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If you haven’t yet tried a natural shampoo, we don’t blame you. While there’s no regulated or industry-agreed upon definition of what constitutes a natural shampoo, they’re typically thought to be, first and foremost, free of sulfates (the detergents traditionally used that can be very stripping to hair). Sulfates, however, also are what make shampoos foam up—which is why natural shampoos often get a bad rap for not being enjoyable to use or effectively cleansing.
But here’s the thing—natural shampoos have come a looong way. The latest iterations are free of sulfates (and many other questionable chemicals and ingredients) but still deliver just as well as their traditional counterparts, both in terms of in-shower experience and the after-effects on your hair. Don’t believe us? Take any of our top picks for a test wash and see for yourself.
Read on for the best natural shampoos.
Best Overall: Reverie Shampoo
This is a shower staple for Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue. It’s a universal failsafe pick because it’s effective on all hair types and textures, from straight and fine to coarse and curly. That’s no easy feat for any shampoo, much less one that’s this natural, free of sulfates, parabens, and a litany of other chemicals. Instead, it relies on botanical ingredients (that are sustainably sourced, no less), like amino acids from almonds and a mix of essential oils that give it its lovely scent profile.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Rahua Hydration Shampoo
A staple shampoo for team Byrdie, this is a great pick for all hair types, though it’s especially choice if you have dry strands. Coconut and shea butter impart plenty of moisture, but despite the richer formula, this still cleanses and rinses extremely well. There are protein-bonding sugars in the mix, too, a major plus for combating any damage. And we’d be remiss not to mention the signature scent, a heady palo santo fragrance that we love.
Best Budget: Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo
This brand is known for offering affordable natural products, and this shampoo is no exception. It’s free of sulfates, formaldehyde, dyes, and parabens, among other things. Yes, it is clarifying and great to reach for when you’re feeling like you have excess product build-up on your hair and scalp, but it doesn't strip strands of moisture. Credit the addition of argan oil, your hair’s BFF when it comes to hydration. Bonus points for the refreshing and invigorating lemongrass scent.
Best Drugstore: Avalon Organics B-Complex Biotin Thickening Shampoo
Believe it, you can find a great natural shampoo at the drugstore, and this one is proof positive. And not only is it a great drugstore/wallet-friendly option, it’s also a good one for anyone dealing with thinning hair. The formula, containing biotin, saw palmetto, vitamin E, and protein, strengthens hair and boosts body, leaving it thicker and fuller. As far as the natural formula goes, it’s both certified-organic and verified by the Environmental Working Group.
Best Clarifying: EVOLVh UltraShine Moisture Shampoo
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin, but we cannot produce it on our own. For the skin, it helps to boost collagen, lighten discoloration, and fight free radicals.
We know what you’re thinking—how can a clarifying shampoo also be moisturizing? Well, this manages to do it with a magic combo of vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants. It thoroughly cleanses strands of product build-up, environmental pollutants, and other assorted gunk and grime that can leave your hair both looking dull and feeling stiff. The natural formula is also more concentrated, meaning less water is used in the product.
Best for Natural Hair: Adiva Naturals Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Herbal Rinse
Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice formed by when yeast mixes with the sugar of the juice. It contains acetic acid, which has antibacterial and keratolytic properties, and it also contains malic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant.
The ingredient list on this shampoo alternative is super minimal and clean. Apple cider vinegar helps to deliver a clean scalp by restoring pH levels, which in turn reduces both grease and itching. It's a good shampoo alternative, but it’s awesome to use it as a clarifying treatment in between wash days, especially on curls or natural hair.
Best for Fine Hair: 100% Pure Kelp & Mint Volumizing Shampoo
We totally get being even warier of natural shampoos if you happen to have fine hair. After all, even the tiniest trace of any leftover residue can be a recipe for strands that fall flat and look greasy. Lucky for you, this product not only rinses hair clean (taking with it all the stuff that can weigh things down), but it also works wonders to boost limp locks with, yep, totally natural ingredients. More specifically, the product's namesake kelp and mint extracts invigorate and boost your roots.
