Girls with curls know one underlying fact: All shampoos are not created equal. Personally, I have short natural hair (read: tightly coiled) and have learned the hard way that certain formulas literally suck the life out of my hair, leaving me with a headache and tangles. Rule number one? Curls crave moisture, making it imperative to select the right product designed to deliver hydration, hydration, hydration.
You might question whether or not you need to use a sulfate-free formula, and the answer is a resounding YES. “There is no downside to using a sulfate-free shampoo on curly hair. The concept of sulfate-free shampoo is most beneficial to curly hair types,” explains Naeemah LaFond, global artistic director for amika. “You can cleanse hair without stripping it of its natural oils.”For those worries about the lack of lather, it’s all in your head (literally). “Friction, water, and a proper cleanser that won’t leave behind any residue are all you need,” LaFond adds.
But, before we dive into the best shampoos for curly hair, we wanted to share a brief masterclass on washing curly hair the right way according to Nelson Vercher, lead stylist at Rita Hazan Salon, who counts Kelly Rowland, Chloe Moretz, and Carmen Ejogo as clients. First, start by holding your head under water and add shampoo. “One thing you must be careful not to do while shampooing the hair is piling your hair on top of your head with shampoo in it—always keep your hair loose and hanging downwards,” he explains. Next, using the palms of your hands, slide hands down hair shaft, keeping the hair loose and work up towards the scalp, using the balls of your fingers. Use circular movements on the scalp to cleanse. “This method of shampooing will help prevent hair from getting frizzy,” he adds.
For those who like to wash their hair twice like Chuck Amos, celebrity hair stylist who works with Alicia, Keys, Erykah Badu, and Tracee Ellis Ross does, here’s a pro hack: “During the second wash, add in a little conditioner onto the ends of your hair during the process. This helps moisten your hair even more when rinsing out your shampoo.” And finally, without further ado: here are 17 expert-approved shampoos for curly hair of all kinds.
For Curls That Need Reinforcement
Created with keratin derived from human hair, Sharon Dorram, Master Colorist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon who counts newlywed Priyanka Chopra as a client swears by this shampoo. “The more you use it, the healthier your hair becomes,” she explains.”And, for curly hair it is so important to keep the hair hydrated to maximize the curl.”
For Fine or Thin Curls
“I love this product because it features ingredients such as primrose oil (which can be highly effective against hair loss) and acanthus extract (which leaves the hair shiny, supple and voluminous),” shares Vercher. “This shampoo cleanses, strengthens, detangles, activates the curl and defines your curl pattern.”
For Eco-Conscious Curls
According to Shai Amiel, the self-proclaimed “Curl Doctor,” who works with everyone from Zendaya to Kelis, and so many more, this “certified organic product really cleans the scalp properly while maintaining and adding moisture.” When it comes to post-wash, he suggests avoiding oils on wet hair for good reason. “Oils and water don’t mix—the conditioner should not sit on the surface like grease, it should absorb.”
For Smooth, Shiny Curls
Jorge Serrano, one of the men behind Kris Jenner’s covetable hair styles loves this paraben and silicone-free formula for curly locks. “It deeply nourishes the hair with a high concentration of antioxidants and omega 3, 6, and 9,” he adds.
For Curls On A Budget
“Between the paraben-free formula and the infused Argan oil, your hair is left completely cleansed, extremely soft and moisturized,” shares Amos. “It kicks up a beautiful thick, rich lather while gently cleansing your hair.”
For Dehydrated Curls
Dubbed as an “essential for hydrated and defined curls,” LaFond is a fan of this one-step, no-lather wonder that adds moisture without the extra weight. “Curly hair is often dry and doesn’t need to be cleansed as deeply as other hair types,” she explains. “This cleansing conditioner washes away the funk without leaving your hair thirsty.”
For Thick Curls
“This product is my absolute favorite for curly hair because it’s specifically structured to enhance and tame textured hair,” explains Samantha Padilla, a hair stylist who works with Victoria Boyd. “It also boosts volume while keeping the hair soft and light.” Another bonus? The corresponding conditioner is “known to give elasticity and hydration for workable wavy to curly hair.” (PS: Both Scotty Cunha (Kourtney Kardashian and Nicole Richie) and Miles Jefferies (Mariah Carey and Tinashe) listed this as their favorite shampoo for curls as well).
