Shampoos are a necessity. While the frequency with which you use them depends on your hair type, we can all agree that the shampoo you use should actually be good for your hair. For many people, that means using formulas without silicones, parabens, or — and this seems to be a big one for folks — sulfates. Over the years, there’s been much chatter about sulfates in shampoos and their supposedly harsh effects. But are they really as damaging as they’re made out to be?
“The bad rap started in the ’70s, when some shampoos contained ethanolamine lauryl sulfates that released carcinogenic nitrosamines,” says New York City board-certified dermatologist Neil Sadick. “At the time, manufacturers took corrective action, but ever since, sulfates were associated with health risks.” Sadick adds that the FDA, European Union, and Health Canada have all reached a consensus that [the sulfates currently in shampoos] are safe when used as intended, which is why there are still products on the market with these compounds.
If you have dyed hair, one myth you’ve probably heard is that sulfate-free shampoo is better because it won’t strip your color. However, according to cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, water is as damaging as any cleanser. “When your hair gets wet, it swells, the hair shaft opens, and some color leaches out,” says Schueller, who tested sulfates against other surfactants and didn’t see a difference in terms of fading color.
Still, cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson points out that sulfates can strip your hair of oils, which can be damaging after coloring. So although it’s great to know that sulfates aren’t as scary as you thought, they can be pretty irritating to the skin. “Sulfates can over-strip the skin of oils, which can leave it dry and prone to allergic reactions,” says Robinson. And it’ll sting if it gets in your eyes. Ouch.
Using a good ol’ sulfate-free shampoo can work wonders for your hair and scalp, especially if you have sensitive skin. So without further ado, here are the best, according to the pros and our editors.
All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Rahua Classic Shampoo
Rahua’s all about the power of plants. The brand is known for its use of organic ingredients such as omega-9-rich oil to strengthen hair. Robinson notes the organic aloe and green tea in its Classic Shampoo also help to soothe and repair damaged hair. If you’ve already got a bottle, hold onto it — Rahua recently launched refillable pouches that reduce plastic consumption by 90 percent.
$34 (Shop Now)
Hask Rose Oil & Peach Color Protection Shampoo
You don’t need to shell out major cash to keep your dye job looking good. Hask’s Best of Beauty-winning Rose Oil & Peach Color Protection Shampoo guards vibrancy with the help of hydrolyzed quinoa so your color won’t fade as quickly. Rose oil softens strands to keep them looking like new, too.
$6 (Shop Now)
Raincry Smoothing Shampoo
Dry, frizzy hair: meet your match. Raincry’s Smoothing Shampoo is recommended by Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, because it nourishes hair with a mix of jojoba oil and Indian gooseberry extract.
$33 (Shop Now)
Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo
One of Sadick’s recommendation, Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo 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.
$32 (Shop Now)
Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Lather up on Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo’s slightly shimmery, clear formula and prepare to feel rejuvenated. Robinson says its salicylic acid helps rid dandruff flakes, while caffeine as it soothes dry, irritated scalps.
$46 (Shop Now)
Carol’s Daughter Coco Crème Curl Quenching Shampoo
If your hair loves coconut oil, it’s going to love Carol’s Daughter’s Best of Beauty-winning Coco Cème Shampoo. This stuff blesses textured strands with a generous helping of moisture, all the while giving you a good clean. No frizzy, dry curls here. Cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson says of coconut oil, “It’s great for very porous hair because it prevents water from rushing into the strands too fast causing excessive swelling, which is bad because it puts undue stress on the cuticle by lifting it up.”
$11 (Shop Now)
Biolage 3 Butter Control System Shampoo
Say it with us: like buttah. That’s exactly the way Biolage 3 Butter Control System Shampoo is designed to make your hair feel. Key ingredients include shea, murumuru, and cupuaçu butters to help combat frizz and lock in that moisture.
