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Natural hair is beautiful, but without the right haircare routine, it can be tough to handle. Every kink, curl, and wave is to be embraced, and this is arguably easier to do when your shampoo is catered to meet your natural hair needs. On your quest to find the best shampoo for natural hair, "you must first identify what the hair is lacking," advises hairstylist Elliot Brian at Bibi Salon in New York City. Remember: The right shampoo can make or break your wash day and have a major impact on your curls, so you'll want to choose wisely.
That said, in a market full of products aimed at your crown, it can be tough to find a shampoo suited for your curl type, your porosity, and the million other specificities that make your tresses unique. But don't fret—we're making it an easier decision.
Here are the best shampoos that'll give natural hair the love it needs.
Best Overall: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
When it comes to bringing natural hair back to its healthiest state, Brian 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. "This new addition, Olaplex No. 4, completes the package by adding the one things that curls crave most—moisture.”
Best Budget: Aussie Miracle Curls Shampoo
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.
Best Drugstore: Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Shampoo
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.
Best for Color-Treated Hair: SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength & Color Care Shampoo
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.
Rice water products should only be used once or twice a week to avoid protein buildup. While protein is great for hair in moderation, alternate with a moisturizing shampoo to preserve elasticity.
Best for Fine Hair: TRESemmé Flawless Curls Shampoo
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.
Best for Dry Hair: Creme of Nature Strengthening Shampoo with Acai Berry & Keratin
Chances are moisture is at the top of the list of priorities for your natural hair, and this hydrating shampoo gets the job done. Its formula includes keratin, which helps to repair your hair and prevent it from future damage, and you can trust this OG natural hair brand to take care of your mane. It has great slip for easy detangling and users say their hair feels clean without being stripped of essential moisture.
Best Clarifying: CURLS Pure Curls Clarifying Shampoo
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 curls.
Best Sulfate-Free: Mixed Chicks Sulfate-Free Shampoo
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.
Best Deep Cleansing: Matrix A Curl Can Dream Shampoo
Hairstylist and Matrix artistic director Michelle O’Connor is a fan of Manuka honey for natural hair due to its humectant abilities, which is why she recommends this new launch for those with natural curls and coils. It deep cleanses to remove buildup while leaving curls defined and hydrated. Plus, it’s formulated without silicones, parabens, mineral oils, petrolatum, or paraffins.
Best Anti-Breakage: Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Sulfate-Free Shampoo
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.
Best Natural: CurlMix Pure Aloe Vera Shampoo with Lavender Fragrance
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. We love the gentle, non-drying qualities, and if you’re not into lavender, no worries. The Aloe Vera Shampoo also comes in watermelon, vanilla berry, and fragrance-free options.
Best for Type 3 Curls: Mielle Organics Moisture RX Hawaiian Ginger Moisturizing & Anti-Breakage Shampoo
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.
Best for Type 4 Curls: Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo
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.
What to Look For in a Shampoo for Natural Hair
When it comes to cleansing natural hair, O'Connor considers glycerin 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 humectant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bacteria-fighting benefits, O’Connor is a big fan of using products infused with Manuka honey on natural hair. “Manuka honey is one of my favorite ingredients, as 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.
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."