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The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Last updated on December 9, 2021
Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

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Our Picks For The Top Sulfate-Free Shampoos

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Top Pick

Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Breakage Reducing Shampoo

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Olaplex

No.4 Bond Maintenance Breakage Reducing Shampoo

Designed for strengthening, this shampoo works for any kind of hair and helps rebuild bonds. It avoids sulfates, only requires a small amount each wash and is a safe option if you color your hair.

Overall Take

Helps With DamageConsider this option if you use chemical treatments or have weak or damaged hair.

 Top Pick

Tree To Tub Soapberry & Peppermint Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner

Tree To Tub

Soapberry & Peppermint Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner

This shampoo and conditioner set is free of harsh chemicals and made with vegan-friendly ingredients. It uses soapberries and peppermint to achieve the perfect pH balance and a fresh, invigorating smell.

Overall Take

Vegan-Safe IngredientsUse these all-natural hair care products and you’ll feel confident that your tresses look vibrant and beautiful.

 Runner Up

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Infused Paraben & Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Aveeno

Apple Cider Vinegar Infused Paraben & Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Aveeno’s sulfate-free shampoo is infused with apple cider vinegar, and it does not contain parabens or dyes. The vinegar works to clarify hair and moisturize your scalp while adding plenty of volume and shine to lackluster hair.

Overall Take

Shinier, Thicker HairThis farm-fresh inspired shampoo pairs well with Aveeno’s other haircare products, including their conditioners, oils and hair masks.

 Also Great

Love Beauty And Planet Fine Hair Volumizing Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Love Beauty And Planet

Fine Hair Volumizing Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Made with coconut water, coconut oil, ethically sourced mimosa flower and plant-based cleansers, this vegan and cruelty-free shampoo is made for finer hair and is gentle enough for all hair types.

Overall Take

Provides Body and StrengthIf your fine hair needs volume, this sulfate-free shampoo is your best choice for thicker, lightly moisturized hair.

Buying Guide

You’ve probably seen the term “sulfates” on various products, including shampoos, but what the heck is a sulfate, anyway?

Sulfates make shampoos bubbly, and they fall under the category of surfactants. This group also includes emulsifiers, foaming agents and detergents. Sulfates attract oil and water, helping to remove dirt and dead skin cells from your hair and scalp. By doing this, they can also strip away natural oils, leading to dry, brittle hair.

People with sensitive scalps can also experience itching, dryness and redness from sulfate exposure. Sulfate also has a bad reputation (especially sodium lauryl sulfate) for causing cancer, but sources like the American Cancer Society say that it is not a known carcinogen.

Still, since sulfate is technically a detergent, it can be harsh on your hair, and you might want to choose sulfate-free hair products for this reason.

Many hair care professionals feel that sulfates strip color from treated hair, and that these products are also not good for dry or fine hair. Those who have frizzy and curly locks can benefit from the added moisture that sulfate-free products offer; these are also recommended for people with eczema and sensitive skin.

You will notice that sulfate-free shampoos do not lather up like sulfate-containing ones do, but this does not mean that your hair is not getting clean. It is not necessary to use more shampoo, since your hair will still get clean. You simply need to massage it into your scalp a bit more rigorously.

Products that contain coconut oils are a good sulfate-free option, and there are some good vegan-friendly choices, as well. Sulfate-free shampoos come in all different price ranges, and you can buy larger containers to save money.

What to Look For

  • Not sure if your products contain sulfate? Look on the ingredients list for: sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, sodium laureth sulfate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate and other items that begin with the word “sodium.”
  • If you are considering switching over to sulfate-free shampoo, buy small bottles of one company’s shampoo and conditioner and give them a month to see results. Then you can make a more informed decision about what works best for you.
  • Next time you’re at the salon, ask your stylist to check your scalp. If it’s dry or red, sulfate-free products may be the answer.

More to Explore

The children’s book, “Hello Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” tells the story of a small child named Patsy who refuses to take a bath or wash her hair, resulting in layers of dirt on her body from top to bottom. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle had a cure for this, which is humorous but inadvisable.

She told Patsy’s mom not to force the child to wash for a few weeks, and eventually, Patsy was covered with an inch of dirt. Patsy’s mother was told to scatter radish seeds on Patsy’s head and arms, and soon enough radish plants began to grow. Needless to say, Patsy washed herself and hair soon after. Perhaps if she’d had the right shampoo in the first place, this problem could have been avoided!

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