Best Shampoo For Curly Hair [Review] in 2021
written by nail expert Jess Rowley
Looking to start the curly girl method or just looking to start properly looking after your curls? Well, getting the right shampoo may transform your once frizzy curls to defined, luscious locks.
Who knew the shampoo you’re using could actually be holding back your curls in an illusion of frizz.
It is sometimes as simple as avoiding some ingredients you never even knew you should’ve avoided, sulfates, silicones, waxes, even mineral oil, parabens, and phthalates. A whole wonder of ingredients that are actually really damaging to your curls.
So you find a shampoo that’s free of all the nasty stuff, great, right? Well, yes, in most cases by finding a shampoo that works for your curls can still be a challenge. If you have particularly dry curls, then a co-wash would be better than a sulfate-free shampoo.
Don’t let that put you off.
You may be looking at this screen all eyes glazed over, having no clue where even to start– and you’re not alone, trust me.
To make things easier, I’ve hunted down the very best shampoos and co-washes for curly hair, as well as an in-depth guide to working out the best one to use based on your curl type.
I’ve got you, curly girl; you won’t want to miss my top 3 picks.
hours spent finding
My Selection Of the best shampoos for curly hair
SheaMoisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl and Shine
When it comes to nourishing curly hair, SheaMoisture has it down to a T. I have always been a personal fan of their products. Their Coconut and Hibiscus and their Black Castor Oil range have a special place in my heart.
They’re also approved by the Curly Girl Method, which is like the bible for curly hair.
This natural formula is free of all the nasties like sulfates, silicones, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and even petroleum– all the nasties which strip your hair. Their product line is also completely cruelty-free, which is a total plus in my eyes.
Another thing I love about SheaMoisture is that they are continuing to formulate with Raw Shea butter created and handcrafted by women in Africa, and every purchase is reinvested into communities which is a nice touch.
This shampoo is gentle on curly hair; it doesn’t weigh your curls down nor feel heavy on your hair. It leaves hair feeling soft and manageable, which is everything we need to hear when buying shampoo for our curly hair.
Want to hear the best bit?
This shampoo gently cleanses naturally curly hair to improve health and restore shine. It contains coconut oil to moisturize and protect hair while restoring natural oils on the ends, where extremely curly girls struggle to retain moisture.
This silicone-free shampoo also contains hibiscus flower extracts to improve the hair’s elasticity and reduce breakage; it smooths curls making brushing your hair while wet a breeze. It leaves your hair frizz-free with luscious, defined curls.
This shampoo also contains a silk protein that helps smooth hair for a silky feel, while the neem oil helps tackle frizz while adding shine. Using this shampoo between co-washes will transform your curls.
You can’t beat that their products are ethically traded, sustainably produced as well as being cruelty-free– it is rare nowadays, which is why Shea Moisture will always be a winner in my eyes.
- Free of all harsh chemicals and ingredients
- Cruelty-free, ethically, and sustainably made
- Leaves hair feeling silky and manageable
- Gentle ingredients which improve the hairs health and elasticity
Latest deal: SheaMoisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl and Shine
As I Am Coconut Cowash
best co wash
So I know you’ve probably heard people doing the Curly Girl Method saying that they wash their hair with conditioner, but what they really mean is that they’re washing their hair with a cleansing conditioner.
So what’s the difference?
A cleansing conditioner or co-wash is lightweight and is designed to cleanse your hair rather than just be used to hydrate the ends; if anyone washed their hair with a cheap conditioner they picked up from the store, then yes, it would be greasy.
Co-washes have revolutionized the curly girl world. Since curly hair is known for being particularly dry as the natural oils struggle to reach the ends of your hair, co-washes were designed to hydrate the ends without leaving a greasy residue.
This light conditioning cream by As I Am gentle spreads easily throughout the hair and removes oils and residue, including everything you’ve used to style your coils and curls, leaving your hair looking and feeling fresh and hydrated.
Coconut oil is the best way to hydrate your curls, and this Coconut Cowash contains a natural blend of natural ingredients which promote healthy hair growth from the follicular level.
This cleansing conditioner maintains moisture, adds more moisture, and helps retain moisture between washes. This is ideal particularly for coily hair as it helps nourish the ends of your hair (which is a need) without leaving your scalp greasy.
As if that was enough.
This co-wash makes detangling a breeze and rinses easily from hair, it is gentle enough to use daily, and it is even safe for color-treated hair. If you’re struggling to find a solution for your brittle curls, this is it!
