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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

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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

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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.