Smell My Hair: The Best-Smelling Shampoos

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Herbal Essences Smooth Collection & Aveda Shampure
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Victoria's Secret So Sexy
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Frédéric Fekkai Full Volume and Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco
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Oribe Shampoo for Magnificent Volume
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Philosophy, Frederick Fekkai and Bumble & Bumble
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Mermaid Hair

Recently, I read in the NY Times that shampoo brands like Oribe are creating their own signature fragrances—and, by God, I had to have them. For years, I’ve been doing this trick I copied from my mother, who learned it from one of her patients (she was a psychiatric nurse, so that’s a bonus): spray your perfume a few times in the layers of your hair. It sticks on and lasts all day, especially when you’re leaning over someone trying to check and see if they took their meds. I first tried it when I was in high school, spritzing Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue around my head in the bathroom stall, and the result was a ton of creepy dudes sniffing my hair during pre-AP English. I would not recommend this to anymore surrounded by hormonal teens.

As an adult, I stopped spraying perfume in my hair because it felt like a waste of my precious Jo Malone, so now my routine requires me to shampoo with Head & Shoulders and then I follow that with Fresh’s Pomegranate Conditioner (great combo, BTW). But every other day I like to fill the shower with something that transports me outside of my badly draining, cracked porcelain tub. Something potent. And that’s why we’re gathered here today.

Mission: Find the best-smelling shampoos that also give my hair some volume and shine. I tried more shampoos than are listed here, around 20 (seriously), so if yours isn’t mentioned, either it smells terrible and your friends/more-than-friends aren’t brave enough to tell you, or I legit overlooked it and, if so, let’s chat in the comments.

Aveda Shampure:

Have you noticed how everything at Aveda smells the same? I’m not complaining, I’m just making a Seinfeldian generalization that I hope someone out there agrees with. I tried to read the ingredients to figure out what that scent was, but I guess their 25-flower extract “pure-fume” thing is top secret. My other whine is that Aveda is always trying to shove their liberal agenda down your well-nourished roots. I get it: you recycle. Remember when shampoos just told you to rinse and repeat? Now they tell you how to just breathe, and depending on my morning, I’m not usually into it. Also, there’s a 30-day Christian rehab center across the yard from my bathroom, so I already shower with the sound of grown men singing hymns at 8:00am sharp. They’re nice guys, though. Anyway. Shampure really does smell good. It’s a savory, herbal, grown-up fragrance. It also reminded me of when this guy I was semi-dating lifted his armpits to me and said, “They say that if you like someone’s natural scent then you’re compatible,” and that was the end of that.

The scent lasted all day and got me a few compliments from my very tasteful and ridiculously good-looking coworkers. The only thing that might keep me from buying it again is that it didn’t really do much for my hair, which is fine and flat, like Kate Middleton pre-pregnancy.

Victoria’s Secret SO SEXY:

Oh wow. First thought: I’m going to have to put this in one of those containers from Muji (like I do with my boyfriend’s Cetaphil). I’m sorry, yes, I judge my beauty products based on their appearances—isn’t that their job, too? So I can’t have guests coming over and seeing SO SEXXXYY all over my tub. I have classy friends! (A few, at least).

But Victoria (or Victor??) has really done it this time, you guys. This shampoo smells SO SEXXYY and I love it. It is not subtle. It’s definitely a floral, musky, perfume-y smell. It sort of reminded me of Clinique Happy, but not as citrusy, more like Clinique Happy Because I’m On Antidepressants (dark undertones). You will smell it when you’re trying to eat your oatmeal and the cat is pawing at you. You will smell it when you turn your head to see if that really was a baby in that bike basket. You will smell it all the sexy days of your life. Alas, I am a perfume-junkie, so I can’t have this clashing with my signature stink. This is my weekend shampoo, but not my Working Girl one. I imagine this would distract a lot of teenage boys…

As for performance, it didn’t really create volume, which my poor flimsy hair needs. (I’m not a dry-shampoo junkie like some people. I run and sweat too much.) But hey, sometimes you just want to smell...SO SEXXXYY.

