Shampoo reviews

You could save hundreds of dollars a year. Our top shampoos were all from supermarkets.
Learn more

05.What's in shampoo?

Ever wondered what all those impossibly long words on the back of your shampoo bottle mean? Here are some of the major ones you’ll find in most shampoos.

  • Solvents:
    Shampoo and flowers on bathroom shelfUsually water (often listed as the more sexy-sounding ‘aqua’ or ‘purified water’).
  • Detergent or surfactant:
    Increases the product’s wetting ability, and allows the sebum and dirt to be washed away. The most common one used in shampoos is ammonium lauryl sulphate or sodium laureth sulphate.
  • Lather boosters:
    These include cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA. While lather doesn’t make shampoo work any better, people seem to like those that lather easily. Our trial results show that shampoos with thick or ‘just right’ lather were preferred.
  • Conditioning agent:
    Adds different electrical charges to hair so it doesn’t become ‘flyaway’, and puts water-resistant substances onto the hairs to make them smoother and easier to comb. Conditioning agents are made of fatty or oily substances, for example, glycol stearate and panthenol.
  • Thickeners:
    Salt is a common one, also hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or ammonium chloride.
  • Fragrances, colours and preservatives: Fragrances and colours are intended to make the product more appealing — and our trial shows fragrance certainly plays a big part in people’s preferences. Preservatives such as ethanol stop the shampoo from going off.
  • Shampoos may also contain antioxidants, opacifiers (to give your shampoo that pearly appearance) and clarifying agents.

Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.