A salon shampoo is pretty self-explanatory. It's a shampoo that they usually don't sell on the market and ones that are usually used in hair salons. They're a bit pricier than commercial shampoos, but they're usually formulated to be gentler on the hair and scalp.
There are plenty of options full of great ingredients that can treat dry, damaged hair, or other sorts of worries you may have about your hair. With a salon shampoo, you can expect a lot more care for your hair.
Since these are products that are usually ordered by professionals who have training and understand how to treat certain types of hair, you might have to be worried about counterfeits. However, buying salon shampoos online or through specific stores that stock them is cheaper than buying them from a salon.
To test the shampoos, we analyzed their ingredients and ran the shampoos through tests to check for mildness. We also rated their effect on hair texture, how faithful their scents were to the real deal, and judged the full shampoo experience. Based on how they performed in our tests, we rated the top 18 Japanese salon shampoos available online.
|Japanese||ラクレア オー シャンプー M|
|Benefits||Elastic and moisturized hair|
|How it felt to use||4.8|
|Japanese||コタ アイケア シャンプー 1|
|Benefits||Light, sleek hair|
|How it felt to use||3.5|
|Japanese||hoyu プロマスター カラーケア クール|
|Benefits||Conditioning, color Preservation after Dyeing|
|How it felt to use||3.1|
|Japanese||デミ ミレアム シャンプー|
|How it felt to use||3.1|
|Japanese||cocuu スロウ シャンプー|
|Scent||Orange & Patchouli|
|How it felt to use||3.6|
Oolong, 33.8 oz.
|Japanese||サニープレイスナノサプリ クレンジングシャンプー ウーロン|
|How it felt to use||3.4|
|Japanese||ルベル イオ クレンジング リラックスメント|
|Scent||Rose & Leafy Greens|
|Benefits||Hydrated scalp and sleek hair|
|How it felt to use||4.8|
Moisture, 10.1 oz.
|How it felt to use||3.6|
Basic, 10.1 oz.
|Japanese||フィオーレ F.プロテクト ヘアシャンプー ベーシックタイプ|
|How it felt to use||3.0|
|Benefits||Medicated scalp care|
|How it felt to use||3.5|
eau M Shampoo
i CARE 1 Shampoo
Color Care Cool
nano suppli Cleansing Shampoo
Cleansing Relaxment Shampoo
F Protect Shampoo
Mild Betains and Botanical Extracts Gently Cleanse and Nourish Damaged, Brittle Hair
This Formula Leaves Tangled or Hopelessly Damaged Hair Silky
A Refreshing Shampoo Thoroughly Cleanses Hair but Doesn't Strip It
Gentle Ingredients That Smooth Out Kinks and Nurture Hair
Hydrate Your Hair With Botanical Oils That Impart Shine and Moisture
Keeps Hair Sleek and Really Cleanses on a Budget
A Mild Shampoo That Feels Amazing to Use
Gentle and as Moisturizing as It Claims
A Well-Balanced, Mild, and Cleansing Shampoo
A Mild Dandruff-Fighting Shampoo Meant to Cleanse Your Scalp
|Japanese||ラクレア オー シャンプー M||コタ アイケア シャンプー 1||hoyu プロマスター カラーケア クール||デミ ミレアム シャンプー||cocuu スロウ シャンプー||サニープレイスナノサプリ クレンジングシャンプー ウーロン||ルベル イオ クレンジング リラックスメント||ナプラエヌドット シアシャンプー||フィオーレ F.プロテクト ヘアシャンプー ベーシックタイプ||コタセラ シャンプー|
|Scent||–||Lavender||Floral Mint||–||Orange & Patchouli||Citrus||Rose & Leafy Greens||White Floral||–||Leafy Greens|
|Benefits||Elastic and moisturized hair||Light, sleek hair||Conditioning, color Preservation after Dyeing||–||Moisture||Scalp care||Hydrated scalp and sleek hair||Moisture||–||Medicated scalp care|
|How it felt to use||4.8||3.5||3.1||3.1||3.6||3.4||4.8||3.6||3.0||3.5|
And why they didn't quite make it.
LebeL’s Natural Hair Soap with Marigold was an effective cleanser but contained ingredients that weren’t particularly mild, in fact, it was stripping. Locks tangled and felt so squeaky clean that we weren’t able to run our fingers through them. Plus, the coloring of the shampoo was made from tar-based dyes.
Likewise, Loretta’s Mainichi no Sukkiri Shampoo and Milbon Aujua’s Aging Hair Care Time Surge Shampoo received only around 2.0 points on mildness but near-perfect scores for cleansing. Both formulas featured sulfates as surfactants, so we hesitate to recommend them for regular use.
product’s shampoo was the opposite; the mild ingredients earned it a score of 4.0; however, it got just 1.3 points for cleansing power. It didn’t lather either, so we honestly didn’t feel like we were washing our hair.
