EauMG’s Guide to the Best Smelling Hair Products

Ann Rutherford

When I talk to people about perfume, I find that many people can create a perfume timeline of their life. Certain perfumes remind them of certain eras of their life. For some people an entire decade can be summed up with one or two “signature” perfumes. I’ve never really been exclusive to one perfume so creating a perfume timeline would be near impossible for me. However, I could do this with hair products. Throughout the years I have been loyal to certain hair products. I could define most of the periods of my life with a corresponding hair product. I can remember the fruity aroma of No-Tear Strawberry Shortcake Shampoo from childhood. I can remember when I didn’t want to use that anymore because my cool teenage cousins with teased-out perms were using Revlon Outrageous. In middle school,  I remember it only took a little bit of Finesse to care for my bright red henna. High school could be summed up with Herbal Essences and Aveda for my long 60’s era Cher hair. In college, I had a beehive and went through cans of Aquanet, yeah, with fragrance for maximum beehive authenticity. Oh, and I loved Umberto Giannini Sleek & Straight Shampoo & Conditioner just for the smell.

I’ve always used oils like apricot kernel, jojoba and coconut in my hair. But, these don’t stand out in my olfactory memory like those drugstore functional scents. These memories had me thinking about hair products that smell good (and thinking about those that don’t). I realize that due to my hair care “loyalty”, I have less exposure to hair products than I do perfume. Out of the ones that I have tried, I think the following stand-out for smelling great.


Shampoo & Conditioners

Philosophy Amazing Grace Shampoo, Shower & Bath Gel – OK, so these 3-in-1 products have always been crappy in quality in my opinion. And this formula is pretty crappy as a shampoo (maybe works better with oily or thin hair). Anyway, it does smell good and that is what this list is about. Hair products that smell good vs. hair products that are the best. Retails for $24 at Sephora.

Herbal Essences Smooth Collection Shampoo & Conditioner – I admit that this may have made the list because of my personal nostalgia. But, I really do like the scent of this “original” formula. It’s a clean rose. Retails for about $5 each at

Victoria’s Secret So Sexy Nourish Shampoo & Conditioner – So, the smell is a clean floral but it actually lingers in the hair longer than any other shampoo and conditioner that I’ve ever used. When using this, my hair smells “fresh” until I wash it again. Retails for $12 each at Victoria’s Secret.

Honorable mentions: Kiehl’s Rice & Wheat Volumizing Shampoo ($18 at Nordstrom). – I haven’t tried this one but a perfume pal via Twitter says it smells like Chanel Beige. Malin + Goetz Cilantro Conditioner ($22 at – Cilantro naturally contains aldehydes, so this is a “clean green” scent.It’s a nifty scent for a hair product.

Great smelling hair oils


Moroccanoil Treatment – When I threw the question “What hair care products smell the best?” on Twitter, this would was brought up numerous times. And I agree. Morroccanoil’s success is due mostly to its aroma. There are plenty of knock-offs out there but it’s the smell that distinguishes them from the original. I mean, this treatment smells so good that the brand has even made a candle! They know we love the smell. Retails for $43 at Nordstrom.

Aftelier Body Oil & Hair Elixir – Each one of these all-natural fragrances smell amazing. I love them all. These are a blend of natural oils that are great for thick, dry or curly hair. Prices range from $40-$60 at Aftelier.Full review.

aroma M camellia Hair Oil – Here’s another natural hair oil that is like a parfum for hair  with a blend of rose, tubreose and frankincense. Retails for $65 at aroma M. Full review.

Honorable mentions: Carol’s Daughter Monoi Hair Mask ($32 at Sephora) – It’s a coconut floral; a very tropical beach fragrance. Yves Rocher Traditional Tiare Oil ($16 at Yves Rocher) – Still with the tropical theme here. This is a coconut gardenia oil.

Great smelling hair products


Styling Products

Oscar Blandi Jasmine Oil Serum – This is a “clean” jasmine fragrance that could easily translate to a bath and body line. It also helps that this ‘cone based product does wonderful things for my straight, thick hair. Retails for $35 at Sephora.