*Footnote: I know you want to know if this sexy potion got me laid. Let me just say, the male half of the species cares about your scented hair like they care about your expert eyebrow contouring: they don’t even notice. This is for you. I practically had to headbutt Bill and yell SMELL MY HAIR and his response was, “I like Herbal Essences better.” So fuck that.

Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco:

This is the coconut you want. It’s a warm, clean scent without being too Coco Loco or sugary body spray. Oh man, remember body spray? I loved it so much, back in my Corolla days. Creme de Coco is classic coconut without being coconut candy. It moisturized my dehydrated hair and made it shine like Jennifer Aniston wearing a new engagement ring.

Other coco-contenders: Organix Coconut (very sweet, weighs my hair down), Kiehl’s Amino Acid (doesn’t stay as fragrant on the hair throughout the day).

Salma Hayek Nuance Quinoa Smooth & Shine:

Oh Salma, nice to see you getting into the personal-branding business. But is quinoa really a shampoo ingredient? Is that the best use for that grain? Either way, this shampoo smells nothing like quinoa. Quinoa smells like musty cabinets and unrealistic dieting intentions. This shampoo smells like a generic berry smell you can’t quite find in nature. It’s very sweet, but definitely of the aspartame-sweet family (fake, fake, fake), not the real stuff. The scent in the shower reminded me of my first Bath & Body Works product, the raspberry one, which smells so amazing the first time you use it, but you hate it so much by Friday. And after I saved up all of that babysitting cash; wow, what a disappointment. It didn’t give my hair any magic volume or a spontaneous seductive accent. But hey, saw you in that Blake Lively movie—remember Savages, Salma? Bad movie, but you looked amazing. And that hair! Good luck with your beauty venture; you, yourself, are a ringing endorsement.

Oribe Shampoo for Magnificent Volume:

Even though I know how this should be pronounced, thanks to ITG, I still spend a lot of time in the shower trying different pronunciations, rolling my r’s, etc. Just like SO SEXY, Oribe has a very distinct perfume that you’re either going to love and adore, or hate and scorn. Also—what an intense bottle design, am I right? It looks like a flask of poison. It’s a heavy, sexy scent that lasts all day and might, in fact, just be too fragrant. When not asked for his opinion, my gentleman said, “This smells like everyone’s aunt.” I don’t think I could use it every day because it would overwhelm my signature scent, which is obviously top secret but I’ll tell anyone who asks. It’s Kiehl’s Soy Milk and Honey body butter + Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis.

Frédéric Fekkai Full Volume:

This is my favorite. Whatever the hell baobab is, I like it. [Okay, I looked it up. It’s a tree! The last time I had tree in my hair was when I tried to stop my cat from climbing the Christmas tree—didn’t work, but my hair had a sticky, piney scent.] This is what you want from a shampoo: a very, very clean smell. I might describe it as apple-y, but it’s really refreshing. It’s light and has great staying power. I’m talking day to night. This stuff is cleaner than Anne Hathaway’s browser history.

Plus! I would pay for this again because what fresh hell is this? It’s volume. My hair looked thick(er) and is that so much to ask?

(Other salon-clean, fresh-scented contenders are Bumble and Bumble’s Thickening and Davines Love, which has top notes of grapefruit, but then I smelled something a little too Play-Doh-y for me…)

Mermaid Hair:

I can’t be the only one here who had a small mermaid obsession in my younger, dreamier days. The “But how does she pee?” question never crossed my mind. I was so innocent and well-bathed. Mermaid Hair is a treat-yo’self shampoo. I’ve never met a mermaid, but I’ve seen Splash about 14 times (definitely poured a tin of Morton’s salt in my bathtub and pissed the hell out of my babysitter once), so I can posture that mermaids smell like: salt water, seaweed, Tropic Sun tanning oil, horchata, and rum cake. It’s wondrous. And guess what? None of the ingredients on the bottle end in ‘ethyl’, and all are fewer than 7 syllables. So suck it, Aveda. You’ve been out-hippie-d. I actually really dig this one. I plan on giving it out as Christmas presents to everyone I can’t make shoddy watercolor paintings for. When you sniff the open bottle it’s like a piña colada slapped you in the face, but in your hair—trust me on this—it’s amazing.

*Footnote: I didn’t notice any change in the volume of my hair. I might not use this daily, but on those days when I need to channel my inner Daryl Hannah, I sure as hell will.

