The Lowdown on Drugstore vs. Salon Hair Products

  • Copy by: Amanda Holstein

The constant war between drugstore and salon hair products has finally led us to wonder: What truly is the difference between the two? Are salon products really worth the extra money? Do they perform that much better than drugstore products? After doing some major research, we’re laying it all out for you so you can decide for yourself.

The shampoos and conditioners we find at the drugstore are appealing for obvious reasons. They’re affordable, convenient, and we love all of their different scents (I mean, who can resist vanilla & shea butter?). But what makes them so affordable may be cause for concern. Although drugstore shampoos do contain high-grade ingredients found in salon products, they only contain small amounts of them. They typically contain chemicals, which can strip your hair of its natural oils, essentially drying it out. They’re also known for diluting their products with fillers. These tend to make your hair feel super soft, but can also leave behind a waxy build-up. Basically, your hair feels soft but isn’t actually hydrated from within.

Luckily, more and more drugstore brands are working to solve these issues. Many are going sulfate-free or swapping out harsher ingredients for organic alternatives. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with choosing drugstore shampoos & conditioners—shampoo is shampoo and conditioner is conditioner. The key is to choose those with more high-grade ingredients and fewer fillers and chemicals.

If you decide to go the drugstore route, we recommend:

Burt’s Bees More Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner
Desert Essence Shampoo & Conditioner
Aveeno Active Naturals Shampoo & Conditioner
Ogx Nourishing Coconut Milk Shampoo & Conditioner

The reason salon shampoos tend to be on the pricier side is because they are highly concentrated with high-grade ingredients. They often consist of vitamins, oils and minerals that are truly nourishing, yet too pricey to exist in most drugstore options. These shampoos also include less fillers than their drugstore counterpart, preventing that waxy build-up and instead, hydrating from within. Because these premium shampoos are more concentrated, you don’t need to use as much to see results.

In the long run, most would agree that you end up spending about the same, no matter which side of the coin you choose. The major difference is that salon products last longer and contain higher amounts of quality ingredients that truly are better for your hair.

If you decide to go the salon route, we recommend:

Redkin Frizz Dismiss Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner
L’Oreal Professionnel Expert Serie Shampoo & Conditioner
Matrix Biolage Hydrasource Shampoo & Conditioner
Purology Hydrate Shampoo & Conditioner

So, which ingredients should you be looking for? Take a look at our guide to hair care ingredients below.