Best Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner Brands for better hair

Ever experienced the difference between a regular and a sulfate free shampoo and conditioner? I transitioned a few years ago to better formulas and tried quite a few products before deciding on my favorite, so I have a lot of insight on the matter that I’m excited to share with you guys.

If you’re starting to notice your hair is suddenly frizzy and dry as straw, has a bad case of split ends and is pretty much unmanageable, you need to take a closer look at your shampoo and conditioner. Often, the culprit is the chemical formula of these cosmetics, more specifically the harsh ingredients that damage your hair.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about one of the most common ingredient listed on the formula of mass-market cleaning cosmetics – sodium laurel sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate, abbreviated as SLS.

We’ll start off with a quick explanation on what is sulfate-free shampoo, why this ingredient is so widely used in the cosmetic industry and why there are far more sulfate free shampoo brands available now than just a few years ago.

People are becoming a lot more self conscious about their health and are constantly looking to improve their routines and choices. Also, some of you might have experienced some side effects of using harsh chemicals like eczema or skin irritations that have probably initiated this search on the topic, so in your case, this definitely holds a greater importance.

In order to help you with that, I’ve picked a few of my favorite sulfate-free shampoos that have proved friendly to my fine, color treated hair. Also, I researched and came up with the best sulfate free shampoos for oily or normal hair, curly, wavy, African-American hair types, and for those who have keratin or color-treated tresses according to the latest trends.

What is sulfate free shampoo

Sulfates and parabens have been linked to major health concerns. Despite all the negative publicity and unfounded rumors that sulfates are carcinogenic, their main purpose is providing lathering properties to a product.

Sulfate is in fact a detergent and you can find it not only in your regular shampoo, but also in plenty of household products like toothpaste, laundry detergent, dish soap, shower gels and a lot of other cleaning products. The list goes on with uses in farming as a pesticide, in auto shops as engine degreasers, fabric glue, carpet stain removers and others.

It is also very cheap to use, which is why a lot of brands prefer it to other ingredients that have the same properties minus the disadvantages. Speaking of which, here is a list of the most common side effect of sodium lauryl sulfate:

  • Dry skin/scalp
  • Irritating eyes (in face washes)
  • Mouth ulcers (in toothpaste)
  • Dermatitis
  • Itchy scalp
  • Dandruff
  • Pollutant
  • It is approved and used as pesticide
  • Environmental damage

Besides being linked to skin irritations and dermatitis, there are several studies that point to the residual levels of Sodium Laurel Sulfate in the brain, lungs, liver and heart. These are extremely serious concerns that should raise questions on whether or not you should continue using such harsh ingredients at all.

There are plenty of products that have replaced the old formulas linked with these side effects. Today we are going to talk about sulfate-free shampoos and why making the transition offers a lot of benefits to your health and beauty routine.

Sulfate free shampoo benefits

The idea behind using SLS in shampoos is that being a detergent, it does a very good job at removing dirt, oil and hair styling products from your tresses.

The problem with them is that they also strip your hair of moisture, shine and vitality, degrading protein from hair fiber and causing it to look lifeless, become dry and brittle, develop scalp rashes, irritations or dandruff.

So if there are options out there that can help you avoid all these common side effects, why wouldn’t you give sulfate free shampoo a try?

Simply put, sulfate free shampoo is a mild detergent that doesn’t strip away all your hair’s natural moisture. SLS is replaced with ingredients derived from coconut oil or fruit sugars. These will remove dirt, sebum and product buildup, while offering a safe and gentle cleaning.

Here are some of the ingredients that you should find on the labels of sulfate free shampoos: Coco glucoside, Lauryl glucoside, Decyl glucoside, Caprylyl capryl glucoside, Sodium cocoyl glutamate, Disodium cocoyl glutamate, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, Sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Ammonium cocoyl isethionate, Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate, Sodium lauroyl lactylate, Cocamidopropyl betaine

If your hair is naturally prone to dryness, because the texture is either coarse (as is with curly, wavy or African American hair) or the extreme, fine and fragile (that can be a result of cold temperature, styling your hair frequently or color treating it), you gain the most from these products.

If you’ve developed a sensitivity to sulfates, and you developed dandruff, hair loss, scalp irritations and dermatitis as a result. In this case, you’ll want to switch to a better alternative.

Here are just a few of the main advantages from using sulfate free shampoo:

  • Removes frizz
  • Helps hair retain moisture
  • Provides shine and flexibility to strands
  • Prevents split ends
  • Prevents color fade in color treated hair
  • Alleviates dandruff
  • Doesn’t irritate the scalp and doesn’t cause eczema

Sulfate free Shampoo Brands

Back when I became aware of the damage cheaper cosmetic ingredients had, there were indeed a lot less options than they are today. I remember testing out several products that either didn’t clean well or were a hassle to apply and cleanse.

