Choosing a shampoo should be relatively simple, but when considering both men’s and women’s shampoos, the options can sometimes become confusing.

Many women might prefer the straightforward options offered by men’s shampoos, while men might want a shampoo that moisturizes, thickens, or makes hair glossy in a way that women’s shampoos promise.

To make the choice easier, it can help to look at the differences between men’s and women’s shampoos.

woman at a salon washing hair

Ingredients and Benefits

No two shampoo brands, even if they’re designed for the same gender, use the exact same ingredients or ingredient amounts.

Even different types of shampoo sold by the same brand often have different formulas, depending on what they are designed to do. However, when it comes to men’s and women’s shampoos, the ingredients are relatively similar.

Many shampoos for the two genders might even use all or most of the same ingredients.

Men’s and women’s shampoos usually contain ingredients that condition, cleanse, fight dandruff, or thicken or coat hair strands.

Most shampoos also contain foam-boosting ingredients and preservatives. All of these ingredients are basically universal, although some, such as a hair thickener, might be more common in volumizing shampoos, for example.

Because they share many or all of the same ingredients, men’s and women’s shampoos often offer the same benefits. Shampoos are designed to clean your hair and, if you choose a shampoo with a fragrance, make it smell clean or pleasant.

Men’s and women’s shampoos also often work to fight dry scalps or dandruff, and you can often find both men’s and women’s shampoos that moisturize the hair or help with hair that’s too oily.

When you’re looking at women’s shampoos, you might notice that there are more designed for color-treated hair, but some men’s shampoos also offer to help protect colored hair.

Women’s shampoos are more commonly advertised as volumizing, but more and more men’s shampoos also provide this benefit.

More men’s shampoos, on the other hand, are designed to target and improve thinning hair, but many women’s shampoo companies also have lines for thinning hair.

man reading shampoo ingredients

Fragrances

The biggest difference between men’s and women’s shampoos is the fragrance. Women’s shampoos generally have traditionally feminine scents, such as fruits, flowers, or even sweet scents like honey or sugar.

These fragrances are light and pleasant, but they often linger long after the hair has been washed.

Men’s shampoos generally have more masculine scents. These fragrances might be woodsy or they might smell of mint or citrus. Men’s shampoo fragrances tend to be a bit bolder or sharper, but the scent of the shampoo doesn’t usually linger for too long after the hair has been washed.

Both men’s and women’s shampoos can be purchased without any added fragrances. These shampoos might have a light smell from their ingredients, or they might not smell at all.

Price

If you’re looking at basic men’s and women’s shampoos, such as those that can be purchased in big box stores, there usually isn’t too much of a difference when it comes to cost. If a shampoo brand makes both a men’s and women’s shampoo, the two shampoos are usually close in price.

Many specialty shampoo brands, however, such as those sold in beauty stores or salons, can be quite expensive. These shampoos are almost always targeted toward women.

Only rarely do you find salon-grade shampoos that are specifically designed for men. These high-quality shampoos are more expensive because they use a higher grade of ingredients or offer more benefits.

women shopping for shampoo

Two-in-One Options and Dry Shampoos

Many men’s shampoos are packaged as conditioner and shampoo combinations. This means that people using this shampoo only need to purchase one bottle, and they will be able to shampoo and condition their hair at the same time.

Some shampoos are even a three-in-one combination, and they can be used for shampooing, conditioning, and as a body wash.

Women’s shampoos are rarely available in two-in-one combinations. This means that people using women’s shampoos will need to purchase both a shampoo and a conditioner, and they’ll need to shampoo and condition separately, which takes more time.

shampoo and conditioner bottles

This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Conditioning separately, especially if the conditioner is left in for a few minutes, can be much more beneficial than using conditioner at the same time as shampooing.

Women’s shampoos, on the other hand, are more frequently offered as dry shampoos. Dry shampoos have a completely different formula than regular shampoos.

They’re usually found in an aerosol container, and they can be sprayed at the hair’s roots. These shampoos are designed to be used between hair washes. The spray generally contains a powder that helps to absorb oils, making the hair look cleaner.

Many women’s shampoos are available with the same fragrances and benefits in a dry shampoo form. Dry shampoos are rarely available for men, however.

woman spraying dry shampoo

Can men use women’s shampoos or vice versa?

The differences between men’s and women’s shampoos are slight, so you can always use whatever you prefer or whatever’s handy without worrying too much about how it will affect your hair.

The biggest things to consider are what fragrances you like and what benefits you want from your shampoo. If you want moisturized, healthy hair, it’s also usually best to stick with separate shampoos and conditioners instead of combos.

This is particularly true for medium or long hair, which can be prone to split ends. If you have short hair, though, a combo shampoo and conditioner will often work well.

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