Instead of using shampoo every wash, especially if you have particularly dry curls, you should instead switch up for this excellent cleanser; it will leave your curls feeling nourished and feeling like silk.
Even some sulfate shampoos can dry out the ends of your hair, but this coconut co-wash contains all the excellent ingredients like coconut oil, castor oil, and citrus extract to revive your curls and provide them with the TLC they need.
This co-wash refreshes your curls without the buildup; it’s brilliant!
- Infused with coconut oil, castor oil, and citrus extract
- Removes oils and residue, including products used
- Natural ingredients which maintain, add, and retain moisture
- Gentle enough to use daily
- Only ideal for curly/coily hair
Latest deal: As I Am Coconut Cowash
Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo
Looking for a sulfate-free cleansing shampoo that is ideal for the loosest waves and the tightest coils? Well, you must check out Cantu– they are a revolutionized brand trusted by the Curly Girl Method.
This cleansing cream shampoo gently cleanses and moisturizes curly locks to help minimize breakage during shampooing.
Their award-winning formula is made with Shea butter, a key moisturizing ingredient; it adds moisture and helps maintain moisture within your hair to prevent breakage.
It works even have type 2 wavy hair, type 3 curly, or even type 4 coily.
This rich lather removes all heavy buildup; its gentle formula is also great for colored curls too. This removal of heavy buildup around the scalp is also ideal for prom noting healthy hair growth.
While this shampoo has been proven brilliant for some curly girls, I wouldn’t recommend it if your hair is particularly dry; many customers found it to be drying, meaning it doesn’t work for all curl types.
Some sulfate-free shampoos can still be very stripping, so rather than using it straight on your scalp, I would recommend mixing with a couple of pumps of conditioner; this should prevent this shampoo from drying out your ends.
Other than the fact that it can be a little drying, this shampoo is still a great contender.
- Infused with shea butter
- Helps maintain moisture
- Prevents breakage
- Sulfate free
- Can be quite drying when not mixed with conditioner
Latest deal: Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo
Maui Moisture Curl Quench Anti-Frizz Shampoo
Do you suffer from high porosity hair and struggle to get enough hydration for your curls? High porosity hair is known for soaking up moisture but doesn’t tend to get enough hydration.
This is why I love this range by Maui; their range of products caters to all kinds of curls, from low to high porosity hair. Curl Quench, in particular, is a heavyweight cleansing shampoo ideal for high porosity hair.
Thanks to coconut oil, this shampoo is designed to hydrate, smooth, and defrizz unruly locks. This shampoo is ideal for tight curls; it helps detangle, protect and hydrate, leaving curls looking defined and bouncy.
Want to know more about why this product is so great?
It. is free from all the nasty ingredients and harsh chemicals that you find in regular shampoo. No mineral oil, no silicones, no parabens, no gluten, no sulfates, SLS, nop synthetic dyes. This vegan formula is a godsend for natural curls.
This rich blend of curl-defining vegan shampoo contains 100% aloe vera along with coconut milk, plumeria extract, and papaya extract. An all-natural formula which is free of all the nasties, yes, please!
Want something a little lighter? Well, one thing I love about Maui is that they offer different shampoos for different curls and different porosities of hair; working out your hair porosity is the key to a healthy hair cleansing routine.
- Free of all harsh chemicals
- Vegan formula
- Natural ingredients
- Highly hydrating
Latest deal: Maui Moisture Curl Quench Shampoo
Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner
Carol’s Daughter is yet another award-winning brand that dedicates its products to curly hair, and its cleansing conditioner is a serious hit. It is designed to rinse away impurities and deeply moisturize hair from root to tip.
Your dream hair starts with the right cleanser that won’t lead your hair begging for moisture or full of tangled tresses; it is designed to deeply moisturize snd detangle waves, curls, coils, and kinks– so soft that your fingers can do the combing.
It is free of sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, and artificial colors, making it ideal for curly hair.
But wait, get this!
It is made with agave, biotin, shea butter and contains pro-vitamin b5 and vitamin E, which are key ingredients for the foundation of healthy curls. It will deeply moisturize from root to tip.
Many customers have raved about this product, and many whose curls are type 3 curls. One happy customer claimed that it was “moisturizing but still cleans effectively without leaving your hair greasy.” It leaves curls bouncy and full of life.
Carol’s Daughter not only offers brilliant co-washes but their shampoo range and hair styling range are also pretty incredible too.