Sulfates, among Phthalates, Petroleum, Parabens or Formaldehydes to name a few, are so prevalent in the cosmetics industry that most of us don’t even begin questioning their purpose there or suspect that they might be doing more harm than good.

The sad truth is that statistics and regulations on these ingredients have been out there for at least a decade now, but because they’re so cheap, it’s a lot more cost-effective for companies to use them. In turn, this gives you the option of buying cheaper products and possibly develop skin irritations and allergic reactions in the process.

Studies on the effects of these formulas prove day by day that accumulating these substances by continuous use can lead to other deeply frightening medical conditions as well, which in turn explains why a lot of brands are developing formulas that replace harmful ingredients with safer alternatives.

Nowadays, there are far many Sulfate free shampoo brands that cater to those that want to take better care of themselves and because the technology is so much better, the cons that once made us abandon these options are no longer an issue.

Best Sulfate Free Shampoo List

The sulfate free shampoo list is growing larger by the number as we speak. In order to make your transition from regular shampoo smoother, I’ve gathered some on my personal favorites, as well as others that I’ve heard so many good things about. Now you can get a better understanding of what should work for your hair type best, order them online and give them a try.

Sulfate Free Shampoo for Dry Hair

Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Ultra-rich Moisturizing Lather Shampoo

Great for all hair types, but especially good for color treated and chemically processed hair. I haven’t personally followed a Keratin hair treatment before, but all the girls at my salon swear by this and recommend it for repairing dry, brittle strands. This ultra nourishing shampoo from Paul Mitchell lathers richly and improves the balance of the cuticle with moisture and shine.

TIGI Bed Head Urban Anti-dote Recovery Shampoo & Conditioner

Tigis shampoo and conditioner truly offers an urban antidote to the damage done by color treating and particularly heat styling your hair. You’ll get the intense moisture hit, strength and shine that’s been missing from your dull, weakened tresses.

Brazilian Blowout Anti-Frizz Shampoo & Conditioner

Like the name implies, if you’ve had a Brazilian blowout, a keratin treatment, or your hair simply undergoes loads of heat styling, this sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner kit is the one for you. It will regenerate damaged hair, smoothing and removing frizz even in humid environments.

Kerastase Discipline Bain Fluidealiste Sulfate-free Shampoo

If you have fine, dry hair, that lacks in lustre and vitality, try this shampoo. It gives hair elasticity and fluidity, nourishing it without weighing it down. This means it tames frizz and protects it against humidity, leaving it soft and easy to detangle. It’s also a favourite for those with sensitive scalps.

L’Oreal EverCreme Moisture System Sulfate Free Shampoo

The Moisture System by L’Oreal provides a patented Amino Acid Complex that helps weak, thinning hair regain its vitality. Its formula is hydrating and deeply conditioning, perfect for normal to dry hair. This is the most hydrating shampoo from the Sulfate-free L’Oreal line. They also have options for color treated hair or damaged tresses that need a boost of vitality and strength.

Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo

Odylique Gentle Herb Shampoo

Since dandruff is a problem that usually follows when having a dry scalp, most of these nourishing shampoos on the pick list should improve the condition dramatically. However, if you’re going to try something sulphur-free dedicated to the fight against dandruff, let that be a cult favourite – Odylique. This plan-based shampoo restores health and calms scalp irritations. It’s been praised not only by people dealing with dandruff, but also eczema and psoriasis.

Sulfate Free Shampoo for Oily hair

Paul Mitchell Double Hitter Sulfate Free 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner

Ideal for all hair types, this 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner from Paul Mitchell is a great purchase if you want to switch to sulfate-free products. It lathers extremely well, so you will only need a small amount of product to achieve healthy looking, nourished strands. It’s great for rebuilding damaged strands during and after the cold season and it works incredibly well for normal to oily hair types as well.

Ouidad Superfruit Renewal Clarifying Cream Shampoo

It’s hard enough trying to find a sulfate free shampoo dedicated to oily hair, it’s even harder to find one that leaves curly hair nurtured and well defined. This is it, people! Also, if you’re also into hair products, this shampoo will clean build up and clarify your tresses leaving them squeaky clean. Best of all, your hair won’t feel like straw after you’ve washed it.

