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When Expensive Shampoo Happens {Charlotte}

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

You know those makeover shows where the professional hairdresser picks up the participant’s locks with a look of mock disgust? That was basically the scenario when I went to have a colour and cut with my hairdresser Beth a few months ago.

Lank and limp, I think that would be a fair description. And I also think it’s fair to say this has never been the case before. I’m not saying I was the proud owner of a barnet of dreams or anything, but considering I used cheap and cheerful products and “effort” consisted of me haphazardly using a hairdryer, I’d say my hair would’ve passed as perfectly presentable.

Then they discontinued the shampoo I loved that cost under a fiver at Boots (Umberto Gianni Volumising in the lilac bottle, why Gianni WHY?!) and at around the same time I developed a rather peculiar reaction to the purple toner for brassiness that I have used for nearly 9 years. Three months worth used to set me back the grand sum of two quid if I purchased whilst there was an offer on (which I often did).

My March was essentially a month of continual bad hair days whilst testing out a selection of alternative options. The only replacement daily shampoo I could find that didn’t aggravate my eczema or make my scalp itch was one that comes in a large black bottle with pink lettering on and claims of “salon” connections (I don’t want to necessarily put in writing the exact brand that was the main cause of my tragic lacklustre strands but thought I would at least offer some TRÉS BIG clues). I must point out for the first few days it seemed fine, and you can’t deny the stuff is an absolute bargain.

Beth guessed straight away what brand I had been using, which I found in equal parts fascinating and slightly disconcerting. Why does anyone use it if essentially it makes your hair look well, really crap?

Beth recommended I try Kerastase Specifique Bain Vital Dermo-Calm for normal to combination hair (try saying that after a few gin and tonics). It’s hypoallergenic and aimed at those with a sensitive scalp. And it’s almost prohibitively expensive – it usually retails at £17.90. And yes you guessed it, it’s the bomb. Seriously, my hair has never been bouncier or cleaner or easier to do things with. I buy it from as they often have offers on (it’s currently £13.40 and comes with a free gift). I would also say a little goes a LONG way. A bottle lasts twice as long as my cheaper old favourite. All in all it’s actually not considerably more per wash.

That would all have been fine if I hadn’t been lured into also purchasing the “Silver Charge” by Redken shampoo as well. This product is aimed specifically at men which is in equal parts ridiculous and hilarious (it’s a regular purple toner, but packaged in a grey bottle with a cityscape logo and has a slight masculine whiff about it). Regardless, it is AMAZING. And makes my locks silvery and soft without becoming overtly silky and droopy. There is currently 20% off at so it’s £8 a bottle.

I promise you are allowed to use it even if you are not a man.

Do you use fancy shampoo? What one do you use? Do you think it’s worth it?

I told Beth I would be including her in this feature and that she wouldn’t get abuse for being a meany. She was just being honest – my hair looked shit.

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea

49 thoughts on “When Expensive Shampoo Happens {Charlotte}

  1. I’ve just purchased Origins Ojon damage reverse shampoo and conditioner. They were an eye watering £21 & £23 respectively. I am hoping for miracles!! I have just stopped using Joico as my hairdresser used to get me the salon sized bottles as a discount price BUT this had to stop as we split up after 8 years…….well I dumped him as I wasn’t happy with the colour and cut. It was a toug breakup!!!

    1. I have heard hairdresser break ups are horrific Stacy! Not to mention trying to find another one…

  2. Oh I too suffered at the hands of the same bargainonus brand Charlotte!

    I now use Pureology Strength Cure which is great for coloured hair and hair which is abused with heat (so many shampoos are either for damaged hair OR coloured not both!) I also live their hydrating range.

    My new hairdresser (I moved city’s 3yrs ago and it became impractical to drive back!) gave me an Alterna set to try which annoyingly us bloody amazing but at £20-£25 a bottle it’s never being purchased!

    I must confess other than dry shampoo and elnett I’ve never had much success with high street hair products. I clearly have fussy hair!

    Oh well my face is getting less fussy so I suppose I save cash there!!

    1. Vicky my face is more fussy than ever – I’m desperately trying to find an “anti-ageing” serum/cream/thingy and they all just make my skin react. I’ve heard of Alterna, the bottles are fabulous!

      1. My face has become more reactive since having Felix but have found a few cheaper options that don’t bring me out in spots, weird rashes or just don’t work.

        Serum wise I really like these 3 (one is spendy!)

