20 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos 2023 for a Gentle Cleanse

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We all, for the most part, have at least one bottle of shampoo sitting in our showers, but have you checked its ingredient label recently? Shampoos with add-ins like silicones aren’t necessarily bad for your hair, but products with a widdled-down ingredient list, like the best sulfate-free shampoos, seem to be growing in popularity.

Our Top Picks:

Over the years, there’s been a lot of chatter about sulfates in shampoos and their supposedly harsh effects. But are they as damaging as they’re made out to be? Dive into our FAQs below to find out more.

Frequently Asked Questions

For now, know that lathering up with a good ol’ sulfate-free shampoo can work wonders for your hair and scalp, especially if you have sensitive skin. To that end, we compiled a thorough list of the best sulfate-free shampoos, according to the pros and our editors.

Best Overall: Andrew Fitzsimons Body Volume Boosting Shampoo

Andrew Fitzsimons Body Volume Boosting Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: For fine and thin hair that needs a little oomph, look no further than the Andrew Fitzsimons Body Volume Boosting Shampoo. This two-time Best of Beauty Award winner (2022 and 2023) isn’t formulated with sulfates — instead, it’s packed with good-for-hair stuff like bond technology and caffeine to fortify hair and help it grow.

Editor Tip: This has an invigorating scent of pink grapefruit, caramel, and cedarwood — perfect for perfuming the entire bathroom post-shower.

Key Ingredients: Caffeine, bonding technology | Who It’s Good For: People with thin, fine hair

Best for Color-Treated Hair: Pureology Strength Cure Sulfate Free Shampoo

Pureology Strength Cure Sulfate Free Conditioner

Why It’s Worth It: Pureology’s Strength Cure Sulfate Free Shampoo gives a fortifying boost to all hair types and textures, but it’s especially dreamy for color-treated hair. Plant-based protein Keravis and antioxidant astaxanthin strengthen and revitalize hair that’s been drained by bleaching or coloring.

Editor Tip: This shampoo gets your hair acting like its old, pre-dye self again, which is exactly why we gave it a 2023 Best of Beauty Award.

Key Ingredients: Keravis, astaxanthin | Who It’s Good For: Those with color-treated hair

Best for Dry Scalps: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Lather up with Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo’s slightly shimmery, clear formula and prepare to feel rejuvenated. Robinson says salicylic acid helps target dandruff flakes, while caffeine soothes dry, irritated scalps.

Editor Tip: This is safe for those with chemically- or color-treated hair.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, caffeine, watermelon | Who It’s Good For: People with dandruff and a sensitive scalp

Best for Fine Hair: Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: If your hair is lacking body, this hairstylist-formulated shampoo from Ouai will bump up the volume. It’s enriched with biotin and hydrolyzed keratin to strengthen and add shine along with amino acid-rich chia seed oil to moisturize the hair and scalp and support new growth.

Editor Tip: To round out your hair care routine and find complementing products, Ouai offers a nifty hair quiz.

Key Ingredients: Biotin, hydrolyzed keratin, chia seed oil | Who It’s Good For: Those with fine, flat hair

Best Bond-Building: K18 Peptide Prep Detox Shampoo

K18 Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: In case you’re new to K18, the celebrity-backed brand aims to restore your hair’s keratin bonds, whether they were damaged by heat, styling, or coloring. The newly introduced Peptide Prep Shampoo focuses on cleansing away any dirt, oil, and product buildup without disturbing your hair’s natural pH.

Editor Tip: The formula helps prep the hair for the brand’s well-loved Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask, which is also color-safe and editor-approved.

Key Ingredients: K18 Peptide | Who It’s Good For: People with damaged hair and those who are loyal to the Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask

Best Drugstore: Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Daily Moisture Shampoo

Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Daily Moisture Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: If you’re looking to spend under $10, may we introduce you to Aveeno’s Oat Milk Blend Shampoo? This cleanser is a sulfate-free formula specially made for dry, itchy scalps that need soothing relief from oat milk. Proof you don’t need to step into a Sephora for healthier hair.

Editor Tip: Sweet almond extract is also added for moisture, leaving your scalp comforted and hair silky-smooth and soft to the touch.

Key Ingredients: Sweet almond extract, colloidal oatmeal extract | Who It’s Good For: Dry, itchy scalps

Best for Curly Hair: Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo

Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: For dry hair that’s begging for moisture, grab the Mielle Organics Babassu Conditioning Shampoo. It’s infused with babassu oil, which moisturizes every hair on your head for a smoother and softer feel. It also contains castor oil and glycerin for added conditioning benefits.

Editor Tip: Babassu oil comes from an Amazonian palm fruit that’s chock-full of vitamin E to help hair retain moisture.

