Do Men Really Need Their Own Shampoo?


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It doesn't matter if the bottle is gray or pink. The ingredients are often the same for men and women. But what about the price?

Marketing companies want you to believe that men need manly shampoos, but a study by the marketing firm Integer shows 50 percent of men lather up every morning with their wife’s shampoo. Are the other half missing out on a manly scalp? Or are all shampoos basically the same?

If you look closely at men’s and women’s shampoos, you’ll see they’re not much different. Both contain similar ingredients and offer similar benefits. The only real difference is the scent. Well, that and the cost.

1. Ingredients

While men’s and women’s shampoos contain a few different ingredients, those aren’t gender-specific. For example, if you compare the ingredients in L’Oreal Vive Pro for Men and L’Oreal Vive Pro for Women, you’ll see some differences. From Walgreens.com

L’Oreal Pro Vive for Men

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Coco-Glucoside, Sodium Chloride, Glycol Distearate, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Methylparaben, Cocamide MIPA, Carbomer, Salicylic Acid, Polysilicone-8, Ethylparaben, Polyquaternium-16, Limonene, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Aminomethyl Propanol, Isopropanolamine, Citric Acid

L’Oreal Pro Vive for Women

Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Dimethicone, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cyclodextrin, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Fragrance, Sodium Methylparaben, Carbomer, DMDM Hydantoin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Jojoba Wax PEG-120 Esters, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hydrolyzed Conchiolin Protein, CI 17200 (Red 33)

What’s the difference?

So are the different ingredients in the men’s shampoo specifically tailored toward men? Nope. They’re just common ingredients used in cosmetics – even the kind women use.

Here’s what the different ingredients used in the men’s formula actually do, according to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

  • Coco-Glucoside – a foaming cleanser
  • Glycol Distearate – a skin conditioner
  • Sodium Benzoate – a preservative
  • Cocamide MIPA – a foam booster
  • Salicylic Acid – fights dandruff
  • Polysilicone-8 – forms film
  • Ethylparaben – a preservative
  • Polyquaternium-16 – fights static
  • Aminomethyl Propanol – adjusts pH levels
  • Isopropanolamine – adjusts pH levels
  • Citric Acid – mostly just a fragrance

The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database also found those ingredients in dozens of women’s shampoos, so nothing special there.

2. Benefits

Men’s shampoos are marketed as solving men’s specific haircare problems. For example, Redken offers four different shampoos for men, but all of them mimic the women’s versions. It doesn’t matter if the bottle is pink or gray. From the Redken website…

Redken shampoo for men

  • Densify Texturing Shampoo: Strengthens hair and adds fullness
  • Mint Clean Invigorating Shampoo: Removes dirt build-up
  • Go Clean Daily Care Shampoo: Adds moisture and shine
  • Clean Spice 2-n-1 Shampoo and Conditioner: Strengthens and nourishes hair

Redken shampoo for women

  • Body Full Shampoo: Plumps hair strands and adds body
  • Refreshing Detox Shampoo: Removes hair product and dirt build-up
  • Clear Moisture Shampoo: Replenishes hair moisture and adds shine.
  • Extreme Shampoo: Strengthens damaged hair

3. Scent

This is one area where I understand why men look for their own shampoos. Women’s shampoos often smell flowery, and the heavy perfume lasts for hours. If I were a man, I probably wouldn’t want to smell like a field of daisies either. But not all women’s shampoos have a feminine fragrance. Several shampoos exist with a unisex fragrance, or no fragrance at all….

4. Cost

How much you pay for your shampoo depends on the brand you buy, not your gender. In fact, all of the men’s and women’s shampoos I researched had the same price point. For example, Drugstore.com sells L’Oreal Pro Vive and L’Oreal Pro Vive for Men for $4.99 each.

The real difference in pricing is based on availability. Right now, there are more women’s shampoos than shampoos for men, so men who don’t mind lathering up with their wife’s shampoo have a better chance of finding one on sale. For example, in this week’s ads Walgreens has four different brands of women’s shampoos on sale, and one brand that caters to men. CVS Pharmacy has eight different women’s shampoo brands on sale – but only one men’s brand.

So men’s shampoos aren’t that different from any other shampoo. As long as men can find a fragrance they like – or one that’s fragrance-free – they really don’t need the special bottle.

Stacy Johnson

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