Best shampoo and conditioner for each and every hair type

Whether your locks are thinning, dry or curly, we have the best haircare duo for you...

best shampoo and conditioner
(Image credit: Getty Images/Onoky)

Looking to upgrade your bathroom cabinet with the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type? Keep reading...

While shelves full of serums and sprays might suggest differently, shampoo and conditioner are the two most important products in your regime. After all, great hair needs great foundations, and this duo is your first chance to coax it into shape. Picking the best shampoo and conditioner is vital for healthy, glossy hair, regardless of whether your chosen 'do is a short hairstyle, a bob hairstyle or a long hairstyle.

But formulas aside, there are still plenty of misconceptions around shampoo and conditioner. Do I need to wash daily? Are all sulphates bad news? Should I actually be cowashing? And how much is too much conditioner?

We’ve asked the experts to break it down for your best lather, rinse and repeat yet…

How should using the best shampoo and conditioner make your hair feel?

A good shampoo will cleanse your hair gently but effectively, leaving it clean and free from product build-up. What it shouldn’t do is leave hair dry and squeaky, stripping away the oils our hair needs to stay soft and shiny.

Conditioner should leave your hair moisturised, nourished and silky, but not heavy or greasy. Apart from that, it’s all down to personal preference and hair type.

How much hair washing is too much?

"On average, I say wash your hair every three days – but everyone is different", advises hair expert and Viviscal brand ambassador Adam Reed, when it comes to how often you should wash your hair.

"Three days is a good bench mark as it allows your sebaceous gland to regulate. Any more and you risk over lubricating the hair with its natural oils. Over-washing the hair can cause the sebaceous gland to produce too much sebum. This means hair feels oilier, and then, in turn, will need to be washed more. If you strike the balance right, every three days you will have a great release of sebum, allowing natural conditioning of the hair. Any less and you’ll find that the hair can become built up by environmental pollution and will need more shampooing, causing it to look dull and lifeless."

As for the rumour that hair will eventually self-clean, this is unfortunately nothing more than a beauty myth. It might seem cleaner after a week or two, but it’s likely you’ve just gotten used to the greasier texture.

Skipping shampoos, or over-washing can both cause problems when it comes to the health of your hair and scalp – something Adam sees regularly in his salon.

"If people shampoo the hair too often, I find that the hair is much more difficult to blow dry and it can become static," Adam says. "On the other hand, clients who put too much product in their hair can ‘cake up’ the scalp with ingredients like kaolin (normally found in dry shampoo). This can cause the hair to look lifeless. Similarly, if you’re washing your hair every day this can cause metallic salt build-up in the hair because of the pipes in our showers. Hair tends to lose it's sheen, looking dull instead."

How much shampoo and conditioner should I be using?

The experts are divided when it comes to how much shampoo and conditioner you should be using, but it really does come down to trial and error.

Start by working a small blob of shampoo (the size of a 20p) into a lather, and only add more if your hair needs it. Using too much isn’t necessarily bad for your hair, but is a waste of your hard-earned cash. Pureology shampoo and conditioner bottles have handy symbols on their caps as a guide to how much you need to use.

Same goes for conditioner. For fine hair, a little conditioner will go a long way – and you’ll only need to use it on your ends. But if your hair is thick, dry or textured, you’re likely to need a generous dollop.

The most important thing is to make sure you rinse both your shampoo and conditioner thoroughly. Rinse until you think it’s all gone, and then go again for another 15 seconds. Leaving product behind will not only rid your hair of its shine, but can cause problems for your scalp too.

Are sulphate-free shampoos better for your hair?

The simple answer is that it depends on the individual. Some people quickly notice an improvement in the health and condition of their hair when they stop using shampoos with sulphates in. Others the opposite.

But, sulphate free shampoos are growing in popularity, which many people now actively avoiding them in shampoos. So we asked award winning hair stylist Michael Van Clarke for his view on sulphates:

"Sulphates can be found in a variety of products, from shampoo and toothpaste to laundry detergents," explains hairdresser Michael Van Clarke.

But before you recoil in horror at the thought of washing your hair with detergent, it’s important to understand that not all sulphates are created equal.

"The most commonly used sulphate in shampoo is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is a very effective surfactant. It helps to dissolve grease and dirt, and it’s nice and easy to rinse out."

If your hair is naturally dry, or your scalp sensitive, you might find that Sodium Lauryl Sulphate does a bit too good of a job, stripping away much-needed moisture. It can speed up colour fade too.

There are two other, slightly gentler sulphates to look out for on your ingredients list…

  • SLES – Sodium Laureth Sulphate ‘This is a much softer cleanser and has a larger molecular structure than SLS,’ explains Michael.
  • ALS – Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate ‘Even gentler than SLES, this has a larger, more complex molecule which is harder for outer layers of skin to absorb. Therefore it’s seen as less likely to irritate sensitive skin.’

