If you were to make a list of the pros of using shampoos and conditioners that contain sulfates, it would only consist of one item: they produce a satisfying lather. But, according to Hair Professional Elvin Arvelo, owner of Oon Arvelo Salon in New York City, curly hair types would be better off avoiding them entirely. The best sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners for curly hair will still lather well and they won't strip your hair of essential oils, moisture, and the expensive dye or highlights you worked so hard to perfect.
While hair products that contain sulfates aren't going to do you any favors if you have dry, damaged hair, even people with a healthy head of curls have good reason to avoid them. "Curly hair tends to be on the drier side so it takes longer for natural oils to reach the ends. Using sulfate shampoos will have the results of taking too much oil out of curly hair," Arvelo says. "The sulfates in shampoos can dry curly hair, making the cuticle layer stand up, causing hair to become more frizzy, dry looking, and damaged looking on the ends"
When you use products without sulfates, Arvelo believes that over time your curls will be softer, bouncier, shinier and more manageable. And, if you're worried about sulfate free shampoos lacking the bubbles you've become accustomed to, he noted that this "is no longer the case."
These 10 highly rated sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners work wonders on curly hair, and can help prevent your hair from drying out and frizzing up every time you shower.
1. An All-Natural Shampoo & Conditioner Duo With Argan Oil
Infused with keratin, shea butter, and nourishing argan oil, this shampoo and conditioner duo from Botanic Hearth helps moisturize curls, repair damage, and smooth out frizz. This combo of natural invigorating and moisturizing ingredients can even help strengthen hair and promote fullness and growth. Both the shampoo and conditioner come packed in huge, 16-ounce bottles, and hundreds of reviewers gave the set a high 4.4-star rating. "My natural hair is wavy/curly and my curls/waves were softer than they have been in a while," reported one fan of the duo.
2. A Coconut Oil Shampoo With 48-Hour Frizz Control
Frizz can be hard to deal with, but L'Oreal Paris EverCurl shampoo tackles that issue with a sulfate-free formula that promises to deliver 48-hour frizz control. It's also free of salt and surfactants, so combined with being sulfate-free, it's a wonderful, non-stripping option for color-treated or chemically-processed curls. Reviewers say this shampoo, which is enhanced with coconut oil and other moisturizers, leaves their curls soft, manageable, and bouncy. It may take a few days of use to notice a difference, but users say to keep with it. One reviewer wrote, "I have tried several of the pricier sulfate free shampoos for curly hair and have [not] liked any of them. I LOVE THIS SHAMPOO! It still suds up nicely, rinsed clean, did not strip the color from my hair, and left my curls frizz free and bouncy."
3. A Shea Butter-Based Set For Dry Or Damaged Curls
Deep clean, nourish, and repair your curls with the shea butter, peppermint, apple cider vinegar, and keratin you'll find in the Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo and Conditioner. This set is perfect for permed, color-treated, or generally damaged hair to remove product buildup and promote a healthy scalp (which is responsible for healthy hair, after all) without stripping it or drying it out. Plus, these huge bottles will last you ages. "Both products are very moisturizing and leave my curls feeling soft, bouncy and defined. Not at all oily or greasy," reported one reviewer. Another wrote, "I tend to have a very oily scalp and this helps a lot."
4. A Vanilla-Scented Conditioner Infused With Silk Amino Acids
Thanks to 18 different silk amino acids, this Maple Holistics Silk 18 Conditioner helps prevent static and frizz while promoting generally smoother, healthier hair. Best of all, it doesn't contain any artificial fragrances, colorants, sulfates, or other common irritants. That amazing vanilla scent you detect? Totally natural. Perhaps most impressively, over 6,500 reviewers gave this conditioner a perfect five-star rating. Countless reviewers credit it for giving them soft, bouncy, more defined curls that air dry beautifully. They also report that it doesn't weigh curls down and have called it things like a "miracle product" and "silky magic in a bottle."
5. An Avocado-Based Shampoo For Thick, Curly Hair
This sulfate-free shampoo is lauded as creamy, gentle, and moisturizing thanks to a formula rich in deeply-nourishing avocado oil. Ideal for thick and/or very curly hair, it's cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. One satisfied customer wrote, "I have 4c hair. My hair is very thick and tightly coiled. After using this product my hair was so soft that I did not need to use conditioner after the shampoo." Another commented, "I have very thick curly, coarse hair. This product added life to my hair by creating more luscious and bouncy curls."
6. A Shampoo & Conditioner Duo That Help Promote Fuller, Thicker Hair
If you're concerned about thinning hair or have noticed your curls are so damaged that breakage has become an issue, the DermaChange Organic Hair Growth Shampoo and Conditioner will help using botanicals like aloe vera, coconut extract, and vitamin B5, all of which combine to help create stronger hair and a healthier scalp. Reviewers say it works wonders in helping hair shedding and breakage — over 1,200 reviewers gave it a five-star review. "Fuller curls again!" wrote one reviewer. "I've been using this shampoo and conditioner for about 5-6 months now and my hair is fuller than it's been in years."
7. A Sulfate-Free Take On A Classic Drugstore Favorite
For a budget-friendly pick, drugstore favorite Herbal Essences recently came out with this sulfate-free take on their classic shampoo and conditioner. This set uses honey and vitamin B to restore moisture — always essential for curly hair — and it also smells delicious. The big bottles are long-lasting, and the nostalgic packaging will look a treat in any shower. "What a find! This shampoo/conditioner combo pack was exactly what I was looking for and at an excellent price [...] Leaves hair silky smooth," commented one reviewer. Another wrote, "I have bought lots of organic or natural shampoos and conditioners in the past and these are my favorite so far. They lather really well which I have had a hard time finding in other natural shampoos."
8. A Thirst-Quenching Shampoo Made Specifically For Dry, Curly Hair
Made from a beloved Brooklyn-based brand, this yummy-smelling shampoo was formulated with dry, curly hair in mind. It contains a blend of coconut oil, coconut milk, and mango butter to deeply nourish and soften all types of curls, but uses no harsh ingredients, like parabens and sulfates. "I highly recommend this shampoo if you have dry hair," wrote one reviewer who called Carol's Daughter's Coco Creme line a "holy grail." Another fan commented, "The best shampoo that I've ever used. Leaves hair soft and manageable."
9. An Under-$3 Shampoo That's Free Of Silicones, Too
For just $3, pick up a bottle of Garnier's Curl Nourish shampoo. It doesn't get much better at this price point: it's free of sulfates and silicones, it's full of moisturizing ingredients (like coconut oil and glycerin), it smells delicious and fresh, and it boasts rave reviews from Amazon customers. "It reduces frizz, nourishes, and defines my curls. It's better than some of the salon-quality products I own. I definitely recommend this to anybody with curly hair," wrote one reviewer, while another called it the "best drugstore shampoo for wavy or curly hair." Pair it with the matching conditioner, found here.
10. A Deep-Conditioning Hair Mask With A Heavenly Scent
If you have curly hair, here's a tip: you might want to consider using a hair mask in place of conditioner. (Hair masks are basically just super-powered conditioners, which is exactly what curly hair types need.) This one, from Brooklyn-based brand amika, is made with a blend of antioxidant-rich botanicals and vitamins to restore, moisturize, and detangle dry, damaged, or generally unruly hair. In addition to leaving hair silky-smooth, manageable, and soft, this mask smells delicious. It's pricey, sure — but a little goes a long way, and reviewers say it's well worth the splurge. "The stuff of sorcery," one reviewer wrote. Another commented, "I've never used anything like it & I will never go without it."
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