        Superdrug: B radiant Rejuvenating serum (usually £14 but often half price)

        Superdrug: simply pure hydrating serum (£2.69 often buy one get one 1/2 price)

        Astalift: red jelly (can’t remember it’s full name but includes ‘rejuvenating’!) about £60 for a jar

        All of these have helped sort out my face especially when it’s gone a bit wappy

      2. I have very sensitive and VERY dry skin. Recently got recommended Estee Lauder night serum. OMG it has changed my life. Never have I used a product and actually seen a visible difference within just a few days. My skin feels like a baby’s butt.

        Also for hair, I also used to suffer from eczema and tight scalp until I got tested and found out I was allergic to limonene and linalool (a cheap fragrance used in EVERYTHING from shampoos to cleaning products). I now use Phil Smith Cocolicious as my cheaper shampoo and Philip Kinsley as my ‘shit this stuff is amazing’ shampoo every few days. FYI the Elasticizer is the freakin’ bomb. It makes my long locks swishy and shiny for a good week.

        1. Helena I NEED to try the Estee Lauder serum, I think half the readers of RMS swear by it?! I have only ever had very small samples so perhaps a few days worth isn’t enough to see a real difference on my skin and I need to persevere. My mum has thick naturally wavy hair and swears by the Elasticizer! x

  3. I’m rubbish with anything hair related. Hardly use any products and never know what to buy. My shampoo and conditioner is normally Elvive or whatever else is on offer. Surprisingly when I ask my hairdresser what shampoo she would recommend for me she said….Elvive. Apparently my hair was in really good condition (probably as I can never be bothered to straighten it or even blow dry it!) so I didn’t need anything expensive. That said since the last cut my hair has become a dry, frizzy mess. It may be due to heat and sun or the fact that now it’s short I’m drying it more. So I need some good recommendations. Off I go to spend some money! x

  4. I’m the kind of girl who thinks anything over £2.50 for shampoo is ridiculous (mainly because on the occasions I buy RedKen or Kerastase, Lee finds it, and the whole bottle is gone in two weeks), but ‘that brand’ was awful for my hair; turned it into a brittle mess.

    Saying that, im a slave to peroxide so I do need to take care of my locks. I usually go for Aussie, or even Herbal Essences for a standard wash, with Fudge Clean Blonde Violet shampoo for the brass and Redken Extreme leave-in conditioner for the frizz.

    Then I discovered ‘Amir’ – we redecorated the bathroom and I picked this up from TK Maxx because the dark brown masculine looking bottles looked good next to my terranium. Its sulphate free and made with Argan oil. Well, I’ve never had so many compliments from hairdressers… Of course, I’ve never seen it in TK Maxx since, so it’s back to the old routine for me! x

    1. “the dark brown masculine looking bottles looked good next to my terrarium”


      I bleach my hair until the streaks are white, I think my mousse must save it from heat damage as it’s in pretty good nick (good be the expensive shampoo mind… )xx

  5. I’ve been using Kérastase for a long time now since it was recommended by ny hair dresser. However I still mix it up by using cheaper brands in-between. My hair is really frizzy anyway since it’s growing back after the post partum hair loss. So I’ll wait and see what my hair will be like again.

  6. I struggle with shampoos as I get eczema on my hands. So whilst I could use a wider range of products on my hair, my hands flare up quite easily. If only I had a lady’s maid to wash my hair for me! Happily, I tried Sebastian Hydre shampoo following a recommendation from my hairdresser, and it suits both hands and hair. It makes my hair soft without making the scalp greasy. It’s about £14 a bottle (I get it from but lasts ages. I maybe buy four bottles a year.

  7. A couple of hairdressers have said its more important to get a good shampoo than a good conditioner. Also if you use products, wash your hair twice. I used to love Bed Head by Tigi (the smell!) but bow using Davines shampoo & Aussie conditioner

    1. I actually don’t use conditioner – no matter what I’ve tried it makes my hair too silky. I actually like it a bit rough (!) as I find it has more volume x

      1. I try and condition only once a week and then use a leave in/ spray detangler for most washes – helps with volume!

  8. My spendy shampoo is Paul Mitchell no.3. My house is on well water, and the water has high-ish levels of copper which turn my blonde locks a fetching shade of green. (Fun fact, it’s copper not chlorine that turns your hair green in pools, but the chlorine damages making it easier for copper to have its wicked way!) The PM shampoo is ultra-clarifying and magics away the dreaded green tinge.
    I’ve also just started using Keihls amino acid shampoo and conditioner after being given travel size ones which are currently working wonders for me!

    1. Every day is a school day, green?! I never knew that. Mine can go yellow-y with too much sun but the purple deals with that (and constantly wearing a hat!) x

      1. Mine goes yellow as well….my Barnet is like a never ending rainbow! I use lee Stafford once a week to combat.
        Life as a brunette would be so much simpler!

