frequent shampoos, hot water or even the sulfates in your usual shampoo. Budget-friendly brands simplify the solution with gentle sulfate-free formulas and color-neutralizing pigments minus the heftier price-tag of expensive brands such as Aveda and Davines (both excellent, by the way, but it’s a price thing we’re discussing here!). Try nourishing color-safe shampoos for all like the Alba Botanica Colorific Plumeria Shampoo ($8, target.com); a color-saving mask like the Hair Biology Sulfate-Free Color Sealing Mask ($10, target.com); and subtle color-depositing shampoos like the purple Eva NYC Tone It Down Blonde Shampoo ($13, target.com), which targets brassy or yellow tones in blond hair, or the blue Not Your Mother’s Triple Threat Brunette Shampoo ($8, target.com), which corrects orange and red undertones in brunette hair color. Both purple and blue shampoos are sulfate-free and have companion conditioners.

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7. Hair thickeners

spinner image Hask Biotin Oil 5-In-1 Leave-In Spray; Tea Tree Lemon Sage Thickening Spray; OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Volumizing Shampoo; Avalon Organix Therapy Thickening Biotin-B Complex Shampoo
(Left to right) Hask Biotin Oil 5-In-1 Leave-In Spray; Tea Tree Lemon Sage Thickening Spray; OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Volumizing Shampoo; Avalon Organics Biotin-B Complex Therapy Thickening Shampoo
Ulta Beauty (2); Walmart (2)

OK, let’s get realistic. No topical product or gummy is going to restore fine, thin hair to its original density. Aging can signal a normal slowdown in hair growth and increase in the shedding cycle. The right haircut (especially a blunt cut) can help. So can permanent color, which coats the hair to “fatten” it, and shampoos and stylers that bulk up the hair. The affordable niche of the latter is all you need. Crammed with empowering ingredients like biotin, rice protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, panthenol and keratin, products like Hask Biotin Oil 5-In-1 Leave-In Spray ($8, ulta.com), OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Volumizing Shampoo ($6, walmart.com), Avalon Organics Biotin-B Complex Therapy Thickening Shampoo ($13, walmart.com) and Tea Tree Lemon Sage Thickening Spray ($18, ulta.com) can help keep the "thicker hair” illusion going.

8. Heat protectant

spinner image Pantene Pro-V Miracle Rescue 10-in-1 Multitasking Spray; Raw Sugar Multi Miracle Coconut Milk and Blue Agave Leave-In Conditioner & Heat Protectant; CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
(Left to right) Pantene Pro-V Miracle Rescue 10-in-1 Multitasking Spray; Raw Sugar Multi Miracle Coconut Milk and Blue Agave Leave-In Conditioner & Heat Protectant; CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray
Walgreens; Target (2)

Anyone who relies on hot tools is in need of one of these. Somewhat like sunscreen, heat protector sprays shield hair from the drying and frying effects of blow dryers, flat irons, hot rollers and curling wands. Apply a heat protectant after leave-in conditioners but before styling/volumizing sprays. For all the armor you need, try Pantene Pro-V Miracle Rescue 10-in-1 Multitasking Spray ($8, walgreens.com), Raw Sugar Multi Miracle Coconut Milk and Blue Agave Leave-In Conditioner & Heat Protectant ($9, target.com) or CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray ($14, target.com).

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