Sulfate-Free Is the Way to Be

The 21 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos for Your Hair

Cleanse away concerns about dehydration or color fade with these expert-approved shampoos for every hair texture.
The 21 Best SulfateFree Shampoos of 2021
PhotoAlto/John Dowland

Shampoos are a necessity. Although their frequency of use depends on your hair type, we can all agree that shampoo should actually be good for your hair. For many people, that means using ones formulated without silicones, parabens, or — and this seems to be a big one for folks — sulfates. Over the years, there's been much chatter about sulfates in shampoos and their supposedly harsh effects. But are they really as damaging as they're made out to be?

"The bad rap started in the '70s, when some shampoos contained ethanolamine lauryl sulfates that released carcinogenic nitrosamines," says New York City board-certified dermatologist Neil Sadick. "At the time, manufacturers took corrective action, but ever since, sulfates were associated with health risks."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Union, and Health Canada have all reached a consensus that the sulfates currently in shampoos are safe when used as intended, which is why there are still products on the market with these compounds, he adds.?

If you have dyed hair, one myth you've probably heard is sulfate-free shampoo is better because it won't strip your color. However, according to cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, water is as damaging as any cleanser. "When your hair gets wet, it swells, 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.

Still, cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson points out that sulfates can dry hair out, which can be damaging, particularly after coloring. So although it's great to know sulfates aren't as scary as you thought, they can be pretty irritating to the skin. "Sulfates can over-strip the skin of oils, which can leave it dry and prone to allergic reactions," says Robinson. And it'll sting if it gets in your eyes. Ouch.

Lathering up with a good ol' sulfate-free shampoo can work wonders for your hair and scalp, especially if you have sensitive skin. So, we compiled a thorough list of the best sulfate-free shampoos, according to the pros and our editors.

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

1. Rahua Classic Shampoo

Rahua's all about the power of plants. Robinson notes the organic aloe and green tea in its Classic Shampoo also help to soothe and repair damaged hair. If you already have a bottle, hold onto it — Rahua recently launched refillable pouches that reduce plastic consumption by 90 percent.

$34 (Shop Now)

2. Headquarters Cleansing Shampoo

Headquarters, a new line from grooming brand Harry's, aims to literally get to the root of scalp issues, like dryness and itching. Yuzu and ginger root extracts exfoliate away dryness and get rid of excess oil without stripping hair. What's even better is it'll cost you under $10 for the deep cleaning.?

$8 (Shop Now)

3. Raincry Smoothing Shampoo
Courtesy of brand

Dry, frizzy hair, meet your match. Raincry's Smoothing Shampoo is recommended by Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital, because it nourishes hair with a mix of jojoba oil and Indian gooseberry extract.

$33 (Shop Now)

4. Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo

Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo, one of Sadick's recommendations, softens and moisturizes hair leaving it super shiny, due largely in part to buriti oil. If you're a fan of botanical fragrances you'll love its aroma of organic lavender, bergamot, and ginger lily.

$32 (Shop Now)

5. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Lather up with Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo's slightly shimmery, clear formula and prepare to feel rejuvenated. Robinson says salicylic acid helps get rid of dandruff flakes, while caffeine soothes dry, irritated scalps.

$46 (Shop Now)

6. Carol's Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Shampoo with Rose Water

If you've fallen in love with the Best of Beauty-winning original Wash Day Delight as we have, then you're definitely going to want to try this new version, Wash Day Delight Water-to Foam Shampoo with Rose Water. This gentle cleanser — packed with even more moisturizing ingredients, including rose water as its name suggests — hydrates hair while using micellar technology to clear away dirt and sweat. The water-to-foam formula and pointed nozzle on the cap is also ideal for getting right to the scalp and grabbing excess oils and product buildup.?

$11 (Shop Now)

7. Biolage 3 Butter Control System Shampoo

Say it with us: like buttah. That's exactly the way Biolage 3 Butter Control System Shampoo is designed to make your hair feel. Key ingredients include shea, murumuru, and cupua?u butters to help combat frizz and lock in that moisture.