        1. I swear my Mum and I always say we would come back with dark hair and skin! darker hair always looks so shiny x

  9. I like whatever is half price at Tesco. My secret is that I don’t blow dry or straighten my hair. It’s curly and I get proper defined curls ONLY if I wash and go. If I’m feeling particularly decadent I’ll use 60 second leave in conditioner prior to washing and going. Only way to get proper genuine shine.

    I guess bouncy natural curls was the universe’s way of compensating for my tummy.

  10. I always go organ as sulphates wreck my skin (they’re not allowed in organic shampoo). The Organix range is amazing – I think £7 for a bottle of shampoo is a bit much personally so I always buy it on offer. The new coconut water shampoo is gorgeous as it makes my hair feel so clean and light – it’s really long and sometimes looks a bit ‘meh’! What do you do with long hair and an 11month old? He swings from it if it’s down (ouch!) and I look terrible with a ponytail! Anything else takes way too much time!
    Anyway – recommend Organix range and I feel better about it by cheating out on conditioner. Elvive on offer is just fine!

    1. Kerri I feel your pain, Mabel would constantly grab at mine and cover it in petit filous……

      I used to do a very quick/rough plait sometimes then pin the plait to the nape of my neck. Either that or just tie it on top of my head it some kind of wonky pineapple (I wouldn’t leave the house like that as it made my head resemble the moon but it did keep my locks out of the way of Mabel) xx

  11. is it wrong that the most important aspect of shampoo for me is the smell?? Its all I care about, but my hair is about an inch long so doesn’t have much hinge to get into bad condition!

  12. I would really recommend Kerestase too, and my hairdresser reccommends it as well. I do mix it with more high street stuff though (usually Aussie as I love the smell or the Argan Oil brand that Boots sell and is always on offer, in oval type bottles!). I find with Kerestase I can’t use it every wash as it can make my hair a bit sticky which I think is because it is high in protein (think I have that right) and I have mega thick hair which does make it hard to rinse all the shampoo out!! My hairdresser always says my hair is in really good condition. But I also only wash it every 4-5 days, rarely use a hairdryer and no straighteners so that probably all helps!
    Re breaking up with hairdresser – my colourist just moved back to Malta after 7 years and he didn’t tell me?? RUDE. Plus his replacement is crap. Hummph.

    1. RUDE indeed! I would agree that it does take some rinsing, but then I wonder if perhaps before I never rinsed properly and that’s why I would often have not-so-great hair days? I kind of do an “extra” rinse these days and shake my hair about a bit to really make sure I’ve rinsed underneath etc x

    2. I find I have the exact same problem – initially my hair loves Kerastase and Pureology then after a while it starts to feel really sticky and horrible. I too have really thick hair. I’ve wasted so many different bottles from different hair dresser recommendations. I’d given up and resorted to whatever was on offer in boots but maybe I’ll try alternating with Aussie and Kerastase as my hair is definitely starting to feel very straw like and is in need of some TLC

  13. Ha! Your subtle clues made me giggle. I used to use the same brand and it didn’t work for me either. I stumbled upon Malin and Goetz products while on holiday in Spain (the miniature toiletries were all in that brand and I loved them so much I took the leftovers home with me!). The peppermint shampoo is £16 a bottle from Space NK. Not cheap, but so so good. They also do a cilantro conditioner that is lovely

    1. I do love a bit of peppermint Amma! Also Space NK….I don’t go on the website for fear of spending a small fortune on stuff in pretty packaging that I don’t even understand how to use 🙂

  14. Is it just me or can you use shampoo one day and have gorgeous locks and use the same shampoo the next and it look a bit naff?? I also find that I can never use one bottle of shampoo more than once on the trot as it tends to build up and my hair gets ‘used to it’ if that makes any sense!!
    Although I’m naturally dark, I have a lot of bleach in my hair. When my hairdresser asked me what I thought of the condition of my hair, I got her point! I very rarely spend anything more than about four quid on my shampoo but recently tried LOreal Professional Ever Pure Hair Expertise Pure Dye Moisture Shampoo. ( I have to say this was purely by accident when I was around at my sister in laws and had run out of my own shampoo!) This isnt spendy in any way actually (currently reduced from £6.00 to £4.00) in Superdrug but as its sulphate free it completely changed the overall softness and appearance of my hair. According to my hairdresser it’s the sulphates in the majority of shampoos that dry out your hair over time. A quick google search found that sulphate free shampoo is actually quite tricky to find so I’m definately going to try and bag a bottle when I get round to it.