Matrix Biolage Advanced Keratindose Pro-Keratin Silk Shampoo and Conditioner

This shampoo lathers better than most, which is impressive for a sulfate free product, to say the least. What I love most about this pick is the fact that my hair really felt clean after using it, yet soft and hydrated at the same time. Both the shampoo and conditioner are perfect for fine hair, that usually gets oily fast and loses volume. This doesn’t feel heavy at all and it’s really easy to rinse out after you use it.

Sulfate free shampoo for curly hair

Redken Curvaceous Sulfate Free Shampoo

Another great option for normal to dry hair is this vanilla fragranced, rich shampoo from Redken. If you have thick, curly hair, you might want to give this a go, since unlike many sulfate-free shampoos, this produces a creamy foam that lathers and coats your full head of hair with lusciousness. It provides softness without weighing down natural curls.

Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner

Gentle on naturally curly and dry hair types, this shampoo-conditioner duo works wonders in restoring moisture and shine to dull, frizzy hair. Its argan oil formula is infused with botanical extracts and oils that clean gently, but effectively, without stripping color. It highly recommend this sulfate free shampoo and conditioner for African American hair.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino and Shea Moisture Shampoo

Briogeo definitely adds charisma to curly hair types, using a blend of natural oils and herbal extracts to seal hair cuticles and strengthening the fiber. It helps taming frizz even on the most humid days and its hydrolysed keratin formula softens the strands to the touch

Best Sulfate free shampoo for color treated hair

Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo

Alterna’s is a high quality shampoo that protects hair color from fading. Not only is it sulfate-free, but also parabens, sodium chloride, mineral oil, petrolatum and paraffin free. It’s perfect for color treated hair that has lost its moisture, has become brittle and dull.

Bumble and Bumble Color Minded Sulfate Free Shampoo

If those with unnatural blue, green or pink tones in their strands swear by this shampoo, it think it’s well worth a spot on our list of best sulphate-free shampoos for dyed hair. The B&B Color Minded Shampoo protects color vibrancy and shine for a longer duration than regular shampoos. Careful though, the shampoo’s strength is mild, so I would recommend it for those that shampoo daily and have normal to dry hair.

Matrix Biolage Colorcare Shampoo and Conditioner

My all-time favorite shampoo and conditioner brand, Matrix, offers the best color treated hair care imaginable. Formulated with Acai berry, Argan oil and only natural ingredients, the shampoo offers intense nurture and leaves hair silky soft, prolonging the intensity of your hair dye until your next salon appointment. Love it!

RUSK Deepshine Color Repair Sulfate Free Shampoo

To repair damage, weak hair, search no further. The Rusk shampoo formula provides nourishing marine botanicals and a UV-absorbing technology with Vitamin E. This helps shield hair color from sun exposure and help it maintain its shine and vibrancy. This product is great for thin hair because it doesn’t weigh it down and it also helps it maintain its volume.

Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Shampoo

I might be biased when describing this shampoo, but I swear it made my hair color look more vibrant after each wash. Strands are infused with almond, coconut and argan oil, so it definitely provides plenty of shine and moisture to your hair.

John Masters Organics Evening Primrose Shampoo

For dry hair, John Masters is a cult favourite. Haven’t got to try it yet, but those who use it swear by its mystical powers of softening fine, dull, dye damaged hair. I figure that evening primrose amazing scent has something to do with the overall excitement.

Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner

Pureology Sulfate Free Hydrate Shampoo & Conditioner Set

This powerful duo hosts one of the most appraised blends of antioxidants, moisture and a full spectrum of suncreens UVA/UVB. It’s free of harsh color-stripping sulfates and salt, which is why it’s a good option for color treated, dyed hair. Also, its 100% vegan formula contains powerful hydrating ingredients such as soy, oat, wheat, essential oils and even shea butter. Fans say it’s good for Keratin treated hair and that it does help those with dandruff, as it’s highly nourishing on the scalp and it treats dry patches.

Maroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo and Conditioner

This shampoo is free of sulfates, parabens and phosphates, but rich in argan oil – the company’s signature ingredient – fatty acids and keratin. It provides moisture and reconstructs damaged hair, that’s been weekend by color treatment, heat styling or chemical processing. Highly recommended for dyed hair.

Joico Smooth Cure Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner

For softer, more manageable strands, indulge with this power-duo from Joico. Its formula improves hair texture, boosts elasticity and shine. Best of all, it dramatically reduces frizz, so it’s a great option for those with dry, unmanageable hair. Best as a daily wash.

Let me know in the comments section below if you made the switch to sulfate free shampoos and which is your favourite.


As a professional make-up artist and beauty enthusiast, Luiza's expertise has become highly prized over the years. As owner of this site, she set her mind to create a publication for those who are focused not just on beauty trends and popular brands, but also on the industry's most well-kept secrets.

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