Shampooing curly hair can be a challenge, and cleansing with the wrong shampoo (or conditioner!) can be the difference between a good hair day and a bad one. Considering the plethora of shampoos and cleansers that claim to nourish curls, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones actually work best. Layer on the differences between hair texture—dry, thick, fine, or natural—and matters get even more nuanced.
That's why we tapped Evan Joseph, a curly hair stylist at Evan Joseph Salon and advocate for premium hair care brand, Authentic Beauty Concept. Joseph confirms that, yes, curls are delicate creatures which prefer gentle, natural ingredients opposed to harsh chemicals and drying synthetics.
- Evan Joseph, Evan Joseph is a third generation hairdresser and the senior creative curl director and owner of Evan Joseph Salon. He is also an advocate for the premium hair brand, Authentic Beauty Concept.
- Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, MD, board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist at Visage Dermatology
"Shampoo is all about gentle cleansing," says Joseph. "I recommend my curly clients cleanse regularly. Every 2-3 days max. Curly cleansers are typically gentle and should be used often to maintain scalp health and not risk product build up."
If you have natural Black curls, however, you might want only wash once per week. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist at Visage Dermatology in Maryland, recommends washing natural hair less frequently, sometimes even every other week, to retain the hair's natural oils.
"As long as there are no scalp disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis, then it's back to my once per week recommendation," Dr. St. Surin-Lord says. "It's also very important to understand that many people with African/Black hair get their hair washed and styled only by their beautician twice per week. This will affect hair washing frequency."
As for what's in the products themselves, look for nourishing ingredients that add moisture rather than take it away. Dr. St. Surin-Lord recommends naturally hydrating oils and essences, like avocado oil, argan oil, and jojoba oil. Joseph agrees: "There are many coconut derived cleansers and conditioning cleansers which help cleanse the hair without stripping it and leaving it dry and brittle," he says. "When it comes to conditioner, Guar is a great alternative to silicone. It provides the same slip and manageability but is still naturally derived and rinses easily."
16 of the best shampoos for dry, thick, fine, and natural curly hair
In the market for a curl-friendly cleanser? Below are 16 of the best shampoos for curly hair, guaranteed to add moisture, volume, and shine to every wavy mane.
Best shampoos for dry curly hair
For just $9, Real Raw’s curl-quenching shampoo packs a punch. It’s formulated with curl-loving ingredients, like yogurt, coconut oil and manuka honey, which are cold blended for nutrient rich assurance. The result? Moisturized curls that are bouncy, smooth, and full of life.
Smells like: Coconut and mango
Sun Bum’s shampoo is loaded with hydrating ingredients, like kukui nut oil, macadamia nut oil, and coconut oil. It seals in moisture on thirsty curls, leaving them silky, smooth, and free of frizz. Pair it with Sun Bum’s other curly products, like mousse or curl gel, for SPF-protected tendrils.
Smells like: Your favorite sunscreen
Joseph’s pick is a hydrating shampoo that’s gentle on dry hair, scrubbing away dirt and grime without stripping it of any natural oils. It’s infused with all-natural, nourishing ingredients, like coconut, mango, and basil extracts, to cleanse your locks and give them some TLC.
Smells like: Clean, fresh cotton
All of Davines products are made with all-natural, ethically sourced ingredients and delivered in 100 percent recyclable packaging, so it’s as good for your body as it is for the Earth. This shampoo is infused with locally sourced almond oil from Italy, which gives curls an instant burst of hydration from wash to wash.
Smells like: Fresh air
Best shampoos for natural curly hair
Mixed Chicks gentle shampoo scraps the drying synthetics and chemicals for all-natural ingredients that are safer for chemically or color-treated curls. It’s loaded with hydrating ingredients and nourishing vitamins that cleanse the hair and scalp, hydrating and reinvigorating each strand as you lather.
Smells like: Avocado, almonds, and aloe
Carol’s Daughter’s dreamy shampoo is ultra-nourishing, blended with aloe, sweet clover, and shea butter to soothe dry, thirsty strands. There’s no sulfates or harmful chemicals—it’s all natural and designed to restore natural moisture to tired wavy, curly, and coily hair.
Smells like: Rich vanilla
For dry hair and thirsty coils, Pattern’s hydrating shampoo has all the ingredients you need to bring hair back to life. It’s packed with feel-good ingredients hair will love, like aloe juice, coconut oil, and decadent honey. No need to worry about grease or grime—it leaves hair clean and infused with the natural oils it needs to thrive.
Smells like: Subtle citrus
Splurge on this indulgent two-in-one shampoo for nourishment, cleansing, and smoothness. It’s non-foaming, formulated to ever-so-gently cleanse away oil, dirt, and debris. As for the nourishment, it has everything from purifying fruit extracts (for extra cleanliness) to coconut oil (for nourishment) and water mint essence (for a cooling burst while you scrub.)
Smells like: Minty eucalyptus
Best shampoos for fine curly hair
If you’re looking for a quality drugstore option, look no further than OGX’s coconut-infused shampoo that’s specifically formulated for thin, fine curls. It’s not oily or greasy, so your curls will hold their bounce without getting weighed down. Paired with its matching conditioner, and delicate waves will look salon-worthy at a fraction of the price.
Smells like: Beachy coconut
Verb’s weightless shampoo feels great on all types of curls. It’s infused with a featherlight moringa oil that hydrates hair without bogging it down or leaving it shapeless. It’s color safe, vegan, and infused with UV-protectant, making it an all-around great pick.
Smells like: Light grapefruit
Sap moss? Yes, really. This earthy shampoo by Aveda is blended with Icelandic moss and tree sap designed to give curls instant moisture without making them greasy, stringy, or heavy. Its natural ingredients and silicone-free formulation gently cleanses hair from root to tip, leaving curls silky and rejuvenated.
Smells like: Forest air
Living Proof is known for their high-quality, powerful hair products, and this curl shampoo is no different. It’s creamy and hydrating but not in a way that’s too hydrating for fine, sensitive hair. Paired with its matching conditioner, and curls are left springy and clean.
Smells like: Citrus
Best shampoos for thick curly hair
Tame wild, unruly manes with Maui Moisture’s smoothing shampoo. Infused with cocoa butter and kukui nut oil, it moisturizes as it washes hair, leaving thick locks smoother, silkier, and replenished.
Smells like: Vanilla ice cream
Take thick, dense curls on an instant vacation with this $9 shampoo. Blended with gardenia and mango, it cleanses thick, dry hair without leaving it parched of any natural goodness. The result? Untangled locks, voluminous curls, and healthier hair.
Smells like: A tropical smoothie
True to its name, this shampoo gives thick, voluminous curls all the charisma. Its plant-based formula make it safe for all hair types, but it’s especially great at detangling and cleaning dry, dense manes.
Smells like: Fresh tropical fruit
As the name suggests, OUAI’s powerful shampoo is designed with thick hair in mind. While other shampoos can leave dense hair more tangled than before, OUAI’s repairs and detangles, priming curls for conditioning. It’s natural, clean formulation and recyclable packaging don’t hurt either.
Smells like: Lemon, jasmine, and musk
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