Abreeze’s Natural Organic Shampoo wasn’t particularly gentle nor effective; it earned 2.5 and 3.0 points for mildness and cleansing power, respectively. However, it did get 4.0 points for lather and hair texture.
Neway Japan’s Nanoamino Shampoo and Shiseido’s The Hair Care Aqua Intensive Shampoo featured sodium laureth sulfate as their main surfactant. Therefore, they earned about a single point for mildness–and still managed to score a little beneath 3.0 for cleansing power.
beauty experience’s Clay Esthe Shampoo was only slightly gentler, receiving a flat 2.0 for its ingredients. However, it also wasn’t as effective and got only 2.3 points for how poorly it cleaned.
To test the shampoos, we had the help of the International Research Institute of Hair and Skin Science (IRIHASS)'s head, Tetsuo Inoue. After working as the director of research and development for hair care products, he established the International Institute for Hair and Dermatology in 1994.
With "understand the relationship between the method of shampooing and hair growth" as his research theme, he has lectured and taught at cancer treatment hospitals, more than 7,000 barber hair salons, and has participated in other medical seminars nationwide. In recent years, he has appeared on TV and supervised a wide range of magazines.
We think a good shampoo, first and foremost, lathers easily and cleanses thoroughly. However, it needs to contain mild ingredients that will nourish–not irritate–your scalp. And it should leave your hair hydrated and sleek. This is how we tested for those factors.
1. How it felt to use
2. How gentle it was (hypoallergenic)
4. Hair texture (smoothness)
5. Cleansing power
All the shampoos that scored 4.5 or more on the "how it felt" category all used ingredients that were gentle to the scalp. From that, we discovered that gentler ingredients also meant the shampoos that used them felt nice to use.
The shampoos also included variations of betaine, like Lauramidopropyl Betaine and Cocamidopropyl Betaine, which are often used in baby shampoos because of how gentle they are to the skin. Besides being kind of skin, they also lather up into a nice, creamy foam when washing hair.
For mildness, we conducted a “protein denaturation test” to see how cloudy or clear the shampoo would end up when mixed with protein-rich egg whites. Denaturation refers to the altering or destruction of protein structure through the introduction of an external stressor, so we were testing for how harsh the shampoos were on protein structure. Remember, hair is made of strong proteins!
We found that the harsher a shampoo was, the more the mixture would cloud over. Therefore, the shampoo added to the cup on the left side of the picture above was strong and earned only a 1.0 for mildness; on the other hand, the shampoo added to the cup on the right resulted in a clear solution and earned a score of 5.0.
Although salon shampoos are considerably better for your hair than regular shampoos, some of the ones we tested still scored 2.0 or below for gentleness. Most of the ones that scored low contained sodium laureth sulfate.
If you use a shampoo with harsh surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate, you may develop chapped skin on your scalp. Depending on your physical condition and stress levels, it may also make your scalp more sensitive.
If you know you have sensitive skin or you tend to be allergic to certain ingredients, then we highly recommend avoiding sodium laureth sulfate.
It’s hard for a shampoo to clean if it doesn’t lather, so we made sure to test for lathering too! To do so, we diluted the shampoos, making sure to keep the shampoo-to-water ratio equal. We then poured the mixtures into large plastic cups.
The product that did the worst on our lathering test was product's shampoo, pictured on the left, while the one that did the best was Sunnyplace's nano suppli Cleansing Shampoo, pictured on the right.
Although you can easily see that Sunnyplace's lather foamed up much higher, product's shampoo actually had finer bubbles. Out of all the shampoos we tested, five did poorly on the lathering test and four out of the five had similar traits: they were all clear, soft, and had a light, smooth texture.
Also, all of them had fine, small bubbles when they lathered up. When you use a shampoo, the product gets rid of dirt by the force of the bubbles popping, so shampoos with finer bubbles actually wash away grease much better than ones with bigger bubbles.
We scored based on how fast and high the lather formed, but all the shampoos should create finer bubbles so long as you make sure to spend the time to thoroughly foam the product up.
To test for hair texture, we prepared 18 bundles of long hair. We then washed each with a separate shampoo before blowdrying them 10 times each.
Because the very act of rubbing shampoo into your hair can be damaging, we applied product using a comb. That way, we ensured that product was distributed evenly throughout the hair sample and that any damage dealt was consistent among the batches.
We also made sure the hairdryer was set to the same temperature and speed throughout testing. Without combing through or otherwise ruffling hair, we then dried the hair samples.
After we’d gone through the 10 repetitions, we measured each sample for texture. We used a machine to calculate the amount of force it took us to pass a comb through hair; a higher measurement meant more friction and poorer texture.