Aveda Smooth Infusion Style-Prep Smoother – Actually every Aveda product should be on this list. That brand has mastered effective yet amazing smelling hair care. One of my personal favorites is this smoothing product. Rose and sandalwood. Love it. Retails for $24 at Aveda.

Philip B. Russian Amber Imperial Dry Shampoo – This line is crazy expensive but I am willing to pay for this dry shampoo because I think of it as perfume too. It has a sweet amber aroma. If you have bangs, I’m sure you’ve made friends with a good dry shampoo. If you want one that smells like perfume, give this one a try. Retails for $40 at

Honorable mentions: Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Hair Spray (available at salons)- Smells like ginger; really distinct scent for the line. Everything Aveda. Seriously.

Do you guys remember Healthy Sexy Hair’s pumpkin scented stuff? I mean it was so wrong but so right. It made my hair smell like pumpkin pie. My husband used to go crazy for that stuff. I mean, I think he was my husband then. He could have been my beau. Anyway, it was pretty nifty. They had a chocolate too. It was so wrong that it was just wrong.

I’m dying to expand my “vocabulary” of great-smell’n hair products. I’d love to know which hair care products you like for their aroma. If you could create your “dream” scent hair product, what would the note/s be?

 *Ann Rutherford pic from Sephora,, Nordstrom and contain affiliate links. Thanks!

33 thoughts on “EauMG’s Guide to the Best Smelling Hair Products

  1. Ahhhhhh Aveda in the late 80’s … nothing made me happier. (well, i may have been pathetic, but i smelled amazing!)

    Neroli & Petitgrain have always been forerunners for fragrance in anything for me, and i’m one of those boys who will wear rose with abandon. my latest infatuation, however, is tuberose. and not in a plastic Fracas kind of way, but the real deal. i dunno how it would go over head to toe, but i’d be willing to find out. *laugh* I DARE YOU TO SIT NEXT TO ME ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT!

    been awhite since i came ’round, but it’s so GOOD to see you are here with your big southern magnolia style ms. eaumg. give my regards to the hills of seattle. <3

    1. Aveda is awesome. I don’t know why I’ve abandoned their products over the past few years. Actually, I do know why. I get distracted by anything shiny and new.

      Neroli and petigrain would be awesome in hair products BTW. I could imagine in a wax/pomade base.

      Oh, have you tried Hiram Green Moon Bloom? It’s this big ‘ole tuberose; a real tuberose. I wish it were easier to get in the U.S. because I think if it were here, it would have tons of fans. Also, Ron of Notable Scents absolutely loves Honore des Pres Vamp a NYC which is also a non-synth tuberose. It’s much sweeter than Moon Bloom though.

      It’s actually starting to be spring-like here. Can you believe it? Hills of Seattle could just be teasing me, but I’ll roll with it. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. yes, well, you & ron go together like rose & patchouli. (you two can fight who is who but they are absolutely complimentary!) so i’m resubscribing to his blogs too… even if i don’t know my Oakenfold from my Tiesto….)

        i wandered away from Aveda when it sold to Estee Lauder and moved to Intelligent Nutrients. the only issue is with IN there is not a lot of range of aromas… they have a small collection called the Violet Bottle Collection, i believe, but it’s still very basic. Organic FOOD GRADE materials are hard to come by i would imagine.

        never heard of Hiram Green Moon Bloom and will definitely check out Vamp. thanks for the tip! <3

        1. Well, he’s not here. So, I’m rose, the beautiful one 😉 And don’t worry, I don’t know either. I know my oldie electronic music but I won’t go into that…no need to age myself.

          I haven’t used any IN products. I’m all about oils these days, so I should stay away from that Violet Bottle collection before I drop some big bucks.

          Listen, if someone wants to choke fellow mass transit riders with tuberose, I have to support this. I have to partake in this sort of olfactory revolution.

  2. What a cool post, because you’re right! The memory of certain shampoos and conditioners, the “drugstore functional” kind that you mention, really stand out for me. And I miss them. In junior high it was “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” (very spicy, as I know you know) and the original Herbal Essences (which in memory reminds me of Chanel Bel Respiro). And then in high school, I fell in love with the smell of Flex Wella Balsam conditioner — so much so that I started using it again a few years ago. It’s dirt cheap and still smells amazing, like sandalwood and balsa wood, but it has no conditioning power whatsoever, it’s just a great smell.

