It’s no secret that curly hair requires different care techniques than other hair types, and one of the more important steps is finding the right shampoo.
The best shampoo for curly hair is one without harsh chemicals that will help treat the curls and keep them intact. Curls can lose their shape over time, especially if the hair is damaged or unhealthy. Curly hair is also more prone to dryness, meaning you need a shampoo that will also nourish and moisturize your curls.
When looking for the best shampoo for curly hair you also have to consider your curl type. Whether kinky or wavy, knowing your curl type will not only hep you determine the best shampoo and other products for your curly hair, but how to use these products in a way that will be most beneficial for your hair.
What’s your curl type?
We have all the information you need to determine your curl type here, but to sum it up, use the Andrew Walker curl chart. Walker, hairstylist to stars like Oprah Winfrey identified four types of curls simply arranging them from Type 1 to Type 4. The number refers to the type or family of curls; straight, wavy, curly, and coily/kinky.
The second part is the lettering or the ABC’s. The letter refers to how tightly wound the curls are. To break it down, Type 1s are those who have naturally straight hair, while Type 2s are wavy-hair ladies. 3s are those with spiral curls and 4s have kinks and coils.
The difference between straight hair and curly hair
The scientific difference between straight hair and curly hair comes down to the chemical makeup. All hair, whether curly or straight, has two major components: the shaft and the follicle. The shafts are the strands we can see, and the follicle is the part of the hair within the skin of scalp. The shape of the follicle is a major factor in hair texture, the follicle for straight hair is perfectly round where the follicle for curly hair is more of an oval shape. Fun fact, the flatter the oval, the curlier the hair. The difference between straight and curly hair literally starts at the root!
The way that the hair tunnels into the scalp is also a factor in texture, straight hair follicles tunnel vertically into the skin/scalp while curly hair follicles angles into the skin, which make the hair curve, creating a curl.
This tunneling of the follicle is also what creates dryness for a lot of curly hair girls as the natural sebum or oil created in the scalp isn’t able to travel as well into the strands when curved.
Care for your curly hair
To help prevent dryness, adjust your wash routine, and take some tips from Deva-Certified Stylist, Emily Weiser who has worked with all kinds of hair. When it comes to curly hair, she has some expert advice.
“All hair types shouldn’t be washed more than 1- 2 times a week,” Weiser said. “Washing too frequent can cause dryness and an over production of natural oil at the roots.”
It should be noted that curly hair, also doesn’t mean thick hair. There are fine or thin hair girls with curls and waves also. While all our tips apply, hair extensions are also a great tool to help add volume to finer, curly hair, or add length to short curly hair. Just like natural hair, clip-in hair extensions can be easily curled and styled, curls typically stay in for a couple days too, so they’re easy to apply and ready when you are.
Trims and haircuts also work wonders to prevent dryness and breakage. Consistently getting rid of dead weight prevents damaged hair from weighing on strands and pulling on healthy curls.
“I’d say with 2C hair, getting 2-3 haircuts a year is all that’s needed,” Weiser said.
“Of course, if someone likes their hair short and/or colors their hair more frequently then maybe 4-5 haircuts a year is more appropriate.”
If you’re looking for some short curly hair inspo, check out our 23 short haircuts for curly hair.
When it comes to the best curly hair products or best shampoo for curly hair, here are the top ingredients to avoid, according to the Curly Girl Method that works for all hair types: non-water soluble formulas, silicones, fragrances and alcohol. All of these dry out the hair and scalp.
The best shampoo for curly hair should include natural oils like coconut or argan, castor oil also works well. Look for natural ingredients and shampoos that are sulfate and paraben-free.
For curly hair, it’s best to condition, and use masks as needed. Heat styling and color or other chemical treatments can also further dry out curly hair and should be done with protective products and low heat. For natural type 4 hair, protective hairstyles, such as hair extensions, weaves, braids and ponytails also help to maintain natural curls.
Now that we’ve gone through the science, the curl types and protective measures it’s time to break down some of the best products for curly hair.
Here are the best shampoos for curly hair according to experts.
1. Ouidad’s Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo and Conditioner
“I love Ouidad’s Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo and Conditioner for all hair types,” Weiser said. Ouidad has sulfate-free formula that gently cleanses and defines curls.
2. Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic
The key to maintaining a healthy scalp and healthy curls is regularly clarifying the scalp of dirty and product buildup. This vegan, clarifying, exfoliating shampoo re-balances the pH of the scalp to strengthen the scalp's protective barrier while whisking buildup away.
3. New Wash
A product that cleans and condition, New Wash contains ingredients best for curly hair, such as including Sunflower Seed Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, and Evening Primrose Oil.
4. Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
With ethically traded and sustainable products, Shea Moisture not only cleanses and moisturizes, it also helps to strengthens the hair with coconut and neem oils along with fighting frizz and enhancing shine.
5. Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating Shampoo
Great for all curl types, Briogeo’s shampoo gently cleanses, while natural fruit ferment seals the cuticle to ensure that hair dries consistently which helps to maintain a healthy and consistent curl shape.
6. Miss Jessie’s Co-Wash
For natural curly, coily and kinky hair, this co-wash is a non-sulfate hair cleanser formulated to provide a super moisturizing cleanse.
7. Kinky Curly Come Clean
This Sulfate Free shampoo helps to prevent water build-up in hair and is perfect for dry damaged hair and gentle enough for everyday use.
8. Aveda Be Curly Co-Wash
Great for fine curls, the formula will cleanse while not weighing your hair down.
9. Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo
It’s all in the name. The natural ingredients helps to cleanse, moisturize and detangle. Great for Type 4 hair.
10. Herbal Essences Potent Aloe & Mango Shampoo
It’s the Aloe for us. This formula helps to define and moisturize curls while also helping to reduce frizz. It also smells delicious while being sulfate-free, paraben-free, and colorant-free.
11. Aussie Miracle Curls Collection Shampoo
Aussie’s Miracle Curls Collection Shampoo is infused with ingredients like coconut and Australian jojoba oil, which leaves your curls feeling defined, soft and hydrated. This shampoo is also free of sulfates, parabens and artificial dyes and is fit for all curly hair types, from 3A to 4C.
Buy it here.
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12. Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
This shampoo tackles frizz and dryness at the source by re-bonding frays in the hair cuticle helping to repair any damage and making for healthier, stronger curls.
13. Oribe Gold Lust Repair & Restore Shampoo
While on the pricier side, this luxurious formula was made for thick curly hair. The shampoo contains argan and maracuja oils to help smoothen the hair while a blend of amino acids and biotin repair damage and strengthen hair cuticles.
14. Amika Nice Cream Cleansing Conditioner
Best for wavy of Type 3 hair, Amika’s formula eliminates product build-up and contains soybean protein, grape seed oil, and oat peptide to lock in moisture. This co-wash also forms a protective barrier so hair won’t get frizzy or fall flat.
15. Bumble & Bumble Curl Moisturizing Shampoo
A rich mix of oils and butters that help to moisturize and de-frizz, while deeply hydrating the hair and adding shine.
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Curly hair can be full of bounce when the right steps and products are used to protect, moisturize and cleanse the curls. No matter your curl type, there are a ton of products – including the ones above – catered to curly hair and all the curl types. While it may take some trial and error to find the right combination for you, it’s out there. May your curls stay as lively as you are!
Written by: Rosalyn Solomon