I've never really considered shampoo one of my most loved products. You just can't compare the functionality of shampoo to the smell of a heady burnt leather perfume or a thicker-than-mascarpone night cream, can you? Although, then again, having afro hair, I've always been limited with my shampoo options—or so I thought. For too long, I have resigned myself to buying heavy-duty shampoos in Black hair shops or choosing from the three available formulas branded "for afro hair" on the high-street shelves.
What I really wanted was choice. I wanted to be faced with as many shampoo options as I have highlighters. And then, thanks to social media, the natural hair movement kicked in, and the beauty industry started to feel (finally) a little more inclusive. As this return to natural texture made me rethink all of my deep-set beliefs about my afro hair, I soon began to realize my options weren't as finite as I first thought.
Turns out, searching for "afro hair" on the bottle isn't actually the main priority when shopping for shampoo. It's all about what's inside. According to Melissa Sinclair, founder of natural hair care brand Big Hair Beauty, "The right shampoo is such an important step for afro and curly hair. However, it's where people usually cut corners. The wrong shampoo will strip the natural oils and then some from your hair, leaving it prone to damage whilst wet and in its most vulnerable state."
As long as the formula in question serves the specific needs of afro hair (such as replenishing moisture, gently cleansing to remove product buildup and not disrupting the curl pattern), you'll soon notice that your options become pretty abundant. "The best shampoos for afro hair have extra emollients and are paraben and sulfate-free," explains Charlotte Mensah, founder of the Hair Lounge salon and her eponymous hair care line, "but relaxed hair needs a shampoo that has a proper balance of protein and moisture."
Let's face it—wash days for afro hair are not an easy 15-minute process, so if you're putting that time in, you want results. Fortunately, the shampoos I've listed below certainly deliver.
There's some mystical stuff happening at the Living Proof lab, and yes, it's probably thanks to good old science and the humidity-blocking OFPMA technology. It's just hard to rationalize how well this moisturizing, sulfate-free shampoo manages to remove product buildup while keeping curls in check.
Lathering up with shampoo is hardly as thrilling as melting a rich face oil into your skin, but this manketti and ximenia oil–packed shampoo might change that. When you can feel a shampoo quite literally nourishing every single coil; it moves the process away from being strictly functional. Plus, it's so hydrating that conditioner feels like an optional extra.
Everyone wants to run their fingers through their hair and feel the same level of softness as searching through a stack of cashmere jumpers. Redken might not be able to supply you with cashmere, but this restorative shampoo tackles dryness while repairing and softening all types of strands.
Whether you've got relaxed hair, natural or your transitioning between the two, they're all susceptible to damage, so you might need to bring out the big guns to remedy it. Aveda's moisture-boosting shampoo is full of amino acid-rich quinoa, which not only repairs and smooths but also helps prepare hair for any more damage, especially if you use heat or chemicals.
The benefits of this sulfate-free shampoo go far beyond the shower, as it gently cleanses hair, leaving it ready for your products to really penetrate and moisturize more efficiently. For an SLS-free shampoo, I've found that it cuts through a lot of product, even a week's load of heavy oils and moisturizers, without stripping that natural oily goodness.
This is the secret formula for lifeless hair that needs a shine injection and before it even lands on your scalp, a quick browse of the organic, natural and plant-based ingredient list will put your mind at ease. This indulgent shampoo feels like a treat for your hair and it’s scented with palo santo for the smudging fans out there.
There's always a tube of this shampoo on my bathroom shelf, as it opened my eyes to looking for mainstream brands that catered to afro hair. It's unbeatable for intensely nourishing damage-prone and dehydrated hair, especially when coupled with the cult-status Philip Kingsley Elasticizer (£31).
Switch up your routine with some of these shampoos and get pumped up about wash day again.