The 16 Best Shampoos for Perfect Curls Every Time, According to Hair Experts
Those curls need a little extra TLC! Whether you’ve got loose waves or tight coils, these pro picks will keep your tresses in tip-top shape.
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What your curls crave
If you’re blessed with curly hair, you’re likely well aware that caring for those curls can be a challenge. Unlike women with straight hair, curlies have asymmetrical hair follicles that are “S-shaped,” meaning that each strand will have two bends and, because of the follicle shape, hair will always grow in curly. While there are a number of products and styling tips that can help you get your hair to cooperate and look gorgeous, the first step is finding the best shampoo for curly hair—and, specifically, your type of curly hair. (The second, of course, is finding the best conditioner for your hair type.)
Whether you have waves or tight coils, dryness is usually an issue. All those bends prevent your scalp’s natural oils from traveling down the strand because it’s harder to navigate through the twists and turns, whereas with straight hair, the oils easily slide down a straight path. That’s why, according to Larry Sims, the go-to stylist for Regina King and Gabrielle Union, “the tighter the curl, the drier it becomes.”
The right shampoo for your hair type can help with that, setting you up for success by creating a strong baseline foundation to style and manage. As no two curls are the same, we asked four renowned hairstylists for their favorite shampoos for every curly hair type, so you’ll never have a bad hair day again.
Best overall shampoo for curly hair: Living Proof Anti-Frizz Shampoo
With more than 80 awards in both the beauty world and academia, this groundbreaking shampoo is powered by the company’s patented Healthy Hair Molecule, which is considered the biggest breakthrough in anti-frizz technology in over 30 years. And it works on fair-weather flyaways to the frizziest floof—to block humidity, smooth unruly wisps, and somehow magically repel dirt and oil (it’s true—don’t ask us how). That dirt-repelling feature allows you to eke out another day or two between washes, which is always a good move for dryness-prone curly hair. Reviewers rave that it makes their hair softer, healthier, and easier to style. One fan, who swears it’s “the best stuff ever,” says: “I use the shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in conditioner. Add in a silk pillowcase and no more frizz!”
Best gentle shampoo for curly hair: Sebastian Professional Twisted Elastic Cleanser
One ingredient you don’t want in your shampoo for curly hair: sulfates. “Sulfate-based shampoos dry out curls, make them frizzy, and could also make detangling a struggle,” says celebrity hairstylist and colorist Chris Brown. A sulfate-free shampoo, on the other hand, “ensures more moisture, happier hair, and curls that retain hydration versus crave hydration.”
A terrifically gentle shampoo that works for all curl types is the curl-enhancing Twisted Elastic Cleanser and Detangler. Its nutrient-rich formulation boasts moisture-boosting marine extracts, making it a nourishing yet mild option. FYI, sulfates are among the toxic ingredients you might be using every day, so definitely make sure to read product labels.
Best budget shampoo for curly hair: Garnier Curl Nourish
Looking for a shampoo with a high impact on hair and low hit to your wallet? Reach for Garnier’s Curl Nourish shampoo, hands down. It ticks all the important ingredient boxes: It’s free of parabens and sulfates but packed with the brand’s famed Active Fruit Protein, a top-secret blend of citrus protein, vitamins B3 and B6, and fruit and plant-derived extracts, rounded out with hydrating coconut oil. This results in a gentle, non-stripping cleanse that promises to keep curls frizz-resistant for up to 24 hours. Bonus? It smells like the tropical beach vacation none of us could go on in 2020.
Best shampoo for curly hair from a Black-owned brand: Alaffia Everyday Coconut Shampoo
One of Brown’s go-to shampoos for curly hair is Alaffia Everyday Coconut Shampoo, a formulation that not only smells like heaven, but Brown says it’s also “truly amazing as far as price point and delivery of quality ingredients.” Combining ethically traded virgin coconut oil, shea butter, and tingly ginger extracts, this shampoo seriously moisturizes and deep-cleans all at once, without stripping hair of natural oils, for curls that look and feel silky-soft and easier to manipulate. And you can feel extra good about buying it: The socially conscious brand gives back to the West African community where it produces these products, supporting education, maternal care, sustainability, and reforestation efforts. Here are more Black-owned beauty products you’ll love.
