7 Best Shampoos for Curly and Wavy Hair: Sulfate-Free, Clarifying & MoreView all articles

7 Best Shampoos for Curly and Wavy Hair: Sulfate-Free, Clarifying & More

Caring for curly hair can be a delightful yet challenging journey. You probably know that just any shampoo won’t cut it when it comes to washing curly hair. Unlike straight hair, curls require unique attention due to their tendency to be drier and frizzier. Choosing the best shampoo for curly hair can make all the difference and keep your curls healthy, hydrated, and defined.

In this guide, I'll explore various curl shampoos, from sulfate-free options to the best dandruff shampoos for curly hair. Whether you have wavy hair or tight coils, I've got you covered with tips on how to wash curly hair, the top ingredients, and recommendations for maintaining your gorgeous curls. I’ll also reveal whether you can use a curl shampoo for permed hair.


What is Special About Curl Shampoos?

Unlike regular shampoos, curl shampoos are specially formulated to meet the unique needs of curly hair. What are those special needs, you ask? Compared to straight hair, curly hair is more prone to dryness since the natural sebum doesn’t travel down curls as well as straight hair. That's why the best shampoos for curly hair are formulated to be more hydrating and gentle.

Another standout feature of a good curl shampoo is its ability to enhance and define your curl pattern. They often contain ingredients that not only hydrate but also strengthen your hair. This means less frizz, more definition, and healthier curls overall.

Many curl shampoos today are free from sulfates, which is great news for your hair. A sulfate-free shampoo for curly hair cleanses gently without stripping away the natural oils that keep your curls moisturized and shiny. This is especially important if you follow the Curly Girl method, which emphasizes using products free from sulfates, silicones, and drying alcohols.

In short, curl shampoos are designed with your curls in mind, offering the hydration, definition, and care that regular shampoos just can’t provide. Whether you’re looking for the best shampoo for curly hair, a shampoo for wavy hair, or even a shampoo for permed hair, there are plenty of options designed to bring out the best in your curls.

Shampoo for Curly Hair: Ingredients

When it comes to choosing the right shampoo for curly hair, the ingredients list is your best friend. Here’s a breakdown of the best ingredients to look for and the ones you should avoid to keep your curls looking their best.

Best Ingredients in Curl Shampoos

Hydrating Extracts and Oils

Curly hair craves hydration. Look for shampoos that contain plenty of natural oils and extracts like Aquaxyl™ sugar complex, acai extract, and aloe vera. If you have finer curls or waves, look for lightweight, hydrating ingredients like glycerin or glucose that won’t weigh your hair down.

Strengthening Proteins

Plant proteins like rice and wheat protein are fantastic for curly hair. They help strengthen the hair shaft to lock moisture in, reducing breakage and promoting healthy, resilient curls. Finding the right balance between moisture and protein is the key to healthy curls, which is why the best shampoos for curly hair often contain both.

Gentle Surfactants

Unlike harsh sulfates, gentle surfactants, such as lauryl glucoside, disodium cocoyl glutamate, and cocamidopropyl betaine, effectively cleanse your hair without drying it out.

Ingredients to Avoid in Shampoos for Curly Hair

  • Sulfates: These harsh detergents can strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and frizz. Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo for curly hair to keep your curls healthy and hydrated.
  • Silicones: Silicones can weigh down your curls and create buildup over time, making your hair look dull and lifeless.
  • Mineral Oils: Mineral oils can coat your hair, preventing moisture from penetrating the hair shaft. This can lead to dryness and brittleness, so it’s best to avoid them.
  • Drying Alcohols: Alcohols like ethanol and isopropyl alcohol can dry out your hair, causing frizz and breakage.
  • Parabens: Parabens are preservatives that can cause irritation and potentially disrupt your hormones.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are used to make fragrances last longer, but they can be harmful for your health and are best avoided. Look for shampoos for wavy or curly hair that are phthalate-free.
  • MI / MCI (Methylisothiazolinone / Methylchloroisothiazolinone): These preservatives can cause allergic reactions and irritation, especially on sensitive scalps.

Don’t Forget the pH

Finally, make sure your shampoo is pH balanced to match the natural pH of your scalp and hair. This helps maintain the hair’s moisture balance and prevents frizz and dryness. Read more about why pH matters for your hair here.

