The Best Shampoos for Black Hair
In recent years we’re finally learning to embrace the differences that make us unique, including our hair. Finally Black hair, often referred to as natural hair, is being allowed to shine in all its curly, coily, wavy glory. With unique textures, properties, and looks, Black hair lends itself to a wide range of styles that are becoming more popular as natural hair becomes accepted as, well, natural.
One of the welcome changes being made is the increased variety of hair care products available for Black hair. With the growing popularity of the “curly girl” method of hair care, consumers are learning more about the products they use and the way they can affect frizz. Add to this the increasing awareness of how important it is to choose ethical products, as well as ensuring you don’t break the bank, and it’s no surprise that many people are finding themselves overwhelmed by the criteria a good shampoo has to meet..
We’re hoping to make things a little easier by showcasing a selection of some of the best shampoos for Black hair currently on the market. While everyone’s hair is a little different, we’re fairly confident that at least one of the products on this list is going to be just right for you.
Know Your Hair
While everyone’s hair is different, hair generally falls into one of four categories: Straight, wavy, curly, or coiled. Different types of hair usually need different hair care routines, and what works for one type of hair may not work for another. Aside from the shape, people also often have hair that is too dry, too oily, or just right (the goldilocks zone, if you will).
The scale goes from 1 to 4, starting with straight hair (1), then wavy (2), curly (3), and then coiled (4) hair. This part is fairly simple, though not everyone falls exactly into one category. For instance, it’s entirely possible to have hair that varies between type 2 and 3 depending on how dry the hair is, how humid the air is, and other factors.
Your hair can also be thin, medium, or thick, and this also affects the type of shampoo you’re going to want to use. So each type from 1 to 4 is further divided into three sections: “A”, fine hair, “B”, medium thickness hair, and “C”, thick hair. This refers to the size of the individual hair strands, not how many of them you have. If your hair likes to drift off in the breeze, you probably have type A hair, no matter how much volume it has.
All of these variations are suited to different types of shampoo. Straight, thin hair (type 1A) is going to look lanky and oily if a hydrating shampoo designed for coily hair is used, and good luck getting a comb through thick coily hair (type 4C) that’s been treated with an anti-dandruff shampoo designed for straight and wavy hair!
Although this can be confusing at first, you really only need to know what your hair type is. Keep that in mind when you’re on the hunt for new haircare products, and you’ll be on the right path.
The Best All-Rounders
What makes a shampoo a good all-rounder? These shampoos are extremely versatile, working well with all types of hair when used correctly with their respective conditioners. Regardless of whether your hair is straight, curly, or coily, thin or thick, these shampoos will clean without the use of harmful chemicals and leave little to no residue behind.
1. Blu Atlas Shampoo
When it comes to the best all-rounder shampoo for Black hair, Blu Atlas have the market covered. Their all-natural line of haircare products includes two different scents, the original classic scent, and their new coconut and apricot. Both of these cruelty-free, vegan shampoos make use of aloe vera and jojoba to moisturize and protect your hair, with their paraben and phthalate free formula leaving no residue behind.
It’s important to know what you’re putting in your hair, but ingredient lists can be a little difficult to read sometimes. It’s often easier to stick with a brand that you know makes a point out of using only hair-friendly, planet-friendly ingredients. With Blu Atlas you can be sure that their premium ingredients are from natural sources such as plants, fruits, and minerals.
This shampoo is fairly mild, but If you find that your ends are getting a little dry, massage the shampoo into your scalp only. As the water rinses away the shampoo, enough will flow over the rest of your hair to wash it. On the other hand, if you’re finding your hair a little heavy, try a second wash straight after the first. Blu Atlas’ shampoo doesn’t use any harsh surfactants or detergents, so it can take a couple of rinses to remove serious buildup. If you’re still having issues, you might want to try one of the clarifying shampoos for oily hair we’ll be talking about later on.
2. Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Shampoo
Carol’s Daughter produces an amazing range of hair care products developed specifically for natural hair. This shampoo works with all hair thicknesses, but is best on types B and C (medium to thick) hair. Some people find it can cause buildup on very fine hair if used exclusively, so if you do have type A hair, you’ll want to use a clarifying shampoo once in a while.
We’ve also found that although marketed for dry and damaged hair, it doesn’t always deliver. If you’re having issues with dryness, you might want to try one of the products later in this list that we specifically recommend for dry hair.
Before you ask, yes, this product is curly girl (CG) approved. That means you can use it as an everyday shampoo while utilizing the curly girl method of hair care, which helps repair damaged curly hair and restores shape and shine. If you have curly or coiled hair and haven’t heard of CG, check it out now!
Something we love about this shampoo is the long lasting scent, but others might find it a little overpowering. Carol’s Daughter has an impressive range of products, many of which are designed specifically for curly or coiled hair. Their wide product range means that if everything else works out but the scent isn’t for you, it’s worth looking at some of their other collections.
3. Love Beauty and Planet Hemp Seed Oil and Nana Leaf
Love Beauty and Planet is another company that has taken care to formulate their haircare products to be suited to all hair types, from straight to coiled. Although they have added a number of botanically inspired shampoos to their catalog, we’re still a fan of the old hemp seed oil and nana leaf.
