March 7, 2017
One issue that looms large in the world of shampoo is the inclusion of sulfates. Buying shampoos and conditioners that don’t contain sulfates is one of the best things you can do to take care of your hair – and your health.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this guide to the top rated sulfate free shampoo and conditioners. I’ll explain the risks of using shampoos that include them and then review some of the best products available.
What is Sulfate Free Shampoo?
Simply put, a sulfate is a chemical detergent, something that does a very good job of cutting through both grease and dirt. Considering that both things can build up on human hair explains why many shampoos and conditioners contain them.
Sulfates are the ingredient that helps create the nice lather you get when you shampoo your hair. For some people, the presence of lather indicates that hair is getting clean.
Two of the most common sulfates that are used in shampoo are sodium lauryl , or SLS, and ammonium lauryl, or ALS. You may have seen these ingredients on the label of your shampoo bottle.
A Sulfate free shampoo is a shampoo that contains no sulfates. The shampoo itself may not be as thick as the products that do contain them. As a result, they sometimes include more ingredients designed to prevent the shampoo from being as thin as water
Shampoos that are free of sulfates are gentler on your hair and scalp. They clean the hair without stripping away its natural moisture.
Why Are They Bad For Your Hair
They can be very harsh on your hair and skin. They strip you hair strands of it natural oils that keep your hair healthy and strong. If you have dry or damaged hair from chemically treated hair or use of heated hair irons you will want to only use Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioners.
People who have dry or sensitive skin tend to be more sensitive to products with sulfates.
What Are The Benefits
The truth is that buying them is probably going to cost a bit more than buying regular shampoo. I think it’s important to understand what you’re paying for when you agree to a higher price.
Benefit #1: Reduces Scalp Irritation
The first benefit is that it reduces the chances that you will experience scalp irritation after shampooing.
Anybody who has sensitive skin knows that harsh soaps and cleansers can cause issues with dry skin and irritation. Sulfates are a common culprit because they strip away that natural oils that offer some protection to the scalp.
Sulfate free products are much gentler on the scalp. People who are prone to dry scalp or eczema generally see much better results.
Benefit #2: Reduces Frizz and Improves Moisture Retention
The next benefit is that it is gentle on your hair. People who have dry or combination hair may sometimes experience frizziness after shampooing with a product that contains sulfates.
Because they are mild, it improves the hair’s ability to retain moisture. Hair stays soft and supple. It is less likely to break or to get frizzy because of the lack of the harsh chemicals.
Benefit #3: Makes Color Last Longer
Sulfate strips the hair, both in terms of natural components such as oil and added ones, such as color. People who wash their hair with shampoos that include sulfates have to get their hair colored more frequently than those who do.
For that reason, many shampoos that are made specifically for color-treated hair are sulfate free. Salon professionals tend to recommend that you buy the sulfate free shampoo for color treated hair so that their clients don't spend a ton of money coming back to them frequently knowing that they will be more happy in the long run when their treatments last a long time.
Benefit #4: Keeps Harmful Chemicals Away from the Scalp
When sulfate is absorbed into the body, it eventually makes its way to the liver. Why is that a problem? Because they can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Estrogen is an important female hormone, but it’s important to maintain a proper hormonal balance for good health. When hormones are imbalanced, it can cause a host of health problems including weight gain, unwanted hair growth, irregular menstruation, and even infertility.
When you use a sulfate free products, you don’t have to worry that you’re putting harmful chemicals into your body. That’s a huge benefit to keep in mind when you’re looking at the price tag.
Benefit #5: Improves the Appearance of Hair
We all want to look good, and using them can make every day a good hair day.
Nobody wants to have dull hair, but washing your hair with harsh sulfates can reduce your hair’s natural shine. That can be an especially big problem for women with naturally curly hair or chemically treated which tends to be drier and coarser.
Sulfate Free Conditioner Benefits
So far, I have focused on the benefits, but did you know that sulfates are often an ingredient in conditioner, too? That might surprise you because conditioners are meant to keep the hair moisturized, but it’s true.
The benefits of using sulfate free conditioner are the same as those of using sulfate free shampoo. Conditioners that contain them actually do more to harm your hair than to help it.
They provide a moisturizing and detangling effect without exposing the scalp to harmful chemicals that might irritate it or cause health problems down the line.