Best next-gen shampoo for curly hair: Living Proof Curl Shampoo
As most women with curly hair learn the hard way, curly hair products are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing—even on their own heads, as curlies often have several pattern variations at once. “All curls have different needs,” explains Brown. For example, she notes, the tighter the curl, the more hydration it will typically require to stay healthy. But what do you do if one strand is far more defined than the one next to it? Enter Living Proof’s new drop, Curl Collection, which offers a foundational curl-enhancing shampoo that features a brand-new, patent-pending technology that seems to do it all: nudge curls to form a bouncy, flexible definition, strengthen the strands’ composition, and provide overall styling ease and manageability, regardless of curl tightness. Find out which beauty store is better: Ulta or Sephora.
Best shampoo for defined curls: Pattern Hydrating Shampoo
It takes a curly-haired queen to know what fellow curly-haired queens need, and that’s exactly why Tracee Ellis Ross created this Pattern shampoo. It has more than 1,000 five-star reviews at Ulta, so it’s clear that there are a lot of very happy curly-haired campers out there. Hydrators aloe vera leaf juice, coconut oil, and honey drench hair with heavy moisture that feels lightweight and clean, not coated. And Ellis Ross chose a freshly floral aroma of jasmine, bergamot, and sweet sandalwood to energize (but not overwhelm) the senses for a truly delightful experience that results in longer-lasting curls and healthier tresses.
Best shampoo for color-treated curls: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance
Color-treated curls often need a boost of structural support. “A fave shampoo that I recommend especially for curls with highlights is the Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo,” shares Brown. “It’s sulfate-free, smells amazing, and repairs and strengthens the hair’s bonds, which is vital for curly hair.” By re-linking broken bonds within the hair’s structure, this shampoo restores vulnerable strands to full strength, and defends against common everyday stressors to visibly improve hair’s overall health, leaving it glossy, frizz-free, and easy to style after a single use. Follow with a glossy conditioner for maximum effect. Here are more of the best shampoos for color-treated hair that’ll help keep your locks bright and healthy.
Best shampoo for kinky hair: Kevin.Murphy Hydrate-Me.Wash
Extremely dry by nature, kinky hair can be brittle, so it needs heavy-duty moisture. “Because smaller and curlier curls have more revolutions, they need more hydration so the curls don’t become subjected to breakage,” explains Brown about this frustrating side effect of dryness.
To quench parched hair and restore luminosity, internationally renowned stylist Kevin Murphy developed the Hydrate-Me.Wash, a high-performance shampoo that delivers a large, ice-cold glass of H2O straight to the system. This unique vitamin- and oil-rich recipe has standout hero ingredients such as Australian kakadu plum, known to possess the highest concentration of natural vitamin C in the world, which works to smooth the hair’s surface; bergamot fruit extract to improve scalp health; vitamin A to increase elasticity; and old faithful shea butter to deliver moisture from root to tip and also protect against environmental stressors. Talk about a powerhouse formulation!
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Best shampoo for fragile curls: Ouidad Ultra-Nourishing Cleansing Oil
Densely packed coiled strands have the greatest amount of shrinkage compared to other curl types, and they also tend to be the driest. These fragile strands need a shampoo with seemingly conflicting traits—strong enough to do serious restorative work but gentle enough to not cause further damage. Murphy favors powerful concoctions to soothe type 4 hair with “lipid plant-based proteins,” which are “perfect for building strength and luster,” while also crediting popular oils—such as avocado, coconut, and argan—as “ingredients that can be a great source of therapy.”
Specifically designed for curl care, Ouidad’s oil-based formulation removes grime and buildup while its mafura butter and Kalahari melon seed oil slather strands in moisture. Silk proteins and coconut oils bind to the cuticle, creating a protective coating over strands to preserve hydration and prevent future damage.
Best shampoo that won’t weigh down curls: SheaMoisture Coconut Custard Make It Last Wash N’ Go Shampoo
Every ounce of this intensely hydrating shampoo is designed to moisturize, detangle, and, as the brand says, “lay the foundation” for beautiful curly hair. By combining ultra-conditioning superheroes coconut milk and oil, kokum butter, and a bevy of natural plant peptides, this creamy “custard” shampoo will leave hair stronger, healthier, and bouncier than before, without feeling heavy or weighed down, which can lead to an oily scalp.
