Are Designer Shampoos Worth It?

4.7 based on 7 ratings

Updated on Oct 11, 2013

Grade Level: 7th - 10th; Type: Life Science

What are the differences between drugstore brand and expensive salon brand shampoos? Do you really get what you pay for? We will test these shampoos and examine hair structure under the microscope to determine which shampoo is fine and which one is limp.

What are the differences between the high end and low-end shampoo brands? What are their claims and do the products live up to those claims based on hair quality and subjective rating.
Marketing of beauty products is a multi-million dollar industry targeting both men and women. Some shampoo manufacturers claim they enhance color, strengthen hair, adds volume, and promotes growth. The list goes on. What are people ultimately looking for in a shampoo? How does marketing influence their claims? In this study we will test various shampoos from drugstores and salons and assess the physical quality of the hair microscopically and subjectively to determine if you get what you pay for.

  • Drugstore/discount/generic brands
    • Suave
    • Alberto Vo5
    • Tresemme
    • Johnson & Johnson Baby shampoo
    • White Rain
    • Pert
    • Store-brands from superstores (e.g. Target).
  • Mid-range brands
    • Loreal
    • Dove
    • Garnier
    • Herbal Essence
    • Pantene
  • Salon Brands
    • Aveda
    • Sebastian
    • Private salon brand
    • Bed Head
    • Bumble & Bumble
    • Philosphy
  • Small plastic cups with lids or some kind of unmarked container for shampoo sample.
  • Scissors
  • Microscope (attached camera preferred)
  • Microscope slides


  1. Choose your shampoos brands. Be sure to choose at least two drugstore brands, two middle range brands, and two salon brands. Stay away from choosing shampoos that are specific for ethnic hair, treated hair, or repairing.
  2. Using a chart compare and contrast the ingredients and claims for each product.
  3. Based on your background research create a grading scale, in questionnaire form, for subjects to rate.
  4. Choose your subjects. Find at least 5 subjects, both men & women of various ages.
  5. Take a hair sample from each subject prior to shampooing.
    1. Cut or pluck a strand of hair from the subject.
    2. Tape the hair to a microscope slide and label with the subjects name and date.
  6. View the slide under the microscope. If you have a microscope equipped with a camera take a photo. If not sketch or describe your observations.
  7. Sample the shampoo. Place a sample of shampoo into an unmarked container (plastic cup) and have the subjects wash and shampoo their hair as usual. The subject should not use conditioner and allow their hair to air dry.
  8. Once the hair is dry take another hair sample and view under the microscope. Record observations
  9. Have the subjects rate the shampoo based on your questionnaire.
  10. Repeat steps 5-9 for each shampoo with a two-day interval between each. Make sure the subject does not wash his or her hair the day after testing.
  11. Organize your data -
    1. Which performed the best in terms of hair quality?
    2. Which performed the best in terms of subject preference?
    3. Which product was the best overall? Take into account cost and availability.


  • Keratin
  • Cuticle
  • Hair growth phases - anagen, catagen, telogen
  • Hair types & textures
  • How do shampoos work?
    • Ingredients
  • Shampoo Qualities
    • pH balanced
    • Organic
    • Color specific
    • Texture specific
    • Ethnic shampoo lines
    • Perfumes


Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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