Philosophy Amazing Grace:

I always see this stuff in the Most Popular lists at Sephora, but was hesitant to try it since all of Philosophy’s dessert-scented body washes (there’s a marshmallow one now?!) say they can also be used as shampoo—my hair, in the past, has begged to differ. Like Aveda, the message on the bottle is too preachy for my taste. This one has the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" on the bottle. Not my shower serenade of choice. But this is shampoo-shampoo and for a daily cleansing, it’s really nice. The scent is light and mysteriously close to Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, but a little more floral and lady-like. It’s safe. I imagine girls who wear pearls and like horses and bankers would be into it (I’m talkin’ WASPS). It stays on your hair all day, but not so openly, like SO SEXY or Herbal Orgasms. I like it all right. If only it gave my hair a little more va-va-voom, though. This would be ideal for the low-maintenance “regular” hair type. But alas, who the hell is that?

Herbal Essences:

When those orgasmic commercials debuted in 1995, I was way too young to get the joke, and frankly, I still am. How is shampoo going to bring me ecstasy again? My body doesn’t work that way. But I was a compulsive shampoo-aisle sniffer, so I was onto this stuff like body glitter at a co-ed skating rink party. Whatever the mystery fragrance is, I can’t quite describe it by individual fruits or flowers. It’s like the Dr Pepper of shampoo: I don’t care what it is, just bring me a 24oz with ice in a Styrofoam tub, stat. I’m so glad they brought back the classic scent and bottle, too, because those blue and orange ones never did it for me. My hair wasn’t transformed or anything, but it wasn’t weighed down or flat, either. My mister was also surprisingly excited it’s back in the shower again, because his mother used to buy it in bulk at Costco and it was a mainstay in his dollar-bill-wallpapered bathroom (true story, a little Freudian). That’s the Midwest for you! Herbal Essences, a throwback comfort for everyone, like Velveeta and Ro-Tel.

(Other nostalgia shampoos that get an honorable mention for smelling damn good and costing less than a lobster roll: Brilliant Brunette, Pantene Pro-V.)

Well, now it’s time for me to go snort some coffee beans while you guys holler at me in the comments. It was a pleasure.

—Alex Beggs

Alex Beggs is an Associate Editor at VanityFair.com. Follow her on Twitter if you’re into that kind of thing. And read her ITG report on lip stains (the best, worst, most memorable) right here

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Bolly

    You're so f*ckin' funny. Congrats. :)

  • Zara

    this article, among many others, is the reason i keep coming back to ITG, its so funny, informative, and clever!!

  • user1234

    This is the funniest article on shampoo I have ever read

  • Katy

    You shouldn't spray perfume in your hair, it seriously dries it out! You should spray is on the nape of your neck instead--your hair will swoosh around and the scent will travel with it.

    • Alex Beggs

      whoa...science!

    • Mayday Mabel

      It's true... alcohols in fragrances are pesky!!!!

  • Alejandra

    I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW MUCH I RELATE TO "and the result was a ton of creepy dudes sniffing my hair during pre-AP English. I would not recommend this to anymore surrounded by hormonal teens." When I was a senior in high school(2010) I stopped spraying perfume on my hair when I started using SOO SEXY(it was a stocking stuffer) and this is what happened...

  • Jennifer Chang

    Not only have you made an article on shampoos hilarious, but Roger is in the top image. Amazing.

    • Alex Beggs

      thanks for the roger love, jen!

  • JenaUms

    Love this article! Hilarious and awesome from beginning to end!

  • Danielle Jude

    I recently started using Pantene again and noticed a huge uptick in the "is that you who smells good?"

  • http://taliashulze.com/ Talia

    Remember the old herbal essences ad where a woman turns down a date because she has plans for the night. Plans to wash her hair.

    • Alex Beggs

      who turns down free food to wash their hair? so unrealistic.

      • http://taliashulze.com/ Talia

        I dunno, what type of food is it?

    • http://taliashulze.com/ Talia

      Also apparently Dr. Ruth is in on it! Whoa. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAXtXyydzPA

      • Alex Beggs

        I consider Dr. Ruth a personal hero

  • Amanda Raponi

    Love your writing! And Kiehl's is my fave--coconutty in the shower, but not overwhelming during the day and adds nice volume to my fine, thin hair.

