The 10 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos & Conditioners For Curly Hair

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by Lisa Fogarty
Originally Published: 
best sulfate free shampoos and conditioners for curly hair

If you were to make a list of the pros of using shampoos and conditioners that contain sulfates, it might consist of only one thing: They produce a satisfying lather. That being said, the best sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners for curly hair will still produce a certain amount of lather and they won't strip your hair of essential oils or moisture. To boot, some add weightless volume, others prevent tangles, and still others smell absolutely divine (because washing your hair shouldn’t be such a chore).

Hair Professional Elvin Arvelo, owner of Oon Arvelo Salon in New York City, recommends curly-haired people avoid sulfates altogether — even if you have a a healthy head of curls: “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.” In other words, the best shampoos for curly hair — damaged or not — will arguably be sulfate-free, any way you slice it. Plus, 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 formulas lacking the bubbles you've become accustomed to, he notes that this “is no longer the case.”

What is the best shampoo and conditioner for curly hair?

So if sulfates are out, what’s in? In short — deeply moisturizing agents. Since your hair’s natural oils have a harder time reaching the ends of your strands, it’s important to incorporate hydrating ingredients that’ll keep your hair feeling silky, while letting the natural texture of your hair shine. Keep an eye out for ingredients like argan oil, shea butter, and coconut milk. You can even find formulations that specifically address other hair concerns, like damage or frizz.

With all that, these are the best sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners that work wonders on curly hair.


An All-Natural Shampoo & Conditioner Duo With Argan Oil

Infused with keratin, shea butter, and nourishing argan oil, this curly hair 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, so you won’t have to restock any time soon.

According to a reviewer: “I liked the scent of the product [...] I let my, naturally curly, hair dry after brushing thru it with a wide tooth comb.It made my hair soft, shiny and did not weigh my curls down.”


This Shampoo & Conditioner With 48-Hour Frizz Control

If it’s smoothness you’re after, L’Oréal’s EverCurl is the best shampoo and conditioner for curly and frizzy hair at a reasonable price. In fact, the brand states that it can prevent frizz for up to 48 hours. The creamy formula is made with moisturizing coconut oil, so your curls will get tons of definition and shine, but your hair won’t be weighed down. Plus, it’s color-safe, so you can use it on natural and dyed hair alike.

According to a reviewer: “I have permed hair, and needed a shampoo and conditioner that helped my curls keep their shape and knocked out the frizz. This stuff is fantastic, the shampoo cleans without stripping my hair, and the conditioner leaves it soft and bouncy without that greasy texture. I'll be using this stuff from now on.”


The Set That Strengthens Strands & Repairs Damage Naturally

Deeply cleanse and nourish your curls with hydrating shea butter, pH-balanced apple cider vinegar, reparative Jamaican black castor oil, and strengthening keratin — all of which you'll find in this Shea Moisture shampoo and conditioner set. In fact, it’s even formulated with peppermint oil, which is known to help stimulate hair growth. This option is perfect for permed, color-treated, or generally damaged hair, working to remove product buildup and promote a healthy scalp (which is partially responsible for healthy hair in the first place). Plus, these huge bottles will last you ages, making this a cost-effective buy.

According to a reviewer: “Has changed my damaged hair! Now it's soft and smooth with no more little fly-away hairs all over my head. I am a professional cosmetologist and use this over all the pricey professional products out there. It works great at regrowth and damage!! Great product!!”


A Vanilla-Scented Conditioner Infused With Strengthening Silk Amino Acids

Thanks to 18 different silk amino acids, this Maple Holistics Silk18 Conditioner helps prevent static and frizz while promoting generally smoother, healthier hair. Plus, the addition of shea butter and argan oil only work to add extra hydration. 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, reviewers have reported it “adds strength” and makes curls look “soft and bouncy.”

According to a reviewer: “Best conditioner I've found for my curls so far! Keeps them soft and springy without any product weighing them down. I love the vanilla smell too! [...] So nice to love my curls instead of being frustrated with them.”