$20 (Shop Now)

8. Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo

What really sets Aveeno's Pure Renewal Shampoo apart from the rest is that it contains seaweed extract, an ingredient Schueller says is especially beneficial for hair. Filled with vitamins, proteins, and minerals, it gets rid of impurities without over-stripping your hair.

$12 (Shop Now)

9. Authentic Beauty Concept Amplify Cleanser

Fine hair can also 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 clear away dirt and oil without the heft. Green tea leaf extract in the formula also provides extra nourishment and antioxidant protection.?

$28 (Shop Now)

10. Drybar Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo
Courtesy of brand

Zeichner suggests trying Drybar's Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo, which is packed with ultra-hydrating watercress extract. Another benefit? Keratin, the protein your hair is made of, adheres to the hair shaft for a reinforcing effect.

$26 (Shop Now)

11. Pantene Sultry Bronde UV Protect Sulfate Free Shampoo

There are big benefits to sulfate-free when your hair is color-treated — most notably, color and moisture retention. Pantene's latest ProV Color Adapt line was designed with this in mind. The Sultry Bronde UV Protect Sulfate Free Shampoo shield for sun damage and discoloration while argan oil and vitamin E nourish and prevent dry out.?

$4 (Shop Now)

12. L'Oréal EverPure Moisture Shampoo

L'Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo's main function is to clean your hair while imparting softness and shine. Zeichner says its rosemary extract works to hydrate and protect color-treated hair, helping to keep color looking fresh for up to four weeks.

$8 (Shop Now)

13. Monday Moisture Shampoo

Mondays can be rough, but this new hair-care brand out of New Zealand sets out to change your mind about that. The Monday Moisture Shampoo looks to coconut oils along with UV- and pollution-protecting carrot root extract, to get hair clean while keeping it soft and hydrated. Plus, having the cute petal-pink bottle in your shower on a dreary Monday morning, just might help boost your mood.?

$7 (Shop Now)

14. SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo

SheaMoisture's Raw Shea Butter Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo definitely doesn't skimp on the moisture. (Come on, it's in the name!) 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.

$15 (Shop Now)

15. Suave Smooth Performer Shampoo

An amino acid complex in Suave's Smoother Performer Shampoo is what helps strengthen brittle hair and smooths damaged cuticles that cause frizz. This inexpensive, drugstore option also helps make hair more manageable so you have an easier time detangling and styling. ?

$5 (Shop Now)

16. René Furterer Tonucia Replumping Shampoo?

The tamarind extract in René Furterer's Tonucia Replumping Shampoo works much like hyaluronic acid does, absorbing moisture and seeping into hair strands, to give hair a more voluminous look. Cimentrio, a wheat protein in the formula, helps strengthen weak spots prone to breakage, while the little beads you see floating around in the clear liquid (encapsulated orange essential oil) stimulate the scalp.

$32 (Shop Now)

17. Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo
Courtesy Brand

Calm your scalp as your wash your hair with this itch-easing shampoo made with 97 percent natural ingredients. Formulated to help with sensitivity, Noughty's Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo has oat extract to make your irritated scalp chill out.

$10 (Shop Now)

18. Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo

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 strands the longer you use Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Fortifying Shampoo, which also includes star skin-care ingredient glycerin for extra moisture.

$4 (Shop Now)

19. Mon Shampoing Natural + Neutral Shampoo

If a more customized shampoo is what your hair needs, Mon Shampoing Natural + Neutral Shampoo is it. The sulfate-free shampoo base can be enhanced with seven different boosters that meet all your healthy hair desires. If you're experiencing dryness, pick the argan oil booster. Want to smooth coils and frizz-prone hair? Try the avocado oil additive. You'll be able to mix in exactly what you need to meet your hair right where it is at the moment.?

$28 (Shop Now)

20. Kiehl's Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo

If you've got hair that's damaged or dehydrated, give Kiehl's Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo a try. It's filled with plenty of strengthening ingredients like moringa tree oil, as well as hydration and protection all-stars, hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

$20 (Shop Now)

21. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo

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 Perfect Hair Day Shampoo. This fan-favorite cleanser rinses away oil, dirt, and product buildup while smoothing and strengthening hair.

$28 (Shop Now)

Check out this month's Allure Beauty Box, which is packed with products hand-picked by our editors – all for only $15.


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