Finding the right shampoo for your individual hair type can be tricky, but when you get it right it’s a total game changer. For natural hair, the shampoo you use is arguably the most important step in your routine as it’s where you can give your hair exactly what it needs to stay healthy–whether that’s hydration, nourishment, or texture.
So, to help you find the best shampoo for natural hair, we’ve spent hours researching our favorite haircare brands. Drawing on personal experience, customer reviews, and expert input, our pick of the best 13 shampoos have been chosen for their ability to keep kinks, curls, and waves looking and feeling healthy and beautiful.
Read on to find out which shampoos for natural hair made it into our shortlist.
Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Maintains bonds within hair
May weigh the hair down
When it comes to bringing natural hair back to its healthiest state, hairstylist Elliot Brian at Bibi Salon in New York City is a total pro. So, you can trust his recommendation for natural hair, one of which is this fan-favorite strengthening shampoo that's infused with ingredients like biotin, green tea, and vitamin E. “Olaplex created an incredible line that can be best described as a bond repair to help redefine curls," he says. "Olaplex No. 4, completes the package by adding the one thing that curls crave most—moisture.” It’s worth noting that if your hair is on the finer side, this may be a bit too heavy.
Price at time of publish: $30
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Aussie Miracle Curls Shampoo
Helps hair hold curls longer
Could produce more shine
You don’t have to break the bank to let your curls live their best life, and this product is proof. Aussie delivers yet again with a shampoo that is lightweight yet super moisturizing. It’s infused with coconut and Australian jojoba oil, and it’s free of the parabens found in many other drugstore brands. We especially love that this product delivers results for all textured hair from beachy waves to kinky curls. If we have one complaint, it’s that it didn’t leave our hair as shiny as we’d have liked.
Price at time of publish: $14
Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Coconut | Size: 12.1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Maui Moisture Heal + Hydrate Conditioner
Creates soft, touchable curls
Produces a healthy-looking glow
Greasy to some
This brand often flies under the radar, but it delivers results that are totally worth bragging about. It’s impressively hydrating, which makes it perfect for nourishing dry and damaged curls. The formula begins with a unique blend of aloe vera juice and is infused with pure coconut water for moisture that you can feel. Reviewers say that hair is less tangled after use and the smell is divine, but some also noted it felt a little greasy, so we advise using it sparingly.
Price at time of publish: $7
Hair Type: Dry, Damaged, Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Citrus Melon | Size: 13.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Color-Treated Hair
SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength & Color Care Shampoo
Restores strength and shine
Effectively removes residue
Very watery consistency
Say goodbye to brassy tones and hair color that fades with this color-preserving shampoo. The sulfate-free formulary combines the beneficial effects of rice water, like increased manageability and elasticity, with wild orchid and sweet violet extract to remove dulling residue while restoring shine and strength. Just beware when applying it in the shower that it has quite a watery consistency, so it can slip down the drain quite easily.
Price at time of publish: $11
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Shea Butter | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Rice water products should only be used once or twice a week to avoid protein build-up. While protein is great for hair in moderation, alternate with a moisturizing shampoo to preserve elasticity.
Best for Fine Hair
TRESemmé Flawless Curls Shampoo
Defines soft curls
Infused with Vitamin B1
Drying to some
If you have fine natural hair then you know how difficult it can be to find a product that caters to your curls without weighing them down, and this shampoo does just that. Infused with vitamin B1, this nourishing formula works to boost hydration while providing a protective barrier from humidity, so that you can flaunt your curls with less frizz. If your hair is very dry, however, you may need a more hydrating formula as this is quite light.
Price at time of publish: $6
Hair Type: Curly, Wavy | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: None | Size: 28.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Dry Hair
Creme of Nature Strengthening Shampoo with Acai Berry & Keratin
Makes some hair harder to manage
Chances are moisture is at the top of the list of priorities for your natural hair, and this hydrating shampoo from an OG natural hair brand gets the job done. Its formula includes keratin, which helps to repair dry and damaged hair while preventing it from future damage. It has great slip for easy detangling, and users say their hair feels clean without being stripped of essential moisture. When your hair feels stronger, however, you may want to switch to something a bit lighter, as reviewers say it can make more hydrated hair types feel harder to manage.