- Ideal for type 3/4 curls
- Doesn’t leave hair greasy
- Contains agave, biotin, shea butter and vitamin B5 and E
- Deeply moisturizes from root to tip
- Issues ordering through Amazon
Latest deal: Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk
Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Although Olaplex is not specifically designed for curly hair, it is brilliant at reviving all damaged, brittle hair. Have you bleached your hair which killed your curls? Well, Olaplex may be the only thing that can save them.
Curls are the most fragile hair textures; Olaplex is designed to rebuild broken disulfide bonds in the hair, linking them back together to create healthy bonds. This is vital for curls that need to be repurchased to life.
Whether you’ve exposed your once luscious curls to too much heat, breaking too many hair ties, exposure to chemical services, or just excessive brushing, then Olaplex will not only revive damaged ends but eliminate frizz flyaways and prevent breakage.
Olaplex infuses curly hair with moisture and conditions dry ends for beautiful, bouncy, and resilient curls. It is designed to strengthen curly hair, improving manageability and shine.
Olaplex is a lifesaver for reviving damaged hair.
It isn’t just made for straight, damaged hair; those with curly hair can also benefit from it, too, thanks to it being sulfate-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, gluten-free, phosphate-free, nut-free, cruelty-free, and even vegan.
This color-safe shampoo that protects and repairs damaged, split hair also helps tame frizz. It is a highly moisturizing shampoo that leaves hair looking fresher and healthier.
It may be a little pricy, but it is definitely worth it as it truly does revive damaged hair.
- Revives damaged curls
- Free of all harsh chemicals
- Deeply moisturizing
- Helps tame frizz and color safe
- Issues ordering through Amazon
Latest deal: Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Best Shampoos For Curly Hair-- A Buyer's Guide
When it comes to shampooing curls, it is much different from shampooing straight hair; whether you prefer co-washing or using a sulfate-free shampoo to tame your curls, we can all agree it all depends on your curl type– not everyone is the same.
Now while I can recommend some pretty amazing products for curly hair, not all of these products will work for you; sadly, with curly hair and washing, it’s a bit of trial and error.
What may work for your curly friend Sally may not work for you; it all depends on the porosity of your hair, your curl type, and just the texture of your hair in general.
But as a general rule of thumb, curly or coily hair tends to lack moisture, and if your hair particularly lacks moisture, when looking for the right curly shampoo or co-wash, be sure to look for hydrating ingredients.
So if none of these shampoos work for you above, then I’m here to show you how you find the right shampoo for your curly hair type.
What Shampoo Can You Use On Curly Hair?
When washing curly hair, you should avoid certain ingredients like parabens, silicones, phthalates, and especially sulfates. These ingredients can damage curly hair as they can strip your natural oils and dry out your hair.
Since curly hair is the driest of hair textures anyway, the last thing we want is to dry it out even more; this is why it is recommended that if you have curly hair that you shouldn’t use sulfate-filled shampoos and switch to a sulfate-free option.
But it’s not as simple as just switching to a sulfate-free shampoo, especially. Suppose you have used silicones or waxes in the past. The Curly Girl Method guide recommends you do one last ‘reset’ shampoo with sulfates to get rid of any silicone buildup.
Once you’ve done that last wash, you should avoid silicones and waxy ingredients that cannot be dissolved with water and switch to a sulfate-free shampoo or a cleansing conditioner/ co-wash.
But what is a sulfate-free shampoo or cleansing conditioner?
Sulfate-free shampoo is the only shampoo you can use in the Curly Girl Method. It is also known as “low-poo” shampoo, meaning that it is low in shampoo.
It contains gentle detergents which break down scalp oils and buildup without stripping the hair. It is best for thin waves and flat curls, which tend to get greasy fast.
Here’s a tip: some sulfate-free shampoos can still be a bit drying; if your hair feels almost squeaky, rather than the slipper, the cleaner is too harsh for your hair.
If this happens, you won’t need to throw it out, don’t worry. Instead, mix with a couple of pumps of conditioner, which should help prevent this dryness.
Cleansing conditioners are a curly girl’s best friend. Cleansing conditioners are also called “co-washes” or “no-poo” shampoo. They’re lightweight conditioners that can be used as shampoo without leaving your hair looking greasy.
Coily hair and most curl types won’t benefit from much detergent because their hair is naturally really dry anyway, they need water, moisture, and a scalp massage to do the trick. This is why co-washes are recommended for super curly or coily hair as they work to hydrate the hair without leaving the scalp looking greasy.