Best shampoo for wavy hair: Kérastase Discipline
Wavy, or type 2 hair is “the lightest of textures,” says celebrity stylist Andrew Fitzsimons. “It’ll start from a soft, sort of beachy natural wave to a light, very loose curl,” and because it’s a neither-here-nor-there kind of curl, it’s a very versatile style. But on the flip side, wavy hair “tends to frizz easily and has a difficult time holding onto the definition of the curl pattern,” he adds. To work with your natural bend, try Kérastase’s sulfate-free shampoo, which works twice as hard as other shampoos to reduce frizz and tame hair overall, making hair easier to manage and style. Reviewers who live in tropical climates and who have color-treated hair are particular fans of this formulation. One enthuses that it’s “hands down worth every penny.” Don’t miss these hair-thickening shampoos that deliver gorgeous body and volume.
Best growth shampoo for curly hair: Rëzo Curl Control Shampoo
You don’t have to have thinning hair to want to maintain a full mane of bouncing beautiful curls. Enter cleaning, nourishing, hydrating Rëzo Curl Control Shampoo, created by legendary curl guru and RËZOcut founder Nubia Rëzo. “The main ingredient in the shampoo is black tea, a natural antioxidant that helps block the hormone DHT, which is responsible for shedding,” says Rëzo, who owns a salon on Manhattan’s upper east side and has nearly 180K followers on Instagram. “The black tea ingredient maintains a healthy scalp and also promotes and nourishes hair strength.” For best results, Rëzo advises applying shampoo from the nape of the neck to the sides of the head to the top of the head in a circular motion, and with your fingers, combing the shampoo down to the ends in sections. Use this sulfate-free, paraben-free, cruelty-free, vegan formula for your once weekly shampoo and enjoy silky, shiny, healthy curls.
Best shampoo for extremely dry hair: DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence Zero Lather Ultra Moisturizing Milk Cleanser
Coarse, dry hair needs a supercharged shampoo to work with its natural oils and provide long-lasting moisture. Classic curly hair brand DevaCurl reworked its original No-Poo shampoo specifically for dry hair in serious need of hydration. This creamy, non-lathering shampoo is dense and rich, formulated with ultra-moisturizing chufa milk and quinoa protein, which works as a natural keratin to fortify and strengthen hair while also protecting against future damage.
Best splurge shampoo for curly hair: Oribe Cleansing Creme for Moisture & Control
We don’t often think about hair in this way, but we should: A healthy scalp produces healthy hair from the start. This newly launched non-foaming conditioning shampoo cares for all parts of the curl—from follicle to end. Massage the heavy cream, which is rich with caffeine and lemon and orange blossom extracts, onto the scalp to cleanse, rebalance, and soothe. Anti-frizz and vitamin-rich artichoke leaf extract calms frizz to leave hair soft, smooth, and vibrant.
Best natural shampoo for curly hair: Aveda Be Curly
“When choosing a shampoo for curls, the more botanical, the better,” advises Brown, who suggests “sticking with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like coconut-derived extracts, avocado, and grape seed oils versus artificial fragrances.” Enter Be Curly: a blend of naturally derived ingredients. Aloe and wheat protein lock in moisture and lock out humidity, and organic lime, lemon, bergamot, orange, and other good-for-you plant and flower essences create a lightweight, curl-defining, and wonderfully fresh-smelling shampoo.
Best drugstore shampoo for curly hair: Kinky Curly Come Clean
This drugstore-favorite’s mix of high-quality ingredients is where you get the most bang for your buck, according to Brown. The new and improved formulation contains phytic acid, which deep-cleans and removes grimy buildup at the base of your scalp, as well as an intoxicating mix of Mandarin orange extract and marigold blossom that serve as natural astringents to revitalize dull hair. Sea kelp also restores hair to its proper moisture and pH levels. For another brilliant budget buy, check out the $8 frizzy hair product that has thousands of near-perfect reviews on Amazon.
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