This $5.50 Shampoo Gave Life To My Dull, Dry & Damaged Hair

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I'm by no means a snob when it comes to haircare. I love the likes of OGX (trust me when I say the argan oil is second to none). But over the past year, I've found myself gravitating to the more luxury brands, particularly when it comes to shampoo and conditioner.
There's a reason for this. I bleached my hair and dyed it midnight blue (cue lots of upkeep and inevitable damage), then dived headfirst into all manner of trending haircuts like the Italian bob. A lot of Instagram-worthy crops now require razor cutting, a technique some stylists say gives hair a mind of its own. So to help minimise dryness, split ends and to keep my lengths in check, I took product recommendations from various top stylists.
Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, $54, and No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, $54, are always top picks, followed by Kérastase Nutritive Bain Satin 1 $46, and Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo and Conditioner Duo, $76. They're all excellent and I can't fault them (there's a reason they're displayed at top salons). But I'm terrible at stocking up.
One evening when my hair was in dire need of a wash, I remembered I had picked up L'Oréal Elvive Hydra Hyaluronic Acid Shampoo, $5.49 (the retail price is $7.99 but it tends to be $5.49 at Chemist Warehouse). If you're a Refinery29 regular, you'll know my stance on hyaluronic acid in skincare: it's almost always in all good moisturisers so a dedicated serum isn't particularly necessary. But it's not often in haircare. Thanks to brands like The Inkey List and now L'Oréal, though, we're waking up to the benefits.

What are the benefits of hyaluronic acid for skin and hair?

Hyaluronic acid is a hydrating ingredient (otherwise known as a humectant) and much like a sponge, it can draw and trap moisture. Commonly referred to as HA, it's actually found naturally in our bodies. According to aesthetic expert Dr Preema Vig, hyaluronic acid is an important moisturising and lubricating molecule, and she says it's an essential ingredient for repairing the skin.
Its results in haircare are similar. The Inkey List says that its Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Hair Treatment, $16, hydrates hair made brittle by over-washing, humidity or using heated styling tools without protection (guilty), while a handful of TikTokers recently went viral for using The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $12.90, on their split ends and marvelling at the moisturising results.
It makes total sense, then, that hyaluronic acid would find its way into haircare, specifically shampoo. Because it attracts moisture, experts such as skin specialist Nurse Dawn Attewell at Therapy House and consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall at Tarrant Street Clinic recommend applying it to damp skin for the very best results — and doing the same on hair might be just as beneficial.

How does L'Oréal Paris Hyaluronic Acid Shampoo work?

Firstly, don't let the bottle confuse you. Many of us associate purple packaging with purple shampoo: a toning shampoo that neutralises blonde tones and gets rid of brassy colour if your hair is bleached. This isn't a toning shampoo but it certainly is one of the most hydrating ones out there.
Applied to wet hair, this shampoo creates a satisfyingly creamy lather and smells so fresh. But it's upon rinsing it away that I really notice it does my hair good. Usually, my lengths feel a tad straw-like when I squeeze out the water ready for a slathering of conditioner but when using this, my hair feels stronger and thicker.
Styling is also easy. I have to say that my hair has never been so smooth or glossy, even when I quickly rough-dry it with a hairdryer. Normally I'd expect lots of frizz and flyaways, or my very thick, wavy hair to slowly but surely expand outwards. There's none of that and I'm convinced it's the hydrating hyaluronic acid providing a bit more control. Having recently got the boyfriend bob haircut, straightening is a part of my everyday styling routine. After using this shampoo, my straighteners slip through my dense hair without snagging or crunching. And the shine? It's unrivalled.
I only discovered this shampoo recently and yet I'm two bottles down. I realised that this is because my partner (who has shoulder-length hair) has secretly been using it despite swearing that he would never deviate from his luxury salon favourite. Until a few weeks ago, he hadn't had a trim for almost a year but his hairstylist commented on how healthy his lengths looked and felt. You can team the shampoo with L'Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluronic Conditioner, $5.49, to really amp up the hydrating results but it's a myth that you have to use matching products. I like Grown Alchemist Conditioner, $46. This is pricier but the bottle is enormous (500ml). I've been using it for months and have barely made a dent.
This shampoo hydrates brittle strands and gives hair plumpness and structure but it also gives my greasy roots and flaky scalp a much-needed deep clean. That's all thanks to sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This ingredient (a surfactant, which gives the shampoo its bubbly lather) has been somewhat demonised in haircare due to our obsession with 'clean' beauty (which isn't actually a regulated term). Some say it's stripping, while others report scalp irritation. But here's the thing: sulphates are a must to provide a thorough cleanse and the amount used in most shampoos is actually very minimal. The Ordinary haircare products are showing support for sulphates as they work so well to cleanse the hair and scalp of buildup, which could cause issues in the long run. Think itchiness, flakes and greasy roots.
While sulphates are beneficial, a shampoo with this ingredient might not be the best everyday option if you have dyed hair and want to keep your colour intact for as long as possible. If that's the case, I'd use this two or three times a month when your hair is in need of a really good clean. And if sulphates irritate you, simply opt for a sulphate-free shampoo.
It isn't just the hyaluronic acid shampoo that editors love. Lucy Partington, freelance beauty journalist and Refinery29 contributor, sings the praises of L'Oreal Paris Elvive Hyaluron Plump Replumping Serum, $15.39. "Here is all the proof you need that [this] is a miracle worker," Lucy wrote on Instagram. "I've spoken about it loads before (and have got through two bottles, this is my third) but I wanted to actually show you how good it is." The difference is impressive: when using the serum, Lucy's hair looks as though it has been professionally blow-dried and styled, and the volume is undeniable.
Working in beauty means my bathroom cupboard provides quite the selection of hair products. But like Lucy, this hyaluronic acid shampoo is something I'm buying myself. I've just added a couple more bottles to our weekly shop.
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