16 Best Shampoos for Curly Hair
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When it’s healthy, soft and shiny, curly hair can get you noticed. But when your curls are dry or unhealthy, they still get you noticed—but for all the wrong reasons!
When you have a solid haircare routine, keeping your curly hair healthy isn’t as hard as it sounds. The first step is choosing a great shampoo. Not sure what to pick? Check out some of the best shampoos for curly hair.
1. Blu Atlas Shampoo
Curly hair is almost always drier than straight hair. So to keep it healthy, you need a shampoo that’s powerful enough to lift dirt and buildup but gentle enough to not strip your hair’s natural oils. This natural shampoo from Blu Atlas is a great candidate. It cleans your hair with coconut-based surfactants that won’t dry out your hair like chemical surfactants will.
If your hair has some existing damage, the vegan biotin and jojoba oil included fortify your strands and strengthen them over time. And soothing aloe vera is a great moisturizer for both your hair and your scalp. Jojoba oil ensures that your hair doesn’t become overly dry—it’s similar to your skin’s natural oils, so it keeps your curls moisturized without being greasy. We love that this shampoo’s ingredients are 99% natural and come from minerals, fruits, and plants!
2. Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo
Among the hardest parts of having curly hair is battling frizz. Even if you don’t typically have to deal with frizzy hair on a daily basis, you might find that your hair becomes impossible to tame on hot, humid days. With this shampoo, Ouidad helps you fight frizz before it even starts! It uses Anti-Frizz Nano Technology, a blend formulated with silk proteins to seal in your hair’s natural moisture while keeping humidity locked out.
This shampoo also contains ceramides, or natural lipids, that smooth out the cuticle of each hair. You may have seen ceramides in skincare products, but they’re great for hair, too! If you find that this shampoo works for your hair, you can check out the rest of the Advanced Climate Control line.
3. Design Essentials Natural Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Most hair experts suggest using moisturizing shampoo for curly hair. Regularly infusing your curls with moisture prevents them from drying out and becoming damaged. This shampoo includes two great natural moisturizers: avocado oil and almond oil. It gently cleans your hair without drying it, and the included natural oils leave your curls feeling soft, smooth, and elastic.
Design Essentials claims that this shampoo can save you up to 30 minutes of detangling time! It’s a great choice if tangled curls are one of your primary problems. We like that it’s free from sulfates, chemical surfactants that are infamous for taking too much oil from your hair and scalp, leaving your hair brittle and your scalp dry and itchy.
4. DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence Zero Lather Cleanser
This ultra-rich cleaner is formulated especially for dry and coarse curls. That’s not to say you can’t use it on finer curls. But if you do, the extra moisture may weigh your curls down. No-Poo Decadence primarily relies on moisturizing, antioxidant-rich grape seed oil and soothing hops extract. It also includes glycerin, a classic natural moisturizer.
Among the most interesting things about this shampoo is that it’s non-lathering and has a milky texture. Why? In most cases, sulfates are responsible for forming the rich lather of most shampoos, but they can also dry out your hair and cause frizz. With a non-lathering shampoo, you still clean your hair without subjecting it to overly harsh chemicals.
5. Bumble and Bumble Curl Moisturizing Shampoo
Bumble and Bumble is a company that designs products for every type of hair. But despite this generalist approach, the brand does a great job with products formulated specifically for curls. Curl Moisturizing Shampoo contains no sulfates, but our favorite thing about it is its incredible mixture of moisturizing oils. It contains six key moisturizers: coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and a blend of natural humectants.
This versatile formulation works for all curl types—it’s good for everything from waves to coils. It’s also a great detangler. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Curl Moisturizing Shampoo won a 2021 Glamour Beauty Award!
6. Miss Jessie’s Honey Harmless Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Putting honey in your hair might not sound terribly appealing. But Honey Harmless uses a non-sticky formula to let you take advantage of honey’s natural humectant properties without dealing with unpleasant textures. It’s sulfate-free and is great for re-moisturizing dry curls, coils, chemically treated hair, and more.
We like that Honey Harmless seems to have found the right balance between gentle and strong. It lifts dirt and detangles hair as honey and other natural humectants draw in moisture and keep it in. The result is soft, shiny, and bouncy hair. It’s soothing for your scalp, too!
