We’ve all sat in hair salons and smiled nervously as our stylist has suggested buying an expensive salon shampoo. We’ve thought about that Bt80 bottle of pleasant-smelling shampoo sitting at home in our shower recess and wondered, "Is the extra price for that really worth it?"

Paying around Bt300 to 400 for a salon-sourced or upper-end brand name shampoo can seem extravagant. But stylist Schai from Schai Coiffeur insists that price is an important indicator of quality. "The formula and the ingredients are very different [between cheap and expensive shampoos]. Salon shampoos are more targeted towards hair types, and they’re more concentrated than supermarket shampoos."

Salon shampoos today are all of a comparable standard – the important thing is finding the right product for your hair type, and this is where your stylist’s advice is paramount. "It matters who you buy from," said Schai . "They must understand the products they are selling, and know whether they are going to be good for your hair."

If you’re on a tight budget and your hair is in good nick, Schai has good news: a general shampoo probably won’t harm your hair. "Those shampoos are just not helping your hair as much as they could be. But the cheapest shampoos, which have more detergent, could dry out your hair," he warned.

The quality of a shampoo is to an extent determined by its pH (a number on a scale of 1 to 12 that measures acidity or alkalinity). Human hair and skin has a pH of around 4.5 to 5.5, while shampoo has a higher alkalinity or a pH in the range of six to 10. This higher alkalinity opens the hair shaft, and lets the shampoo get inside to clean.

The Attitude’s hairstylist John Moy explains that good shampoos have a pH of seven to eight. "Those nine to 10 – the soapier ones – are likely to leave the hair shaft slightly open, which makes the hair look dull." So the degree of foam you get from your shampoo is not, contrary to popular belief (and many advertisements) a good indicator of its effectiveness.

Joico, one of the newest salon brands in Thailand, has a range of 300ml shampoos, including Chelating Shampoo Resolve, for maximum cleansing (Bt350), Treatment Shampoo Biojoba, for chemically damaged hair (Bt430), and Lavei Deep Cleansing Shampoo (Bt320). Paul Mitchell’s line includes Shampoos One, Two and Three (250mL). One is for daily use (Bt235), two is for daily use on oily hair (Bt235) and three is to get rid of buildup (Bt255). Sebastian this month launches its Laminates range, which adds a Cleansing Polish (Bt395, 250mL) to their other shampoos, including Mohair , Spandex and Stark Naked Shampoos (all Bt395, 250mL).

Heading outside the salons, Boots Tricologie line includes shampoos labelled Rejuvenating, Nourishing and Deep Cleansing (all Bt340, 250mL). The Origins haircare range, available at Central Chidlom and Ladprao and The Emporium, carries shampoos The Last Straw(Bt590) for conditioning, Clear Head (Bt490) for daily use, No Deposit (Bt 490) to get rid of buildup and Snow Removal (Bt490) for dandruff control. The Body Shop has a selection of shampoos in its Palmshine range, including a Rebalancing Shampoo for oily hair (Bt230, 250mL), Conditioning Shampoo for dry, damaged or colour-treated hair (Bt230, 250mL), Volumising Shampoo for fine/flyaway hair (Bt230, 250mL) and Deep Cleansing Shampoo (Bt320, 150mL).

Once you have the right shampoo, to put it to work Mr Moy recommends that you lather your hair for one to two minutes to allow it to get used to the water and the shampoo. Concentrate on your scalp and roots, and use the balls of your fingertips rather than your fingernails, which can damage the scalp. Rinse and repeat, as by the second wash the hair shaft will be open and able to be really cleaned. "This second wash is especially important for people who use styling products," he said. "If these accumulate, they’ll lead to problems later on." Finish with a conditioner.

/ Health & beauty