According to cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, sensitive and dry scalps may want to switch over to sulfate-free shampoos because they’re gentler on skin. “Sulfates can over-strip the skin of oils, which can leave it dry and prone to allergic reactions,” he says. Due to surfactants’ drying qualities, dry, brittle, and damaged hair may also want to make the switch (that also means you, curly hair types).
Lathering up with a good ol’ sulfate-free shampoo can work wonders for your hair and scalp, especially if you have sensitive skin. To that end, we compiled a thorough list of the best sulfate-free shampoos, according to the pros and our editors.
1. Andrew Fitzsimons Body Volume Boosting Shampoo
For fine and thin hair that needs a little oomph, look no further than the Andrew Fitzsimons Body Volume Boosting Shampoo. This 2022 Best of Beauty Award-winning shampoo isn’t formulated with sulfates — instead, it’s packed with good-for-hair stuff like bond technology and caffeine to fortify hair and help it grow.
2. Davines Nounou Shampoo
Brittle, damaged hair will love every drop of Davine’s Nounou Shampoo. This gentle shampoo’s main ingredient is actually tomato extract, which is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C to help address concerns like dullness and lackluster color. It works overtime to soften and hydrate hair with glycerin, too.
Bonus: This sulfate-free shampoo is safe for color-treated and processed hair, so bleach blondes and permed curls alike can enjoy this pick.
3. Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo
For dry hair that’s begging for moisture, grab the Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo. It’s infused with babassu oil, which moisturizes each and every hair on your head for a smoother and softer feel. It also contains castor oil and glycerin for added conditioning benefits.
4. Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo
If you’re looking to spend under $10, may we introduce you to Aveeno’s Oat Milk Blend Shampoo? This cleanser is specially made for dry, itchy scalps that need soothing relief from oat milk. Sweet almond extract is also added for moisture, leaving your scalp comforted and hair silky-smooth and soft to the touch.
5. Dove Hair Therapy Rescue & Protect Shampoo
Dove’s Hair Therapy Rescue & Protect Shampoo is exactly what its name reflects — a therapeutic treatment for damaged hair that needs a little love. This 2022 Best of Beauty Award-winning shampoo uses ceramides and peptides to strengthen hair from the inside and to seal split ends. Using this shampoo on a regular basis helps maintain hair health so you can strike a balance between bad-for-hair-but-fun practices (hello, heat-styling) and restorative measures hair needs in order to recover and be healthy — kinda like real therapy.
6. Headquarters Cleansing Shampoo
Headquarters, the scalp-focused sister to grooming brand Harry’s, aims to literally get to the root of issues like dryness and itching. Yuzu and ginger root extracts exfoliate away flakes and get rid of excess oil without stripping hair. What’s even better is it’ll cost you under $10 for the deep cleaning.
7. Raincry Smoothing Shampoo
Dry, frizzy hair, meet your match. Raincry’s Smoothing Shampoo is recommended by Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital because it nourishes hair with a mix of moisturizing jojoba oil and Indian gooseberry extract.
8. Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo
Aveda’s Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo, one of Dr. Sadick’s recommendations, softens and moisturizes hair — leaving it super shiny, due largely in part to buriti oil. If you’re a fan of botanical fragrances you’ll love its aroma of organic lavender, bergamot, and ginger lily.
9. Pureology Strength Cure Sulfate Free Shampoo
Pureology’s Strength Cure Sulfate Free Shampoo gives a fortifying boost to all hair types and textures, but it’s especially dreamy for color-treated hair. Plant-based protein Keravis and antioxidant astaxanthin strengthen and revitalize hair that’s been drained by bleaching or coloring. This shampoo gets your hair acting like its old, pre-dye self again, which is exactly why we gave it a 2022 Best of Beauty Award.
10. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Lather up with Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo’s slightly shimmery, clear formula and prepare to feel rejuvenated. Robinson says salicylic acid helps get rid of dandruff flakes, while caffeine soothes dry, irritated scalps.
11. Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Shampoo with Rose Water
If you’ve fallen in love with the Best of Beauty-winning Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight as we have, then you’re definitely going to want to try the Wash Day Delight Water-to Foam Shampoo with Rose Water. This gentle cleanser — packed with even more moisturizing ingredients, including rosewater as its name suggests — hydrates hair while using micellar technology to clear away dirt and sweat. The water-to-foam formula and pointed nozzle on the cap are also ideal for getting right to the scalp and grabbing excess oils and product buildup.
12. Authentic Beauty Concept Amplify Cleanser
Fine hair can fall prey to the drying effects of sulfates, but the last thing it needs are heavy moisturizers that’ll just weigh it down. Instead, Authentic Beauty Concept’s Amplify Cleanser is made to gently lift dirt and oil without the heft. Green tea leaf extract in the formula also provides extra nourishment and antioxidant protection.
13. Rahua Classic Shampoo
Rahua is all about the power of plants. Robinson notes the organic aloe and green tea in its Classic Shampoo soothe and repair damaged hair. If you already have a bottle, hold onto it because Rahua has refillable pouches — so you can use yours over and over again.
14. Pantene Sultry Bronde UV Protect Shampoo
There are major benefits to sulfate-free shampoo when your hair is color-treated — most notably, color and moisture retention — and Pantene’s ProV Color Adapt line was designed with this in mind. The Sultry Bronde UV Protect Sulfate Free Shampoo shields hair from environmental discoloration while argan oil and vitamin E prevent drying out.
15. L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo
L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo’s main function is to clean your hair while imparting softness and shine. Dr. Zeichner says its rosemary extract works to hydrate and protect color-treated hair, helping to keep color looking fresh for up to four weeks.
16. Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo
Mondays can be rough, but this hair-care brand out of New Zealand (of the same name) is setting out to change your mind about the troublesome day. The Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo is spiked with coconut oils, along with UV- and pollution-protecting carrot root extract, to clean hair while keeping it soft and hydrated. Plus, seeing the cute petal-pink bottle in your shower on a dreary Monday morning just might boost your mood.
17. SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo
True to its name, SheaMoisture’s Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo definitely doesn’t skimp on the moisture. With ingredients like shea butter and aloe vera leaf juice high on the list, you can be sure your hair won’t be feeling dry after lathering up and rinsing.
18. Suave Smooth Performer Shampoo
An amino acid complex found in Suave’s Smoother Performer Shampoo is what strengthens brittle hair and smooths damaged cuticles that cause frizz. This inexpensive drugstore option also helps make hair more manageable, so you have an easier time detangling and styling.
19. Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo
Calm your scalp as your wash your hair with this itch-easing shampoo. Formulated to help with sensitivity, Noughty’s Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo has oat extract to calm your irritated scalp.
20. Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo
Coconut, jojoba, and macadamia oils are just a few of the key goodies in this shampoo recommended by cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. Expect much stronger, frizz-free hair the longer you use Garnier Fructis’s Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo, which also includes star skin-care ingredient glycerin for extra moisture.
21. Mon Shampoing Natural + Neutral Shampoo
If a more customized shampoo is what your hair needs, Mon Shampoing’s Natural + Neutral Shampoo is it. The sulfate-free shampoo base can be enhanced with seven different boosters that meet all your healthy-hair desires. If you’re experiencing dryness, pick the argan oil booster. Want to smooth coils and frizz-prone hair? Try the avocado oil additive. You’ll be able to mix in exactly what you need to meet your hair right where it is at the moment.
22. Kiehl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo
If you’ve got hair that’s begging for hydration (think dry, brittle, and dull), give Kiehl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo a try. It’s filled with plenty of strengthening ingredients like moringa tree oil, as well as hydration and protection all-stars, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides.
23. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo
If “ain’t nobody got time for that” is your life mantra, listen up: Living Proof promises you can wash your hair less often with its Best of Beauty-winning Perfect Hair Day Shampoo. This fan-favorite cleanser rinses away oil, dirt, and product buildup while smoothing and strengthening hair.