As someone with naturally curly hair, I’ve often found that my hair is just as difficult to control as the weather.
The timing of my hair wash, the rain, the humidity, and my general temperament that day were all key factors in whether my hair looked frizzy or sleek.
For this reason, it is surprising that I have never researched the different shampoos on the market.
Some shampoos at your local drug store have a more aesthetically pleasing design and are more expensive, but are they actually better for your hair?
At this week’s Bang For Your Buck, I decided to find out.
We looked at some of the top brands out there: Dove, Pantene, L’Oreal and Garnier.
All of these are common shampoos for regular Americans and their bottles generally offer the same benefits, but I felt they weren’t all designed equal.
I decided to rate them on price, smell, and overall hair effect, and the one with the highest overall rating was declared the winner.
Here’s what I found from best to worst.
- Score: 24 out of 30
- Cost: $4.49 for 12.5 fluid ounces
Garnier was the cheapest of all the brands I tested, so I decided to try it first as I suspected the quality might be due to the lower price.
Still, I stayed open-minded. Maybe it would surprise me.
I was actually pleasantly surprised.
Billing itself as a ‘Grow Strength’ ceramide and apple extract boosting shampoo, the bottle immediately gives off a beautiful apple scent.
The shampoo had the best smell by far and was also the cheapest at only $4.49.
That alone brought him high rankings, but the overall effect was not to be criticized either.
I immediately felt that the Garnier product gave my hair a glossy shine and I really enjoyed smelling the fresh and sweet scent of apples throughout the day.
Priced at just $4.49, Garnier received a rating of nine for price, eight for smell, and seven for effect.
Overall, this justified a high ranking of 24 out of 30.
While seven may seem low for overall effectiveness, I liked the shampoo’s glossy, silky appeal.
My problem was that I just didn’t believe the generic shampoo was designed specifically for my curly hair.
The best strains for this particular hair type seem to contain coconut oil and shea butter, and that’s something the generic brand name just couldn’t offer.
When it comes down to it, my hair can likely appear frizzy or dull depending on the general mood of my hair that day.
Still, it was a good start given the apple flavor and the price.
- Score: 21 out of 30
- Cost: $4.99 for 12 fluid ounces
Next we had Dove.
Dove is probably one of the most recognizable brand names when it comes to self care and personal care products.
The price was right in the middle — the Daily Moisture Shampoo for dry hair was $4.99, which is neither cheap nor expensive.
The smell upon opening the bottle was a bit interesting. I couldn’t place it exactly, but I had a strong feeling that I was about to apply the lotion directly to my scalp.
It makes sense that Dove’s shampoo would have a similar vibe to its popular lotion, but when I ran it through my hair it felt a little weird.
I felt like putting lotion in my hair. It was a bit harsh in terms of the overall effect of the shampoo.
It didn’t seem to give the same shine and smoothness as the Garnier shampoo bottle, so I had to make a note of it.
Overall, I gave Dove a rating of eight for price, seven for smell, and six for overall effect.
This earned him an overall placement of 21 out of 30.
- Score: 19 out of 30
- Cost: $5.49 for 12.6 fluid ounces
L’Oreal was one of the more expensive shampoos on the list, priced at $5.49, and for a brand name that exudes luxury, I had higher expectations.
Translated from French into English, L’Oréal quite literally means ‘beauty’ so I was hoping it would leave my hair lusciously scented in both scent and style.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed in both departments.
The smell was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to put in my hair.
Billed as L’Oreal’s Total Repair 5 shampoo, which contains two percent repair concentrate with protein and is said to be able to target the five signs of damage, it smelled functional — but not exactly pretty.
The shampoo gave off such an intense scent of antibacterial soap that I almost coughed just smelling it.
I quickly put the bottle down, hoping that maybe it would give my hair better cleaning and quality, which is a disappointment with most generic shampoos in general.
However, it turned out that I expected higher quality from a higher priced product.
Unfortunately, I could not find any significant difference between L’Oreal and Dove.
There was no excessive sheen or smell. My hair didn’t radiate any mystical quality. It was just a thorough cleaning.
While it’s entirely possible that the repairing effects of L’Oréal will only become apparent over time, the one-time use of the shampoo didn’t impress me too much.
Because of this, it only received an overall score of 19 out of 30.
I gave it a seven for price, a five for smell and a seven for overall effect.
- Score: 19 out of 30
- Cost: $5.99 for 12 fluid ounces
It was Pantene’s turn last.
The bottle was called Pantene’s Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo and was notable for not separating heavily and for being moisturizing with every wash.
Because Pantene is probably considered a step above the Garnier and Suave shampoos on the market, it fetches a retail price of $5.99, making it by far the most expensive shampoo on my list.
But would the quality make up for it?
Buckle up because my reaction when I first opened the bottle and sniffed the more expensive shampoo was absolutely nothing.
I couldn’t smell anything. No nothing. It didn’t even give off an airy, indistinguishable lotion aroma. There was no smell at all from the bottle.
Not sure if that’s a plus or a minus, I went with a solid six. After all, smelling nothing was far better than L’Oréal’s harsh antibacterial scent.
After washing my hair, I felt once again that it did a thorough cleansing. But my hair wasn’t really shiny, it wasn’t shiny, it didn’t smell irresistibly of apples that accompanied me throughout the day.
And once again, I was able to determine that this shampoo (and its generic branded alternatives) is not specifically designed for any kind of curls.
After all that, I had to give Pantene an overall score of 19 out of 30.
This is due to the ranking of six for price, six for smell and seven for effect.
Surprisingly, in my opinion, the higher the price, the worse the quality of the shampoo.
While there’s no ruling out the fact that I inadvertently had higher expectations for the shampoos that cost more money, I can’t help but maintain that, in my opinion, Garnier was the best of any generic shampoo on the market.
The two things none of the other Garniers could even come close to matching at were the unforgettable apple scent and the smoother, shinier hair quality.
Note, however, that none of the shampoos listed here scored more than a seven in overall effectiveness.
That’s because while these shampoos do a good job of daily basic cleansing of the average person’s straight hair, none of them are specifically formulated for my particular hair type.
Because of this, you can only get a certain level of quality before you’re forced to shell out a little more money for the shea butter and coconut curl type product (or whatever works best for your particular hair type).
All in all though I would highly recommend Garnier if you are on a budget as it performs better than the rest in the vast majority of categories.
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