There are myriads of natural hair shampoo variations out on the market today, all promising to gently cleanse while both moisturizing and defining your curls. A lot of naturalistas consider the best shampoo for natural hair one that nourishes the hair strand, while at the same time maintaining the shape and bounce of their curls.
Some consider skipping or spacing out washes, rather than regularly shampooing, to actually be better for the look and feel of their curly locks. Others think that the best shampoo for natural hair isn’t a shampoo at all, opting for cleansing conditioners and a co-washing regimen instead.
But hear us out: Fans of the lather, it turns out you don’t have to give up on shampoo altogether! The best shampoo for African American hair is one that can cleanse, and yes, offer a pleasant, satisfyingly sudsy shower experience if need be, but one that’s also infused with the right level of nourishing ingredients that fully respects the needs of curly, dry hair types. Read on for our fave ones:
Thankfully, hair care offerings for natural textures have skyrocketed in recent seasons, and those looking for a shampoo and conditioner for natural hair now have a lot more mainstream choices at their disposal.
Now considered more than just a niche category (finally!), products for natural hair, from your regular coconut oil-infused cleansers to those imparting more trend-based botanicals, are finally available to address the various issues faced by curly-haired women. Keep the following in mind when shopping:
1. The curlier the hair, the dryer it is
The main callout to remember when shopping for the right product is that, more often than not, curly hair is dry hair—and the curlier you are, the drier it is, with kinky 4A curls being the hair type most in need of moisture (figure out your curl category here). This is because it is harder and takes longer for your natural scalp oils to evenly coat curly hair downwards from root to tip than it does for straight hair, due to the shape of the strand. Understand: What might seem as a too-heavy moisturizing formula for a person with straight hair might just be the right level of hydration a curly-haired person needs, and this difference can even get more nuanced if you have a different curl type than others, which is why knowing your hair type category can be a crucial first step.
2. Moisturizers are your friend
That said, the ideal shampoo and conditioner for natural hair typically contain lightweight yet hardworking moisturizers, oftentimes in the form of botanical oils such as coconut, Argan, avocado or Marula oil. More potent emollients, such as shea butter and honey, are great hydrators for really dry hair types. It also helps to look for collections that cater specifically to curly hair needs—they’ll typically have this on their labels. Case in point: Dove Absolute Curls Ultra Nourishing Shampoo and Absolute Curls Ultra Nourishing Conditioner are infused with Brazilian Buriti oil that, when used as a hair care system, helps improve manageability and bounce while leaving ringlets super nourished.
Other winners we love include:
Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo, which, when used with the Daily Moisture Conditioner, protects hair from the daily wear and tear of life. How it does this: It uses a special Pro-Moisture Complex that gently cleans and nourishes hair, progressively—intuitive cleansing ftw!
Showertime also becomes akin to a spa-like experience with an indulgent offering like Dove Nourishing Rituals Smoothing Ritual Shampoo and Nourishing Rituals Smoothing Ritual Conditioner. Inspired by the hair care rituals of women in Southern Africa, the shampoo formula is enriched with marula fruit oil and baobab extract to prevent frizz and smoothen hair, all the while gently cleansing with its rich, creamy lather.
3. Don’t shy from strengthening formulas
A common misconception is that strengthening or fortifying formulas leave curls crunchy and stiff. Not true! Although the main benefit of a strengthening shampoo is ensuring your hair is reinvigorated from root to tip to prevent breakage due to daily aggressors, today’s formulations also pack a major moisture punch.
We especially love the no-compromise reinforcement we get from Dove Nourishing Rituals Fortifying Ritual Shampoo. Paired with Nourishing Rituals Fortifying Ritual Conditioner, this shampoo nourishes and strengthens fragile hair, using a blend of avocado and calendula extracts—meaning curls are strong and springy, yet also shiny and hydrated. Inspired by the hair care rituals of women in Latin America, the ingredients are renowned for their anti-breakage properties. Bonus: That fresh, floral scent is to die for!
So what is the best shampoo for natural hair? In a nutshell, it’s one that both moisturizes and defines your curls, while also preventing breakage. For best results, you can also opt to supplement your natural hair shampoo and conditioner regimen with a deep-conditioning mask once a week. A leave-in conditioner during no-wash periods can also keep ringlets in optimum condition—not to mention keep them smelling fresh and feeling silky—in the days leading up to your shampoo session