For The Curl Connoisseur
“Unlike regular shampoo which is drying to the hair and can irritate the scalp, No-Poo is minty, which is soothing to the scalp and moisturizing to the hair,” explains Christin Brown, curly hair specialist and DevaCurl-certified stylist, who works with Tamara Mowry, Yara Shahidi, Angela Manuel-Davis. “Sulfate-free cleansers are a major pro because you’re able to still get the clean hair that you’re looking for without the dehydration and even tangling that one’s hair can experience.”
For Curls That Need to Be Cleansed
“[For daily cleansing], I recommend Mizani’s Cleansing Conditioner,” explains Tippi Shorter, celebrity stylist, who works with Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Amandla Stenberg and more. “It cleanses scalp and hair gently while hydrating curls with any harsh ingredients.” Her pro tip is to apply product in sections: “[It] eliminates frizz because you have good product distribution.”
For Heat-Damaged Curls
Curly hair is often drier because the hair’s natural sebum doesn’t always reach the ends of the hair, which makes this moisturizing formula pretty clutch.“The ends of the hair (the hair you have had the longest) or the hair that has suffered the most abuse from flat irons, blow dryers tend to be the most dehydrated,” explains Pat G. Williams, educator and author of “Hairversations: The Guide to Natural Hair.”
For Shedding Curls
Milbon Restorative Shampoo (Salon Only)
Mahogany Grace, hair stylist and salon owner, credits this shampoo with making her hair more manageable, plus helping regain both elasticity and resilience. “I’ve experienced way less shedding because of this, meaning fewer strands of hair fall out when I am washing,” she explains. “I have been using this shampoo and the treatment for about a year—my hair is the healthiest it’s been in years!”
For Curls That Need Clarifying
According to Jaxcee, master colorist and color director at Hair Rules Salon, it’s imperative that you wash hair on a weekly basis—even during the winter months! “Can you imagine what your facial skin would look and act like if you only washed it once a month?” she asks. “Your scalp skin and your face skin are closely related. Not washing your hair on a consistent basis can lead to hair loss due to product buildup suffocating your scalp.” She alternates between a sudsing and non-sudsing version every other wash.
For Frizz-Free Curls
Cynthia Alvarez, celebrity hair stylist who works with Shakira, Adrienne Bailon, Becky G, and Maye Musk loves this weatherproof option. “It controls frizz and leaves your hair silky smooth, plus it also has nourishing oils that protect your hair without weighing down your curls.”
For Curls That Just Wanna Have Fun
Sometimes, two are better than one, which is exactly why Daryce “Reece” Brown-Willis, owner of A Curl Can Dream, has multiple favorites. “My favorite shampoos for curly hair come as a pair under the new Moisture-Fusion collection,” she explains. “The clarifying shampoo is very hydrating and contains charcoal as a star ingredient to help naturally remove impurities while cleansing gently.”
For Curls That Just Wanna Have Fun
“I follow that with the moisture-rich shampoo to help nourish the hair while prompting a clean, healthy scalp,” Brown-Willis continues.
For Super Defined Curls
George Papanikolas, Matrix celebrity stylist who counts Penelope Cruz, Fergie, Hannah Jeter, Minnie Driver, and Daisy Fuentes as clients, keeps this cleansing conditioner nearby. “After a few uses, you will notice more definition in the curls with less frizz,” he explains.
For Curls That Need Scalp Relief
Kiyah, celebrity hair stylist who works with Jennifer Hudson, Tyra Banks and Ciara, can’t stop raving about this tried-and-true drugstore steal. “Not only is it good for dandruff but it’s great for curly and textured hair,” she explains. “Pairing the shampoo and conditioner together has worked great for my clients.”
For Curls That Need A Deep Cleanse
Don’t let the word “soap” freak you out. This doctor-formulated cleanser relies on a blend of natural ingredients including cocoa seed powder, plantain skins, tea tree oil and raw black soap to cleanse, hydrate “It cleanses and brings life back to dry curls without stripping the moisture,” shares Angela C. Styles, hair care expert and expert who works with Eve. “Curls instantly look better after one shampoo.”