To cleanse your scalp, you should massage the cleansing conditioner for at least 60 seconds for it to be immaculate and refreshed.
Most Curly Girl Method guides suggest you should start with a cleansing conditioner rather than a sulfate-free shampoo regardless of your curl type as your scalp adjusts more than you may think.
How To Wash Your Hair With Conditioner:
If you have extremely dry curls that need some TLC and a serious moisture boost, then I would reccomend washing your hair with conditioner rather than sulfate-free shampoo.
Some sulfate-free shampoos can still strip your hair, they may be free of stripping ingredients, but some brands still include quite harsh chemicals which can dry out your hair.
This is why so many girls have switched to washing their hair with a cleansing conditioner, a co-wash. It is extremely effective for coily hair or really curly hair that doesn’t receive much natural moisture from the roots.
Here’s how you do it!
Fully drench your hair with water:
Before you go in with the cleansing conditioner, you’ll need to soak until it is sopping wet; this should help loosen debris, making it easier to rinse out dirt and grime.
This should also help distribute the product evenly throughout the hair to prevent any greasy spots where you may have gone overboard with the conditioner or accidentally missed it.
Coat your hair with conditioner:
Forget the BS about how you need a dime-size amount of conditioner; when using a cleansing conditioner, you need enough to cover the root of your hair to the tip.
For some people, if it can be as much as a golf-ball-size amount, don’t be shy with the conditioner as remember you’re not just conditioning your hair but also cleansing.
You want to massage your scalp like no tomorrow to help evenly distribute the conditioner from the scalp to the ends. This should help break down any residue leftover from your styling products.
You should be massaging your scalp for at least 60 seconds to help stimulate the blood flow and remove all dirt and grime from your roots; you need to work it more than shampoo to notice the most benefits.
Once it has been evenly distributed and you have a spare few minutes, I would reccomend leaving it for 3 to 5 minutes (especially if your hair is particularly dry or damaged), and then it will act as a mask.
Then after those 5 minutes are up, I would reccomend giving the ends of your hair a little scrunch, then rinse, dry with a microfibre or cotton t-shirt, and apply styling products. The key is to scrunch styling, cream, gel, serum, etc., upside down to ensure the cuticles are absorbing the product.
Using clarifying shampoo once every 2-4 weeks:
Buildup from sweat, stylers, or conditioner is inevitable even when avoiding all the harsh chemicals; sometimes, co-washing or shampooing your hair with sulfate-free shampoo is bound to happen.
Once or twice a month, you should clean your hair with a clarifying shampoo to cure your dullness without drying; if you’ve noticed your hair lacks volume or feels like it’s been weighed down, this is your sign that it needs it washing with clarifying shampoo.
Ingredients To Avoid When Looking For Shampoos For Curly Hair
There are a few chemicals to avoid; some chemicals can be really damaging to the natural curl and cause breakage, frizz, and even damage the way the curl looks. In the Curly Girl Method, here are the top chemicals to avoid after the ‘reset’ wash.
Remember the foamy, creamy, forthy lather when you wash your hair with normal shampoo– it is the ‘ahhh’ moment that everyone loves; well, this is actually caused by sulfates and can be very damaging for your hair, especially curly hair.
Although the sensation of lathering your hair up with shampoo is lovely, sulfates can actually STRIP your hair of its natural oils, making it more prone to frizz, breakage, and overall leaving the hairdryer.
Plus, since curly hair is naturally dry, to begin with, regularly using sulfate shampoo is a terrible idea, even worse the curlier your hair type is.
In the Curly Girl Method, Lorraine recommended you do one last ‘reset wash’ with a shampoo filled with sulfates to get rid of the silicone and wax buildup before switching to a sulfate-free shampoo.
She also strongly suggests switching to the No Poo method, which cuts out all shampoos completely, and switching to a cleansing conditioner instead. Cleansing conditioners are brilliant for cleansing any dirt from your hair without causing dryness.
So if you’re following the curly girl method, you will also need to avoid silicones, silicones are like plastic, and they’re used in conditioning products to smooth down the cuticle, make your hair feel softer reduce frizz.
However, without a sulfate shampoo to remove them, it can lead to product buildup, and over time, this makes hair frizzier, look limp and lifeless. It will also lose the life of your curl.