7. L’Oreal Paris EverCurl Hydracharge Shampoo
If you’re looking to nourish your curls on a budget, this is a great shampoo to look at. It’s part of L’Oreal’s Ever line of sulfate-free products. Like many shampoos designed for curls, this one has coconut oil as its main ingredient. And thanks to its balanced formula, Hydracharge can hydrate and de-frizz curls without weighing them down. L’Oreal even claims that it supports curl definition for a full 48 hours! To get the best results possible, L’Oreal recommends using this shampoo along with its coordinating Hydracharge conditioner.
8. Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo
New moisturizing oils regularly hit the haircare market, so you may not have heard of babassu oil yet. This is an oil that comes from the seed of the South American babassu palm. It’s a great moisturizer for hair and skin. This shampoo is formulated for hair that’s both curly and dry, so it’s perfect for restoring hair health and getting rid of frizz.
Like many of the best shampoos for curly hair, this one is made without sulfates, so it gives you a thorough clean without causing dryness and damage. Even though it’s highly moisturizing, this shampoo is also lightweight, so it’s perfect for fine curls.
9. Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo
Olaplex is a salon-recommended brand that offers a range of haircare options for different hair types. This one is ideal for getting your curls into excellent shape. As a clarifying shampoo, it’s designed to remove built-up oil, hair products, and other impurities that can affect your hair’s appearance and health. It does this without the use of sulfates, so there’s no risk of your curls getting overly dry and straw-like.
No. 4C also uses Bond Building Technology, a scientifically-proven formula that repairs the disulfide bonds that give your curls their shape. When you combine that with the cleansing and hydrating action of the shampoo, you get wonderfully frizz-free, bouncy curls.
10. John Frieda Frizz Ease Dream Curls Shampoo
John Frieda has been in the business of controlling frizz for years, so the brand alone might make you want to try out this specialty shampoo. It’s designed to both soften and moisturize hair, so it’s perfect if your curls are dry and coarse to the touch.
So how does it work? It contains Abyssinian oil, a hair oil you may not have heard of. Abyssinian oil comes from the Crambe abyssinica plant. It’s rich in erucic acid, a great cuticle-smoothing ingredient, so it’s ideal for reducing frizz while increasing shine.
11. EVOLVh SmartCurl Hydrating Wash
Want to make your waves, curls or coils more manageable? If so, SmartCurl Hydrating Wash might be just what you need. It’s infused with a collection of ingredients to restore moisture, shine, and elasticity. This shampoo has a unique blend of amino acids and fatty acids that strengthen hair and promote elasticity, which is what gives healthy curls their bounce. Without elasticity, your hair is a lot more prone to breakage.
We also like that SmartCurl focuses on balancing your hair’s pH. This might sound like a minor detail, but when your hair’s pH is balanced, your cuticles remain closed and smooth. Closed cuticles keep moisture sealed in and they also cut down on frizz!
12. Alaffia Beautiful Curls Define Sulfate-Free Cream Shampoo
This shampoo is made with shea butter, one of the best and longest-lasting moisturizers for curly hair. But Alaffia only uses fair-trade shea butter, so you can feel good knowing that workers are paid fairly. Alaffia’s West African shea butter co-ops have also helped empower communities by building schools, offering maternal care, and more.
Define is clearly a shampoo with a socially conscious origin story. But it’s good for your hair, too! Baobab oil works along with shea butter to deliver powerful moisture as oat protein offers much-needed strength.
13. Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Sulfate-Free Moisturizing Shampoo
You might recognize Garnier Fructis from one of its many TV commercials. And even though it’s quite inexpensive, this shampoo has many features you’d expect to find in higher-priced products.
For starters, it contains no sulfates, phthalates, or parabens. It also centers around two highly effective ingredients: coconut oil and plant protein. Coconut oil gives you natural moisture, bounce and shine. Plant protein adds the strength your hair needs to resist damage. Garnier says that when you use it along with its coordinating conditioner and Air Dry Butter Cream, you can enjoy defined curls for up to 48 hours.
14. Truss Curly Shampoo
If frizz and split ends are causing you endless frustration, this shampoo from Truss just might be the end of your troubles. Its high-tech, vegan-ingredient formulation gives your hair a deep treatment for unparalleled health and a natural glow. It contains Polisil, a compound that works within your cuticles to moisturize and improve elasticity. You’ll also find avocado oil for moisture and sun protection, and keratin for improved strength and damage repair.
15. SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
SheaMoisture is a respected brand in the world of curly hair, and its products make use of shea butter’s incredible moisturizing properties. This shampoo is sulfate-free, but unlike many sulfate-free options, it still forms a wonderfully rich lather that ensures you cover every single strand.
