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Australia’s best shampoos, conditioners in supermarkets

Jun 23, 2023Jun 23, 2023

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In times of economic hardship, small luxuries such as a nice shampoo can be a great comfort. But how much do you really have to spend on your hair for a luxurious experience? You can get great results from products found in supermarkets or chemists, as long as you know what to look for.

It’s possible to find great hair products at your supermarket or chemist.Credit: iStock

A more expensive product does not always mean a better one.

“Many brands you find in the supermarket or pharmacy are owned by big companies that also make salon brands, and you’ll find versions of the same technology at all kinds of price points,” says Hannah English, a pharmaceutical scientist and author of Your Best Skin.

“A higher price can mean more expensive raw materials, like special plant extracts or peptides, but it can just as easily mean that the brand has positioned themselves as luxurious and needs to cost more to communicate that it’s a prestige product,” English says.

For curly hair, which can be harder to care for, there are affordable options too.

“I’m a massive advocate for meeting people where they are,” says Adrian Panayiotis, founder of Delilah Hair Studio, a Melbourne-based salon specialising in curly hair.

Panayiotis believes great products for textured and curly hair can be found readily in supermarkets and chemists, but it’s important to manage expectations. “These will tick boxes and won’t do any harm, but they might not get you to the next level like some professional products.”

“But I don’t think consumers should be punished for their decisions for not being able to afford things.”

The perfect ingredient list is not one-size-fits-all. “It’s about knowing what your needs are. Is your scalp oily or dry? Does your hair feel weighed down or does it need more smoothing?” says English.

Sulphates and silicone – two ingredients that have developed a bad rap over the years – can be great if present in the right quantities, according to some experts.

“It’s more about the mix than about each individual ingredient, kind of like a cake,” says English.

“Sulphates can definitely be stripping for hair and the scalp if a harsh one is present at a high concentration, but in a balanced formula they’ll help give the product a lovely foam and control oil.” Those with sensitive skin, however, may want to avoid sulphates completely, which can be too harsh even in small amounts.

When it comes to silicone, Panayiotis believes there are good and bad types. Volatile silicone, like cyclopentasiloxane, will deliver key nutrients to hair and evaporate over a 24-hour period. Non-volatile silicone on the other hand, like dimethiconewill, remain on the hair and lead to build up.

For curls in particular, he says that glycerine, xantham gum, essential oils and floral waters, like rose water, are fantastic.

One of his favourite ingredients for luscious curls? Sorbolene. According to Panayiotis, it’s a great hydrator, which also keeps the hair and scalp clean. Shoppers can either look for it as a core ingredient, or take the bare-bones approach and go for a bottle of sorbolene. “Use it like a curl cream. Massage an amount the size of a 10 cent coin into wet hair and let it dry naturally.”

Other experts warn against silicone and sulphates entirely. Lauren Mackeller, a hair stylist and founder of Robe Hair Care, suggests opting for products with recognisable ingredients we know to be good for hair, such as keratin, biotin and castor oil.

Dr Prasanthi Purusothaman, a general practitioner and cosmetic doctor, says we should treat our hair like our skin, and seek out similar ingredients to those in our skincare products. If you have a dry scalp, she recommends looking for ceramide, rice amino acids and oatmeal extracts. For oilier scalps, she says to look for AHAs and BHAs, like salicylic acid, that help to restore the scalp’s PH balance.

If you do have a little extra room in your beauty budget, experts recommend spending more on shampoo and conditioner.

“They’re the products you’re using most regularly, so it’s a better investment than a one-off hair treatment not everyone necessarily needs,” says Purusothaman.

Mackellar says that investing in quality basics will also reduce the need for extras like hair masks or serums. “Quality products are a treatment in their own right. I don’t want people to have 20 products on their shelves – having a couple of good products goes a long way.”

She adds that products with good ingredients will keep hair healthier in the long-run, extending the time between washes and therefore the amount of product you use.

Purusothaman also recommends investing in quality hair tools, like a hair dryer or straightener that won’t crisp hair and distributes heat well. A quality hairbrush, such as one with boar bristles, is another smart investment.

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