Most of the shampoos did really well on the hair texture test, but Loretta's Mainichi no Sukkiri Shampoo and Cota Sera's Shampoo did poorly, scoring a 2.0 each. Both of them had strong cleansing and antibacterial ingredients and were non-silicone type shampoos.
Loretta used sodium laureth sulfate, while Cota Sera used piroctone olamine; both ingredients are strong antibacterials that are not kind to the scalp or hair. In addition, because these shampoos don't contain silicone to coat and protect the hair, your hair will be tangled and stiff when you dry it.
If you comb your hair while it's tangled, then you'll damage it, so we do not recommend this type of shampoo for people who are worried about hurting their strands.
The average cleansing power for all the shampoos was about 3.1, which seems like a pretty low number. However, a few shampoos actually scored much lower than that, at about a 1.5. Among the low scorers, almost all of them contained weaker cleansers.
LebeL IAU Cleansing Relaxment Shampoo's Cocamidopropyl Betaine and LaClaire au M Shampoo's Lauramidopropyl Betaine are mild ingredients with comparatively less cleansing power.
If you purchase a product with mild ingredients and you're concerned about how oily your hair has been or that you've been accumulating dirt on your scalp, then it's best to thoroughly cleanse by washing your hair twice. However, these ingredients are less irritating and much kinder to your skin.
Here are five big things to look out for when choosing a Japanese salon shampoo.
Generally speaking, salon shampoos contain only mild ingredients, but this isn't always the case. When reading the ingredients list, focus on the first three lines. These are the only items that are present in high enough concentrations to really affect your hair.
Just keep in mind that products in Japan classified as “quasi-drugs" (similar to OTC drugs in the US) don’t have to list all the ingredients that went into them, so they’re much harder to judge.
Many salon shampoos actually feature some kind of betaine as the main surfactant. However, though betaines are mild, they also haven’t much to offer in the way of cleansing power. There will likely be days you’ll have to wash your hair twice if you use this kind of shampoo.
You can often find betaines in the form of Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, or Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
However, they also aren’t the most effective cleansers and they don’t lather well. And shampoos that don’t lather well don’t really rinse out easily. No matter how gentle the surfactant, leaving it on your skin for longer than necessary spells damage.
Ones that do lather relatively easily are Sodium Lauroyl Alanine, Sodium Cocoyl Methyl Beta-Alanine, TEA-Cocoyl Alaninate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, and Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate.
Though sulfates may be tough on hair, their effects won't be seen immediately. However, it can cause irritation when the scalp feels rough or dry, or when it's sensitive. Be especially careful about using sulfate shampoos if you have allergies or sensitive skin.
Bottles of shampoo may advertise them as "additive-free" and other "-free" type monikers, but it's still important to check the actual ingredients list. This is because, as long as synthetic fragrances, synthetic colors and dyes, preservatives and antibacterials, and surfactants are not added to the product, it can be labeled additive-free.
Make sure to read over the ingredients list and what the shampoo is best for, plus check that it doesn't have any ingredients you might be allergic to.
A note about looking at colorants: when a shampoo doesn't have a color and number attached to the ingredients list but still looks faintly of some sort of shade, it likely has "caramel" in it. Since it's the same as the caramel created from melted sugar, it's said to be relatively gentle on the hair and scalp.
There are many salon shampoos that also help with various worries you might have about your hair. If you have more specific conditions that you want your shampoo to take care of, check out the information below!
Look out for ingredients like “ceramide 2” and “ceramide NP,” or “cetyl-PG hydroxyethyl palmitamide” and “ceramide NS dilaurate,” which are ingredients with a very similar in structure to ceramides.
If you bleach, dye, or use heat styling tools, consider getting a shampoo that contains hydrolyzed keratin or hydrolyzed lecithin.
Most commercial shampoos will have a description of scent, for example, lavender and chamomile, listed somewhere on the bottle, usually near the ingredients list. Salon shampoos often don’t. However, if you’re curious, you can probably find more information on the company’s official site.
Maintain a distance of about one inch between your fingers and slowly work your scalp from front to back.
Think of these as four steps of a set. Each portion of your hair should go through three sets. Like with your scalp, wash from front to back. Once foam has been distributed evenly throughout your hair, rinse it out.
Salon shampoos may be great for your hair, but you also want to think about treating your hair to oils and treatments. Then there are also various shampoos that target specific problems. Check out these other buying guides for other great products for your hair!
Most salon shampoos you purchase at a salon at the recommendation of your stylist. However, some brands do sell online and in select stores–just beware of fakes. Take the time to do your research, be a discerning buyer, and we’re sure your scalp and hair will thank you for it.
If you have curly hair, you know that those curls can be hard to keep with a regular shampoo. Here's a special all-in-one set recommended by broadway actress and natural hair podcaster, Salisha Thomas, that can help take care of your hair.
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