Price at time of publish: $13
Hair Type: Damaged, Dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Acai Berry | Size: 12.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
CURLS Pure Curls Clarifying Shampoo
Effectively removes chlorine
Results not drastic to some
If you use lots of creams and custards to achieve your perfect curls, you might need to go above and beyond every now and then to cleanse your hair from product build-up, and that’s where this ultra-clarifying shampoo comes in. Ideal for looser curl patterns, bring this sulfate-free formula to the forefront of your beauty stash once a month between your regular shampoo to reveal healthy, squeaky-clean coils. What’s more, if you like to hit the beach or pool quite regularly, it also helps to effectively remove chlorine.
Price at time of publish: $15
Hair Type: Curly, Kinky | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Pineapple, Grapefruit | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Mixed Chicks Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Rich in vitamin E
Doesn't produce much of a lather
Users of all hair types pledge their loyalty to this sulfate-free shampoo. Even without the harsh chemicals, you’ll be surprised at the lather that this cleanser dishes out without stripping your hair of the oils it needs for health and elasticity. You can expect hair that is less frizzy after use, and we’re giving this one extra props for borage seed and avocado oils that nourish as they cleanse. It doesn’t produce much of a lather, though, so you may want to set your sudsy expectations.
Price at time of publish: $10
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 10.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Deep Cleansing
Matrix A Curl Can Dream Shampoo
Preserves curl pattern
Effectively removes build-up
Harsh to some
Manuka honey is a rich humectant and can be beneficial for natural curls and coils. Infused with Manuka honey extract plus salicylic acid, this formula provides a deep cleanse, to removing buildup while leaving curls defined and hydrated. Plus, it’s formulated without silicones, parabens, mineral oils, petrolatum, or paraffins while still preserving your pattern. As it is a very deep cleanse, it may be too harsh for more sensitive scalps and fragile strands.
Price at time of publish: $20
Hair Type: Curly, Coily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 10.1 and 33.8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Contains an ancient nourishing ingredient
Smells bad to some
Nothing is worse for your hair goals than brittle strands that are prone to breakage, but you’re in luck with this sulfate-free shampoo. This repairing cleanser is gentle enough for the most fragile and distressed hair. The ancient monoi oil derived from Tahitian flower extract and coprah coconut oil works to moisturize your curls without weighing them down. Use it regularly to reduce breakage and retain length. On the downside, if you’re quite sensitive to smell, you may find the fragrance of this shampoo a little unpleasant.
Price at time of publish: $14
Hair Type: Curly, Dry, Fine, Chemically-Treated | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Coconut, Tiare Gardenia flowers | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
CurlMix Pure Aloe Vera Shampoo
Good for sensitive scalps and those prone to dandruff
Creates longer lasting hairstyles
It’s designed to be used with the rest of the product line for best results which bumps up the cost.
This lightweight shampoo is all-natural and handmade with ingredients that you can feel good about. CurlMix stands by this hero formula, boasting that you’ll notice curls that are defined, moisturized, and more manageable when used along with the rest of their product line. It also improves dry, itchy scalps that are prone to dandruff, and while it removes build-up, it doesn’t strip the hair or leave it feeling dry.
Price at time of publish: $21
Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Type 3 Curls
Mielle Organics Moisture RX Hawaiian Ginger Moisturizing & Anti-Breakage Shampoo
Creates a lather
Infused with avocado and ginger
Thick, rich texture
Top could be more durable
This shampoo has everything that you need for your natural hair without weighing it down with greasy residue. Formulated with type 3 hair in mind, it cleanses gently while moisturizing thirsty curls. It also eliminates frizz and preps hair for styling, so you can get the most out of your curls before the next wash.
Price at time of publish: $10
Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Ginger | Size: 12.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Type 4 Curls
Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo
Makes hair easier to manage
Locks in moisture
Doesn't deliver a strong scent
Coily hair needs a little extra attention when shampooing to avoid tangles that lead to breakage, and this unique blend is a great multitasker. It detangles kinks while clarifying and moisturizing strands all in one. Infused with honey and babassu oil, the formula gently lifts away impurities while providing tons of slip to make detangling a breeze. It doesn’t deliver a strong fragrance which could be a positive or negative depending on your personal preference.
