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. There are thickening, volumizing, and clarifying options. Sulfate and paraben-free varieties too. 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.
Our top picks
- Best overall/editor’s pick: Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo
- Best budget pick: Odele Volumizing Shampoo
- Best splurge: R+Co Bleu Ingenious Thickening Shampoo
How we picked the best fine hair shampoo
Fine hair shampoos, according to New York City-based trichologist, Shab Caspara, 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.
To recommend the best ones, we consulted with experts and sought out shampoos free of harsh cleansers like sodium lauryl sulfate, opting instead for products with gentler ingredients like sodium lauryl sarcosinate or cocamidopropyl betaine, which are less irritating on the scalp. We also looked for lightweight conditioners that hydrate fine hair without weighing it down.
The best shampoos for fine hair in 2023
We consulted celebrity hairstylists and trichologists (hair health experts) on the best volumizing shampoos and rounded up their picks, plus some staff favorites below.
Best overall fine hair shampoos: R+Co, Maxxam, Innersense and Ouai
Hairstylist Bobby Eliot is a fan of R+Co’s thickening shampoo and conditioner 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.
Caspara likes this option from Maxxam because it accomplishes exactly what a fine hair shampoo should: It won’t add buildup 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.
Caspara also recommended Innersense’s Pure Harmony Hairbath. It’s “an extremely clean yet effective brand that is designed for fine to medium hair to provide volume and gentle cleansing,” she said. The shampoo is sulfate-free and formulated with quinoa, rice extracts, shea butter and coconut and avocado oils, which nourish and hydrate hair without weighing it down, said Innersense.
I’ve been using this shampoo for a couple of weeks and absolutely love it. It’s free of harsh sulfates and uses cocamidopropyl betaine to gently cleanse my wavy curls. Post-shower my hair’s already bouncing and feeling light and springy, rather than weighed down by excess oils. The shampoo is also paraben-free and safe for color-treated hair (and smells amazing).
Best luxury fine shampoos: R+Co and Oribe
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 touch ability” to strands.
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, Lush and Odele
OGX’s sulfate-free fine hair shampoo is infused with a blend of the nourishing vitamins biotin and collagen, which are naturally-occurring proteins 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 10,269 reviews on Amazon.
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.
I have fine, curly hair and have been searching for a shampoo that will hydrate my hair while keeping it from looking oily. I purchased this Odele shampoo after trichologist Taylor Rose recommended it to me while I was writing Select’s guide to the best drugstore shampoos. It’s been a real game-changer. The shampoo makes my hair feel cleansed and nourished without stripping it of too much oil. My curls end up bouncy and free, rather than weighed down, too. Plus, it’s only $12 but feels salon-quality.
What to know about fine hair shampoos
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 Caspara. Instead, “opt for gentle cleansers and lightweight 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 shoppers beware.
Buyers should also be aware of shampoo labels that may conflate “fine” hair with “thin” hair, when they’re two completely different things, said Timothy Aylward. (If you’re experiencing hair loss, consult our guide to the best shampoo for thinning hair). 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 Caspara.
How to shop for 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. 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 hair-care brand is boasting about the hydrating properties of its fine hair shampoo, 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) 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.
- 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 sulfates 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 [if] 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 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. Other lightweight conditioners specifically created for fine hair include the Living Proof Full Conditioner and Philip B Weightless Conditioning Water.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Francesca Maria Alfonso is a New York City-based celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist.
- Timothy Aylward is a celebrity hairstylist.
- Shab Caspara is a New York City-based trichologist. She has also offered her guidance in Select’s guide to the best purple shampoos.
- Bobby Eliot is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist.
- Taylor Rose is a certified trichologist. She runs the @thehealthyhur TikTok account and has also offered her guidance in Select’s guide to the best drugstore shampoos and shampoos for thinning hair.
Why trust Select?
Christina Colizza is an editor at Select and has been a product reviewer since 2018. She covers a range of self-care and skin care topics like shampoos, eyebrow serums and more. She also writes and edits Select’s weekly New & Notable column, which highlights exciting product launches, major sales, what Select staffers are buying and some of the team’s latest recommendations and advice.