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The Top 20 Sulfate-Free Shampoos For Every Hair Type

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Photo by Piotr Marcinski/Adobe Stock Images

When you’re on a mission to achieve healthy hair growth and long-lasting style, keeping your scalp clean is crucial to success. But equally important is paying attention to the ingredients in your shampoo, as the wrong additions could strip your hair of much-needed moisture, causing color to quickly fade or leaving behind residue that can weigh your hair down. That’s why the best products for your hair are thought to be sulfate-free formulas. “Sulfates have a tendency to strip the hair of its natural oils in order to get the hair clean,” says says Nikki Ferrara, celebrity colorist at Nikki Ferrara Hair Color in NYC.

Chances are, you’re familiar with the term “sulfate-free,” having seen it stamped on shampoo and conditioner bottles—but maybe you don’t know exactly what sulfates are or why they could be bad for you. “Sulfates are detergents containing salt that you would find in shampoos, face cleansers, and house cleaning products...basically anything that will cause a sudsing effect,” says Ferrara.

The two most common sulfates found in shampoos and cleansers are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. These sulfates, aka foaming agents, lather up between your fingers when you’re washing your hair. But even though you may love the way these suds feel, it’s important to note that sulfates are responsible for stripping your hair shaft of much more than just dirt and product build-up, often removing your hair’s natural oils in the process. This can leave you with dry strands that are much more likely to frizz or result in faded color. “I wouldn’t recommend [sulfates] to clients that have lightened or double-processed hair if you like to keep your hair a vivid color,” says Ferrara. But it isn’t just your hair color that gets affected: Sulfates can also irritate sensitive scalps and cause keratin treatments and chemically straightened hairstyles to wear off more quickly.

Ready to get a deep clean and nourished hair without the potential side effects? We’ve rounded up the best sulfate-free shampoos for every hair type so you don’t even have to flip over your shampoo bottle to keep your hair in tip-top shape.


About the Expert:

Nikki Ferrara is a celebrity colorist based in New York City. Her celebrity clientele includes Ellie Kemper, Olivia Wilde, and Mila Kunis, among others. After years working at esteemed salons, including Oscar Blandi and Sally Hershberger, Ferrara opened her own bespoke salon, Nikki Ferrara Hair Color.

1. Best detoxifying shampoo:

CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt

CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt
Courtesy of CHRISTOPHE ROBIN

When you’re trying to stretch your hairstyle as long as possible before your next wash day, it can start to feel like you’re made up of 90% dry shampoo. If this sounds like you, and if you’re no stranger to day-three or day-four hair, then this detoxifying scalp scrub is for you. This cleansing treatment breaks down product buildup and promotes a healthy scalp, all while regulating oil production and restoring balance. And if you love this pick, this brand is sure to become a new fave, as everything from this line is sulfate-free and paraben-free.

2. Best volumizing shampoo:

PLAYA Every Day Shampoo

PLAYA Everyday Shampoo
Courtesy of PLAYA

Consider your hair flat, fine, or otherwise needing a little life? This moisturizing shampoo is made with coconut water, aloe vera, and sugar beet extract to cleanse your hair while preserving its natural oils and turning up the wow factor on volume. The hydrating-yet-lightweight formula also comes in one of PLAYA’s signature amazing scents we just can’t get enough of.

3. Best for frizzy hair:

VIRTUE Smooth Shampoo

VIRTUE Smooth Shampoo
Courtesy of VIRTUE

Fight frizz with a nourishing shampoo that works as an in-shower smoothing treatment for your hair. The MVP in the formula is alpha keratin 60ku® protein, which re-paves the hair cuticle to reduce friction between each strand, leaving you with smooth, soft, and shiny strands. In addition to being sulfate-free, this shampoo is also color-safe, paraben-free, and gluten-free.