Price at time of publish: $12
Hair Type: Curly. Coily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Pomegranate, Honey | Size: 12.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Olaplex’s No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo is our overall favorite choice for natural hair as it’s super moisturizing and helps to repair broken bonds and damaged strands. Aussie’s Miracle Curls shampoo also gets a special mention as it smells amazing, hydrates curls beautifully, and can be picked up at the drugstore. What’s not to like?
Meet the Expert
• Elliot Brian is a hairstylist at Bibi Salon in New York City.
• Michelle O’Connor is a professional hairstylist and the Artistic Director at Matrix.
What to Look For in a Shampoo for Natural Hair
When it comes to cleansing natural hair, Artistic Director at Matrix Michelle O’Connor, says glycerin is a must-have ingredient for keeping the hair and scalp healthy. “Studies have shown that glycerin can help ease dandruff, moisturize the scalp, and prevent hair from breaking due to its ability to keep hair moisturized,” she says.
Beloved for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bacteria-fighting benefits, Manuka honey is another ingredient to look for as it has proven benefits to natural hair. “Manuka honey is one of my favorite ingredients," explains O'Connor. "It's a natural humectant, meaning it attracts moisture from the air. It contains four times more vitamins and minerals than standard honey, and it aids in hydration, definition, and shine." The A Curl Can Dream Shampoo contains Manuka honey extract; it's also included in Carol's Daughter Monoi Sulfate-free Shampoo.
A mild surfactant
In order to properly cleanse your hair, O’Connor stresses the importance of using a mild surfactant to thoroughly remove product buildup. “If the hair isn’t properly cleansed from time to time, it can become dryer and dryer,” she explains. “No matter what products you use—unless you’re literally using only water—you will eventually get product buildup on your scalp and hair strands over time, which will first cause your scalp to get extremely clogged up, and when that happens, your hair growth becomes hindered.”
One surfactant she says shouldn’t always necessarily be avoided? Sodium laureth sulfate. “This ingredient can get a bad rap; however, it’s not to be confused with sodium laurel sulfate, which is harsher,” she explains. “Its main job is to thoroughly cleanse the hair of product buildup, dirt, and oils."
What are the benefits of a shampoo for natural hair?
A good shampoo will remove build-up and flaky skin from the scalp. A clean scalp can help with hair growth and maintaining length of hair. A good shampoo also preserves your natural curl pattern and provides moisture to the hair shaft.
How often should you use a shampoo for natural hair?
It is harder for hair’s natural oils to travel from the roots to the ends of curly hair, and washing it too frequently will strip it of its natural oils. Curl pattern is a key factor in determining how often natural hair should be shampooed. In general, natural hair should be shampooed once every one to two weeks to remove product and oil build-up. This could vary depending on how active you are and how much you sweat.
Are there any ingredients to avoid in a shampoo for natural hair?
Phthalates are a common ingredient to avoid, as they have been linked with hormonal imbalances and infertility.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is another common shampoo ingredient to avoid. Although it creates a rich lather. it can strip hair and cause scalp irritation. If you have sensitive skin, dry hair, or dyed hair, it is recommended that you use a sulfate-free shampoo.
Why Trust Byrdie
Kindra Moné is a freelance writer who has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020. Her work has appeared in other publications such as Cosmopolitan, HollywoodLife, and more. She also launched her own website, theStylingSOUL, which covers fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and more.
Catherine Hufton is an experienced lifestyle journalist and has been a contributing writer for Byrdie since 2022. She digs deep into all things fashion and beauty to find the very best shopping must-haves—from the most effective collagen serums to the best drugstore makeup essentials.
Inamasu S, Ikuyama R, Fujisaki Y, Sugimoto K. Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2010;32(5):392-393. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00605_3.x
Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450
Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12058.
Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313. doi:10.1111/jocd.12058
Hlisníková H, Petrovičová I, Kolena B, Šidlovská M, Sirotkin A. Effects and mechanisms of phthalates’ action on reproductive processes and reproductive health: a literature review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(18):6811.
Engeli RT, Rohrer SR, Vuorinen A, et al. Interference of paraben compounds with estrogen metabolism by inhibition of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(9):2007.