Review of Aldi’s new haircare ranges

I’m regularly shocked by the prices that are charged for ordinary, everyday shampoos and conditioners. After all, there’s a limit to which ingredients can be usefully put into them, and there’s a limit to what any of them can really do for your hair.

All a shampoo needs to do is give your hair the right level of cleansing, and hopefully not cause irritation or buildup. The ‘right level of cleansing’ depends on your personal hair and skin type, and what you’ve done to your hair with styling products, colouring and other treatments. That’s it. Shampoo is only on your hair for a few seconds before being rinsed off, so it’s unrealistic to expect it to do anything other than cleanse. Conditioners are perhaps a little more diverse and complex, but again there’s a limit to what you can usefully put in one, and most of them are largely washed off too.

So why are they so expensive compared to what they really contain and do? Well, you are most likely to be paying a bundle for branding, advertising, celebrity endorsements, fancy packaging, product placement, and so on. Sometimes they just charge you what they think you’ll pay for it (there are quite a few premium products out there that aren’t even worth a quarter of their price tag, but I digress).

I will happily concede that good packaging can be worthwhile if it means you’re less likely to drop the bottle on your foot in the shower, or it’s designed to help you get all the last drops out with less waste. Otherwise, well, I’m a bit cynical, especially when faced with yet another ‘spokesmodel’ who looks suspiciously like she has acrylic hair extensions.

Aldi’s Carino brand matched haircare products

The rising cost of haircare in this country doesn’t really seem justified to me, and for this reason I was keen to review Aldi’s new range of haircare products. They’ve clearly been designed to rival some of the biggest haircare brands in the UK, and to have lower prices. I wouldn’t say they were exact copies, more that they’re reasonably similar to the bestsellers without being a direct rip-off of them.

The first product I tried was the Carino Hair Refine conditioner in the ‘Repairing’ variety. The packaging looks very similar to L’Oreal’s Elvive Full Restore 5 conditioner. I’ve now used both these products, and can compare them.

Refine Aldi shampoo combo

Firstly, although the bottles look similar, their main ingredients are different:

  • L’Oreal Elvive ‘Full Restore 5’ conditioner, top 4 ingredients: water, cetyl alcohol, PEG 180, palm oil
  • Carino Refine ‘Repairing’ conditioner, top 4 ingredients: water, cetaryl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine

The L’Oreal product worked reasonably well when I used it before, although I have to say it didn’t condition my hair as well as I’d hoped after all the marketing hype and I didn’t repurchase it. The Carino version was easy to use, although it had a more watery consistency. It left my hair feeling as soft as the L’Oreal product, and I also noticed there was reduced frizz and quite a nice shine after drying.

Pricewise, 250ml of the Carino Refine conditioner costs 99p, and the similar Elvive Full Restore conditioner retails at around £2.99 for 250ml in most shops. The products aren’t identical, but I had comparable results with them – your personal experience may vary, depending on your hair type.

The second set of products I tried were the shampoo and conditioner from the Carino Herbals range in ‘Hydration’. These are lookalikes for Clairol’s Herbal Essences in ‘Hello Hydration’.

carino herbals range

Again, these are the main ingredients if you’d like to compare:

  • Herbal Essences ‘Hello Hydration’ shampoo, top 3 ingredients: water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Carino Herbals ‘Hydration’ shampoo, top 3 ingredients: water, sodium laureth sulphate, sodium chloride
  • Herbal Essences ‘Hello Hydration’ conditioner, top 3 ingredients: water, stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol
  • Carino Herbals ‘Hydration’ conditioner, top 3 ingredients: water, glycerin, cetaryl alcohol

Well, I confess I wasn’t looking forward to this one – the Clairol shampoo left my hair feeling unpleasantly stripped and straw like, and the matching  ‘Hello Hydration’ conditioner hadn’t made much difference to my hair at all. Plus the products seemed packed with unnecessary colours and heavy fragrances that had potential to cause irritation. I know people rave about shampoo fragrances but generally speaking it’s not what you should base your haircare decisions on.

Anyway, I gave the Aldi Carino Herbals version a fair try. To my relief, it seemed more gentle to my hair, without the strong sensation of hair being stripped and tangled up. There was still a strong fragrance and strong colouring, which I don’t get on with – but if Herbal Essences work for you without causing irritation then you might also get on fine with the Aldi version. The conditioner worked reasonably well too, again it was a bit watery, but it did give similar results to the Herbal Essences version.

Looking at the price point, 400ml of Carino Herbals shampoo or conditioner will set you back £1.29, whereas the Herbal Essences version sells for £3.79. Quite a difference, even when the more established brand is on offer.

I’ve only used the Aldi products for a couple of days so far, and unfortunately that’s not enough time to be able to tell you anything useful about product build up tendency or delayed sensitivity reactions. However, what I’ve experienced so far has been pretty good, especially when you take the price tag into account.

I would definitely not rule out trying more shampoos and conditioners from Aldi’s range, and I hope they go on to expand it. In particular I would love to see them create options similar to the Simple brand, such as gentle / uncoloured / unperfumed haircare. It’s so hard to find something like that at a sensible price and I’d probably buy it by the gallon once I’d found the right combination for my hair type.

Full disclosure: Samples supplied by Aldi. All thoughts and comments are my own.
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