Key Ingredients: Babassu oil, castor oil, glycerin | Who It’s Good For: Those with dry, curly, or color-treated hair

Best for Frizz: Kérastase Paris Bain Fluidealiste Shampoo

Kérastase Paris Bain Fluidealiste Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: If your hair is rough to the touch, the Kérastase Paris Bain Fluidealiste Shampoo is the best shampoo to soften it after just one wash. But it doesn’t do so at a surface level — the formula contains a keratin complex that strengthens the hair follicles from the root and leaves hair feeling like silk, eliminating frizz in the process.

Editor Tip: Because it’s made with a keratin complex, it’s great for those with keratin-treated hair.

Key Ingredients: Wheat protein, keratin complex | Who It’s Good For: People with dry, unmanageable hair

Best for Split Ends: Dove Hair Therapy Rescue & Protect Shampoo

Dove Hair Therapy Rescue & Protect Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Dove’s Hair Therapy Rescue & Protect Shampoo is exactly what its name reflects: a therapeutic treatment for damaged hair that needs a little love. This 2022 Best of Beauty Award-winning shampoo uses ceramides and peptides to strengthen hair from the inside and to seal split ends.

Editor Tip: Using this shampoo regularly helps maintain hair health so you can strike a balance between bad-for-hair-but-fun practices (hello, heat-styling) and restorative measures hair needs to recover and be healthy — kinda like real therapy.

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, peptides | Who It’s Good For: People who heat style their hair often

Best Fast-Acting Formula: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: If “ain’t nobody got time for that” is your life mantra, listen up: Living Proof promises you can wash your hair less often with its Best of Beauty-winning Perfect Hair Day Shampoo. This fan-favorite cleanser rinses away oil, dirt, and product buildup while smoothing and strengthening hair.

Editor Tip: This formula contains phytantriol, which keeps your hair color vibrant.

Key Ingredients: Phytantriol, amino cleansing complex | Who It’s Good For: People with dull, lackluster hair

Best for All Hair Types: Davines Nounou Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Brittle, damaged hair will love every drop of Davine’s Nounou Shampoo. This gentle shampoo’s main ingredient is tomato extract, which is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C to help address concerns like dullness and lackluster color. It works overtime to soften and hydrate hair with glycerin, and for those with oily hair, it won’t weigh it down.

Editor Tip: This sulfate-free shampoo is safe for color-treated and processed hair, so bleach blondes and permed curls alike can enjoy this pick.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, vitamin C, tomato extract | Who It’s Good For: People with damaged hair

Best for Dry Hair: Briogeo Super Moisture Shampoo

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Super Moisture Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: For an enviable lather, the Briogeo Super Moisture Shampoo foams up to perfection. Thanks to ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter, you won’t have to worry about stripping your hair’s natural oils. In fact, the formula is made with dry, damaged hair in mind, with all-stars like algae extract, panthenol, biotin, and rose oil infusing hydration with every wash.

Editor Tip: This won’t weigh down curly or wavy hair — instead, it’ll enhance your curl pattern, lock in moisture, detangle, and curb breakage.

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, biotin, rose oil, algae extract, panthenol | Who It’s Good For: Those with dry, damaged hair

Best for Damaged Hair: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintainance Shampoo

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: If Olaplex’s No. 3 Hair Perfector is what’ll give you healthier, stronger hair, the No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo is what’ll help keep your hair in that state. The perfect sidekick to the well-loved bond treatment, the Best of Beauty-winning shampoo is formulated with the same patented technology that reverses damage caused by coloring, heat styling, and chemically treating hair. As a bonus, it reduces frizz and imparts an enviable sheen to the hair.

Editor Tip: This offers a thorough cleanse without weighing down your hair, making it great for those with thin hair types.

Key Ingredients: Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate | Who It’s Good For: Anyone with damaged, fragile hair

Best for Easy Application: Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Shampoo with Rose Water

Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Shampoo with Rose Water

Why It’s Worth It: If you’ve fallen in love with the Best of Beauty-winning Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight as we have, then you’re going to want to try the Wash Day Delight Water-to Foam Shampoo with Rose Water. This gentle cleanser — packed with even more moisturizing ingredients, including rosewater as its name suggests — hydrates hair while using micellar technology to clear away dirt and sweat. It’s also great for those who tend to be heavy-handed with their hair products.

Editor Tip: The water-to-foam formula and pointed nozzle on the cap are ideal for getting right to the scalp and grabbing excess oils and product buildup.

Key Ingredients: Rose water, aloe leaf juice | Who It’s Good For: Those with scalp buildup

Best Clarifying: Rahua Classic Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Rahua is all about the power of plants. Robinson notes the organic aloe and green tea in its Classic Shampoo repair damaged hair. It does the job of a good clarifying shampoo without stripping your hair’s natural oils — perfect for those who style their hair (or don’t wash their hair) often.

