The best sulfate-free shampoo

Hair Products

Sulfate-free shampoos are often made with amino acids and plant-based surfactants that cleanse without stripping away beneficial natural oils.

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Which sulfate-free shampoos are best?

Shampoo should leave your hair clean and manageable without being harsh on delicate locks. However, many shampoos contain surfactants called sulfates that can overly dry the hair and irritate the scalp. Fortunately, sulfate-free shampoo is a gentler option. 

In addition to cleansing without laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate, sulfate-free formulas like OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo do a good job hydrating hair. Regardless of your hair type or concerns, chances are there’s a sulfate-free formula that will work for you. 

What to know before you buy sulfate-free shampoo

If you like the idea of shampooing your hair without sulfates, there are a few points to consider before you buy sulfate-free shampoo. 

Why should I be concerned about sulfates in shampoo?

Sulfates are chemical-based cleansers made to remove oil, dirt and buildup. These agents are highly effective at cleaning and used in household cleaners, body soaps and shampoos. 

Sulfates in shampoo produce lather and cut down on the time and effort to cleanse the hair and scalp. However, they can cause hair to become dry and damaged over time due to over-stripping oils. Sulfates can also irritate the scalp, especially in individuals prone to sensitive skin or who have various skin conditions. Additionally, although there is no clear study linking sulfates to cancer, some consumers are concerned that they may be carcinogenic. 

Benefits of sulfate-free shampoo

There are several key benefits to cleansing your hair with sulfate-free shampoo. Because it doesn’t strip oil like its sulfate-containing counterparts, sulfate-free shampoo is more moisturizing and protective of the hair. In turn, it doesn’t have a drying effect like some shampoos, which is a common cause of brittle hair. 

Just as sulfates can negatively affect the hair, they can also cause scalp issues such as drying, flaking and irritation. These chemicals can also aggravate scalp psoriasis and eczema. Shampoos made without sulfates are less likely to cause scalp problems or worsen those that already exist. 

Although sulfate-free shampoo typically doesn’t produce as much lather as shampoo with sulfates, the benefits outweigh this minor concern for most fans. 

Sulfate-free shampoo for different hair types

When it comes to shopping for sulfate-free shampoo, it’s crucial to think about your hair type. Like standard shampoos, sulfate-free options are available in different formulas to fit different hair types, including dry, oily and combination. 

Sulfate-free shampoo is versatile too. Because it’s moisturizing and doesn’t over-strip hair, it’s an excellent choice for hair that’s coarse, curly, thin, prone to developing frizz or color-treated. 

What to look for in a quality sulfate-free shampoo

Choosing the best sulfate-free shampoo for your needs is easy once you know the key features to consider when you shop. 

Brands

When you look for shampoo without sulfates, you’ll find a mixture of recognizable and not-so-well-known brands. Trusted brands are great, but keep in mind that some lesser-known companies that specialize in natural or gentle products also make quality sulfate-free shampoo. 

Other ingredients  

The lack of sulfates isn’t the only feature to consider in a sulfate-free shampoo. Different brands and formulas include ingredients that serve various purposes. Some of the ingredients you’ll find include keratin that strengthens hair and plant-based oils like argan and coconut that are highly moisturizing. What a sulfate-free shampoo doesn’t include is also key, as some options are made without parabens, phthalates and other artificial additives. 

Packaging 

Sulfate-free shampoo is available in bottles and tubes. Some bottles feature a pump for easy use. Additionally, large bulk-sized bottles are available. Many retailers also offer sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner sold together for added value. 

How much you can expect to spend on sulfate-free shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoo is available in a wide range of prices to fit all budgets. You’ll pay as low as $3 for some inexpensive drugstore brands and up to $30 for salon-quality formulas, bulk-sized options and shampoo and conditioner combos. 

Tips

  • Scrub your hair gently yet thoroughly when using sulfate-free shampoo to work up the best lather possible.
  • Be sure to scrub your scalp for the best results.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly to remove shampoo residue.
  • Use a sulfate-free conditioner for added moisture. 
  • If one sulfate-free shampoo doesn’t give you the results you were hoping for, try other formulas until you find one that works. 

Sulfate free-shampoo FAQ

How well does sulfate-free shampoo clean?

A. Many sulfate-free shampoos are somewhat lacking in suds and may require a bit more effort to clean hair and scalp thoroughly. While you may have to use a little more shampoo to compensate, you can still achieve a thorough clean with a sulfate-free formula. 

How do I get the best results from sulfate-free shampoo? 

A. When you wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo, be sure to use plenty of warm water. Apply an ample amount of shampoo and work it in thoroughly. Rinse well and follow up with a sulfate-free conditioner for an added moisturizing boost.  

Who shouldn’t use sulfate-free shampoo?

A. While sulfate-free shampoo works well for most hair types, the exception is extremely oily hair. Sulfate-free formulas may not clean as well and may even weigh oily hair down, giving it a greasy appearance. 

What are the best sulfate-free shampoos to buy?

Top sulfate-free shampoo

OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo

OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo

What you need to know: A highly-moisturizing sulfate-free shampoo that’s also nourishing and works well for different hair types. 

What you’ll love: This sulfate-free shampoo boasts a moisturizing formula that contains egg whites and coconut that are good for the hair. It also has a pleasant scent and doesn’t contain parabens. 

What you should consider: Although rare, a few customers have reported shedding hair after use. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ulta

Top sulfate-free shampoo for the money

L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner

L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner 

What you need to know: This affordable shampoo by L’Oreal is perfect for anyone on a budget who prefers a sulfate-free option. 

What you’ll love: In addition to cleaning well and producing nice lather, this shampoo earns high marks for the fresh rosemary scent. It’s made by a top brand and is available at a reasonable price. 

What you should consider: While we wish it were a bit more moisturizing, this isn’t a deal-breaker for most consumers. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ulta

Worth checking out

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo

What you need to know: Cantu’s sulfate-free shampoo is an extremely moisturizing option that’s perfect for coarse, curly and dry hair. 

What you’ll love: This is a rich, creamy shampoo that’s gentle and hydrating. It contains shea butter that reduces frizz and strengthens hair while it moisturizes. 

What you should consider: The downside of this shampoo is that it doesn’t do the best job removing major oil or product buildup. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

 

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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