    In recent years I used the newer Herbal Essence shampoo that you show in this post, and I agree, I thought it was a very pretty, gentle rose scent. I also love Organix coconut shampoo. But believe it or not, I no longer use shampoo at all – I use Dove soap (the scentless bar soap) on my hair, and it’s creaminess is great for my color-processed hair. Doesn’t strip it, leaves it shiny.

    1. Oh, I wish I could find something that smells like “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific”, it was awesome. And yes, this pink isn’t the “original” but the others in the line are all like Fruit Roll-Ups now. The original-original was “clean green”; really nice. Ah! I forgot to include Wella Balsam. My grandmother used that and Clinique Aromatics Elixir. That was her signature. I didn’t realize it was still available for purchase! I remember exactly what it smelled like.

      I have a friend that swears by bar soap for her shampoo (don’t recall what she uses). But, she loves it for travel. She can throw it in a gym bag and it won’t spill everywhere.

  3. Kerastase oleo-relax treatment should be on that list. I am on a tight budget but I occasionally slip this $60 conditioner into the cart not because it works great (it does, better than anything else) but because of the gorgeous scent that lasts for days and never seems to clash with my perfume. I get rose and peach but my nose is lousy so don’t take my word for it.

    1. I’ve used a sample of a Kerastase shampoo for color-treated hair. I liked the way it made my hair feel but I can’t remember how it smelled.

      Now rose + peach sounds like something I could get behind. That sounds like perfume! I know that it’s costly but somehow I feel better when it is something like a masque because I don’t use it every single day. Yeah, I’m justifying…

  4. “Every Aveda product should be on this list.” Too right. I keep trying other things and going back to Aveda because everything else smells disgusting to me. (Why, in particular, do hair care companies think fake fruit is a great-smelling thing? Fake fruit in cosmetic products makes me want to gag.) And the best thing about Aveda scents is they actually don’t last and project much. The rather nasty scent in the very expensive Kerastase shampoo I recently tried would last until I washed my hair next – so, up to three days.

    I’d like to try Aftelier (haven’t yet because it costs too much to ship to Canada) but honestly what I’d really prefer is unscented hair products. Sadly, my water is too hard for any of the hippie all-natural kitchen products hair care, unless I also want hippie crusted dreadlocks.

    1. Don’t even get me started on the Fruit Roll-Up hair products. That seems to be the big trend with drugstore hair products. I mean, who wants their hair to smell like apple Jolly Ranchers? Well, I guess some people do but it’s hard to imagine that many adults want watermelon scented hair.

      I go back and forth with the projection thing. I used to want my hair not to have any aroma and then I’ll swing back and want something that lasts for days. I do like unscented body products and I don’t used scented laundry detergent. It’s actually difficult to find unscented hair products now that I think about it.

      The old place had hard water and even the hippie commercial products were impossible to rinse out of my hair. I know that pain.

  5. Prell Shampoo circa 1970s! ( My mother used to wash my hair so vigorously I probably drank as much of this shampoo as was used to clean my hair. To this day I gag at the smell. But it does bring me back!

    I love the smell of Lush’s Happy Happy Joy Joy hair conditioner. I am completely unable to judge whether I like the product so addicted am I to the fragrance… but actually I went through a Kai hair product period–which made my hair smell nice, but the products just weren’t very good, at least not for thick, dry hair.

    1. Haha, yeah, even the gross stuff can take us back!

      I haven’t used any LUSH hair products. This is how I feel about their shower gels. The formulas are so-so but they smell so dang good that I keep buying them.

      I totally forgot that Kai has hair products too. And I have thick, dry hair so probably best that I save my $.

    2. I am IN LOVE with LUSH’s Happy Happy Joy Joy!! The smell got me first but it really does make my hair wonderfully soft and handles my curls easily. The smell reminds me of those bath oil beads, the kind of squishy ones, my mom had in the 80’s and on special occasions, I got to use too.

      1. I really need to smell that one! I love the name too.

        Weren’t those things rad? Do they even sell those anymore?