Editor Tip: If you already have a bottle, hold onto it because Rahua has refillable pouches for $32 — so you can use yours over and over again.

Key Ingredients: Aloe, green tea, quinoa, rahua oil | Who It’s Good For: People who need to remove buildup

Best Weightless: Authentic Beauty Concept Amplify Cleanser

Authentic Beauty Concept Amplify Cleanser

Why It’s Worth It: Fine hair can fall prey to the drying effects of sulfates, but the last thing it needs are heavy moisturizers that’ll just weigh it down. Instead, Authentic Beauty Concept’s Amplify Cleanser is made to gently lift dirt and oil without the heft, all the while detangling and adding volume to your ‘do.

Editor Tip: Green tea leaf extract in the formula also provides extra nourishment and antioxidant protection.

Key Ingredients: Green tea leaf extract, lime | Who It’s Good For: Those with fine, flat hair

Best for Scalp Stimulation: L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo

L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo’s main function is to clean your hair while imparting softness and shine. Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital says that rosemary extract works to hydrate and protect color-treated hair, helping to keep color looking fresh for up to four weeks. The workhorse ingredient also helps stimulate blood flow to create a prime opportunity for hair growth.

Editor Tip: For non-colored hair, this imparts impeccable shine and hydration, making it the best hydrating shampoo for all hair types.

Key Ingredients: Rosemary extract | Who It’s Good For: People with dry, color-treated hair

Best for Defining Curls: Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo

Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Coconut, jojoba, and macadamia oils are just a few of the key goodies in this shampoo recommended by cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. Expect much stronger, frizz-free hair the longer you use Garnier Fructis’s Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo, which also includes star skin-care ingredient glycerin for extra moisture.

Editor Tip: If long-lasting curl definition is on the menu, this offers it for up to 48 hours.

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, jojoba oil macadamia oil | Who It’s Good For: People with curly hair

Best UV-Protecting: Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo

Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: Mondays can be rough, but this hair-care brand out of New Zealand (of the same name) is setting out to change your mind about the troublesome day. The Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo is spiked with coconut oils, along with UV- and pollution-protecting carrot root extract, to clean hair while keeping it soft and hydrated.

Editor Tip: Seeing the cute petal-pink bottle in your shower on a dreary Monday morning just might boost your mood.

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, carrot root extract, shea butter, vitamin E | Who It’s Good For: People who spend a lot of time outside

Best for Coily Hair: SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo

SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo

Why It’s Worth It: True to its name, SheaMoisture’s Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo doesn’t skimp on moisture. With ingredients like shea butter and aloe vera leaf juice high on the list, you can be sure your hair won’t be feeling dry after lathering up and rinsing.

Editor Tip: Over-processed hair gets loads of moisture from this formula, which is especially good for 3A to 4C hair types.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, argan oil, sea kelp | Who It’s Good For: Those with curly, oily hair


Frequently Asked Questions

Are sulfates bad for hair?

Before we dive into that question, you’re probably wondering how sulfates have grown so notorious in the first place. According to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, Neil Sadick, MD, concerns about the ingredient started during the ’70s, “when some shampoos contained ethanolamine lauryl sulfates that released carcinogenic nitrosamines,” he says. “At the time, manufacturers took corrective action, but ever since, sulfates were associated with health risks.”

However, contrary to popular belief, research shows that sulfates aren’t as dangerous as we once thought. A 2015 study shows that household cleaning products that contain this ingredient are safe from “toxicological and sustainability perspectives.”

But what about the effects of sulfates on your hair? Well, there’s good news and bad news. A 2016 study reports that surfactants, also known as the elements that make your shampoos so sudsy (like sulfates), are great for cleansing hair of sebum and dirt. With that being said, the study also notes that surfactants can lead to issues like frizziness and friction-induced damage, so it is a give-and-take relationship.

Do sulfates strip hair color?

If you have dyed hair, one myth you’ve probably heard is that sulfate-free shampoo is better because it won’t strip your color. However, cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller previously told Allure that the actual culprit here is water, which is as damaging as any cleanser.

“When your hair gets wet, it swells and the hair shaft opens, and some color leaches out,” says Schueller, who tested sulfates against other surfactants and didn’t see a difference in terms of fading color. With that being said, color-treated hair will notice a difference in increased moisture when switching over to sulfate-free shampoo.

Who should use sulfate-free shampoos, then?

According to cosmetic chemist and BeautyState founder Ron Robinson, sensitive and dry scalps may want to switch over to sulfate-free shampoos because they’re gentler on skin. “Sulfates can over-strip the skin of oils, which can leave it dry and prone to allergic reactions,” he says. Due to surfactants’ drying qualities, dry, brittle, and damaged hair may also want to make the switch (that also means you, curly hair types).


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