The 20 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos of 2023

Our best overall pick is Playa Every Day Shampoo

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The 16 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos of 2022

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

You've probably come across the term "sulfate-free" when shopping for shampoos over the past several years. Sulfates—which are usually listed as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) on an ingredient list—are foaming agents. This is what gives hair washes that lathering effect.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Playa Every Day Shampoo is our best overall pick. This shampoo is suitable for all hair types with ingredients that restore hydration and feature fresh, natural scents. Additionally, OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Shampoo is a budget-friendly option that moisturizes using coconut surfactants.

But while a good lather is undeniably luxurious, foam isn't necessary for cleaning your hair. So what's the harm, then? Sulfates can irritate some people's skin and eyes, and for some, it's about protecting brittle or chemically processed hair.

"Sulfate-free shampoos are recommended when you want to disrupt the surface of the hair as little as possible," says hairstylist Kat Savano. She explains that SLS and SLES contain salt, which can affect keratin treatments and potentially create friction that leads to frizz. "Most other sulfates come from plant sources and are fine to have in a product." According to hair expert Cataanda James, "Sulfate-free shampoo offers a gentler cleanse, ridding the scalp and hair of any debris and product buildup without stripping its natural oils." 

We conducted hours of research on the best sulfate-free shampoos on the market, evaluating each formula on key ingredients, benefits targeted, and scent. After considering dozens of different options, and consulting with hair care experts, we landed on the following best in show.

Best Overall

Playa Every Day Shampoo

4.7
 Playa Natural Every Day Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Doesn't strip hair

  • Restores hydration

  • Decent lather

  • Suitable for all hair types

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Our number one pick is Playa's Every Day Shampoo. Suitable for all hair types, it calls on the humectant glycerin, coconut-derived surfactants, and kukui seed oil⁶ to gently cleanse your scalp and hair without stripping their natural oils.

A little of the honey-like formula goes a long way. And if you're craving a bit more lather, just add some extra water and gently massage it into your hair to create a luxurious foam. The scent of this sulfate-free shampoo is also incredible—think fresh and floral with notes of sandalwood and musk.

Price at time of publish: $45

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, coconut water, kukui seed oil | Scent: Floral, sandalwood, musk | Size: 8.5 oz. or 16.9 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget

OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Shampoo

4.2
 OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Restores hydration

  • Supports healthy growth

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains methylisothiazolinone

Some of the best SLS-free hair washes are super affordable. Case in point: OGX. This drugstore gem cleanses with moisturizing coconut surfactants, while egg powder gives your hair the protein it needs to grow long and strong.

Price at time of publish: $15

Key Ingredients: Coconut milk, coconut oil, egg powder | Scent: Fresh, sweet | Size: 13 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore

L'Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo

4.2
LOreal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Restores hydration

  • Decent lather

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains polyethylene glycols (PEGs

L'Oréal was among the first drugstore brands to launch a sulfate-free haircare line. This shampoo promises to clarify your scalp with natural surfactants and restore moisture, all while offering an impressive lather sans sulfates.

Price at time of publish: $13

Key Ingredients: Natural surfactants, botanicals | Scent: Rosemary | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Luxury

Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo

Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Pump bottle

  • Strengthening

  • Supports healthy growth

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

  • Not vegan-friendly

If you can spring the steeper price, we highly recommend Alterna. This top-shelf shampoo calls on caviar extract to improve elasticity and prevent UV damage, while rice protein and soy amino acids strengthen each strand.

Price at time of publish: $54

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, caviar extract, rice protein, soy amino acid | Scent: Fresh | Size: 8.5 oz. or 16.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Volumizing

NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Volume Shampoo

NatureLab Tokyo Volume Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Adds body

  • Strengthening

  • Supports healthy growth

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains artificial colors

If it's volume that you're after, this chemistry lab-inspired container has your name on it. In addition to adding body and strengthening with plant-based proteins, it contains stem cells to prevent shedding and encourage healthy hair growth.