Best for Color-Treated Hair: Innersense Color Awakening Hairbath
Sulfates are one of the biggest culprits for color-fading, so generally speaking, going with a natural shampoo is a great move if you dye your hair. Not to mention that natural shampoos tend to be gentler and less damaging on your hair, and the healthier your strands are, the better your color will look. But this one is especially great, given that it not only won’t strip your shade but is also full of ingredients such as coconut and pumpkin seed oils to both protect and enhance your color at the same time. Plus, it works on all textures, too.
Best for Curly Hair: Alaffia Curl Enhancing Shampoo
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—curly hair is structurally and compositionally different than straight hair and therefore needs different types of products. Using the right shampoo for your curls is paramount—it's the foundation to ensure you end up with the exact style and curl pattern you want post-washing. This one is choice, without any silicones, parabens, mineral oil, sulfates, or artificial color. Instead, it touts raw shea butter and botanical extracts to cleanse and hydrate your curls.
Best for Oily Hair: John Masters Organics Scalp Stimulating Shampoo with Spearmint & Meadowsweet
Fun fact: If you’ve been complaining about oily hair, that’s most likely because you have an oily scalp. Changing up your shampoo is one good way to help solve that issue. This one, in particular, is a choice pick; organic spearmint leaf oil and meadowsweet flower extract work by both detoxifying the scalp to eliminate existing oil and regulating sebum production to ward off the problem from continuously occurring in the future. It also generally feels delightful—both refreshing and invigorating. You'll feel like you're getting your scalp clean and getting a nice pick-me-up on sleepy mornings.
Best for Dry Hair: Seed Phytonutrients Moisture Shampoo
Byrdie Social Media Editor Star Donaldson stocks this bottle in her shower. The vegan formula is a must-try for anyone with dry, damaged, or just super thick or coarse hair, thanks to the moisturizing meadowfoam seed and sunflower oils plus shea and mango butter in the mix. The packaging is noteworthy too—it's a totally unique paper bottle that uses 60% less plastic than standard shampoo bottles.
Best for Shine: WOW Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
This fan-favorite relies on 100% raw and natural Himalayan apple cider vinegar, which, among other things, acts as a detox for hair. It removes build-up and color-dulling minerals from hard water so your strands are left looking shinier than ever. As an added bonus, it also contains saw palmetto, a plant-based extract that can do great things for your scalp when it comes to promoting healthier hair growth.
When it comes to team Byrdie natural shampoo favorites, we can’t go past Reverie Shampoo for its ability to cleanse all hair types effectively. It’s nourishing but light and smells beautiful—clean and fresh but not too fragrant. For dry, brittle, or damaged hair, we also can’t go past Rahua Hydration Shampoo. The formulation is clean, sustainably sourced, and it’s super hydrating thanks to coconut oil, shea butter, and the brand’s signature rahua oil.
What to Look For When Buying a Natural Shampoo Formula
Taking your hair type into consideration is always important when buying shampoo, especially if you’re looking at a natural formulation. Dry, damaged, or coarse hair types can benefit from nourishing ingredients like shea butter or coconut oil, whereas fine and oily strands might like to look out for clarifying additions such as witch hazel. But keep in mind, it’s not one size fits all! The gallery below though will help you make a choice that works for your texture.
For Reverie founder and hairdresser Garrett Markenson, his clean hair care line was about “combining skincare methodology with haircare to achieve incredible results”. He believes that our hair care should repair problems, not mask them, so incorporating effective, natural, nourishing botanical was a bit of a no-brainer. The way Reverie approaches this is by way of a “never list” of ingredients. There are over 1,500 inclusions, but some of the most notable ones are silicones, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan, micro-beads, PEGs, artificial fragrance, DEA, TEA, petroleum, mineral oil, and synthetic dyes.
If you’re transitioning to a natural shampoo for the first time, it’s important to be open to a slightly different hair washing experience. For example, silicones can be responsible for that silky hair feeling, and sulfates can give you that satisfying, foamy lather. Many natural options will be formulated without the above, but with time you (and your hair) will adjust. However, if you finish a shampoo and you’re still not satisfied, we suggest trying something new.
Why trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She's tested countless shampoos—both traditional and natural—over the years, so is well versed in the process.
How we test natural shampoos:
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.