This super-moisturizing shampoo doesn’t only rely on shea butter, though. It also includes coconut oil, neem oil, and hydrolyzed silk. Hibiscus flower extracts make curls more elastic, and your hair gets an extra blast of hydration from rosemary oil and aloe!
16. L’Oreal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls No Build-Up Micellar Shampoo
L’Oreal’s Elvive product line is intended to treat damaged hair. But even if your curls don’t have any damage, Dream Lengths Curls can still help them look their best. This shampoo is ideal if your hair is prone to excess buildup of hair products, dirt, or oil. It quickly transforms into a light, fluffy foam that’s easy to work through your hair.
That’s when this shampoo’s main ingredients get to work. It includes castor oil, a moisturizer that excels when it comes to softening hair. As a bonus, it’s also great for soothing dry or irritated scalps. Dream Lengths also includes hyaluronic acid, a natural humectant that’s more commonly seen in skincare products. Hyaluronic acid draws moisture to your curls, helping protect them from dryness and damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does curly hair need special shampoo? Why?
You don’t necessarily have to choose a shampoo specifically for curly hair. However, if you have curls and want to keep them healthy, it’s best to choose a highly moisturizing shampoo. Because of the shape of each strand of hair, curly hair is usually drier than straight hair.
With straight strands of hair, it’s easier for oil from your scalp to get from the roots of your hair to the ends. But when your hair is curly, oil has a tougher time making its way down the hair shaft. As a result, curly hair is more prone to dryness and split ends.
When you’re looking for a shampoo, you may choose one that’s made specifically for curly hair. Alternatively, you can look for a general-purpose shampoo with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil. Avoiding sulfates and other drying ingredients can also keep your curls healthier.
What’s a co-wash?
If you’ve done any reading about curly hair care, you may have seen the term co-wash (sometimes written as cowash). Co-washing is just using conditioner to shampoo your hair.
When you co-wash, you apply conditioner differently from the way you would after shampooing. When you use shampoo and conditioner, you typically first use the shampoo on your hair and scalp. You then apply conditioner from (approximately) the mid-lengths of your hair down to the roots. That’s because conditioner, when combined with the natural oil in your scalp, can sometimes make your roots greasy and weigh them down.
However, when you co-wash, you work conditioner into your scalp as well as your hair. If your curls are very dry, using conditioner on your scalp isn’t likely to make your roots too greasy. But if you have an oily scalp, co-washing might not be the best choice for you.
How often should you wash curly hair?
Because curly hair tends to be dry, it’s not a good idea to wash it as often as you would wash straight hair. But exactly how often you wash it depends on both your curl type and how dry your hair is. Generally, the looser your curls, the more often you can wash them. For looser curls, washing twice to four times a week is a good start.
If you have coily hair, most hair experts recommend doing a co-wash every week and a deep-cleansing shampoo every month. And for tight curls that fall somewhere between loose curls and coils, shampoo or co-wash about every 3–7 days.
What if you work out every day? Leaving sweat in your hair for days isn’t healthy, but shampooing every day makes your hair incredibly dry. You can reach a compromise by doing a rinse and a co-wash each day or as needed.
The most important thing here is to pay attention to your hair. If it seems dry or brittle with your current shampoo schedule, try washing it less.
What if your scalp gets greasy between washes?
Unless you have a very dry scalp, you might notice that your scalp starts to get oily on the days you don’t wash your hair. If you notice this happening, some hair experts recommend using dry shampoo in between washes. Dry shampoo can absorb excess oil at the roots, getting rid of the greasy look.
What’s the best way to apply shampoo to curly hair?
Many people work shampoo into their scalps using a circular motion. But if you have curls, shampooing this way can lead to tangles and breakage. Instead, rub the shampoo in by moving your fingers back and forth. From there, spread the shampoo down the lengths of your hair, but don’t overdo it on the ends! Curly hair tends to have dry ends anyway, so using too much shampoo can strip even more moisture.
What are some good ingredients to look for?
One of the best ways to select a shampoo is to simply read the ingredients listed. Quite an array of great ingredients for curly hair is out there, but here are a few good ones to look for:
Coconut oil. This is a classic moisturizing ingredient that’s used in shampoos, conditioners, hair creams, and more. Its high concentration of fatty acids protects hair health and helps prevent your hair from losing protein. It’s great for restoring shine to dull and damaged hair, too.
