Most often found in beauty products like shampoos, body wash, and facial cleansers, sulfates are chemicals used to produce that rich, foamy lather we've all come to associate with a proper cleanse. While not actually dangerous, they can cause irritation if you have a skin sensitivity — and they can also strip hair of moisture, dissolve keratin-based hair treatments, and fade color. Personally, I stopped using shampoos with sulfates several years ago — so if you're interested in deciphering between the
best sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, you've come to the right place.
There are three main types of sulfates typically found in shampoo: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and sodium coco sulfate (SCS), the latter being a lesser-known sulfate that brands often sneak in to their products, while cleverly touting the formula as being SLS-/SLES-free. So when shopping for a sulfate-free beauty product, you need to make sure it's not just listed as being SLS-/SLES-free, but
If you're interested in transitioning to a cleaner beauty routine, one of the first places to start is by eliminating products with sulfates in them. Even if you don't have dry or chemically-treated her, why
would you want to use a product with chemical-laden, moisture-stripping sulfates when there are so many amazing sulfate-free formulas on the market?
Below, you'll find seven of the
best sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners on the market — so let your quest for longer-lasting color and silkier hair commence.
The Overall Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner
With its deeply-nourishing formula, delicious scent, and affordable price tag,
this bundle from L'Oreal Paris gets my vote for the overall best sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner on the market. I have wavy, frizzy hair that's over-processed from constant heat styling and recently switched over to this line. To my surprise, this drugstore formula is just as effective, if not more, than the prestige shampoos and conditioners I used before. I find my frizz has been reduced drastically, my air-dried waves look less messy, and my hair feels healthy and soft. Basically, I've been having the best hair days of my life. To top it off, it smells really delicious and is vegan, to boot.
Runner Up: A Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner That Also Gently Clarifies
Though technically formulated with curly hair in mind, anyone can enjoy the benefits of
this duo from Shea Moisture. Made with Jamaican black castor oil, as well as the brand's hero ingredient, shea butter, it smooths and softens, prevents and reverses damage, and even promotes healthy hair growth. But that's not all: thanks to the apple cider vinegar and peppermint in the formula, it eliminates product and oil buildup, leaving you less susceptible to dandruff and hair fall-out. Each bottle contains a huge amount of product — 16 ounces for the shampoo and 13 for the conditioner — so they'll last you ages.
What I really love about Shea Moisture is that they believe in fair-trade supply chain practices, give back to local, female-owned businesses, and use only the highest-quality, all-natural ingredients. They're PETA-certified cruelty-free, too making it a brand you can feel good about supporting.
Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Blonde Hair
It's rare to find a purple shampoo for blondes that doesn't have sulfates in it. Enter
Oribe's Bright Blonde Shampoo, made with only the finest and most sophisticated botanical ingredients. Ideal for those with white, silver, and platinum blonde hair, this sulfate-free formula reduces brassy and yellow tones in just one wash. It also deeply nourishes, prevents future environmental damage, and preserves hair color for longer by protecting it from the drying and fading effects of the sun. The result? Smoother, softer, shinier hair; repaired split ends; and a bright silver sheen that will allow you to last longer between salon visits. Bonus points for being vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For A Healthy Scalp
had a major moment in 2018, which means I, naturally, became obsessed with scalp health. And this is one of the more fun-to-use scalp products out there. Made with charcoal, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil, this exfoliating shampoo eliminates product buildup and removes dead, flaky skin to deeply cleanse our oft-neglected scalps. The formula also contains biotin to thicken hair and promote healthy growth, as well as coconut oil to restore moisture. If you have a tight, dry, or itchy scalp, massaging your head with this scrub feels amazing (pro tip: pair it with this in-shower scalp massager for an even more soothing effect). Briogeo is an awesome natural brand and all of their products, including this one, are vegan, cruelty-free, and all natural.
Best USDA Certified-Organic Sulfate-Free Shampoo
It is ridiculously hard to find a
truly organic shampoo — especially one that's sulfate-free and safe to use on dyed or chemically-treated hair. Intelligent Nutrients PureServe Color Saving Shampoo is quite literally the only USDA certified-organic shampoo for colored-treated hair on the market — so if organic-ness is important to you, this is the stuff to splurge on. Though pricey, you do get a whopping 15-ounces of product — the biggest bottle on this list. Made with plant-based ingredients, it gently cleanses and keeps your color looking fresher, longer. It also locks in moisture, increases shine, and helps prevent damage from environmental aggressors — all while being completely non-toxic, Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free, and certified-organic from COSMOS, the Soil Association, and ICEA (in addition to the USDA).
Best Sulfate-Free Conditioner For Dry, Damaged Hair
In my opinion, conditioners pale in comparison to hair masks. Especially if your hair is dry or damaged, nix your go-to conditioner for a much more repairing treatment like
this one from NatureLab. Tokyo. It's made with botanical ingredients like argan oil, green tea, bamboo stem cells, cypress, and my personal favorite, prickly pear oil. In addition to repairing, smoothing, and deeply conditioning damaged hair, it also encourages healthy growth, minimizes frizz, and protects hair from damage from the sun, free radicals, and other environmental aggressors. Leave it on for the brand's recommended time of three to five minutes or do like me and let it soak under a shower cap for a few hours.
Best Sulfate-Free Conditioner For Fine Hair
Another awesome deep-conditioning treatment is
MOROCCANOIL's Weightless Hydrating Mask. It'll work wonders on all hair types, but this specific 'weightless' formula makes it easy for those with fine hair to get it on the masking goodness, as it wont leave hair feeling heavy or greasy (they also have an equally-as-amazing version that would be better suited for thicker, coarser textures). Like all of the brand's products, it's loaded with their hero ingredient, argan oil, which smooths, softens, and increases shine. Though it does contain one ingredient that might throw you off — behentrimonium methosulfate — it's important to know that this isn't actually one of those nasty sulfates like SLS, SLES, or SCS. In fact, it's naturally-derived and one of the most effective known ingredients out there for conditioning and detangling — so go ahead and use this mask without worry. Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.