    1. There are a lot of sulphate free cleansers about now Hannah for the same reason – I use a cream lotion cleanser (£1.50 from Boots!) so I’ve not had the issue personally but it’s that sodium laurel sulphate that’s a real dehydrator apparently. x

  15. I am tres with you on the bargainous brand!!…When you first purchase its fine but a few washes in and my hair is limp, lank and greasy! I always swear by Aussie shampoo and I have heard the Redken products are amaze (especially the *ahem* dry shampoo) x

  16. I need to find a good shampoo and conditioner and I wouldn’t mind splashing the cash as I find it takes me ages to get through them. But the problem is the cost of trial and error. I have naturally curly hair which I straighten and currently has highlights so it can get a bit dry. I only need a light shampoo but a good conditioner is essential – and it has to smell nice! Any suggestions?

  17. I use Molton Brown shampoo and conditioner. Love the smell and my hair always seems fine. Also like that they don’t test on animals. However I gave some to my sister and she said it made her scalp itch. Have used Korres in the past too although I prefer their shower gel to their shampoos.

  18. Am a big Redken fan. I have a really dry, sensitive, itchy scalp. Have tried all and every shampoo, it’s difficult to find one that’s aimed at dry and itchy without it being a dandruff shampoo and usually smelling like a mix of tar and bilge. Redken SoothingBalance Scalp Relief is my total hero, it’s like an instant soothing ahhh, does the job, doesn’t weigh down my hair and smells alright too. Totally worth the money. Wouldn’t waste my cash on cheaper stuff, it’s false economy.

    1. I agree on the false economy Jo, it’s as if some of these cheap shampoos coat your hair in…I’m not entirely sure what actually but it’s not pleasant. I also think it’s an enjoyment thing, I genuinely enjoy using these new luxe products when I have a shower, where as before it was just like a daily job I had to get on with – like brushing my teeth.

  19. I have suffered for well over 15 years with a really sensitive scalp, and tried everything from prescription shampoos, to ridiculously priced ones in salons, natural remedies etc etc – very little seemed to make much difference, and some of them were down right disastrous. I dread to think of how much money I spent trying to find something that didn’t irritate my scalp, but then sometimes it would get so bad it would even bleed and could be seen on my hairline – not very attractive – it was no wonder I was desperate to find something to sort it out! Then about a year ago I happened upon a Facebook thread where somebody was recommending the ginger shampoo by The Body Shop for those who suffered with psoriasis on their scalp. I quickly looked up the reviews for it online and was surprised to find many others recommending it for the same thing. I bought a bottle and from that day forward I honestly haven’t had the slightest problem with my scalp. At £5 a bottle it’s fairly reasonable too. Perhaps if anybody else out there is having similar difficulties it is worth a try; it worked for me…

    1. Yes yes yes! Everyone on my FB beauty group recommended it, I bought some and have used it ONCE and it has made such a difference to my irritated, itchy, flaky scalp. I love it.

      Now I just need to find a conditioner to put some moisture back in to my poor, over treated hair…

    2. This sounds great Jordan – I’ll check it out. A sensitive scalp is such a pain in the bum, and can be so uncomfortable x

  20. Aveda all the way!!…The skincare products are rather fab too. My hairdresser got me onto it a few years ago and it is pricey but you only need to use such a tiny amount that a bottle lasts forever. If you buy online you get to choose a few samples of hair/skin products as well, which are perfect for short breaks away

  21. My scalp is very sensitive and I even suffer from hair loss sometimes, when the scalp is really bad and itchy. Normal dandruff shampoos don’t work. They even make it worse. I tried a lot and at the moment I am happy with the combination of a medical shampoo during the week and on weekends (as a treat 🙂 ) I use the Aveda Scalp Benefit shampoo. I really love this shampoo and it smells great. The hair looks really good, after using this shampoo. When my scalp has some really bad days, I sometimes use ordinary apple vinegar (diluted with water) after washing my hair. Although I am happy with the Aveda Shampoo, I think I will get the Redken Scalp Relief Shampoo a try, as I like to change the shampoo from time to time.

    1. Mia id you see Jordan’s tip above? Apparently the Body Shop’s Ginger shampoo is great for a sensitive scalp x

  22. Great post, thanks for sharing! It can be quite a struggle to find a good shampoo suitable for your hair, and one that’s not too costly. Having said that, when it comes to your locks, it is well-worth investing in some key products – for instance, heat protector for when you’re blow drying, straightening, curling or even where your hair will be exposed to sunlight. Most of us expose our hair to damaging substances or heat on a daily basis. All of which can damage your hair and end up costing you more money in the long run to get fixed/ returned to a healthy state.

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