  • Emma and Emily

    I love the sound of the mermaid hair! I want to give that a whiff asap.

    http://www.emandthem.co.uk

  • Elien

    YOU'RE AMAZING I LOVE YOU. Thank you for making me laugh and inform me and being a wonderful smart lady in general.

    • Alex Beggs

      I'm blushing

  • Isabella Yeager

    LOL at muji containers : i also store my cetaphil in one. i knew my bf was right for me when he didn't give me endless shit for spending an hour in the bathroom transferring creams and gels into identical acrylic containers and stashing the big, ugly, half-full bottles under the sink.

  • Catherine

    Moroccan Oil is definitely worth a try too, it smells great but is pretty subtle. And they have a volume line.

  • caitlin willard

    the nostalgia and orgasmic scent of herbal essences makes me wanna throw everything i know about sulfates and parabens out the window and say, screw this. i need some asap. also, i literally LOL-ed at the thought of your christian rehabilitated neighbors waking you up at 8 am. you are one sassy lady and i like it!

    • murt

      It's funny because I was a long term die-hard user of 'natural' shampoos with no sulfates & parabens - I've used them consistently, and tried many different brands, since I graduated from high school over 10 years ago.

      Now, for the first time this summer, I switched to Nioxin which definitely has sulfates and probably has parabens - my hair has not looked this good since I was a kid using the traditional shampoos. It's so much shinier and fuller looking..... So I'm ditching the natural brands.

      I haven't seen any strong evidence that parabens are dangerous anyway, and it's not like they're really touching my skin or anything - they're rinsed out almost immediately.

      ETA: I actually received the Nioxin for free last year (2012) and it just sat in my closet for months because I couldn't bear to use a shampoo with sulfates etc. I'm glad now that I tried it rather than giving or throwing it away.

  • http://BikePretty.com/ Bike Pretty

    Best-smelling drugstore shampoo: Shea Moisture's Moisture Retention Shampoo. So fresh and floral without being sweet.

    I've seriously lost track of time in the shower because of the delicious lather-smells.

    Also, sugar beets are the second ingredient listed, after water. It's like you could get your basic nutrients for life from this stuff. So it's ok if you lose track of time and realize you need a snack.

  • anne1014 .

    I would really love to try bumble and bumble creme de coco.My friend is using this product and she loves it!

    http://www.dermascent.com

    • murt

      Ya I've great luck with the bumble and bumble leave ins (Prep especially), so I want to give this a try.

  • LNA

    I love BB creme de coco make my dad, I will try the kiehl's

  • cfh

    COME ON -- serge normant!

  • Sarah

    Again, excellent! Such a great article! By the way, I love shampoos with jojoba oil such as by Jason, Nature's garden or Mill Creek (currently using).They smell so good.

  • Emma

    Dear ITG,

    Your beauty is, for earth, too dear. The format; the writing; the aesthetics are fantastic. Please recommend the blogs that you enjoy to your readers (preferably of the lesser known variety). We promise we will never leave you.

  • sara

    I use B&B's Surf Set, but since I'm moving back to NY should I switch to Creme de Coco, if it's more nourishing/hydrating?

  • Marcela

    I'm surprised I didn't see any Tigi shampoos! they all smell amazing and the scent really lingers in your hair :))

  • Nina

    Phillip B Russian Amber needs to be on this list! OMG it's heavenly and the lather's so creamy and rich. Shu Uemura Silk Bloom and Davines Dede are the second best - unfortunately they leave my hair limp and lifeless, so I could never use them.

  • Amanda

    Big Sexy Hair has a very pleasant scent and actually freaking works for volume!

  • Sue

    Don't forget Revlon's Outrageous shampoo. I stopped using that shampoo 20 years ago because the fragrance is so strong. I just bought it again, and now I love it. It's definately "hair perfume" in a bottle.

    • shannon

      So guilty for that also! Total throwback! I have now resorted to finishing up the bottle by using it as shaving cream.

  • Kurohana

    I'm a Wen girl cause I'm lazy i just massage it in my hair and rinse it out at the end of my shower and put a little in as leave in conditioner.

