Picks

The 7 Best Products I Can Buy in the Drugstore Haircare Aisle

When you’re low on funds or just want a cheap alternative.

Woman gesturing toward beauty products in a drugstore aisle.
Rio Viera-Newton at CVS.
Rio Viera-Newton

My hair is very bleached and thus, very damaged. Certain brands — Christophe RobinGisou, and Sachajuan — can keep my fried hair soft, shiny, and bouncy, but those products are definitely not cheap. Repurchasing Christophe’s $71 Prickly Pear mask every few months can be downright upsetting. Sometimes, when I’m low on money or just need a cheap alternative (typically when traveling), I gotta go to the drugstore.
And while I really do adore all my fancy hair products, I must say my drugstore favorites have held me down in some pretty tricky situations. Below, some of my low-budget faves for my intensely high-maintenance hair.

Drugstore Shampoo

Garnier Whole Blends Gentle Shampoo Oat Delicacy ($5)
If you don’t have color-treated hair, I’d take a look at this shampoo and conditioner set. What I love about this duo is that it’s completely neutral. It’s not at all stripping, but it’s not over-the-top moisturizing — so if you want clean, soft hair without that heavy feeling, add this to your cart.

Drugstore Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair

Redken Color Extend Shampoo ($20)
And if you do have color-treated hair, this shampoo gives my hair a good clean from the tons of product I put in it, all without stripping my color job. When I was platinum (I’m more of a dirty blonde now), I could really notice exactly what products worked and which didn’t on my hair color — if a shampoo was too stripping, my hair would turn very orange immediately, but this shampoo passed the test on my platinum hair.

Drugstore Hair Mask

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioner ($7)
A pal of mine mentioned this mask to me when I was researching the best products for my big dry hair list, but I only tried it out myself over Thanksgiving. I was going out of town somewhere quite remote when I suddenly realized I had forgotten to pack any kind of conditioner. I frantically went to CVS and grabbed a 3 Minute Miracle, which did wonders on my hair. After shampooing, put a generous amount of this on your locks, focusing on the ends. Wait three minutes — take the time to shaveexfoliate, sing, whatever floats your boat — and then rinse it out and voila! I was shocked at how well my hair responded to something so affordable.

Travel-Friendly Drugstore Hair Mask

Nexxus Keraphix Masque for Damaged Hair ($11 for 2)
Not only are these little single-packet masks from Nexxus incredibly travel-friendly, they also really work on my super-dry hair. Containing ingredients like keratin protein and black rice, it made my dry, frizzy hair soft, smooth, and bouncy. It’s one of my all-time favorite drugstore products — I really notice a difference in the texture of the ends of my hair after using it. I put it on in the shower and leave it for about ten minutes.

Drugstore Hair Oil

L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil Deep Nourishing Treatment ($5)
I absolutely love this hair oil. It’s not too thick, it’s not too sticky, and a touch of it goes a long way. I pump out about a dime-sized amount, rub my hands together, and run it through my hair. Immediately my hair looks shiny and healthy but not weighed down at all — just moisturized. I put this on both my wet and my dry hair.

Drugstore Dry Shampoo

Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Dry Shampoo ($9)
This is one of the best dry shampoos I’ve ever used. [Editor’s note: We’ve written about this dry shampoo before.] What I love most about this product is that it really volumizes your locks and lasts all day long — if you wake up with limp, oily hair, a few spritzes and rubs of this in the a.m. will help your hair look matte and full well into the evening. I also love the smell — the subtle coconut scent is pleasant without becoming a full-on hair perfume.

Drugstore Hairspray

Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Hairspray ($8)
I once read in an article that hairstylist Adir Abergel (who does Rooney Mara, Saoirse Ronan, and Tessa Thompson’s hair) loved this product, so when I was in the market for a new hairspray I decided to give it a go. I loved that it gave my hair a smoothing effect while keeping it in place — it never dries my hair out or gives me flyaways. In fact, it actually helps to make it look super shiny.