Trim Your Shampoo and Conditioner Budget -- Savings Experiment

How to Save on Shampoo
How to Save on Shampoo

In your household, does it seem like the shampoo and conditioner budget quickly goes down the drain? If so, you're not alone.

Consumers shelled out an estimated $2.32 billion on shampoo last year, and $1.71 billion on conditioner, according to market research firm Mintel. But caring for your crowning glory shouldn't cost you a king's ransom. Here are some easy ways to save on this frequent purchase.

Skip the Drugstores and the Supermarkets

While drugstores might boast a selection of shampoos and conditioners that puts other retailers to shame, they don't offer the best hair care deals.

Indeed, pharmacy chains -- as well as supermarkets, which offer an assortment of hair care products that are limited, at best -- price them about 10% to 15% higher than the low-price leaders in the category, Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT), the nation's largest discounters, Bob Shelton, a retail and consumer packaged goods consultant, and the former senior vice president and general manager of non-foods for Safeway (SWY), the supermarket chain, tells DailyFinance.

A price check of some of the most popular shampoo and conditioner brands underscores the point.

At a drugstore or supermarket, a 12- to 15-ounce bottle of Suave or White Rain, for example -- what the retail industry calls "opening price point" shampoos and conditioners -- would cost roughly between $1 and $1.25, compared to about $1 at Walmart, Shelton says.

That price difference extends to mid-priced and premium priced brands.

Shampoo bottles
Shampoo bottles

A 12- to 15-ounce bottle of a major mid-priced brand like Garnier Fructis or TRESemme would be in the $5 to $6 range at a drugstore or grocery chain, but you can find those brands at Walmart and Target for about $4, Shelton says.

Upscale brands such as Paul Mitchell, Biolage and Organix can range from about $15 to $20 at grocery stores and drug chains, depending on the brand, for 12- to 18-ounce bottles, but will cost in the $10 to $15 range at Walmart and Target.

While beauty supply stores house a huge assortment of hair care products, including niche brands, upscale lines and specialized products, they are not the place to find shampoo and conditioner bargains, Shelton says.

"It's a lot like going to a pet store for pet food," Shelton says. While a pet store will turn up a huge selection, "you'll get a better deal on pet food at Walmart or Target," he says.

And consumers should be wary of buying salon and professional brands in discount beauty stores and mass merchants, Sean Jahanbigloo, celebrity hairstylist and co-owner of Juan Juan Salon, told DailyFinance.

While you might be buying the authentic product, it's also possible that the product has been compromised "because it's been discontinued, old, or been tampered with," he says.

Don't Drop a Bundle on Shampoo

It doesn't pay to shell out top dollar for shampoo, Shelton says.

"Generally speaking, the $3, $4 and $5 shampoos work every bit as effectively as a $10 or $20 shampoo."

The higher priced shampoos add more expensive fragrances to their formulas which drive the price up, "but they [typically] don't clean any more effectively than a lower-end shampoo," he says.

Jahanbigloo agrees. "Believe it or not, all shampoos have the same basic ingredients," he says.

One key exception is if you color your hair: That's when it's best to use a shampoo specially designed to maintain your shade, which can be pricier, Shelton says.

But while a high-priced shampoo will make a negligible difference, conditioner is another story.

"The more expensive conditioners are typically more effective than the lower-end ones," which contain lower-quality ingredients, Shelton says.

So if you're going to splurge on the cleaning/moisturizing duo, save it for the conditioner.

Prestige vs. Mass-Brand Face Off

While shampoo and conditioner performance is highly subjective, you can find some low-priced brands that come close to mirroring the results of high-end brands.

Jahanbigloo offers up his insider picks on which prestige brands have a discount doppelganger.

Among hydrating shampoos and conditioners:

• Prestige Pick:Oribe Ultra Rich shampoo and conditioner costs about $24 each for an 8.5-ounce bottle of shampoo, and about $24 for a 6.8 ounce bottle of conditioner.

• Mass Pick: If you like Oribe, try Dove's Nutritive Therapy Nourishing Oil Care shampoo and conditioner, recommends Jahanbigloo. And for about $4.49 per 12-ounce bottle of shampoo and conditioner, it's a fraction of the cost of Oribe.

If you want to protect color-treated hair:

• Prestige Pick:Kerastase Bain Chroma Riche shampoo costs about $24, while the Kerastase Masque Chroma Riche softening treatment sells for a whopping $60 for a 200-milligram tub.

• Mass Pick: If your budget can't justify Kerastase, Herbal Essences Color Me Happy shampoo and conditioner costs about $4 per 12-ounce bottle of shampoo and conditioner.

And if your hair is damaged:

• Prestige Pick:TIGI Bed Head Urban Antidotes Resurrection shampoo and conditioner costs about $13 for an 8.4-ounce bottle of shampoo, and about $14 for a 6.8-ounce bottle of conditioner.

• Mass Pick: TIGI's low-price counterpart is Pantene Pro-V Restore Beautiful Lengths Breakage Defense shampoo and conditioner, which sells for about $6 per 8.5-ounce bottle of shampoo and conditioner.

Less is More, But Size Matters

If you're looking for another way to save on shampoo and conditioner, here's an easy one: Use less of it.

"The most common mistake people make is using too much product," Jahanbigloo says. "A little goes a long way."

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How much is enough? Use a dime or nickel-size amount of shampoo and conditioner if you have long, thick hair, and about half that amount on shorter hair, he says.

"Trust me; you will save tons of money by doing this. And your hair will thank you by looking and feeling healthy and shiny versus greasy."

This is especially true of salon and professional products because "they are much more concentrated," Jahanbigloo says.

What's more, a salon product will last longer than a drugstore brand, and ultimately, you won't spend much more on the salon brand, as you're using less product, he says.

If you have a big family, and having a broad selection of shampoos and conditioners from which to choose is not a priority, warehouse clubs are your best bet.

While stores like Costco (COST), Sam's Club and BJ's (BJ) will carry only a handful of brands, they'll sell jumbo sized shampoo-conditioner packs unavailable at other retailers that will save you about 5% per ounce, Shelton says.

For example, a trip to turned up two 44-ounce bottles of TREsemme shampoo and conditioner for $9.99.

Tap Drugstore Coupons and Loyalty Cards

Although drugstores don't have the best shampoo and conditioner everyday prices, you can save big when you bundle coupons and store loyalty card perks.

Unlike Walmart and Target, drugstore chains frequently run "a lot of specials and couponing events on special brands," Shelton says.

For example, this reporter, who had signed up to receive CVS coupons, bundled a 25%-off coupon with a $2-off salon product coupon she'd earned via the store loyalty card, slashing the cost of her favorite Frizz Ease shampoo and conditioner to nearly a third of the full-price.