Silicones can only be removed with sulfates, and without sulfates, it causes buildup– not ideal, so it is best to cut it out completely. But don’t worry, you can still achieve silky soft hair without silicones; some people will tell you it’s even softer too!
Mineral Oils and Waxes:
Mineral oil and petrolatum are other ingredients you should try to avoid when doing the curly girl method or just caring for curly hair, they can weigh down your hair, and without sulfates to remove them, they build up like silicones.
Some waxes use natural ingredients which are safe to style curly or kinky hair. However, most waxes are s non-hydrous, meaning they won’t wash out with just water or co-washing.
If you find yourself accidentally using waxes or silicones, then you can use your reset shampoo to remove them, then go back to the Curly Girl Routine.
Parabens are used in many hair products to prevent and stop the growth of bacteria in your hair, but there are far more negatives than positives to using parabens.
Glycerin is another ingredient you should avoid if you have curly hair, especially if you live in a humid climate. If you live in a hot, humid environment, glycerin will absorb moisture from the hair and cause the hair to swell.
This is not ideal for curly hair as it raises the cuticle and disrupts the curl pattern, creating coarse, frizzy hair. If you live in a hot, humid environment, then you should definitely avoid products with glycerin.
Frequently Asked Questions
I get asked this question a lot, but it all really depends on your hair type, many people need to train your hair, but it isn’t that simple for curly hair. The ends of our hair struggle to receive the natural oils from the scalp to it regularly needs conditioning.
What works for my hair (which may not work for everyone) is to use a sulfate-free shampoo once every 1-2 weeks and either use a co-wash when my hair is looking particularly dry in between washes and the curls need that little boost.
I am a personal fan of As I Am Coconut Cowash, I use it 2-3 times a week in between shampooing my hair, but if I’m not using a co-wash, I tend to rinse and massage my scalp to evenly distribute natural oils and then use a deep cleansing conditioner once a week.
I found that if you’re using a gentle shampoo free from all nasty ingredients and your hair needs regular washing, that is okay; as long as you’re nourishing the ends of your hair, it’s all about what works for you personally.
How do you wash curly hair properly?
First things first you should really check the temperature of your water before applying it to your head, hot water can dry hair out and we want as much moisture retention as possible for curly hair.
Squeeze out a sizeable amount of shampoo onto your hands and work your way through your scalp. I tend to start on top and make my way to the back. With co-washing or using sulfate shampoo, I would recommend massaging for at least a minute.
You should feel like you’re massaging and putting pressure on your head rather than just touching your hair; this will promote healthy blood flow, which leads to healthier hair.
Make sure you massage as you rinse out to ensure all of the shampoos are removed. Once you’ve cleansed your hair (I would do this twice), use your trusty conditioner or treatment and finger-comb it through your hair.
I also love doing a cool rinse once I’ve washed my hair; it leaves my hair feeling soft and shiny as it closes the open cuticle.
While your hair is still sopping wet, apply all your styling products like gel and/or leave-in conditioner or cream and scrunch upwards with a cotton towel.
Check out my full guide of how to wash curly hair and how often you should wash curly hair here.
What is a co-wash for curly hair?
Co-washing your hair is essentially washing your hair purely with conditioner; it is particular used on very curly, coily, or kinky hair because this hair texture tends. tobe very lacking in hydration and moisture.
Since the curls change direction or coil around tightly, the natural oils from the scalp have a hard time reaching the tip of the hair, leaving the ends extremely dry, so if you suffer from dehydrated hair, then you could benefit from co-washing.
So there you have it, the best shampoo and co-washes for wavy, curly, coily, and kinky hair. Not every shampoo will work for your hair type; it all depends on your hair’s porosity, texture, curl type, and whether it is damaged or healthy.
Establishing your curly hair routine is all a bit of trial and error and working out what your hair likes and dislikes; you may not get it right the first time, and trust me, it took me a few months to work out what my hair needed, but you will thank me for this.
Using the right shampoo or co-wash will leave your curls looking defined, healthier and frizz-free. It will also leave your curls feeling more manageable and will hold styles for longer. Sometimes your curls need a moisture kick.
Choose any of the shampoos I have recommended for you today; many curly girls love them and rave about them changing their hair. If they work for your hair, then that’s brilliant!
Happy curls, happy life!
Cheif Editor & Nail Technician Expert
Jess Rowley, a veteran nail tech, has been studying beauty over the last 11 years and has completed the nail technology program in California. Watching the latest trends in beauty, Jess searches for the highest quality products that make your nails feel loved.