By paying attention to these ingredients, you can choose the best shampoo for your curly hair, whether you have wavy, coily, or permed hair.

7 Best Shampoos for Curly and Wavy Hair

Now that you know what makes a great curl shampoo and the ingredients to look for, it’s time to dive into some of the best shampoos for curly hair on the market, geared towards different needs. Whether you’re looking for a sulfate-free shampoo for wavy hair, a dandruff shampoo for curly hair, or something to prevent hair loss, I’ve got you covered.

Overall Best Shampoo for Curly Hair: Curl Crush™ Shampoo

When it comes to finding the best shampoo for curly hair, Curl Crush™ Shampoo stands out as a top choice. This sulfate-free, low-poo shampoo is designed specifically for curly hair, gently washing away buildup and excess sebum without stripping your curls of their natural moisture.

Curl Crush™ Shampoo provides gentle cleansing and lightweight moisture, making it a perfect shampoo for wavy and curly hair. It features an active blend of strengthening vegan micro-proteins, bamboo extract, and a moisturizing sugar complex that work together to reconstruct and hydrate dry, frizzy curls. Whether you have wavy, coily, or tightly curled hair, this shampoo will help you achieve the perfect balance of cleanliness and hydration.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Aquaxyl™, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Organic Acai Extract, Bamboo Extract, Aloe Vera
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

Best Hair Loss Shampoo for Curly Hair: Grow Perfect™ Shampoo

For those looking to boost hair growth and improve hair density while maintaining the health of their curls, Grow Perfect™ Shampoo is an excellent choice. Its gentle, sulfate-free formula ensures that your curls stay nourished while addressing hair loss and thinning.

This shampoo features Anagain™ and organic rosemary oil, two powerful ingredients clinically proven to improve hair growth and density.

Key Ingredients: Anagain™, Organic Rosemary Oil, Caffeine, Aquaxyl™, Glycerin, Glucose, Aloe Vera, Sea Salt
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

Best Purple Shampoo for Curly Hair: Enriched Blonde™ Silver Shampoo

For those with blonde, bleached, or gray curls, managing brassiness can be a challenge. Enter Enriched Blonde™ Silver Shampoo, a color-correcting purple shampoo that is specifically formulated to maintain cool-toned hues while nourishing curly hair. It features a blend of active ingredients designed to repair and hydrate curls.

Use this silver shampoo in combination with your regular curl shampoo to keep your blonde curls vibrant and nourished.

Key Ingredients: Purple Pigments, Aquaxyl™, Cloudberry Extract, Organic Mango Extract, Olive Oil, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Aloe Vera, Glycerin, Glucose
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

Best Dandruff Shampoo for Curly Hair: Instant Relief™ Dandruff Shampoo

When dandruff strikes, Instant Relief™ Dandruff Shampoo offers a soothing and effective solution. This sulfate-free dandruff shampoo for curly hair tackles symptoms such as scaling, irritation, and itching, making it ideal for those struggling with scalp issues.

Its gentle yet powerful formulation ensures effective dandruff control while keeping your curls hydrated and healthy, making it a must-have in your hair care routine if you’re dealing with flaking.

Key Ingredients: Dermosoft® decalact MB, Glycerin, Aloe Vera, Organic Apple Extract, Organic Tea Tree Oil
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

Best Exfoliating Shampoo for Curly Hair: Scalp Delight™ Detox Scrub

As a gentle alternative to a clarifying shampoo, Scalp Delight™ Detox Scrub is the ultimate solution for a refreshing, sulfate-free cleanse. Designed to address dry, itchy, or oily scalp concerns, this scrub utilizes organic botanicals to gently exfoliate and remove shine-dulling residue from styling products, hard water minerals, or flaky, dry skin.

For optimal results, use this scrub once a week or every two weeks to refresh your scalp and hair without compromising moisture.

Key Ingredients: Organic Rice Powder, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Colloidal Oatmeal, Organic Aloe Vera, Acai Extract, Bilberry Extract, Rosemary Oil
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

Best Volume Shampoo for Fine, Curly Hair: Volume Wizard™ Shampoo

For those with fine or flat curls seeking instant lift and body, try Volume Wizard™ Shampoo. This volumizing shampoo enhances volume and bounce while leaving your hair feeling soft and nourished.