They also improve the flexibility and shine of hair and leave it looking beautiful. Considering that most women think about their hair’s appearance at least as much as they do its cleanliness, that’s an important benefit to keep in mind.
Free of Sulfates - Shampoo and Conditioner Reviews 2018
Now that I have explained what they are and why I recommend them for everybody, it’s time to reveal a list of top rated shampoos and conditioners brands that are sulfate free.
This guide is something you can take with you the next time you go to the pharmacy or beauty supply store, or have open when you shop online. No matter what your hair is like, you’re sure to find something that will keep it looking healthy and beautiful.
Era Organics Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner
My first pick is e-ra organics hair and scalp therapy. These products are made especially for people who suffer from dandruff. They may also be ideal for those who are prone to dry skin and eczema.
Here are some of the features that explain why I chose this shampoo:
- Contains natural ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Argan Oil, and Manuka Honey
- In addition to being free of sulfates, this product is also silicon-free, paraben-free, and alcohol-free, and it isn’t tested on animals.
- Natural formula helps stimulate the production of keratin and collagen, which both help build strong, flexible hair.
- pH balanced, vitamin-rich formula helps to repair and nourish the scalp.
- Promotes healthy hair growth
- Also great for color-treated hair
One thing I really like about this product is that it contains no added fragrances. While many of us enjoy a scented shampoo, the fragrances added can be both drying and irritating. However, thanks to the organic ingredients, this shampoo still smells wonderful.
In addition to leaving your hair smelling and looking great, this product can actually help to soothe scalp irritation and relieve itching. That may be partially due to the inclusion of Manuka Honey. In case you’re not familiar with it, Manuka Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory and is used as a home remedy for a variety of ailments.
There may be a bit of sticker shock with this shampoo, but the organic ingredients and soothing formula make it worth the price.
Shu Uemura Color Lustre Brilliant Glaze Shampoo
The next on my list is Shu Uemura Color Lustre Shampoo for Unisex. As the name suggests, this is a shampoo that is intended for use by both women and men.
Here are some of the reasons that I chose it for this list:
- Natural ingredients include Musk Rose Oil, which is rich in natural fatty acids, and Goji Berries, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants.
- Both shampoo and conditioners are specially formulated to protect color-treated hair from fading.
- The natural lipids in the shampoo mimic the hair’s natural oils and protect it from damage.
- The Rose of Japan fragrance is natural and not overpowering, leaving hair smelling as good as it looks.
One of the things I really like about this shampoo is that in spite of the fact that it is sulfate free, it still lathers up nicely. It also rinses clean and leaves the hair feeling clean and looking shiny and healthy.
This shampoo does more than simply prevent hair color from fading. It makes the hair color look awesome because it brightens the hair. Again, there’s a bit of sticker shock, but this is a product that can work wonders for color-treated hair.
The third shampoo and conditioner to make my list is the Pureology Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner. This is especially designed for use on color-treated hair. Here are some of the features that explain why it makes my list:
- The color preserving formula includes no sulfates and all natural ingredients such as coconut, corn, and sugar.
- Contains natural herbal extracts, including peppermint, sage, and rosemary.
- Specifically designed to gently clean color-treated hair without stripping the color. The conditioner provides needed moisture to help color stay bright and beautiful.
- Natural fragrance combines Ylang, Bergamot, Anise and Patchouli.
While this particular product is designed for use on color-treated hair, its natural ingredients and deep moisturizing effect make it a great choice for people who have dry hair, naturally curly hair, and for those who live in dry, desert climates.
This formula does a particularly good job of taming unmanageable hair and leaving it soft, shiny, and manageable. I particularly recommend it for women with curly hair.
One caveat is that the patchouli oil in the shampoo does have a rather strong smell. If you don’t like the scent of patchouli then try one of the other shampoos on this list.
Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner
I’m a big fan of Oribe products, so it’s not surprising that I added ORIBE Shampoo for Beautiful Color for this guide. It’s a luxury product, but worth the price for what you get in return. Here are some of its key benefits:
- Natural ingredients such as watermelon extract and kaempferia galanga root extract help protect your hair from the drying and fading effects of UV rays from the sun.
- Baobab tree extract, Edelweiss flower extract, and lychee extract provide deep moisturizing to the hair, leaving it soft and manageable.
- The exclusive formula helps prevent keratin depletion that can lead to dull, brittle hair.
