To get your hair degreased without the drawbacks of sulfates, you'll want one of the best sulfate-free shampoos for oily hair. Sulfates are a group of cleansing agents that create a rich, foamy lather in products like shampoo which help to get rid of dirt, oil, and product buildup from your hair. However, for reasons from irritation to color treatment, some people would rather avoid them.
While those with oily hair are more likely to tolerate sulfates well and many sulfate-free shampoos are marketed at those with dry or color-treated hair, there are still a lot of benefits sulfate-free formulations can offer those with oily strands, especially when they're still powerful enough cleaners to remove excess oil. Some find that sulfates are too harsh, remove too much of the natural oils, and cause even naturally oily hair to become dry and brittle. They can also strip out the color from dyed hair, react poorly with keratin treatments, and cause skin (including scalp) and eye sensitivities like itchiness and redness. Some people with oily hair and scalps even find that once they've stopped using stripping detergents like sulfates, their scalps naturally produce less oil. However, it's worth noting there’s no direct scientific evidence that they cause cancer as sometimes the rumors suggest.
Another option to consider is a cleansing conditioner or no-poo. While some people find it takes a little time to train their hair to them, it's an especially great choice for those with dry hair but oily scalps because it's such a non-stripping, nourishing option. When using sulfate-free shampoos and cleansing conditioners, know that most will not lather as well as their counterparts with sulfates, and it often takes longer to fully rinse the product out.
Whatever your reason for using a sulfate-free shampoo, these five top-rated options are strong enough to clean even very oily hair.
1. The Best Overall Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Oily Hair
With more than 5,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating, this sulfate-free shampoo from Maple Holistics has oily-haired individuals raving about its strong, degreasing power. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, "After trying it, I fell in love. The results were amazing and instantaneous. No more oily/greasy hair, and my hair is left soft without having to use any conditioner."
Packed full of natural ingredients like lemon oil that helps to regulate oil production, rosemary to help the scalp, and basil to boost collagen and elastin production, this shampoo will gently but effectively cleanse your hair and leave it smelling fresh, making it a great choice for most of those with oily hair, including those who are tackling dandruff. It's also paraben- and cruelty-free.
2. The Best Shampoo For Color-Treated Hair
For color-treated hair, keeping your locks moisturized is the name of the game, and this sulfate-free shampoo from Aveeno does that and more. Formulated with seaweed extract, which is naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals, and proteins, this shampoo will leave your hair feeling silky and healthy, but not overly greasy or oily. Plus, the gentle formula won’t over strip dye or other treatments from your hair, making it safe for colored hair. "I finally found a shampoo that will keep my hair from feeling oily and color safe. That is a plus!!! Thank you Aveeno. I will be purchasing this again," one customer raved. The two-pack is also a great deal.
3. The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Volume
For giving thin hair a thickening and volume boost, fans love this drugstore sulfate-free shampoo from L'Oréal. Rosemary is the key ingredient that makes this sulfate-free shampoo stand out — it fortifies fragile hair to help protect against breakage while also helping to deeply clean. Also free of parabens, one customer commented: "My hair is less oily and healthier looking with this product."
4. The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Curly Hair
Don’t be fooled — just because this sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free shampoo from Garnier Fructis is a budget-friendly option doesn’t mean you won't get amazing results. Designed specifically for those with curly hair, this shampoo moisturizes and prevents frizz (even in the face of humidity) with macadamia, jojoba, and coconut oils as well as glycerin and citrus proteins. While it's targeted at dry hair, oily-haired fans have found tons to love. "I have fine-ish wavy/curly/frizz-prone hair that tends to get oily at the scalp but dry on the ends.... This stuff is paraben and sulfate free and still lathers well. It seems to help tame the frizz and make my hair feel softer and healthier and for $3!?! I’m a fan," one reviewer shared.
5. The Best For Sensitive Scalps
With more than 700 reviews on Amazon and a 4.3-star rating, this sulfate-free, vegan shampoo from Christina Moss Naturals is highly adored. This shampoo is not only sulfate-free, it is also free of parabens, silicones, synthetic fragrances, and dyes making it a great option if your find that your scalp is easily irritated by the ingredients in other hair products. Coconut oil and shea butter help to remove oil and dirt from your hair while moisturizing deeply, and aloe vera helps to soothe the scalp. "I have healthy hair that gets a little dry at the ends (no split ends) BUT I have a VERY oily scalp.... Due to my skin allergies, everything will be fine until several months later when I get a massive eczema flare-up from using the wrong product. I went to the dermatologist, found out what I was allergic to and decided to be proactive about my skin's health and that's how I first found out about Christina Moss," one reviewer explained, and then added, "This shampoo is light, works into a great lather, and actually made my hair super thick and shiny with a whole lot of volume."
Also Great: A Hydrating No-Poo Cleanser
A great alternative to your traditional shampoo, individuals adore this sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free no-poo cleanser by DevaCurl. This hydrating, non-lathering formula is a great option for all hair types, not just curly hair, that some users found even helped their scalp become less oily over time. "If you use regular shampoo now and want to switch to this, give it a month before you decide if you like it or not. The change away from harsh detergents can cause your scalp to seem extra oily - it's used to being stripped of all oils and needing to overproduce more oil out of desperation to protect itself," one reviewer wrote. "Once it adjusts, you'll discover that you don't actually have an oil problem."
Made with peppermint and grape seed oils, it's also a vegan and cruelty-free choice.
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