These Natural Shampoos and Conditioners Are More Effective Than Less-Clean Faves


(Image credit: @cocobassey)

When it comes to the words "clean beauty," it's tough to define what they truly mean. It becomes especially tricky to navigate when you find shampoos and conditioners labeled as "natural" or "nontoxic." I think it's great to aim to buy products without harsh ingredients, but most out there on the market are not made of 100% natural ingredients—there are usually safe synthetics added in to make the formula effective. That's another thing. A lot of clean shampoos and conditioners have gotten a bad rap over the years for not working as well as those with sulfates or other strong cleansing agents.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's not true, and I have several celebrity hairstylists to back me up on that. It's definitely possible to find an effective shampoo and conditioner without harsh cleansing agents, and if this is a concern for you, there are a few ingredients you should keep an eye out for.

What to Look for in Natural Shampoos and Conditioners

Avoid sulfates, which are known to strip the hair—especially if you have curls. Curls are already dry by nature, and using sulfates might make your hair even drier or cause damage. You'll instead want to look for hydrating ingredients like honey and oils like avocado, coconut, and black cumin seed. Most natural shampoos and conditioners also use gentler plant-derived cleansing agents that won't strip the hair of its essential natural oils or fats.

I asked three celebrity stylists to weigh in on their favorite sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners and included a few of my own favorites for every hair type below.

Best Overall: Wow Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo & Conditioner Set

Celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland recommends this apple cider vinegar shampoo and conditioner with avocado and coconut oil. It's great for dry, damaged, or thinning hair, as it helps reduce hair loss with saw palmetto and other plant-powered ingredients. Cleveland says, "I love this brand because it’s free of all the harsh chemicals and sulfates that strip the hair of essential oils." More specifically, it's free of harsh cleansing agents like sulfates, parabens, and even gluten for those who may be allergic. 

Best for Dandruff: Wow Skin Science Red Onion Black Seed Oil Shampoo & Conditioner

Cleveland's second pick from the brand is this set with red onion and black seed oil. It adds hydration and shine and even helps reduce dandruff and frizz.

Best for Thinning Hair: Vegamour Gro Revitalizing Shampoo & Conditioner

Celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Korab loves this set from cult-loved brand Vegamour. Vegamour's known for its hair-growth-promoting and -strengthening serum, but the shampoo and conditioner offer similar benefits. The star ingredients are phytoactives and Karmatin, a vegan alternative to keratin. These phytoactives are clinically proven to make hair appear fuller, longer, and denser and reduce shedding. The set does all this without sulfates, parabens, and other toxic ingredients—both make the Sephora clean cut. 

Best for Color-Treated Hair: Pureology Hydrate Shampoo & Conditioner 

Korab also recommends this duo from Pureology—especially for those with color-treated hair since it's color safe. "These are sulfate- and paraben-free and 100% vegan. Pureology uses corn, coconut, and sugar as its cleansing detergents, which are gentle and natural on the hair," says Korab.

Best Custom: Prose Custom Shampoo & Conditioner

Korab also recommends trying out a custom shampoo and conditioning formula from Prose. Prose utilizes only natural and sustainable ingredients that are gentle on the hair. You can start your Prose journey by taking a quiz about your hair—it even takes into account things like the area you live in so the brand can create the best possible formulas for you. I've tried Prose myself and loved the low-lather shampoo and conditioner I received that included ingredients like ashwagandha and pro-vitamin B5.

Best Drugstore: Native Coconut & Vanilla Moisturizing Shampoo & Conditioner

Celebrity colorist and extension expert Kevin Kelly recommends clean brands like Native if you'd like a shampoo and conditioner with natural ingredients. "This is a great alternative for those not wanting to break the bank on shampoo and conditioner," he says. "It smells great, and it’s available at a bunch of places!"

Best for Fine Hair: Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo & Conditioner

Ouai's Fine Hair Shampoo and Conditioner are loved by Kelly for their ability to boost volume, and they're free of sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde-releasing agents, and phthalates. Kelly says, "These are great for people with fine hair. [They both] smell great and leaves your hair with shine."

Best for Damaged Hair: Kevin Murphy Repair-Me.Wash & Leave-In.Repair 

"These two products are great for somebody with medium to thick hair—especially blondes," says Kelly. "They have a really great smell, and they're super gentle on the scalp."

Best for Curly Hair: Odele Curl Defining Shampoo & Conditioner

For those with curls, try Odele's No-Lather Shampoo and Curl Defining Conditioner. Both are salon grade and deeply hydrating. The shampoo gently removes buildup without harsh ingredients and stripping the hair. Both are also fortified with amino acids and help strengthen hair over time.

Best for Natural Hair: 4U by Tia Moisturizing Shampoo & Conditioner

Tia Mowry's haircare line features clean, affordable formulas for curly, coily, and natural hair types. The natural-ingredient shampoo and conditioner gently cleanse and hydrate the hair with ingredients like hibiscus and Hemi15. 

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.