$20 (Shop Now)
Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo
What really sets Aveeno’s Pure Renewal Shampoo apart from many on the market is that it contains seaweed extract, an ingredient Schueller says is especially beneficial for hair. Filled with vitamins, proteins, and minerals, it gets rid of impurities without over-stripping your hair.
$12 (Shop Now)
Moroccanoil Extra Volume Shampoo
Liven up your hair with this formula focused on giving hair more body. In addition to being sulfate-free, Moroccanoil Extra Volume Shampoo doesn’t have a trace of phosphates or parabens, either. What it does contain is antioxidant-rich and super moisturizing argan oil.
$24 (Shop Now)
Drybar Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo
Zeichner suggests trying Drybar’s Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo, which is packed with ultra-hydrating watercress extract. Another benefit? Keratin, the protein that your hair is made of, adheres to the hair shaft for a reinforcing effect.
$26 (Shop Now)
Pantene Gold Series Sulfate Free Shampoo
Your curls, kinks, and wallet will thank you for this drugstore find. It won’t make a tangled mess of your strands in the shower, according to Allure digital hair editor Jihan Forbes. After washing your hair with this, slather on a deep conditioner. “Getting rid of any remaining snags is a breeze after you use the shampoo,” says Forbes.
$10 (Shop Now)
L’Oréal EverPure Moisture Shampoo
L’Oréal EverPure Moisture Shampoo’s main function is to clean your hair while imparting softness and shine. Zeichner says its rosemary extract works to hydrate and protect color-treated hair, even helping to keep it looking fresh for up to four weeks.
$8 (Shop Now)
Kérastase Bain Fluidealiste
Have curly or frizzy hair? Kérastase’s not-too-heavy Bain Fluidealiste Shampoo smooths out the most free-spirited texture, making it easier to detangle. Give this one a spin — you’ll see a noticeable difference once you rinse it out thanks to a formula that coats each and every strand.
$35 (Shop Now)
SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo
SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo definitely doesn’t skimp on the moisture. (Come on, it’s in the name!) With ingredients like shea butter and aloe vera leaf juice high on the list, you can be sure your hair won’t be left feeling dry after lathering up.
$15 (Shop Now)
Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo
Not only is this gem packed with elastin protein and quinoa, but it’s also created with a conditioning polymer to make your hair feel extra silky. Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo promises to keep your dye job looking vibrant for up to 40 washes, and even comes in a jumbo size if you really love it (which you totally will).
$14 (Shop Now)
Organic Root Stimulator Curls Unleashed Rosemary & Coconut Sulfate-Free Shampoo
ORS Curls Unleashed Rosemary & Coconut Sulfate-Free Shampoo is like a sweet dream for your hair. Infused with lemon balm, olive fruit oil, rosemary, and chamomile, this potion will give your hair a good cleansing but won’t mess with its natural oils.
$10 (Shop Now)
Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo
Calm your scalp as your wash your hair with this itch-easing shampoo, which is made with 97-percent natural ingredients. Formulated to help with sensitivity, Noughty’s Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo has oat extract to make your irritated scalp chill out.
$10 (Shop Now)
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 strands the longer you use Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo, which also include star skin-care ingredient glycerin for extra moisture.
$4 (Shop Now)
Briogeo Rosarco Repair Shampoo
There are about twenty-leven reasons why your hair can get damaged, but there are just as many products that can help with that. This shampoo is one of best of those. Made with ingredients like rosehip, argan, and coconut oils, consider Briogeo’s Rosarco Repair Shampoo a go-to for hair treated with dye, keratin, and relaxers.
$24 (Shop Now)
Kiehl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo
If you’ve got hair that’s damaged or dehydrated, give Kiehl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo a try. It’s filled with plenty of strengthening ingredients, like moringa tree oil, as well as all-star hydration and protection ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
$20 (Shop Now)
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 Perfect Hair Day Shampoo. This fan-favorite cleanser rinses away oil, dirt, and product buildup while smoothing and strengthening hair.
$28 (Shop Now)
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Originally Appeared on Allure