The Tangle-Preventing Curl Shampoo Made With Avocado & Almond

The best sulfate-free shampoo for curly hair that’s prone to tangling, this gentle and creamy formula leaves strands feeling “soft and silky,” according to a reviewer. It’s made with two all-star moisturizing ingredients: avocado, which also strengthens the hair shaft and prevents breakage, and almond, which nourishes strands and amps up shine.

According to a reviewer: “This is the best shampoo ever made, EVER! I have curly hair and this shampoo is the first shampoo that doesn't make my hair clump together and tangled up when I wash it like every other shampoo does. This actually detangles my curls and this is one of the products I use to grow my hair [...] I can't use anything else but this!”


A Shampoo & Conditioner 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 shampoo and conditioner set will help by using botanicals like aloe vera, coconut extract, and vitamin B5, all of which combine to help create stronger hair and a healthier scalp. One reviewer wrote that the set has “stopped my hair from shedding,” and another commented, “I've noticed thickness and less breakage over one month.”

According to a reviewer: “I’ve never had softer, cleaner hair!! [...] I originally found this product 7 months ago because I had damaged my hair from bleach/coloring so much that my hair was thinning. After 7 months my ponytail is thicker than it has been in YEARS.”


A Sulfate-Free Take On A Classic Drugstore Favorite

Boasting a stellar 4.7-star overall rating after 18,000 reviews, this set is arguably the best drugstore shampoo and conditioner for curly hair — and it has an amazing scent of coconut, white florals, and vanilla. Formulated with real botanicals, it uses coconut milk to deeply moisturize, improve manageability, and protect against damage. Made without sulfates or parabens, it’s color-safe and pH-balanced. This particular set is designed for hydration, but you can also opt for a frizz-control formula that utilizes real aloe vera, or a damage repair set infused with argan oil.

According to a reviewer: “I have thick curly hair and have tried many high end and drugstore hair products. This conditioner works wonders with detangling my curls. I love how moisturized and soft my hair feels after using these, not to mention the wonderful scent. An added bonus is the great price for such a high-quality product.”


A Thirst-Quenching Curl Shampoo From A Cult-Favorite Brand

From beloved Brooklyn-based brand Carol’s Daughter, 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 no harsh ingredients (read: parabens or sulfates) are included. The brand states that it’s good for everything from waves to coils to kinky curls, and reviewers noted that it “smells great” and makes hair “soft and manageable.”

According to a reviewer: “I never thought I could just let my curls air dry and be done, but with this hair mask that is very much possible! I’m so happy with my purchase! I no longer need curl gels or creams after the shower! I just let it air dry and my curls are so bouncy and defined! I’m very pleased with my purchase!I just apply the cream mainly to the bottom half of my hair after my conditioner and let it sit for 5 minutes then rinse!”


The Best Drugstore Shampoo For Curly Hair That Builds Volume

It doesn't get much better at this price point: Garnier's Curl Nourish shampoo is designed to build weightless volume while enhancing definition, making it one of the best shampoos for fine curly hair. It’s free of sulfates and silicones, packed with moisturizing ingredients (like coconut oil and glycerin), smells delicious and fresh, and boasts rave reviews on Amazon. Pair it with the matching conditioner for the best results.

According to a reviewer: “I have fine-ish wavy/curly/frizz-prone hair that tends to get oily at the scalp but dry on the ends. I’d read that sulfate-free shampoo would be good for helping hair like mine, but didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for something good. I’ve tried lots of products before, and usually nothing works amazingly on my hair. 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.”


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 conditioner, 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.

According to a reviewer: “I have 2b hair (wavy with a couple of curl coils here and there) [...] This conditioner is fantastic at detangling and doesn't pull out the wave, it isn't too heavy so my hair is moisturized but it's not weighing it down and making the curl fall out. I use it about 2 times a week and leave it in for about 5 minutes. It smells great, it's very thick but melts when you apply to warm wet hair so it's really easy to work through the hair.”


Hair Professional Elvin Arvelo, owner of Oon Arvelo Salon in New York City

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