Best Shampoos and Conditioners for All Hair Types

Woman showering
:LWA/ Dann Tardif Blend Images/ Getty Images

Taking care of your hair is one of the most important parts of your beauty routine and choosing the correct shampoo for your hair type can mean the difference between great hair and so-so hair.

Shampoo is meant to remove dirt, sebum (a.k.a. oils), and product buildup from your hair. But there are dozens of different brands to choose from and even more types within those brands.

The same goes for conditioners.

Conditioners are meant to add shine, protect hair from drying out, and allow for easier combing. Here, we run down the best shampoos and conditioners for 4 different hair types.

Coarse, Curly Hair

Curly hair is almost always dry hair and here's why: Oils produced in the scalp don't travel as easily down the hair shaft as they do with straight hair.

You need a shampoo that softens hair while minimizing frizz. Creamy, moisturizing shampoos work best for this hair texture. Look on the ingredients list for wheatgerm oil, shea butter and nut oils (almond and macadamia, for example) in your shampoos. Silicones and glycerin also work for deep hydration. These tend to coat the hair shaft, trapping water inside.

Conditioners: More than any other hair type, women with coarse, curly hair must condition every time they shampoo. Look for an ultra-moisturizing conditioner made especially for coarse hair.

Once a month use a hot oil treatment. For extra-dry hair, use an intense moisturizing treatment every 2 weeks.

Extra tip: Curly hair should not be washed every day. You'll only dehydrate hair and make it more frizzy and unmanageable. Another alternative to shampoo washings is to rinse the hair with water and then follow with a conditioner.

Also, lay off the blow dryer (they tend to dry out hair even more) and let curls dry naturally.

Fine, Oily or Limp Hair

Fine hair is most susceptible to looking 'oily' and can get this way after only one day. Opt for clear shampoos and stay away from the creamy ones that were made for your curlier sisters. You want a gentle shampoo marked for daily or frequent washing. The secret fine hair shampoo lies in a body-building ingredient called panthenol. Hair experts swear that panthenol penetrates the hair cuticle making each strand thicker.

Women with fine hair should also have a great dry shampoo on hand to help buy time between shampoos. Not only will the dry shampoo soak up oils, but it adds body as well.

Conditioners: Not all limp-haired ladies need conditioners. If you find you can easily comb out hair after washings without a conditioner you can skip it. Conditioners are good for combing out fine hair. Just don't let the product touch your scalp. Massage a light-weight conditioner from mid-shaft down and no need to leave it on for long. If you have extremely greasy hair, look for the oil-absorbing tea-tree oil in your conditioner.

Extra tip: Consider using a spray conditioner. They tend to be more light-weight and therefore don't weigh the hair down.

Also, unless your hair is extra-oily, there's no need to 'rinse and repeat.' One shampoo will do you. You don't have to lather twice.

Colored or Chemically-Treated Hair

Your goal is to reinforce weak areas in the hair shaft that naturally comes from coloring, straightening, relaxing or perming hair. Look for protein-based shampoos with ingredients such as wheat and soy extracts or silk amino acids.

Unfortunately, overly processed hair can suffer from oily roots but a dry shaft and ends. Therefore, washing processed hair can be tricky business. You want to cleanse the roots while moisturizing the ends. We suggest washing hair every other day with a shampoo made for normal hair. Concentrate on cleaning the scalp. Then use a strong conditioner only on the mid-shaft to ends of hair. Here are other shampoo tips for the following processed hair types:

  • Colored. Hair experts swear color-protection shampoos contain gentle cleansers and ingredients that preserve color. Other experts suggest shampoos for color-treated hair are just another way for companies to make money off you. They suggest using a gentle cleanser such as baby shampoo instead of the pricey specialized shampoos. We say: Whatever works for you. Don't mind paying for the fancy stuff? Then do it. If you like it, then stick with it. Dozens of products on shelves must mean they work for somebody.
  • Permed or relaxed. Any moisturizing shampoo will work for your hair type but apply it only to roots and rub it in well. Then apply a quick burst of water. While the water is running down the hair shaft, massage hair to remove any dirt and grime. Rinse well. You don't want to skip the conditioner. Make sure to keep conditioner from the roots.

Conditioners: Look for a rich conditioner to be used primarily on the ends of your hair. Avoid conditioners that contain silicone, since they tend to strip color.

Extra tip for processed hair: Wash your hair only every few days to prevent drying out. You can use a dry shampoo; or if you're blond, a talcum powder, in between washings.

Dry or Damaged Hair

Avoid clear shampoos and go straight for the creamy ones. These smooth, de-tangle, and diffuse static. Look for glycerin and collagen to help restore the moisture balance to your hair.

Conditioners: Again, moisturizing is key. You'll want to look for an ultra-moisturizing conditioner.