4. Best for color-treated hair:

DRUNK ELEPHANT Cocomino™ Glossing Shampoo

DRUNK ELEPHANT Cocomino™ Glossing Shampoo
Courtesy of DRUNK ELEPHANT

Celebrity hairstylist Chris McMillan joined forces with the cult-favorite skincare brand DRUNK ELEPHANT to create a range of good-for-you hair products that deliver serious results. Take this sulfate-free shampoo, for example: It’s crafted with coconut-based surfactants to remove dirt and cleanse your hair without damaging the hair shaft or stripping your color, preserving the longevity of your hair dye and increasing water retention. Then, strengthening amino acids prevent water loss and deliver heat protection to your strands while a rich combination of fatty acids and antioxidants moisturize your hair.

5. Best for preventing breakage:

DRYBAR Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo

DRYBAR Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo
Courtesy of DRYBAR

Not only do all the products from DRYBAR smell like our fave products from the salon, but they’re also all sulfate-free. We especially love that this strengthening shampoo is made with watercress extract and keratin to moisturize and soften dry, damaged hair, and that the nourishing formula reinforces the structure of the hair shaft to prevent future damage.

6. Best for dry hair:

KÉRASTASE Aura Botanica Bain Micellaire Riche Shampoo

KÉRASTASE Aura Botanica Bain Micellaire Riche Shampoo
Courtesy of KÉRASTASE

Got dry strands that need a double dose of hydration? Look no further than this moisturizing shampoo that provides 48 hours of nourishment with a potent blend of Amazonian Brazil nut oil and Thai rice bran oil, which is rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to nourish, moisturize, and protect your hair from dryness.

7. Best drugstore find:

AVEENO Scalp Soothing Oat Milk Blend Shampoo

AVEENO Scalp Soothing Oat Milk Blend Shampoo
Courtesy of AVEENO

Milk and oats aren’t just for your breakfast menu anymore. These nourishing, natural ingredients can work wonders for your hair as they balance, soothe, and moisturize in a way that works for everyone in the family.

8. Best for 4c curls:

SHEAMOISTURE Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo

SHEAMOISTURE Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
Courtesy of SHEAMOISTURE

If you want to hydrate and cleanse curly hair without risking breakage, this gentle, detangling moisture shampoo is your perfect match. This formula incorporates coconut oil, silk protein, and neem oil to control frizz, add shine, and smooth over natural hair for a soft, silky feel.

9. Best thickening shampoo:

R+CO Dallas Biotin Thickening Shampoo

R+CO Dallas Biotin Thickening Shampoo
Courtesy of R+CO

Big, beautiful, and bouncy hair is in your future. This shampoo fortifies your hair and improves the infrastructure of your strands with a revitalizing combo of biotin, pro vitamin B5, coconut oil, and saw palmetto berry extract to strengthen and thicken. Simply apply it to the mid-length of your hair and then work it into the tips and roots before rinsing off.

10. Best for blondes:

ORIBE Bright Blonde Shampoo for Beautiful Color

ORIBE Bright Blonde Shampoo for Beautiful Color
Courtesy of ORIBE

Banish brassiness and tone your blonde with this brightening violet shampoo in your daily routine. This formula moisturizes hair while shielding your strands from damage and fading caused by UV exposure, so you get to lock in your blonde for the long haul.

11. Best for oily hair:

OUAI Medium Shampoo

OUAI Medium Shampoo
Courtesy of OUAI

If your scalp gets oily after just a day but your ends are always dry, striking a happy medium with your hair products might feel impossible. That is, until you try this must-have formula from OUAI. This formula cleanses and revives your hair with a blend of keratin, kumquat extract, babassu oil, and coconut oil. You’ll be able to prolong your style with cleaner, shinier-looking strands, and the delicious scent will make this shampoo a welcome addition to your shower routine.

12. Best for damaged hair:

OLAPLEX No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

OLAPLEX No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Courtesy of OLAPLEX

If excessive heat-styling, bleaching, or everyday stresses have left you with split ends and lifeless strands, it’s not too late to revitalize your hair. This restorative shampoo is known for its ability to repair and restore broken bonds, leaving you with healthier hair that’s easier to manage and stronger after just one use.

