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Home Beauty The 17 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos

The 17 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos

by Staff
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Rosdiana Ciaravolo

Life was lot easier when I didn’t have to worry about my beauty products being x-, y-, or z-“free.” These days, I spend time reading product labels to ensure that my serums, body washes, and makeup aren’t packed with anything that will irritate my skin—and my haircare is no exception. I’ll admit that I’m still not totally clear as to why I must stay away from specific ingredients, particularly the hotly contested “sulfates” in shampoos. So I turned to Alicia Bailey, hair texture specialist and global education manager at Design Essentials, for answers.

“Sulfate-free shampoo is formulated with cleansers that do not contain sulfates, which are essentially detergents that help to create suds and lather to cleanse the hair and scalp,” Bailey explains. While many shampoos contain sulfates as a lathering agent, unfortunately, they often come with the side effect of stripping the hair shaft of all that’s good—be it dye, oils, and/or natural protectants. Those that are formulated without sulfate may not offer as many suds, but they’ll also leave hair perfectly clean and much less damaged over time, especially if your hair is color-treated or curly. And some still manage to add suds all the same. Check out all of our favorites, ahead.

1

Best for Repair

Olaplex

No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

2

Best for Thick Hair

Design Essentials

Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Shampoo

3

Best for Strengthening

Love Beauty and Planet

Sulfate-Free Deep Cleanse

4

Best for Scalp

Giovanni

Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo

5

Best Lightweight Formula

JVN

Nurture Hydrating Shampoo

6

Best for Dandruff

Nécessaire

The Shampoo

7

Best for All Textures

Mizani

True Textures Moisture Replenish Shampoo

8

Best for Natural Hair

Rucker Roots

Smoothing Sulfate Free Shampoo

9

Best for Moisture

Aveda

Nutriplenish™ Deep Moisture Shampoo

10

Best for Hydration

SheaMoisture

Intensive Hydration Shampoo

11

Best for Volume

Moroccanoil

Extra Volume Shampoo

12

Best Drugstore Buy

L’Oréal Paris

EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo

13

Best Tech-Infused Option

Living Proof

Full Shampoo

14

Best Soothing Formula

True Botanicals

Organic Nourishing Shampoo

15

Best Cream Formula

Hair Rules

No Suds Cleansing Cream

16

Best Affordable Option

Garnier

Fructis Triple Nutrition Curl Nourish Shampoo

17

Best Gentle Shampoo

Briogeo

Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Fragrance-Free Hypoallergenic Shampoo

19

What is a sulfate-free shampoo?

“Sulfate-free shampoos are formulated without the use of sulfate-based cleansers. Instead, sulfate-free cleansers are designed to still lather and clean away dirt, oil, and unwanted buildup,” says Mason.
20

Is sulfate-free shampoo good for your hair?

Sulfate-free shampoos are great for hair because they remove the bad without robbing your strands of their good stuff. “Sulfate-free is the winner when it comes to what’s the best for your hair; it delivers a more fresh and gentle cleansing than the sulfate-containing formulations. [In shampoos] the main types of sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (or SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which can strip natural oils from the scalp and hair and make hair dry and brittle. If your scalp is sensitive, sulfates can cause irritation like redness, dryness, and itching,” Mason explains.
21

Why are sulfate-free shampoos better?

While sulfate-free cleansers are best for keeping your hair’s natural oils and nutrients intact, sulfates are not completely bad.“I would not necessarily say that they are ‘better,’ because there are instances when shampoos that are not sulfate-free are needed. Clarifying shampoos, medicated shampoos, and neutralizing shampoos are not sulfate-free but are necessary,” Bailey says. “Sulfate-free shampoos provide moisture, shine, and conditioning to all hair types. They provide gentle cleansing and do not strip the hair of its natural oils, and they are great to help maintain color-treated hair and provide longevity as they will not strip the color from the hair.” If a sulfate-based cleanser is used, Bailey says she follows up with a sulfate-free option to return moisture to the hair. “If I must use a shampoo that is not sulfate-free in those instances, I always follow with a sulfate-free shampoo to impart moisture into the hair before following with my favorite conditioner,” she adds.



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