Finding a shampoo and conditioner for your hair needs may, at first, seem straightforward—but in reality, your hair type, porosity, and individual needs determine what products are best for you. And when it comes to finding the best products for natural hair, it's especially important to look for conditioners, leave-ins, and shampoos that moisturize and protect those curls and coils.
"If you have textured hair, you will most likely agree with me when I say that we need texture, nourishment, moisture, and, sometimes, repair," says Janelle Sands, expert hairstylist and Senior Director of Marketing at CURLS (opens in new tab). "Therefore, people with textured hair should check ingredient lists for additives that add value and renew the integrity of the hair itself."
But what are those ingredients, and what are some formulas that incorporate them? Read on to get the best tips and product recommendations on the best shampoos for natural hair, sourced from experts, editors, and reviewers alike.
What To Look For in Shampoo for Natural Hair
As Sands said, hydration is key when finding the right shampoo for your natural hair. But how do you know which ingredients hydrate best?
"You cannot get more "hydrated" than water, but ingredients like moisture-attracting glycerin and antioxidant-rich aloe provide moisture to your locks," she explains. She adds that while people with hair types 2 and 3 would be more inclined to look for lightweight hair products that won't weigh their hair down, like "water, aloe, and glycerin, which have a lighter effect." Furthermore, she advises that those who are worried about their products being too heavy should "steer clear of coconut oil, shea butter, or castor oil, which can be great ingredients, yet contribute more 'weight' to a formula."
On the other hand, Sands says, type 4 hair "tends to like a product with more emollients to add 'weight.' A few great emollients to look for include plant butters like shea, waxes like carnauba, and oils like castor oil."
The Best Shampoos for Natural Hair
- Best Curl-Defining Shampoo for Natural Hair: PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ross Hydration Shampoo (opens in new tab)
- Best Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair: Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo (opens in new tab)
- Best Scalp-Supporting Shampoo for Natural Hair: Curls Hair Under There Detox Tea Shampoo (opens in new tab)
- Best Shampoo for Natural Hair Overall: Curls Sea Moss Powerhouse Sea Moss Cleanser (opens in new tab)
Best Editor-Approved Shampoo for Natural Hair
"Most shampoos are incredibly drying and strip my natural curls from every ounce of moisture. But, this one from Taliah Waajid does the opposite. It effectively cleanses while supporting each strand with moisture retention. It also smells like a fruit basket which is a great pick-me-up during the winter months." -Deena Campbell, Beauty Director
Pros: editor-approved; moisturizing; cleansing; softening; vitamin-infused; supports scalp health
Cons: none found
Best Scented Shampoo for Natural Hair
"One rich additive that can transform dry, damaged, and weak hair is the blueberry!" Sands says. "This plant-powered super fruit is infused into CURLS Blueberry Bliss Reparative Hair Wash, formulated for hair with texture. Blueberry has superfruit powers including high antioxidants, and other flavonoids which support hair restoration, repair, and, most importantly, hair growth."
Pros: stylist-approved; repairs damage; hydrating
Cons: strong smell
Best Shampoo for Natural Hair Overall
"This cleanser is infused with sea moss, the world’s all-around hair and body improving ingredient that, well, does everything!" raves Sands. When you use this, she says, "expect to have plump, glistening, juicy curls, and stimulated hair follicles."
Pros: uses natural ingredients like sea moss, jojoba oil, and algae; stylist-approved; supports a healthy scalp
Cons: none found
Best Antioxidant-Infused Shampoo for Natural Hair
Natural hairstylist and brand educator for The Mane Choice Cataanda James calls this shampoo "a mildly clarifying cleanser that dissolves product buildup without stripping the hair, revealing the hair's best texture and curls making it the perfect shampoo for those with looser curl types and fine, thin hair that has product build up." She says, "It is infused with a generous amount of antioxidants which help to protect the hair from environmental damage while providing moisture to dull, limp hair without weighing it down."
Pros: gentle; scalp-supporting; banishes buildup; clarifying; antioxidant-infused
Cons: strong smell
Best Scalp Toner for Natural Hair
"The Mane Choice H2Oh! Hydration Therapy Scalp Toning Micellar Water is a gentle scalp toner (AKA pre-poo) providing an added boost for a clean, well-maintained scalp," says James.
"It is what makeup remover is to the face prior to the cleanser. It helps to remove excess oil and buildup from the scalp to help fight against pollution and product buildup. I recommend it for anyone that overly soiled roots, those that have thick, dense hair, or anyone wanting to cut down the timing of your Wash Day. It begins the cleansing process prior to your shampoo so you are able to cut out an extra shampoo, or two. The nozzle applicator allows you to get down to the scalp where as traditional shampoo may need an additional two to three shampoos to ensure the scalp is clean. It rinses away easily, and your scalp and roots immediately feel cleaner and hydrated."