13. Best to protect against pollution:

IGK Thirsty Girl Anti-Frizz Shampoo

IGK Thirsty Girl Anti-Frizz Shampoo
Courtesy of IGK

This innovative formula relies on the same ingredients as your skincare routine, and we like to think of it as armor for your hair. It uses patented hyaluronic acid technology to create a moisture barrier for hydration while it also provides protection against pollutants, UV rays, and excessive heat that can contribute to hair damage.

14. Best for sensitive scalps:

COLORWOW Color Security Shampoo

COLORWOW Color Security Shampoo
Courtesy of COLORWOW

After you shampoo, particles can sometimes be left behind and build up on your scalp and block hair follicles, inhibiting new growth. That’s where this 100% clean shampoo comes in. It expertly cleanses your scalp to completely remove stubborn residue, so you get healthy, thriving hair that shines, and color that looks just as vibrant as the day you left the salon. This shampoo is also keratin-safe and extension-safe, making it suitable for all hair types (yup, even faux hair!).

15. Best cruelty-free option:

LIVING PROOF Perfect Hair Day™ Shampoo

LIVING PROOF Perfect Hair Day Shampoo
Courtesy of LIVING PROOF

Many of us understand the importance of washing our hair less frequently so it can retain its natural oils, but this is often easier said than done. So when you need help weaning off your frequent hair-wash days, opt for this groundbreaking formula that contains a patented healthy hair molecule that smoothes, polishes, and protects to create healthier hair over time. Bonus: This baby is PETA-certified and cruelty-free.

16. Best texturizing shampoo:

AMIKA Sexture Beach Look Shampoo

AMIKA Sexture Beach Look Shampoo
Courtesy of AMIKA

Beachy hair that starts in the shower? Sign us up. This texturizing shampoo incorporates zeolite to achieve effortlessly tousled texture (#mermaidvibes) without needing heat styling or additional products, making it a great go-to for anyone who prefers air-drying their hair. Simply wash, go, and be on your beach babe way.

17. Best for flaky scalps:

SUNDAY RILEY Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum

SUNDAY RILEY Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum
Courtesy of SUNDAY RILEY

If you love SUNDAY RILEY for its skincare, your hair care routine is in for a treat. The esteemed brand borrowed ingredients from its effective creams and cleansers to create an exfoliating treatment that works to transform dry, flaky scalps after just one use. Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin B complex, vitamin F, and witch hazel work together to break down product buildup, control oil production, exfoliate, hydrate, and soothe dandruff. The result = clean scalp and moisturized hair—a winning combination.

18. Best for relaxed hair:

BRIOGEO Rosarco Repair Shampoo

BRIOGEO Rosarco Repair Shampoo
Courtesy of BRIOGEO

Has your hair been through the treatment wringer from relaxers, heat styling, or keratin? Then your fragile strands will drink up this restorative, sulfate-free, silicone-free shampoo that contains a nourishing blend of rosehip oil, argan oil, and coconut oils to repair tired hair.

19. Best detangling shampoo:

BUMBLE AND BUMBLE Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Shampoo

BUMBLE AND BUMBLE Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Shampoo
Courtesy of BUMBLE AND BUMBLE

If it feels like your hair never wants to cooperate, add this multitasking shampoo to your hair care routine. This detangling formula uses a potent combination of lightweight oils that makes your hair more manageable, silky smooth, and totally touchable, without weighing it down one bit.

20. Best for mature hair:

ALTERNA HAIRCARE Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Shampoo

ALTERNA HAIRCARE Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Shampoo
Courtesy of ALTERNA HAIRCARE

The reality is that our hair thins as we age, as much as we might wish this weren’t the case. But before you lose all hope, there are a few things you can do to minimize the effects of thinning hair, such as reaching for a gentle-yet-potent formula that can reduce breakage and rebuild damaged hair bonds. This sulfate-free formula in particular incorporates omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to defend and protect against factors that cause your hair to feel and look older, leaving you with healthier, stronger hair instead.

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About the author
Katrina-Mitzeliotis-headshot
Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
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Article Last Updated February 11, 2021 12:00 AM