- Bioflavonoids, which are natural antioxidants that give fruits their bright color, help to prevent hair color from fading.
- In addition to being sulfate free, the formula is also free of harmful parabens and sodium chloride.
What I particularly like about this product is that it is designed to help protect your hair from the elements. If you’re somebody who spends a lot of time outside, then you probably know that your hair can be damaged by sun, wind, and environmental pollutants. This formula helps shield it.
This is a great-smelling product that leaves hair soft, shiny, and free of tangles. Although it’s pricy, I’ve also found that even people with thick hair can get by with using a small amount. This bottle will last a while if you buy it.
Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo & Conditioner
The fourth on my list which comes from Aveda, is the Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo & Conditioner.
Here are some of the reasons why I like this product:
- Natural, moisturizing ingredients include buriti oil, pomegranate phenols, tomato extract, and barley extract.
- Extra-thick formula is designed to hydrate dry, damaged hair.
- Leaves hair shiny, supple, and soft.
- Soothing fragrance combines bergamot, ginger lily, and lavender.
This is truly one of the best moisturizing shampoos I’ve tried. In spite of the fact that it is sulfate free, the formula is incredibly rich and thick. It lathers up nicely and has a luxurious feel.
One of the benefits of this particular product is that it moisturizes the scalp too. People who have to take medication for scalp itch may find that using this shampoo and conditioner helps to alleviate the itch.
The one potential downside of these products is that their thickness makes them a bit difficult to rinse out. You should plan on spending some time letting the water flow to make sure all of the shampoo is out of your hair.
It is also worth mentioning that Aveda is a cruelty-free company and does not test on animals. For many people animal testing is a deal-breaker so it’s important to mention that.
L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System
The next product on my list is one of the most affordable called Loreal sulfate free shampoo and conditioner available. While many of the others featured were luxury products, you can find this in most pharmacies.
L’Oreal is a well-known product and there are many reasons to like this particular product.
Here are some of its features:
- Key ingredients include coconut extract, rosemary, and juniper
- Designed especially for color-treated hair and can keep color looking brand new for up to four weeks after you visit the salon
- Moisturizing ingredients leave hair feeling soft and looking shiny
- Soothing formula may help to relieve scalp itch
This sulfate free shampoo stands out because it’s both affordable and effective. Also, it is worth noting that these products contain no animal product or by-products, meaning that they are a good choice for vegans and vegetarians.
This product doesn’t generate as much lather as some of the shampoos previous listed, and you may find that you need to wash your hair twice to get it feeling really clean. However, the shampoo is gentle enough that washing twice isn’t a problem.
There are a couple of things that are worth noting. The first is that unlike some of the other products in this guide, the shampoo and conditioner tubes look exactly the same. It’s easy to mix up the two in the shower.
I also want to mention that the packaging is a bit on the flimsy side. Some people who use it find that they have a difficult time closing the tubes after use. But on the whole, these are nice-smelling and effective products at a reasonable price.
Living Proof Restore Shampoo & Restore Conditioner
Up next is the Living Proof Restore Shampoo & Conditioner. Here are some of the reasons that I like it:
- The formula is designed to help restore damaged hair to health, and includes Living Proof’s patented Healthy Hair Molecule to help repair hair follicles.
- In addition to being sulfate free, this product is also paraben free and silicone free.
- Living Proof guarantees that hair will be 20x stronger and more resistant to breakage after two weeks of use.
- The formula helps to protect the hair from dirt, meaning that you can shampoo less frequently than with other products.
In addition to all of the above, the shampoo and conditioner both have a light citrus scent that is pleasant but not overpowering. It is suitable for both women and men.
The shampoo produces a nice, rich lather. My experience is that it takes a couple of uses to notice the effects, but then hair becomes soft, shiny, and noticeably stronger than it was before.
It’s worth noting that there is a third product in the Restore system, and people with very dry or damaged hair may want to consider adding the hair mask to their shopping cart. It adds deep conditioning and restoration that can help even chemically treated and brittle hair look healthy and shiny.
Awapuhi Wild Ginger Moisturizing Shampoo by Paul Mitchell
Paul Mitchell is a well-known hair care brand, and the Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger is definitely a product that I recommend as personally use this one and love the results.
Here are some of the features:
- Natural ingredients include white ginger extract, awapuhi oil, keratin, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.
