When it comes to the world of natural hair care, things can get seriously confusing. There are hundreds of products, and while many of them have top-quality ingredients, not all of them necessarily leave your hair feeling cleaner or softer than before you stepped into the shower.
So, in the name of finding the very best natural shampoos and conditioners out there, I turned myself into a human guinea pig and tested dozens of products (and I polled the rest of the natural beauty pros on the Well+Good staff to get a full picture of what’s good for every single hair type).
There were a lot of bad hair days along the way, but eventually I narrowed the list down to the best of the best. The products that follow are all free of nasty things like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and harsh toxins, chemicals, scents, and preservatives. Instead, they’re loaded with the good stuff like shea butter and argan oil.
Read on for everything you need to know to ensure good hair days in your future… —Victoria Lewis
For thick hair (and those who love lather)
Loaded with ultra-moisturizing ingredients like green tea oil, meadowfoam seed oil and aloe leaf powder, this duo delivers conditioning nutrients to the hair, locks in moisture and leaves tresses feeling silky smooth. And unlike some natural shampoos, this one actually lathers (thanks to the use of cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, a mild surfactant with a safe Environmental Working Group rating, that’s apparently naturally derived from coconuts).
Though this duo works for all hair types, they’re best suited to those with slightly thicker locks, as the oils and shea butter can weigh down thinner hair. Bonus points for the proprietary blend of essential oils that lend a bright, botanical scent.
For frizzy hair
If you’ve got issues with frizz, this super-silky formula should help to smooth your flyaways.
You can thank the proprietary mix of coconut, argan, and kukui nut oils that work to naturally cleanse and condition the hair without drying it out or weighing it down.
Plus, your head will smell like a piña colada all day, in the best possible way.
For curly hair
Natural shampoos and conditioners tend to weigh down waves and curls, but these combine organic shea butter, coconut water, dragon fruit, lychee, and green apple extract for an insanely lightweight feel.
They will soften and revive your hair’s natural texture, leaving it light and extra shiny.
And of all the combos I tried, this pair left my hair feeling cleaner (AKA no weird, sticky residue) than any others.
For fine hair
The OG of naturals, Intelligent Nutrients shampoo and conditioner (a line created by the industry’s natural beauty luminary Horst Rechelbacher) are all about balancing and nourishing not only the hair but also the scalp.
If you have fine hair and your scalp tends to get oily or dry from time to time, this combo will keep all that in check while also giving you a little natural volume boost—and never weighing things down.
Plus, the essential oils that help keep things clean and balanced, like rosemary leaf oil, cinnamon bark oil, and spearmint and peppermint oils, also make the products and your hair smell super refreshing.
For flat hair
If your hair has a tendency to sit flat on your head like a helmet, Yarok (which means “green” in Hebrew) will be your new best friend. Mordechai Alvow, an editorial hair stylist based in New York City, created this seriously amazing indie hair-care collection, and it’s super powerful for a brand you might not heard of.
Maybe it’s the specially filtered vitalized water in the formula or perhaps it’s the blend of essential oils and proteins that help to plump the hair, but this lightweight formula leaves hair soft and bouncy, without any buildup (even in the winter after a couple hours wearing a hat!). We’re obsessed with the whole range.
For dry hair
The gold standard of all-natural hair products, Rahua is an across-the-board beauty favorite that combines luxury ingredients and packaging, with eco-friendly sourcing practices—the key ingredient, rahua nut, is Amazon-derived and benefits the rain-forest communities that help procure it.
If your tresses are curly, stressed or extra dry, you’ll definitely want to load up on this rich formula that also uses coconut and shea butter, and has a yummy signature Palo Santo scent.
However, if your hair is particularly fine or tends to get gunky quickly, beware—this ultra-moisturizing blend may not be quite right for you.
For product build-up
Step away from the super-lathery products filled with sodium laureth sulfate. If you’ve got buildup (from trying too many natural shampoos and conditioners for instance), this clarifying shampoo will help to clear that all away.
It uses apple cider vinegar—a buildup-remover recommended by scores of DIY beauty mavens who swear by it—though none seems to be fan of the scent. Fortunately this shampoo also blends in other ingredients (many organic) like lemon oil, nettle, and rosemary.
These natural antiseptics help to mitigate the vinegar smell and detox your scalp and strands in one fell swoop. Not only will the shampoo have your locks feeling squeaky clean in no time, it can help seal in your color and restore natural shine.
It’s good for use about once every week or two.
For hair loss
Created by Dick Miyayama, MD, this system is based in serious scientific study. The Clean and Condition (along with Phylia’s natural keratin sprays) have helped many a hair loss sufferer to recover their natural head of hair, the brand swears. (We couldn’t personally put it to the test.)
Based on a proprietary blend of aloe, tannic, and fulvic acids, this shampoo and conditioner not only clean and moisturize the hair, but help the scalp to function properly and heal from the inside out.
Even though I have no major issues with hair loss (knock on wood), Phylia de M. is a staple in my shower because it leaves my hair feeling super thick, healthy and shiny.
Editor’s note: These supplements for thicker fuller hair may also help prevent hair loss, along with this powerful new superfood that science likes for restoring thinning locks.
For color- and chemical-treated hair
Briogeo’s super special combo of rosehip, argan, and coconut oils (AKA Rosarco) is extra healing and nourishing for hair that’s been put through the ringer. It’s almost like skin-care for your hair.
The buzzy, new high-performance line, created by Nancy Twine, is inspired by her grandmother’s thrifty DIY recipes products. If you color or heat-treat your hair, give it a little love with this creamy shampoo and conditioner, specifically intended to hydrate, strengthen and protect your locks.
There’s also a Rosarco leave-in oil and a best-selling hair mask in the collection, called Don’t Despair, Repair for those who need an extra boost. Which is pretty much everyone.
For normal hair
Normal hair types can totally test-drive any of the previously mentioned products, but these two unisex-y picks (there was an office-wide tie) are particularly solid for those without any major concerns, and who want a go-to natural staple that works and looks rad in your shower.
Naturopathica’s shampoo combines olive leaf extract and almond protein to fortify hair and give it natural shine, while black spruce and silver mint help to clarify and stimulate the scalp. (Note: this is a low-lather shampoo.) Meanwhile, the conditioner has horsetail leaf extract to nourish and moisturize, and amino acids to maintain your hair’s health.
Red Flower’s incredible smelling eucalyptus duo is ultra-moisturizing, thanks to coconut glycerin and vitamin B5, and it has castor seed oil, which is said to help maintain the hair’s cuticle and prevent split ends. It also generates a little bit of a lather. Plus, the conditioner leaves your hair super shiny and soft.
The Gnarly Whale Coconut Milk and Peaches Shampoo ($17)
The Gnarly Whale is a fantastic indie vegan brand that gets honorable mention because they do not currently make a traditional conditioner.
Their shampoos come in delicious scents from Oatmeal Milk and Honey to Cherry Almond and lather impressively. They leave hair feeling clean, but not stripped.
If you’re the type who can get away with a shampoo and no conditioner, they do have leave-in detangling sprays (in the same array of scents) that will give your hair a little extra moisture and shine.
How often should you wash your hair? Dozens of Well+Good readers dish right here.
We also road-tested these 10 hair-care supplements for thicker fuller hair…
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