  • Nicky

    Ha! So true on the Aveda Shampure, only time that I had an ex-boyfriend comment on my hair smelling amazing...EVER!
    I think the L'oreal Everpure range is a decent rip-off, similar 'Aveda' scent...Try it!

  • allyouneedisblush

    One of my favorite ITG articles of all time!
    FYI--- Beyoncé claims she sprays her perfume in her hair, too. So if Beyoncé does it, our only choice is to follow her example, right?

  • Vo

    Davines OI shampoo makes me crazy it smells so good.

  • thebrightblush.com

    Dude. Your rant on Aveda is so cranky-grumpy-pants, like a mad old lady ... I chuckled. Shampure always seems to get so much praise from magazines like InStyle, but I've used it a couple times and yeah, it didn't do much for my hair either. I've always felt the price was right for it though, and it does seem to have a lot of nice oils in it as compared to synthetic stuff.

    Confession: I've always had this secret wish that Bath and Body Works would develop a shampoo/conditioner line for some of their signature fragrances, so I could have Japanese Cherry Blossom shampoo. I may not find myself in that place much anymore, but I still have such a soft spot in my heart for Japanese Cherry Blossom.

  • Em

    Lush's Godiva shampoo bar is also worth a try. Not only does it smell divine (jasmine and other lovely floral, but over powering, scents) but it also does an amazing job at moisturizing (I only used this, no conditioner, for the past 5 years) my thick but fine curls without weighing them down. My hairstylist never fails to comment on what good condition my hair is consistently in, and I honestly think it is this shampoo! I happen to live in Northern Canada, where its more or less winter 6 months out of the year (currently -10F here), moisturizing in any capacity is key :)

  • rhea

    i love how tony & guy products smell. they have almost the exact scent as gucci rush perfume

  • Annie

    Wasn't aware a shampoo article would make me laugh out loud at work. Consistently funny writing on ITG these days, keep it up!!

  • Gina

    EVO all the way. All their products, but especially ritual salvation and the root canal spray, which smells like a delicious rose/citrus perfume.

  • Rob Cummings

    Fun and funny article. I almost hesitated to risk it, yet I think you might like the smell of ESSENTUALE http://www.essentuale.com which I made and still do. I focused very heavily on the natural fragrance which disappears after rinse. Glad to send some if you wish Alex (and risk the potential ridicule! :)-. Click contact us at http://www.essentuale.com to contact me. Thanks and I do love your writing.

  • Annoyed

    I don't understand how you can get mad at shampoos for not volumizing your hair when they are not made to volumize your hair?

    If you want volume from Aveda purchase Pure Abundance, not Shampure.

  • IttyBitty

    I would say you must be too young to remember 'gee your hair smells terrific', the ORIGINAL hippy chic 'herbal essence' (NOT herbal essences) shampoo, 'Flex' or 'beer on tap' - ALL great smelling and kick A on volume..sadly, also from the 1970s and discontinued. boo hoo

  • Hanna Jackson

    check out the hair care products from pro naturals

  • Mayday Mabel

    Organic or 'natural' shampoos use quinoa as a source of protein. Aveda is a classic example of using quinoa before it became a popular food item.

  • Jennifer Cruz
  • shampootreeodesk

    Hello Alex!

    Hats off for this article. This post of yours made me smile :) I really didn't know that we can spray perfume on our hair. For me, one of the best shampoo I have ever used is Juice Organics Pomsmooth Shampoo. With this product, my hair smells great! This shampoo is actually an organic shampoo. If you want to have a strong and healthy hair then better use organic shampoo. Kindly check this page to see a list of organic shampoo that can make your hair healthy and smells good. http://shampootree.com/

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

Aveda
Aveda Shampure Shampoo
So Sexy
Victoria’s Secret So Sexy Volume Big & Full Shampoo
Bumble and bumble
Bumble and bumble Creme de Coco Shampoo
Oribe
Oribe Shampoo for Magnificent Volume
Fekkai
Frederic Fekkai Full Volume Shampoo
Mermaid
Mermaid Shampoo
philosophy amazing grace
Philosophy Amazing Grace Shampoo
Herbal Essences
Herbal Essences Smooth Collection Shampoo
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