The best protein shampoos noticeably strengthen and restore hair, halting or slowing breakage and helping you achieve that luxurious mane you're hoping for. There are several types of protein used in shampoos, and while they can do an excellent job of improving the condition of your hair, temporarily repairing split ends, and benefiting fried hair, you should generally use them as just one item in a larger arsenal of hair products because overuse could do more harm (usually in the form of breakage) than good.
The Top Protein Shampoos
Not all protein shampoos are created equal, so finding the best one for your hair may take some trial and error. What works for thick, unruly hair may not be the one for fine hair that's going through a major bout of breakage after bleaching. There are some, however, that consistently get good reviews and acknowledgment from beauty publications.
Aveda Damage Remedy™ Restructuring Shampoo
The Aveda Damage Remedy™ Restructuring Shampoo (just under $30.00) says it can be used daily or weekly. It contains quinoa protein, coconut, and babassu (a type of Brazilian palm). Aveda recommends this product for damaged or chemically treated hair, and it's part of a four-step restructuring system. With over 800 reviews (combined across sites), this product received a 4.8 rating. Reviewers report less damaged-looking hair, softness, and a great smell. Some do point out that you'll need a conditioner with this shampoo or it can dry your hair out, but that tends to be the nature of protein shampoos. MakeupAlley lists Aveda Damage Remedy™ as one of Shape Magazine's SHAPE of Beauty award winners in 2006 and the approximately 100 reviews there average out to a 3.5-star rating.
Redken Extreme Shampoo
Redken Extreme Shampoo (less than $20.00) also says it can be used daily on any type of distressed hair. It's designed to make hair shiny, soft, and strong by adding protein back in, preventing breakage, and healing split ends. It uses 18-MEA for shine, ceramide for breakage, and an interlock protein network to strengthen hair inside and out. With more than 400 reviews on Ulta.com, it has earned a 4.6-star rating. Reviewers report gentle cleansing, volume, and less breakage. Again, some users report dryness and tangling, so use of a conditioner (Redken recommends their Extreme Conditioner) is recommended.
Kiehls Amino Acid Shampoo
The Kiehls Amino Acid Shampoo (less than $20.00) is listed as suitable for all hair types when you want something mild. It's rich, creamy, and full of moisturizers for the hair and scalp, designed to give shine and volume. This product contains hydrolyzed wheat protein (phyto peptides) in addition to amino acids. MakeupAlley awarded it with a 3.7-star rating based on over 100 reviews, Nordstrom reviewers have given an average of 4.6 based on about 50 reviews, and it was listed as an Allure Editor's Favorite in December 2009. Reviewers report smoothness, volume, shine, and a pleasant scent.
Fekkai PRX Reparatives Shampoo
With about 150 reviews on Kohls.com, the Fekkai PRX Reparatives Shampoo (about $20.00) earned a 4.4 rating. Reviewers report soft, silky hair, good lather, a wonderful vanilla and crème scent, less frizz, bounce, and shine. It was the 2014 Allure Best of Beauty award winner for shampoo for damaged hair. It's infused with argan extract for moisture and shine. It's designed to strengthen weak hair, so if coloring, bleaching, or styling has left you with brittle strands, this may be a good option. Warning: some reviewers complained of the heavy scent, so if you're sensitive to vanilla fragrances it may not be for you.
Avalon Organics Thickening Biotin B-Complex Shampoo
Avalon Organics Thickening Biotin B-Complex Shampoo has biotin, saw palmetto, quinoa protein, and vitamin E. For fine, thinning hair that could use a boost in strength, this could be the perfect solution. It's designed to make hair feel thicker, stronger, and softer while stimulating the scalp so hair will grow. With over 900 reviews, this shampoo has an average rating of 4.2 stars. It's paraben-free, organic, sulfate-free, and reviewers love that it makes their hair look and feel shiny, full, strong, and healthy. It may not be the best choice for fine hair simply because some reviewers report that it weighs their hair down.
OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil Shampoo
The OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil Shampoo is a winner for several reasons, like its accessibility (get it in any drugstore or Ulta), its price (less than $10.00), and eco-friendly materials. With about 150 reviews on Ulta's website, it has an average of 4.2 stars. At Walgreens, nearly 100 people have given it an overall rating of 4.3 stars. Reviewers love the smell, the small amount of time it takes to see a difference in their hair, and the strength and shine it provides. This product is made with sulfate-free surfectants, argan oil, and keratin proteins.
OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo
Another OGX pick (also under $10.00 and available in drugstores), Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo, uses wheat protein to strengthen and volumize the hair and won the Self Magazine Healthy Beauty Awards title for Best Volumizing Shampoo. At Walmart.com, around 140 reviews average out to a 4.5 rating. Reviewers love how their hair smells after they use this shampoo, plus how hydrated, soft, and strong it feels. Some feel that it's too heavy for their hair, so if yours is fine and thin, it may not be the best choice.
AG Therapy Tech Two Protein-Enriched Shampoo
AG's Therapy Tech Two Protein-Enriched Shampoo has several types of protein all in one bottle: silk, wheat, keratin, and oat work together to repair, strengthen, moisturize, and add shine. It has no parabens or gluten, and this product is not tested on animals. Ulta reviewers give it a 4.5 rating based on about 70 reviews. Expect to pay just under $50.00 for a 33.8 oz bottle. Reviewers feel this is an excellent choice for curly, color-treated, and thick hair and some even recommend it for daily use. They say it leaves hair shiny, bouncy, not weighed down, and smelling great. This shampoo was also an Elle Magazine Award Winner for Best Shampoo (against 72 similar products).
Bain de Terre Keratin Phyto Protein Strengthening Sulfate-Free Shampoo
The Bain de Terre Keratin Phyto Protein Strengthening Sulfate-Free Shampoo is not only sulfate-free, but contains no parabens and is listed as color-safe. It uses wheat, corn, and soy proteins along with argan and monoi oils to strengthen and moisturize the hair, leaving you with a silky, manageable mane. It's designed for those with weak, fragile hair. Birchbox included it in one of their boxes and it's received an average of 4.4 stars based on over 60 reviews. Reviewers love that it isn't harsh and makes their hair feel strong and healthy.
Milbon Plarmia Hairserum F Shampoo
Milbon PlarmiaHairserum F Shampoo was mentioned in a list of Elle magazine editors' favorites for the "intoxicating smell" as well as the "antioxidant-rich, protein-infused blend of jojoba and soybean leaves." It's meant to take chemically-treated, textured hair and turn it into more manageable, softer, silkier locks. This product is available in two formulas to benefit a wider range of customers: F for fine to medium hair and M for coarse hair.
On the Road to Repaired Hair
If your hair is damaged but you can't bear the thought of cutting most of the length off or waiting for years for the damaged portion to grow out, a protein shampoo is worth a shot. Be sure to condition afterward, perhaps with a conditioner from the same line so you'll know they're designed to work together to give you the best results possible.