- Contains Paul Mitchell’s patented Keratriplex formula to replenish and rebuild hair from the inside out.
- In addition to being sulfate free, this shampoo and conditioner are also paraben free.
- These products are safe for color-treated hair even though it’s not a listed as a shampoo for that purpose.
These products are fairly light and particularly good for fine, dry hair. Some people may find that the conditioner is a bit on the thin side, but that can be remedied by using a little extra or mixing it with a thicker product for balance.
The shampoo produces a very nice lather and has a pleasant ginger scent that works for both men and women.
I particularly like this shampoo for coarse hair because it makes it soft and manageable. The only potential downside is that you may end up using the conditioner far more quickly than the shampoo.
Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Shampoo & Conditioner
The final shampoo and conditioner set on my list is Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Shampoo & Conditioner. Here’s what I like about it:
- Contains all-natural, certified organic ingredients including shea butter, Argan oil, Aloe Vera, rosemary, sea kelp, and avocado oil.
- Shea Moisture products are never tested on animals.
- Free trade company uses sustainable ingredients that are ethically produced.
- Helps restore dry, processed, or color-treated hair, making it shiny and flexible.
Of all the shampoos in this guide, this one produces the least amount of lather – but that’s because it contains all-natural ingredients and far fewer of them than the other products on the list.
The formula is particularly good for coarse, curly, or ethnic hair. I know a lot of people with dreadlocks who use this shampoo and conditioner for their hair and swear by it.
Another thing I like about this shampoo is that it is gentle enough even for people who have irritated scalps or psoriasis. The natural ingredients don’t bother the skin and they keep hair moisturized and supple for days after use.
It’s worth noting that there are no added fragrances and the natural smell of the ingredients may not be to everybody’s taste. Still, on the whole I love this product and particularly recommend it for people with coarse hair.
Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Color Treated Hair
One of the most common reasons that people seek out sulfate free shampoo is because they dye or highlight their hair and want to do something to protect the hair and prevent the color from fading.
While many of the products on this list are good for color-treated hair, I want to tell you about one more that I particularly like and recommend highly for people who color their hair.
The shampoo I recommend is Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Shampoo.
It’s fairly affordable compared to some of the other shampoos on this list. Here’s why I like it:
- Natural ingredients include elastin protein and white orchid extract.
- In addition to being sulfate free, this product is also silicone free.
- Helps extend the life of color so you can go to the salon less frequently.
This is a nice-smelling product that is more affordable than some of the other products on this list. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good alternative and may be good even for people who don’t dye their hair.
One nice thing about Nexxus products is that they are widely available. I think this formula is a bit better for thick hair than it is for thin hair. If your hair is thin you may want to try one of the other products in this guide.
Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Curly Hair
Curly hair can be very difficult to care for. It tends to be thick and coarse, and that can mean that it is also dry and prone to tangle between washings.
The sulfate free shampoo that I recommend for curly hair is AG Hair Re-Coil Shampoo Curl Activating Shampoo, which is especially designed to help maximize your curls while also nourishing your hair. Here are some of the reasons I chose it:
- Natural ingredients include rice, hydrolyzed wheat protein, oats, keratin, and jojoba oil.
- Contains AG Hair’s special C3 Curl Creating Complex to boost curls and restore their bounce and shine.
- While it is specially formulated for use on curly hair, this shampoo is gentle enough to be used on any hair type.
This product is particularly good for people who have a hard time defining their curls. It can take even thin curly hair and transform it. This is also a very good product for gray hair, which has a tendency to be dry and a bit coarse.
It’s a nice side benefit that this product also helps keep color from fading. The company doesn’t tout it as a product for color-treated hair but it’s a good choice for curly-haired women who also dye their hair. The scent is nice but not too strong.
There are many reasons to use sulfate free shampoo. Even if your hair is in good condition and you like the shampoo you’re using, you need to ask if you want to continue using harsh chemicals in your hair when there are alternatives available.
I know that the price of some of them in this guide might be a bit shocking, particularly for people who have been accustomed to paying drug store prices. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these products last quite a long time.
Using sulfate free shampoo is good for your hair and your scalp. Many of the shampoos on this list use natural or organic products, and they are not tested on animals.
Whether your hair is long or short, thick or thin, curly or straight, there is a product on this list that will suit your hair and keep it feeling soft and looking wonderful.