Price at time of publish: $15

Key Ingredients: Rice protein, soy protein, stem cells | Scent: Japanese cherry blossom | Size: 11.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Split Ends

Rucker Roots Smoothing Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Rucker Roots Smoothing Sulfate Free Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Natural formula

  • Prevents breakage

  • Leaves hair shiny

What We Don’t Like
  • May be too heavy for fine hair

Split ends got you down? This natural cleanser is filled with nourishing plant oils like avocado and olive to smooth brittle hair, prevent breakage, and restore shine.

Price at time of publish: $14

Key Ingredients: Plant extracts, plant oils | Scent: Herbal | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry Hair

Leonor Greyl Crème Aux Fleurs Cream Shampoo

Leonor Greyl Aux Fleurs Cream Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Restores hydration

  • Strengthening

  • Supports healthy growth

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

"Crème Aux Fleurs is a soothing cream cleanser for the most dehydrated hair and scalps," Savano tells Byrdie. While seaweed and garlic might seem like odd ingredients for shampoo, they've been shown to provide strengthening benefits and help with hair growth.

Price at time of publish: $36

Key Ingredients: Cocamide MEA, seaweed extract, garlic | Scent: Fresh, herbal | Size: 6.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Curly Hair

Curls Dynasty Cocoa Mint Moisture Rich Shampoo

Curls Dynasty Cocoa Mint Moisture Rich Shampoo

Walmart

What We Like
  • Restores hydration

  • Natural formula

  • Contains organic ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • May be too heavy for fine hair

This sulfate-free shampoo was formulated specifically with curly, coily, and kinky hair in mind. It contains a bunch of natural butters and plant oils to moisturize and add bouncy luster.

Price at time of publish: $19

Key Ingredients: Aloe, fruit extracts, plant oils | Scent: Minty, sweet | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Natural Textures

Miss Jessie's Harm Me Knot Gentle Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Miss Jessie's Harm Me Knot Gentle Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Miss Jessie

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Restores hydration

  • Helps prevent dandruff

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

This super gentle, supremely moisturizing shampoo detangles naturally textured hair. Not only that, but coconut-derived surfactants gently cleanse while honey helps keep dandruff at bay.

Price at time of publish: $14

Key Ingredients: Cocamide, honey, argan oil, vitamin B5 | Scent: Citrus | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Fine Hair

MoroccanOil Extra Volume Shampoo

5
Extra Volume Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Adds body

  • Smells amazing

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

  • Contains PEGs

This lightweight, sulfate-free formula is clutch for the fine hair camp. It earned a 5 out of 5 score from our home tester, who loved the long-lasting volumizing effect and divine amber-musk scent.

Price at time of publish: $26

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, argan oil, cocamide | Scent: Amber, musk, floral | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Color-Treated Hair

Amika Vault Color-Lock Shampoo

Amika Vault Color-Lock Shampoo

Sephora

What We Like
  • Smoothing

  • Enhances vibrancy

  • Prevents fading

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

"If your hair is color-treated, a sulfate-free shampoo is recommended in your wash day routine to help preserve your color," says James. We like Amika Vault, which is formulated to enhance vibrancy, prevent fading, and deliver all-around healthier hair.

Price at time of publish: $23

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, amino acids, sea buckthorn | Scent: Sweet, citrus | Size: 10 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Damaged Hair

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

5
Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

Ulta

What We Like
  • Award-winning formula

  • Repairs broken bonds

  • Strengthening

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

  • Contains PEGs

Damaged hair? Olaplex won't let you down. Our tester said it saved her bleached, brittle hair, helped prevent breakage, and made her hair feel stronger and healthier.

Price at time of publish: $30

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, vitamin B5, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate | Scent: Fresh | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for All Hair Types

The Mane Choice H2Oh! Hydration Therapy Deep Cleansing Shampoo

H2Oh! Hydration Therapy Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Walmart

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Strengthening

  • Pump bottle

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains fragrance

"This shampoo is sulfate-free and provides a deep yet gentle cleanse to remove excess oil, dirt, and pollution," says James. This strengthening formula contains a blend of detoxifying properties, she adds. This includes red and brown seaweed and kelp extract "to enhance hair's natural shine and improve manageability."