Opting for a shampoo formulated with milder sulphates, or culling them from your routine altogether, might not be a good idea if your hair is on the oily side. They don’t lather as easily, so you have to work harder to break down styling products and grease.

The best shampoo and conditioner combinations for every hair type in 2020

Read on for our round up of the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair needs. Your dreamy new double act is just a click away…

Catwalk by Tigi Oatmeal & Honey Shampoo & Conditioner

Catwalk by Tigi Oatmeal & Honey Shampoo & Conditioner

BEST FOR DRY HAIR Dry hair will benefit from a rich, nourishing, sulphate-free shampoo, and an even richer conditioner. Our heat-addicted Acting Beauty Editor Jess has tried plenty of shampoos and conditioners, but it’s this combo she always comes back to. Deliciously scented, it uses a nourishing blend of honey, proteins and vitamin E to leave hair soft and swishy. These super-size bottles are a bargain too.

Dizziak Hydration Wash and Dizziak Deep Conditioner

Dizziak Hydration Wash and Dizziak Deep Conditioner

BEST FOR AFRO HAIR Afro hair benefits from plenty of added-moisture, and these tubes of goodness won’t disappoint. Dizziak’s deep conditioner has been something of a cult classic for years now, thanks to it’s rich, but not too heavy, texture. Prep hair with the co-ordinating sulphate-free wash for a nice, nourishing cleanse.

Kérastase Genesis Bain Nutri-Fortifant Shampoo and Kérastase Genesis Fondant Reinforcatuer Conditioner

Kérastase Genesis Bain Nutri-Fortifant Shampoo and Kérastase Genesis Fondant Reinforcatuer Conditioner

BEST FOR THINNING HAIR Frustratingly, hair loss can be triggered by everything from stress to diet, making it tricky to identify the root cause. It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, but if you’re noticing more than usual swirling down the plug hole, it might be worth checking in with your GP. In the meantime, this duo tackles hair loss by strengthening your roots and rehydrating splitting lengths.

Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo and Conditoner

Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo and Conditoner

BEST FOR FINE HAIR If you have fine hair, weighing it down is likely to be your biggest concern. Luckily, Ouai’s Fine Hair Conditioner manages to be both velvety soft and light-as-air, for weightless hydration. Topped with the brand’s signature ‘Mercer Street’ fragrance, the floral scent lingers for days.

OGX Clarify + Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner

OGX Clarify + Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner

BEST FOR OILY HAIR A tried-and-tested remedy, celebs like Miranda Kerr swear by a apple cider vinegar rinse to keep their A-list locks camera ready. Instead of raiding your kitchen cupboards, reap the same benefits with this clarifying shampoo and nourishing conditioner. It works hard to banish build-up, restoring shine and volume.

Aveda Be Curly Shampoo, £20.50, and Aveda Be Curly Conditioner

Aveda Be Curly Shampoo, £20.50, and Aveda Be Curly Conditioner

BEST FOR CURLY HAIR By it’s very nature, curly hair tends to be drier and more prone to breakage. This calls for a hefty dose of hydration, which this duo have in spades. Use the shampoo and conditioner together to banish the dreaded frizz halo and give definition to coils, curls and waves.

Percy & Reed Time to Shine Colour Protect Shampoo & Conditioner

Percy & Reed Time to Shine Colour Protect Shampoo & Conditioner

BEST FOR COLOURED HAIR The colouring process can leave hair dry and brittle, so it’s important to take extra care of your locks after switching shade. This harnesses clever natural ingredients like blue seakale and sunflower extract to protect from colour-distorting UV and keep your colour fresher for longer.

L’Oréal Elvive Colour Protect Anti-Brassiness Purple Shampoo and Conditioner

L’Oréal Elvive Colour Protect Anti-Brassiness Purple Shampoo and Conditioner

BEST FOR BLONDE HAIR A common bugbear for bottle blondes, hair can develop brassy tones over time. This duo uses purple pigment to neutralise yellowness, leaving your blonde bright and icy. It packs a punch, so applying just once a week should be enough to maintain your shade.

Josh Wood Colour Radiating Shampoo & Conditioner for Fine Brunette Hair

(Image credit: Pixelate imaging)

Josh Wood Colour Radiating Shampoo & Conditioner for Fine Brunette Hair

BEST FOR BRUNETTE HAIR The great thing about brunette hair is it’s glossy sheen, but if your shade has lost its sparkle, you’re in the right place. These use UV filters to protect from colour fade and keep your shade vibrant. Victoria Beckham is a fan, and if it’s good enough for Posh…

Pantene Pro-V Hair Biology Silver & Glowing Shampoo and Conditioner

Pantene Pro-V Hair Biology Silver & Glowing Shampoo and Conditioner

BEST FOR GREY HAIR Contrary to popular belief, grey hair isn’t coarser in texture because of it’s colour. Instead, it’s merely a coincidence that we go grey around the same time our sebaceous glands start to slow down. Pantene’s grey duo softens wiry strands as well as combating unwanted brassy tones.