As anyone with curly hair knows that not just any shampoo and conditioner will do. Plus, no two curls are alike, so it’s important to find the right formulas for your curl type. According to Sanda Petrut, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, the key ingredients to look for in a curly hair shampoo are amino acids, which “provide moisture to the hair and scalp, strengthen and repair,” as well as a polymer complex for shine, detangling, and anti-static properties. Finally, it should have a microemulsion smoothing system (a.k.a. a blend of oil and water) “to provide softness, control, and moisture by bonding to the cuticle for deep conditioning,” says the hairstylist.
In conditioner formulas, it’s all about moisturizing the curls on a deeper level. “Look for hydrating ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, almond oil, olive oil, avocado oil, mango oil, and hydrolyzed protein like oat, wheat, silk or milk that penetrates the hair shaft to increase moisture content and smooth and prevent frizz,” says Petrut. “Rice protein is great because it strengthens hair fibers from oxidation caused by UV exposure, and soybean has essential fatty acids that boost moisture retention and add shine and softness.”
To help guide you and your curls in the right direction, we’ve rounded up the best shampoos and conditioners—including drugstore options!—formulated just for curly hair.
Tracee Ellis Ross's haircare line is entirely devoted to different textured hair types, and this shampoo can be used on curly, coily, and tight hair to help remove product buildup while hydrating with ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, and honey.
The line features three different conditioners in increasing levels of intensity. The medium formula is best for 3B-3C hair types, and can also be used as a co-wash (for the uninitiated, that means you can wash your hair with the conditioner alone for a milder cleansing experience).
Forget everything you know about traditional shampoos when using this creamy cleanser. Made for thick, textured hair, it gently cleans without lathering (although you may see a few suds), and features soothing ingredients like argan oil, aloe vera, and tea tree oil for the hair and scalp.