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The 9 best shampoos for fine hair

Experts say that fine hair requires special shampoo. Here's what hairstylists want you to know before buying shampoo for fine hair.
Different shampoos for fine hair and a woman with pretty hair
We consulted celebrity hairstylists on the best volumizing shampoos, and we rounded up No. 1 bestsellers from Shopping reader favorite retailers.ModernewWorld / Getty Images ; Amazon ; Walmart

Perusing the hair care aisles of mega retailers like Target and Walmart can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re looking for products for fine hair. Thickening, volumizing, clarifying. Sulfate and paraben-free. For the average consumer, “these ingredients might as well be written in another language,” said hairstylist Timothy Aylward. Product ingredients and labels are like a puzzle and sometimes one wrong piece can be the difference between a great hair day, or a greasy one. So if you have fine hair and you’re in the market for a volumizing shampoo, Select is here to help.

Fine hair shampoos, according to New York City-based trichologist and hair health expert, Shab Reslan, are “typically formulated to either penetrate the hair cuticle to provide fuller looking hair by expanding on the inside, or coating the exterior of the hair to appear more full.” The goal is to lift and volumize, and not weigh hair down.

At most, shoppers looking for a quality fine hair shampoo should avoid “moisturizing or smoothing products as they tend to be formulated with ingredients that can weigh the hair down,” said Reslan. Instead, “opt for gentle cleansers and light weight conditioners that aren’t trying to oversell on the moisturizing capability,” she added. Ingredients are typically listed in proportion, so if heavy oils like avocado or shea butter appear amongst the first few ingredients, fine-haired buyer beware.

Also be aware of shampoo labels that may conflate “fine” hair with “thin hair,” when they’re two completely different things, said Timothy Aylward. The term “thin” refers to the number of hairs per square inch, while “fine” refers to the diameter of each individual hair,” he said. “Think of it as the number of trees per acre versus the size of each tree.” That said, “the thinner and finer the hair, the more sensitive the scalp is as it lacks the same protection and coverage thicker hair provides,” said Reslan.

Best volumizing shampoos for fine hair

To help simplify your search for volumizing shampoo for fine hair, we rounded up picks from the hair professionals we spoke to and included top-rated options from Select reader-favorite online stores.

Per the experts’ advice, we prioritized options that offered gentle cleansing agents or ingredients, not harsh ones, and lightweight hydration, rather than heavy oils that may weigh hair down.

Best overall fine hair shampoos: R+Co and Maxxam

R+Co Dallas Thickening Shampoo

Hairstylist Bobby Eliot is a fan of the Dallas thickening shampoo and conditioner from R+Co because they are made with the vitamin biotin, a popular hair care ingredient or supplement that Eliot said helps “increase hair strength.” Palmetto berry extract also adds body to the strands, according to R+Co, creating a thicker effect. The shampoo smells like a mix of cardamom, pineapple, tangerine and bamboo, according to the brand.

Maxxam Volumizing Shampoo

Reslan likes this option from Maxxam because it accomplishes exactly what a fine hair shampoo should: It won’t add build up and instead will “gently cleanse the hair and scalp to promote healthy hair growth,” and “make it appear fuller,” she said. Its formula is “not only gentle and free of harsh sulfates, but also nourishes the scalp, improves volume and strengthens the hair by using a soothing Kelp Extract Complex,” she added.

Best luxury fine shampoos: R+Co and Oribe

R+Co Bleu Ingenious Thickening Shampoo

Aylward likes R+Co’s Bleu shampoo. Paired with the Bleu conditioner, it is his “new favorite combo” for fine hair. The shampoo is made with kelp extract to help boost volume and thickness, according to R+Co, and vegetable proteins to strengthen strands. Aylward also appreciates the product’s “chic” packaging. (“You may be tempted to use [the bottle] as a flower vase” when it’s empty, he said.)

Aylward also highlighted the R+Co thickening spray as his “No. 1 go-to for fine hair” because it adds “sexy touchability” to strands.

Oribe Shampoo for Magnificent Volume

Freelance makeup and hair artist Francesca Maria Alfonso recommended this higher end option for a volume boost. Oribe offers a “weightless formula that has advanced polymers that visibly plump strands, so that’s what really creates the volume,” said Alfonso. Plus, “it smells so luxurious,” she said.

Best affordable fine hair shampoos: OGX and Lush

OGX Thick & Full Volumizing Shampoo

OGX’s sulfate-free fine hair shampoo is infused with a blend of the nourishing vitamin biotin and collagen, a naturally-occurring protein in the body. Plus, it smells like a mix of coconut, jasmine and lemon, according to the brand. The shampoo has earned a 4.4-star average rating from 9,943 reviews on Amazon.