Jojoba oil. This versatile oil is a lot like natural skin oil, so it can help moisturize dry and damaged curls. But jojoba oil also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it a great ingredient for scalp care. It comes from the jojoba plant (also called the goat nut, coffeeberry, or gray box bush), which is native to the American Southwest.
Aloe. Aloe is good for more than just treating sunburns! Aloe juice is loaded with vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids, all of which support hair health. Interestingly enough, the enzymes in it help break down excess oil, giving you a clean that’s gentler than what you get from sulfates.
Shea butter. This rich extract comes from shea nuts, and it’s a popular moisturizer for skin and hair alike. Shea butter softens your hair and seals in moisture. Curly and textured hair types can lose moisture easily, so the seal formed by shea butter makes it an especially effective moisturizer.
Argan oil. This is among the better-known hair oils, and it’s great for restoring shine. But argan oil is especially outstanding when it comes to restoring elasticity to your curls. That’s largely thanks to its high concentration of vitamin E. Argan oil is sometimes used as an ingredient in shampoos, but it’s more commonly used as a separate treatment.
Honey. Honey isn’t an incredibly common shampoo ingredient, but thanks to its impressive moisturizing powers, it probably should be! Like shea butter and many hair oils, honey helps to seal moisture into each strand. It’s also a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture to your hair and keeps it there. And because of its emollient properties, honey makes your hair feel extra-smooth, too.
Avocado oil. Avocado is a tasty superfood but it has health benefits for your hair, too. Avocado oil is rich in fatty acids and it can reach deep into the hair shaft to help repair damage. This oil can smooth your cuticles while sealing in moisture for softer, shinier hair.
What are sulfates? Are they bad for curly hair?
As you can see, plenty of the best shampoos for curly hair are made without sulfates. Sulfates are surfactants, meaning they remove buildup from your hair. They also help the shampoo create a lather. Sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate are three of the most common sulfates in shampoo.
Sulfates can be helpful for getting extra oil buildup or caked-on hair product out of your hair. But getting your hair extra-clean comes with a price: sulfates often strip too much of your hair’s natural oils. If you’ve ever washed your hair and noticed the roots felt squeaky afterward, you’ve likely experienced this. In many cases, people with curly hair notice that sulfates leave their hair too dry.
What are some other ingredients to avoid?
When you’re choosing your shampoo, it can help to have an idea of what ingredients you should stay away from. Here are a few more ingredients that might not be the best for your hair (or your health in general):
Silicones. Silicones are artificial compounds that form a coating on your hair. That coating seals in moisture, much like a coating of shea butter would. However, the silicone coating doesn’t come off as easily. It can build up over time, making your hair dull and heavy.
Drying alcohols. Believe it or not, not all alcohols in hair products dry out your hair. Cetearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol are both “fatty” alcohols that actually nourish your hair, so they’re good to have. But drying alcohols like propanol and benzyl alcohol can cause damage to your hair and irritate your scalp.
Parabens. Parabens are preservatives and antifungals, but some research suggests they cause dangerous disruptions to the endocrine system. They can also irritate your scalp and if you have a severe enough reaction, you may experience hair loss.
Salicylic acid. Salicylic is a common ingredient in acne treatment products but it’s also found in some shampoos. It can be helpful for dandruff and other scalp conditions. But as you may have guessed, it can also have a drying effect on your hair.
What are the different curl types?
Some shampoos for curly hair are designed for specific types of curls (like 2A, 4B, etc.). But if you aren’t familiar with what each type means, it can feel like reading a foreign language! There are three curl types, and each one has a number: 2 is wavy, 3 is curly and 4 is kinky/coily. Within each type, there are three subtypes (designated by letters). Here’s what each one means:
2A: slightly wavy/almost straight
2B: wavy, often with an S-pattern
2C: very wavy/almost curly (often a mix of loose curls and deep waves)
3A: large, loose curls
3B: tighter, ringlet curls
3C: very tight corkscrew curls
4A: even tighter corkscrew curls (about the diameter of a toothpick)
4B: tight, z-shaped curls
4C: most densely coiled hair possible; can be hard to see individual strands
So, why are some products specialized for different curl types? Denser hair types like 4B and 4C tend to be coarse and porous, so they lose moisture incredibly easily. These hair types can sometimes benefit from heavier shampoos and conditioners. For people with looser curls or a finer hair texture, extra-moisturizing products can weigh down curls too much.
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