Price at time of publish: $14

Key Ingredients: Biotin, sea minerals, glycerin | Scent: Fresh, herbal | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Scalps

Aveeno Scalp Soothing Oat Milk Blend Shampoo

Aveeno Farm-Fresh Oat Milk Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Gentle formula

  • Soothes irritation

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

If you've got a particularly sensitive scalp, Aveeno is your best bet. This shampoo leans on colloidal oatmeal to soothe irritation while gently cleansing without any sulfates.

Price at time of publish: $9

Key Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal | Scent: Sweet | Size: 12 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Pump Bottle

Gisou Honey Infused Hair Wash Shampoo

Gisou Honey Infused Hair Wash Shampoo

Sephora

What We Like
  • Nourishing

  • Restores hydration

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Prefer the convenience of a pump bottle? Us too. But that's not all this shampoo has going for it. Gisou's Honey Infused Hair Wash promises to nourish brittle hair, smooth flyaways, add shine, and gently cleanse without stripping your hair.

Price at time of publish: $37

Key Ingredients: Mirsalehi honey, argan oil, vitamin B5 | Scent: Sweet, floral | Size: 11.1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Straight Hair

LolaVie Restorative Shampoo

Shampoo bottle

Lolavie

What We Like
  • Great for all hair types

  • Made from 96% naturally-derived ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • On the pricier side

There are few celebs more well-known for good hair than Jennifer Aniston, so it makes sense that she recently launched a haircare line. While the shampoo is great for all hair types, we find it works especially well on straight strands, leaving them softer, smoother, and sans tangles. It’s free of sulfates, as well as silicones, parabens, and phthalates, and made from 96% naturally-derived ingredients. The clean, floral scent is just the icing on the cake.

Price at time of publish: $29

Key ingredients: Ceramides, niacinamide biotin| Scent: Floral | Size: 8.5 fl. Oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Wavy Hair

Odele Smoothing Shampoo

Odele Smoothing Shampoo

Target

What We Like
  • Excellent value

  • Sophisticated packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Can sometimes be hard to squeeze out of the bottle

This brand offers a unique (and hard-to-come-by) combination of clean, effective formulas, chic packaging, and insanely affordable prices. The smoothing sudser is choice for those with thicker, wavier hair, helping to smooth the texture and combat frizz while still letting your natural waves show. It imparts plenty of shine, too, and touts a fresh, genderless fragrance.

Price at time of publish: $12

Key ingredients: Glycerin, aloe, rice protein| Scent: Clean | Size: 11 fl. Oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Hair

Ouai Detox Shampoo

Ouai Detox Shampoo

Sephora

What We Liike
  • Comes in four different sizes

  • Great for removing excess build-up but doesn’t dry out the hair

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly expensive

As the name suggests, this formula is ideal for deeply cleaning both the hair and scalp, removing excess oil, as well as mineral build-up from hard water. (Credit apple cider vinegar and chelating agents, respectively.) Still, unlike many other detoxifying or clarifying shampoos, this is still gentle enough that it can be used daily, without overstripping your scalp or stands.

Price at time of publish: $30

Key ingredients: Chelating agents, hydrolyzed keratin, apple cider vinegar | Scent: Rose & citrus | Size: 10 fl. Oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Keratin-Treated Hair

Kerastase Discipline Smoothing Shampoo

Kérastase Discipline Sulfate-Free Smoothing Shampoo

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great for smoothing and fighting frizz

  • Effective for all hair types and textures

What We Don't Like
  • Not clean or cruelty-free

Consider this shampoo a little extra add-on to your in-salon keratin treatment. Yes, it’s sulfate-free and safe for keratin-treated hair, but it’s also smoothing and frizz-fighting in and of itself, further helping to amplify the effects of that in-salon service. 