Lush Shampoo Bar

Alfonso loves this affordable shampoo bar, which promotes volume, for its natural ingredients like clove, cinnamon, peppermint and rosemary which “not only stimulate your scalp and roots but they also promote shiny and soft hair,” she said. Plus, its environmentally friendly bar form means less plastic ending up in the trash.

Best fine hair shampoo on Amazon: John Frieda

John Frieda Volume Lift Lightweight Shampoo

John Frieda’s Volume lightweight shampoo employs the brand’s Air-Silk technology, to help boost hair’s fullness without leaving “sticky or heavy buildup,” according to the brand. The color-safe shampoo has earned a 4.4-star average rating from more than 3,561 reviews on Amazon. However, it does have the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, a cleansing agent that Reslan said can dry out one’s hair.

Best fine hair shampoo at Sephora: OUAI

OUAI Fine Hair Shampoo

This color-safe gel shampoo by celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin offers a combination of biotin, hydrolyzed keratin and chia seed oil to help thicken hair, according to the brand. “Sebum secretion is that oil that makes your hair look greasy, so this [shampoo] helps control that, and it also fights frizz,” said freelance makeup and hair artist Francesca Maria Alfonso. It received a 4.4-star average rating from 1,429 reviews on Amazon.

Best fine hair shampoo at Ulta: Matrix

Matrix Biolage Volumebloom Shampoo

Matrix paraben-free volumizing shampoo adds shine to hair and is made with lightweight hydrating ingredients like glycerin (a frequently-used ingredient in the cosmetic world that attracts moisture to the skin), soy protein and dimethicone (a silicone-based ingredient that forms a barrier), according to the brand. It is also gentle enough to use on color-treated and natural hair. The shampoo has received a 4.5-star average rating from nearly 3,490 reviews on Ulta.

What to look for in a fine hair shampoo

Those with fine hair are caught in a bind: they’re desperate to suds up their scalp to remove any excess oil, but don’t want to leave their ends high and dry. Here’s what to look for in a fine hair shampoo to keep your hair clean, healthy and bouncy:

  • Gentle cleansers: Fine hair gets greasy easily between washes. Reslan recommends looking for safe and effective, yet gentle cleansers, like sodium lauryl sarcosinate or cocamidopropyl betaine, rather than harsher sulfates, like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Gentler cleaners should prevent any irritation and dryness on the scalp while removing any excess oil from the hair. If you still have questions about your shampoo or how often you should wash, consult your hairstylist.
  • Lightweight hydration: If a fine hair shampoo bar is boasting its hydrating capabilities, Reslan said look elsewhere. That doesn't mean you can't find shampoo for fine hair with hydrating ingredients — there are a plethora of ingredients that hydrate hair without weighing it down. For example, multiple options on this list offer seed or fruit oil extracts, like Moringa seed (Oribe), chia seed oil (Ouai) or palmetto berry extract (R+Co).

What to avoid if you have fine hair

According to our haircare experts, here are some things you should avoid while shopping for a fine hair shampoo.

  • Harsh cleansers: “Harsh cleansers such as sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate (SLS,) can irritate the scalp and affect hair growth over time,” said Reslan. Not all stylists are in agreement on sulfates, however. Experts in our guide to purple shampoos, for example, noted that sulfates won’t dry out your hair if used in moderation. But for fine hair, Reslan still recommends looking for shampoos without sulfate since they’re gentler on the scalp, and people with fine hair don’t have the same protection that thicker hair provides.
  • Too much conditioner: Alfonso says that while fine hair shampoo can be helpful for bounce and volume, the most important thing you can do is rinse out any and all conditioner, or avoid using too much conditioner in the first place. “Don’t put conditioner from scalp to ends. Definitely just focus on the very ends, and if you’re wanting the most volume that day and you can skip conditioner without your hair feeling super brittle, go ahead and do that,” she said. “Conditioner is what really flattens the hair.” She also recommended rinsing (in her words, “rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse”) out any conditioner with cool water for that “plump, bouncy volume.”
  • Heavy conditioners: Fine hair does need conditioning to help rebalance and hydrate. Aylward recommended conditioners with a lighter weight, fluid-like consistency that won’t weigh your hair down, such as the R+Co Bleu Ingenious Thickening Conditioner. Ingredients are typically listed in proportion, so you will want to avoid any options that have heavy oils like avocado or shea butter amongst the first few ingredients. Other lightweight conditioners specifically created for fine hair include the Living Proof Full Conditioner and Philip B Weightless Conditioning Water.

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