Which cheapies are as good as the high-end products?
Hair products are like fraternal twins—similar in ingredients, but very different on the surface. We asked Lesley Bride, senior scientist at Procter & Gamble Beauty, and Fritz Clay, owner of Hair Play Salon in San Francisco, to compare similar products and say which are so close, you might as well save and which are worth the splurge. The results will surprise you.
Ingredients in Action: Silicone is the primary curl-enhancing element in both products. The spend-y spray claims that natural ingredients, including passion-flower extract and mate leaves, hydrate and define curls. The less expensive curler uses panthenol and polymers to do the same thing.
And the Winner Is Less: The silicones in both will define your curls without making your hair crunchy, but the got2B’s polymers will help the curls keep their shape longer.
Non-Chemical Straightening Creams
Less: Marc Anthony Simply Straight Instant Straightening Cream  ($7.99, walgreens.com)
Luxe: Frederic Fekkai Coiff Controle Ironless Straightening Balm, $25 
Ingredients in Action: Both products contain panthenol (a conditioner) and glycerin (a humectant), but the cheaper product claims its silk fibers are responsible for smoothing. Lightweight silicones and cetearyl alcohol—a fatty alcohol common in conditioners—in the pricier version supposedly give you a straighter style.
And the Winner Is: Both fight frizz and flyaways to keep your hair straighter. But cetearyl alcohol adds additional slipperiness, which makes it easier to glide a brush through your hair as you hit it with a hot blow-dryer.
Less: Citré Shine Shine Mist Anti-Frizz Spray Laminator, $4.49 
Luxe: Jonathan Product IB Shield Humidity Lock-Out Shine Spray, $32 .
Ingredients in Action: The less expensive spray contains vitamins, silicones and a UV protector. The higher-priced product has tourmaline, antioxidants, silicones and UVA and UVB filters.
And the Winner Is: Because of the sun filters in these shiners, your color is less likely to go flat. Plus, the extra protection gives your hair radiant shine—and it smells nice. But the aerosol formula means you get better coverage with the expensive product, and it’s loaded with additional moisturizing ingredients.
Heat Protecting Spray
Less: Freeman Papaya Moisture Plus Sun Drenched Heat Styling Conditioning Spray, $4.99 
Luxe: Vavoom Gold Heat Iron-In Control Protective Dry Mist, $16 
Ingredients in Action: Natural fruit extracts and silicones in the budget spray protect your hair and hold your style. The pricier spray’s new “Heat Dispersion Technology” distributes heat evenly across the hair so sections of your strands don’t weaken more than others; it also contains style-holding polymers.
And the Winner Is: Both sprays prep your hair to take the heat by sealing the cuticle. But the less expensive spray is more moisturizing because it’s alcohol-free.
Ingredients in Action: Powder in the thrifty brand absorbs excess oil, as do rice and oat starch in the costlier spray.
And the Winner Is: Both products will clean and add volume to a heavy, oily mop, but what about the less-than-fresh scent of dirty hair? The pricier “shampoo” has a crisp, lemon-y scent to mask any odor.
Ingredients in Action: The shampoos contain a similar combo of nettle, wheat proteins, and panthenol. Nettle removes product buildup to keep your hair from going flat. Protein fattens hair strands from the inside out to add volume. Panthenol is a moisturizing agent.
And the Winner Is: The expensive version is mostly natural, but the cheaper formula contains organic ingredients—so it’s better for your hair and the environment.
Less: Samy Beyond Repair Professional Intensive Hair Masque, $8.49 
Luxe: Philip B White Truffle Nourishing Hair Conditioning Creme, $75 
Ingredients in Action: Shea butter, cetyl alcohol, and amodimethicone help the budget conditioner smooth and rebuild your hair while amino acids, lavender and white truffle oil are the stars in the pricier product.
And the Winner Is: The rich, creamy formula in the spend-y stuff will undoubtedly soften your strands, but the peppery, mineral smell could turn some people off. The cheaper formula’s amino silicones are so durable; they might stay in your hair for a few washings, so you get even more conditioning bang for your buck.
Less: Pantene Pro-V Restoratives Time Renewal Conditioner  ($6.19, cvs.com)
Luxe: Alterna Caviar Seasilk Collection, $32 
Ingredients in Action: The budget formula restores smoothness to all of your strands with cationic surfactants. The pricier product contains caviar extract to nourish your hair, cytokines to stimulate protein production and antioxidant vitamin C.
And the Winner Is: Both pack a powerful punch against old hair age (if you’re medium to long in length, the hair is old), but the cheaper version’s cationic surfactants are positively charged, so your hair has a better shot at looking like it did before the damage set in.
By Emily Kate Warren of TotalBeauty