Pros: supports a healthy scalp; lightweight; gentle; hydrating; clarifying
Cons: not for solo use (should be used along with another shampoo)
Best Detoxifying Shampoo for Natural Hair
Sands says that this shampoo is excellent "for preserving the moisture of the hair while strengthening and reinforcing weak areas of the hair shaft." She explains, "This cleanser has a rich botanical-based lather and is so effective at preserving your hair’s hydration."
Pros: hydrating; affordable; strengthening; stylist-approved; sulfate-free; supports scalp health
Cons: none found
Best Natural Hair Shampoo for All Curl Patterns
Users with dry, damaged, and over-dyed hair love this shampoo, raving that it revived their brittle strands and reduced frizz significantly after just one use.
Pros: vegan; cruelty-free; works on all curl patterns; hydrating; frizz-fighting
Cons: high price for small bottle
Best Frizz-Fighting Shampoo for Natural Hair
This shampoo is popular among customers of all hair types and curl patterns for its ability to reduce frizz dramatically after just one use. Plus, it uses clean ingredients and is free of harsh sulfates.
Pros: free of sulfates, SLS, and SLES; clean; frizz-reducing; shine-enhancing
Cons: strong smell
Best Thickening Shampoo for Natural Hair
Customers write that they're obsessed with this shampoo, saying that it always leaves their hair shinier, softer, and detangled. Plus, its packaging allows you to refill your bottle using pouches like the one shown here, so you can indulge in your favorite formula without producing lots of plastic waste.
Pros: vegan; volumizing; clean; cruelty-free; shine-enhancing; thickening
Cons: small container
Best Co-Wash for Natural Hair
If you're struggling with dry, tangled, or frizzy hair, check out this co-wash from KeraCare. Its coconut- and castor-oil infused formula is meant to give your hair (and scalp!) a strong boost of hydration so that your curls can look their best. Reviewers say that the effects of this shampoo can be seen for days, so that every day, your hair can look as good as it does at the end of wash day.
Pros: sulfate-free; moisturizing; detangling; curl-defining
Cons: not clarifying enough for some customers
Best Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair
This exfoliating shampoo is great for those who have product buildup or who suffer from dandruff, a greasy scalp, or hair weighed down at the roots. Reviewers say it has the power to banish build-up after just one use, but they warn that you should only use it when you need it. Otherwise, it may be too drying.
Pros: clarifying; color-safe; vegan; cruelty-free; clean
Cons: some users report it's too drying
Best Detangling Shampoo for Natural Hair
Not only does this shampoo promise to detangle and moisturize curls, but it also lathers well enough to cleanse the hair and scalp of buildup and grime. Customers also love its scent!
Pros: sulfate-free; moisturizing; clarifying; detangling
Cons: some users with low-porosity hair prefer an option that lathers less, like a co-wash
Best Scalp-Moisturizing Shampoo for Natural Hair
If you need something clarifying for your curls, but you struggle with a dry scalp, consider this option from Not Your Mother's. Users love its lightweight formula and how it cleanses buildup from the scalp without drying out sensitive or dry skin.
Pros: color-safe; gentle on scalp; vegan; clean
Cons: some users say it lathers too much
Best Curl-Defining Shampoo for Natural Hair
Tracee Ellis Ross' haircare brand, PATTERN, has quickly become a favorite among people with natural hair, and with good reason. The brand is made with natural hair in mind, and crafts formulas meant to foster long-term hair health and hydration. Reviewers love the way this shampoo leaves their curls moisturized, frizz-free, and defined, and they say that a little goes a long way.
Pros: paraben-free; curl-enhancing and -defining; color-safe; gentle, popular scent; long-lasting formula
Cons: some users find it isn't clarifying enough
Best Natural Hair Shampoo for Damaged Hair
Part of Curlsmith's mission is to create high-quality, moisturizing products formulated specifically for curls' unique needs, and according to reviews, it seems that the brand is succeeding. Customers love this shampoo for its ability to cleanse hair of sweat and grease without irritating the scalp or stripping hair of moisture. However, several users advise using it in tandem with an occasional clarifying rinse.
Pros: free of parabens, suflates, SLS, and SLES; curl-defining; works on all hair types and curl patterns
Cons: expensive; some users find it isn't clarifying enough
Meet the Experts
Cataanda James is a natural hairstylist and brand educator for The Mane Choice. Currently, she's based in New York City.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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