Price at time of publish: $38

Key ingredients: Morpho-keratine complex| Scent: Floral | Size: 8.5 fl. Oz.  | Cruelty-Free: No|  Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Thinning Hair

Best for Thinning Hair

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Scalp Care Anti-Thinning Shampoo

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Scalp Care Anti-Thinning Shampoo

Ulta

What We Like
  • High-end scent

  • Safe for color-treated hair

What We Don't Like
  • On the more expensive side

Especially when paired with the accompanying conditioner and leave-in, this shampoo can help to bolster both volume and strength, great if you have thinning hair. Tea tree oil, turmeric, and ginseng (among ingredients) deep clean, purify, and stimulate the scalp; pea peptides help to strengthen strands. 

Price at time of publish: $49

Key ingredients: Tea tree oil, turmeric, ginseng, pea peptides | Scent: Citrusy and herbaceous | Size: 10.14 fl. Oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

The best sulfate-free formula overall is the Playa Every Day Shampoo, a natural hair wash that gently yet effectively cleanses, lathers well, and smells amazing. If you're on a budget, you can't go wrong with the OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Shampoo, and if you want the top-shelf stuff, it might be worth splurging on the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Moisture Shampoo.

Meet the Expert

What to Look for in a Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Free of all Sulfates

Make sure that it is totally sulfate-free. Some formulas will be free of common ones like SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), but you also want to make sure that there aren't any others in the mix.

Hydrating Ingredients

Choosing a sulfate-free shampoo may help preserve your hair’s moisture in and of itself, but it's an added bonus if the shampoo you pick contains extra hydrating or conditioning ingredients.

FAQ
  • Why should you use sulfate-free shampoo?

    Using a sulfate-free shampoo is a good way to both help retain the natural moisture in your hair as well as prolong the life of your hair color, says Murray. It’s also a good option for those with an easily-irritated scalp, as sulfates can cause even more dryness and itching.

  • Can you use sulfate-free shampoo every day?

    Definitely, especially because these formulas are designed to retain moisture.

  • Does sulfate-free shampoo cause buildup?

    Your hair may feel different after you start using a sulfate-free shampoo, it’s not build-up that’s to blame. Because sulfate-free shampoos remove less of the natural oils, your hair will feel different, and it can take a few weeks to get used to how your hair feels after washing, Murray explains.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in beauty. She has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers haircare, skincare, and wellness products. For this story, she interviewed a hairstylist and a multiracial haircare expert for their product suggestions and expertise on sulfates. From the above list, Theresa has personally tried Playa, OGX, Alterna, L'Oreal, Olaplex, and NatureLab.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  4. Lee, Kyung-Eun et al. Caviar extract and its constituent dha inhibits UVB-irradiated skin aging by inducing adiponectin production. International journal of molecular sciences vol. 21,9 3383. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijms21093383

  5. Young, JT, et al. A randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled clinical study of hair regeneration using adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract in androgenetic alopecia. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 2020. doi: 10.1002/sctm.19-0410

  6. Nam YH, et al. Avocado oil extract modulates auditory hair cell function through the regulation of amino acid biosynthesis genesNutrients. 2019;11(1):113. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11010113

  7. Hajheydari Z, et al. Combination of topical garlic gel and betamethasone valerate cream in the treatment of localized alopecia areata: a double-blind randomized controlled study. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology vol. 73,1. 2007. 29-32. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.30648

  8. Kang JI, et al. Hair-loss preventing effect of grateloupia elliptica. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2012;20(1):118-124. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2012.20.1.118

  9. Al-Waili, N S. Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of crude honey on chronic seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. European journal of medical research vol. 6,7. 2001. 306-8.

  10. Sobhan M, et al. The Efficacy of Colloidal Oatmeal Cream 1% as Add-on Therapy in the Management of Chronic Irritant Hand Eczema: A Double-Blind Study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020; 13: 241–251. Published 2020 Mar 25. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S246021

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