Volume Wizard™ Shampoo achieves its volumizing effects through a blend of organic fruit extracts and strengthening proteins. Its gentle formula and effective ingredients ensure your curls look voluminous and feel hydrated, making it a perfect shampoo for wavy hair or fine curls.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Organic Apple Water, Cranberry Extract, Grapefruit Extract, Inulin, Oat Extract
Curly Girl Method Approved: Yes

How to Wash Curly Hair Right

Knowing how to wash curly hair properly is just as crucial as picking the right products. This is how you get the most out of your shampoo for wavy or curly hair:

  1. Massage Well: Start by thoroughly wetting your hair. Apply a generous amount of curl shampoo to your palms and work it into your scalp with your fingertips. Gently massage the shampoo into your roots using circular motions. This helps to lift dirt, oil, and product buildup from your scalp and hair.
  2. Double Shampoo: If your hair tends to get oily or if you have a lot of product buildup, consider doing a double shampoo. The second shampoo will ensure a more thorough cleanse as the sulfate-free shampoo for curly hair begins to lather and allows the ingredients to work more effectively.
  3. Consider Using a Scalp Massage Brush: For an extra-invigorating cleanse, consider using a scalp massage brush. These brushes help to exfoliate the scalp, improve circulation, and distribute the shampoo evenly. They are especially helpful if you have thick curls.
  4. Follow with Conditioner: Always follow your curl shampoo with a conditioner. This helps to replenish moisture and detangle your curls. Opt for a silicone-free conditioner formulated specifically for curly hair types.
  5. Use a Hair Mask or Pre-Shampoo Treatment: If your curls are dry, damaged, or in need of extra care, incorporate a hair mask or pre-shampoo treatment into your hair wash routine. These treatments provide deep hydration and nourishment, leaving your curls soft, shiny, and more manageable.

How Often Do You Need to Wash Your Curls?

The frequency of shampooing your curls depends on several factors, including your curl type, porosity (how open your hair cuticle is), and how you style your hair. Here are some general guidelines to consider when you’re thinking about how to wash your curly hair:

  • Wavy Hair: Tends to be more prone to oiliness at the scalp but drier at the ends. Wash waves 2-3 times per week with a shampoo for wavy hair.
  • Curly Hair: Typically benefits from less frequent washing to maintain natural oils and moisture. Aim to shampoo curly hair 1-3 times per week. Consider incorporating a co-wash into your routine if you prefer to wash your curls more frequently.
  • Coily Hair: Can often go longer between washes due to its texture and tendency to be drier. Shampoo or co-wash coily hair around once a week.
  • Flaky, Irritated Scalp: If you are experiencing scalp issues, such as flaking, irritation, or red bumps, it can be a sign that you need to wash your curls more frequently. Try a special dandruff shampoo for curly hair until your symptoms calm down.

Using a Clarifying Shampoo for Curls

In addition to regular shampooing, incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your routine 1-4 times per month, depending on how much buildup you experience. Clarifying shampoos help to deep-cleanse your hair and scalp, removing stubborn buildup from styling products, hard water minerals, and environmental pollutants. This ensures that your curls stay fresh, bouncy, and free from residue.

What About Co-Washing?

Co-washing, or conditioner washing, is a beloved method in curly hair care for its ability to cleanse gently while retaining natural oils, which is particularly beneficial for dry or coarse curls or coils. By using a conditioner instead of traditional shampoo, co-washing helps reduce frizz and maintain moisture, leaving curls soft and manageable. For those with dry curls or coils, alternating between a co-wash and curl shampoo can provide the best of both worlds.

Can You Use Curl Shampoo for Permed Hair?

What about permed hair that is not naturally curly? Permed hair undergoes a chemical treatment process that alters its natural structure, making it prone to frizz and damage. That’s why using a nourishing and gentle curl shampoo for permed hair is not only safe but also highly beneficial.

Instead of a curl shampoo, you can also consider a shampoo designed for damaged and fragile hair, such as Split Fix™ Shampoo, which provides essential nourishment and protection. This shampoo for permed hair is formulated to replenish moisture and strengthen hair fibers, helping to prevent breakage and split ends commonly associated with permed hair.

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Now you know that choosing the best sulfate-free shampoo for curly hair is essential for maintaining healthy, vibrant curls. By understanding how to wash curly hair properly and incorporating a suitable dandruff shampoo for curly hair when needed, you can ensure your curls remain nourished and your scalp is happy.

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