The 17 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos to Keep Your Hair Healthy

The 17 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos to Keep Your Hair Healthy

Rosdiana Ciaravolo

Life was lot easier when I didn’t have to worry about my beauty products being x-, y-, or z-“free.” These days, I spend time reading product labels to ensure that my serums, body washes, and makeup aren’t packed with anything that will irritate my skin—and my haircare is no exception. I’ll admit that I’m still not totally clear as to why I must stay away from specific ingredients, particularly the hotly contested “sulfates” in shampoos. So I turned to Alicia Bailey, hair texture specialist and global education manager at Design Essentials, for answers.

“Sulfate-free shampoo is formulated with cleansers that do not contain sulfates, which are essentially detergents that help to create suds and lather to cleanse the hair and scalp,” Bailey explains. While many shampoos contain sulfates as a lathering agent, unfortunately, they often come with the side effect of stripping the hair shaft of all that’s good—be it dye, oils, and/or natural protectants. Those that are formulated without sulfate may not offer as many suds, but they’ll also leave hair perfectly clean and much less damaged over time, especially if your hair is color-treated or curly. And some still manage to add suds all the same. Check out all of our favorites, ahead.

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Best for Repair


No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo


Best for Thick Hair

Design Essentials

Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Shampoo


Best for Strengthening

Love Beauty and Planet

Sulfate-Free Deep Cleanse


Best for Scalp


Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo


Best Lightweight Formula


Nurture Hydrating Shampoo


Best for Dandruff


The Shampoo


Best for All Textures


True Textures Moisture Replenish Shampoo


Best for Natural Hair

Rucker Roots

Smoothing Sulfate Free Shampoo


Best for Moisture


Nutriplenish™ Deep Moisture Shampoo


Best for Hydration


Intensive Hydration Shampoo


Best for Volume


Extra Volume Shampoo


Best Drugstore Buy

L’Oréal Paris

EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo


Best Tech-Infused Option

Living Proof

Full Shampoo


Best Soothing Formula

True Botanicals

Organic Nourishing Shampoo


Best Cream Formula

Hair Rules

No Suds Cleansing Cream


Best Affordable Option


Fructis Triple Nutrition Curl Nourish Shampoo


Best Gentle Shampoo


Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Fragrance-Free Hypoallergenic Shampoo


What is a sulfate-free shampoo?

“Sulfate-free shampoos are formulated without the use of sulfate-based cleansers. Instead, sulfate-free cleansers are designed to still lather and clean away dirt, oil, and unwanted buildup,” says Mason.


Is sulfate-free shampoo good for your hair?

Sulfate-free shampoos are great for hair because they remove the bad without robbing your strands of their good stuff. “Sulfate-free is the winner when it comes to what’s the best for your hair; it delivers a more fresh and gentle cleansing than the sulfate-containing formulations. [In shampoos] the main types of sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (or SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which can strip natural oils from the scalp and hair and make hair dry and brittle. If your scalp is sensitive, sulfates can cause irritation like redness, dryness, and itching,” Mason explains.


Why are sulfate-free shampoos better?

While sulfate-free cleansers are best for keeping your hair’s natural oils and nutrients intact, sulfates are not completely bad.

“I would not necessarily say that they are ‘better,’ because there are instances when shampoos that are not sulfate-free are needed. Clarifying shampoos, medicated shampoos, and neutralizing shampoos are not sulfate-free but are necessary,” Bailey says. “Sulfate-free shampoos provide moisture, shine, and conditioning to all hair types. They provide gentle cleansing and do not strip the hair of its natural oils, and they are great to help maintain color-treated hair and provide longevity as they will not strip the color from the hair.” If a sulfate-based cleanser is used, Bailey says she follows up with a sulfate-free option to return moisture to the hair. “If I must use a shampoo that is not sulfate-free in those instances, I always follow with a sulfate-free shampoo to impart moisture into the hair before following with my favorite conditioner,” she adds.

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