      2. I think put some addicting narcotic in it! Gosh, I wonder if we’d need a 12 step program if it started to impact our choices and behavior! 🙂

    1. You know, I’ve never sniffed the perfume. But, it makes total sense now that Body would be Body perfume, lol. Thank you for commenting!

  6. I love this post! I am such a sucker for great smelling hair products. Of the drugstore brands, Pantene’s Natures Fusion line is delicious smelling, a real fresh and clean scent that I would wear as a perfume if I could. I also just bought the Garnier Fructis in Passion Splash, which is said to be infused (ahem) with coconut oil and passionfruit. Whatever the truth is there it smells amazing. The L’Oreal Everstyle dry shampoo in the purple canister is fabulous smelling. I haven’t found it in Canada but bought it on a trip to the States. I was standing in a windy parking lot one day and two of my male co-workers commented on the smell of my hair the day I had used it. It’s hard to describe but it’s a fruity clean scent without being too fruity. Finally for non drug store, the Moroccan hair spray almost has no hold to it but smells beyond amazing too. I’ve had more than one friend ask me what I had in my hair when I use this. And the Kerastase products in the green line are some of their best smelling ones evah!

    1. Oh gurl, I just ran out of shampoo and dry shampoo this weekend and will be heading to the drugstore with these recs!

      When is Moroccanoil just going to make a perfume? It smells awesome and I know so many people that want to smell like it. I would totally use their hair spray as a “hair perfume”.

  7. Ahhh, yes to the Victoria’s Secret hair products! I was going to mention that if you hadn’t. Love that scent sooo much! I also love that they have perfume and body spray in the same scent, mmm! Smells so good and my hubby loves it on me, too. 🙂

    1. I feel like such a dope for not realizing that the hair products were inspired by a perfume 🙂 The next time they’re running a special, I’m going to pick some up.

    1. My grandmother was a hairdresser and swore that Biolage was the best. I haven’t used it in years! I do remember thinking it was great though.

  8. I remember when Finesse first came out, it had the most awesome clean soapy scent to it, then they fiddled with it and it started becoming “different.” Aqua Net takes me back, Aussie Sprunch Spray, Dippity Do (my brother used to use the mirror in my room to get ready and sometimes he forgot to close the jar and my room would REEK of the stuff), Rave shampoo smelled like apples but not candied apples, Herbal Essences from back in the 70’s, Prell concentrate in the tube. Aussie used to make a hair mud treatment back in the day, it was the most amazing deep conditioner I’ve ever found and it smelled like baby powder. If you asked “what hair product do I wish would come back” it would be that.

    Right now my all-time favorite smelling styling product is Sebastian Whipped Creme. If they made an entire line of products with this scent I would have to sign over my paycheck to them because it’s like catnip for me. The mousse itself is just “okay” but I admit I buy it for the scent.

    Another good one is Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls which smells like a light fabric softener.

    I’m not a fan of the Morocconoil scent, well, the little bottle of oil is ok. The hair spray? Not so much. If they toned it down I could deal with it I think.

    I have a hard time finding hair products with a scent I can stand, I’ll have to check some of these out.

    1. Finesse is not the same. Too me it always defined that “clean hair” smell. I remember that Prell concentrate too! Concentrated shampoo used to be “the thing”, never see it anymore.

      I remember that Aussie. They also had a treatment that smelled like jasmine. It was awesome. I repurchased one of their treatments a few years ago and was disappointed. It smelled like coconut, which isn’t terrible but I was expecting their “vintage” smell.

      I need to check those out too 🙂

      So, what I’m finding is that when you do finally find a scented hair product that you like, they change the formula (or at least the scent). It seems that all of the ones that I liked have changed. And really there is nothing more annoying that having your hair smell like something you don’t like…well deodorant is another annoying thing like that (I’ve started using unscented).

  9. Paul Mitchell makes a Wild Ginger and Awapuhi line that smells amazing. And I loved Tigi’s S factor; but it’s not color safe for my hair. I once convinced someone in a store to buy the latter based on the smell.

    1. I loved that Wild Ginger & Awapuhi line.

      That’s another factor…finding one that smells good that works with your hair type. I tend to always fall for the non-color-safe stuff (when I need color-safe!)

      Love your enabling 🙂

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