Hemp seed oil contains high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are extremely biocompatible. This means they sink into your hair easily, replacing lost natural oils without causing buildup or leaving your hair greasy.
Nana leaf is no relative of the banana, so don’t worry about leaving your shower smelling like banana candy. Instead this fresh smell provides a green, leafy scent complemented by the addition of spearmint oil.
4. tgin Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo
Like Blu Atlas, this gentle shampoo contains no harsh detergents or oil-stripping foaming agents, resulting in soft, well moisturized hair. However, tgin have also opted to use EDTA disodium, a cleanser which is particularly good at removing the buildup caused by heavy water.
Heavy water can react with the natural oils in your hair and on your scalp to create a heavy, wax-like substance that all-natural shampoos can struggle to remove. This can make your hair appear greasy and lank, even if you only showered an hour ago. The addition of EDTA prevents this buildup, but can irritate some people’s skin. If you have a sensitive scalp, you might want to skip this one.
Otherwise, this shampoo is suited for all hair types and thicknesses. Gentle cleansing agents are augmented with a variety of oils including coconut, amla, orange and lemon, which softens your hair and leaves it smelling fresh.
You can also find bilberry extract in this product, a once unheard of ingredient which is growing in popularity in recent years. Although bilberry does its best work when eaten, applying bilberry extract to the scalp can help improve blood supply to your hair follicles, resulting in healthier hair.
5. Kinky-Curly Come Clean Natural Moisturizing Shampoo
Kinky-Curly’s Come Clean clarifying shampoo (try saying that ten times fast!) is another shampoo that excels at removing buildup caused by hair products and hard water. Instead of using EDTA, this shampoo contains phytic acid, a naturally-occurring alternative which excels at removing the calcium compounds present in hard water which cause that annoying buildup over time.
Come Clean also contains mandarin orange and sea kelp extract to cleanse the hair, while marigold and willow bark soothe the scalp. Another sulfate-free curly girl approved shampoo, this specific product works best on coily, low porosity hair. Low porosity hair is hard to get wet and takes longer to dry, so if you have trouble working shampoo into your roots, you may want to try Come Clean.
The Best Shampoos for Dry Hair
Coily and curly Black hair sometimes feels like it instantly soaks up any moisturizers applied, immediately returning to a dry, frizzy state. While some of this can be caused by heat treatment and harsh chemicals, some hair is just naturally thirsty. If you find your hair needs a little extra moisture, give one of these shampoos a try.
1. Shea Moisture Hydrate + Repair Shampoo
When it comes to hydrating shampoos, we could write an entire catalog on Shea Moisture. But if we’re forced to pick just one, it would be their Hydrate + Repair shampoo. This shampoo does an amazing job at restoring softness and shine to dried out hair, and does a great job hydrating color treated or bleached curls.
Shea Moisture places an emphasis on working with Black communities in the US and Northern Ghana to build businesses which treat all employees fairly. Their shea butter is fair trade certified, sourced from women-led co-ops in Northern Ghana. The direct feedback they receive also leads to an amazing range of moisturizing shampoos which are specifically designed to work with Black hair.
Shea Moisture’s Hydrate + Repair shampoo is our first choice due to its flexible formula, which suits most people with dry hair. If you really need a deep treatment to restore shine, you might want to try their Raw Shea Butter Deep Moisturizing Shampoo, which can be a bit much for finer hair. They also offer hydrating shampoos designed specifically for low porosity and high porosity hair, which can deliver hydration more effectively.
2. OGX Extra Strength Damage Remedy + Coconut Miracle Oil Shampoo
OGX’s Coconut Miracle Oil Shampoo is for hair that really needs that moisture. If you find your hair feels coarse within hours of washing, this shampoo is a great place to start your haircare routine.
This shampoo works best with types 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B hair (that’s fine/medium wavy and curly hair). Thicker hair will still benefit from the nourishing dose of coconut oil, but you really need to follow it up with a heavy dose of conditioner and a hydrating mask to ensure the replacement oils can sink right down into the core of the strands.
Apart from coconut oil, which is well known for its excellent hydrating capabilities, OGX have also included PEG 120. PEGs can have a negative reputation due to the dangerous chemicals required to manufacture them. Lesser known and poorly regulated brands might not properly process their PEGs to remove all traces of these chemicals, so if it’s not from a reputable brand, you should avoid products containing PEGs.
OGX is a well known brand and subject to strict regulatory controls, so in this case it’s safe to use. PEGs are still included in their shampoos because despite their potential for misuse, they are extremely effective at improving the moisturizing capability of hydrating ingredients in your shampoo. However, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of PEGs in your shampoo, there are plenty of other all-natural options available.
3. Ethique Frizz Wrangler
If you happen to be looking for an all-natural shampoo which hydrates and nourishes your hair, take a look at Ethique’s Frizz Wrangler. This coconut and cocoa butter based bar shampoo is just what type 3 and 4 dry hair needs. Curly and coily hair benefits most from the frizz-reducing properties of this shampoo, as the heavy moisture helps coils and curls keep their shape instead of flying off on their own bad-hair-day adventure.
If you haven’t yet tried a shampoo bar, Ethique is the right place to go. They offer mini versions of all of their shampoo bars so you can try them out before committing to a full sized bar. Shampoo bars are the way to get your shampoo in its most concentrated form, without the addition of unnecessary water.
This is both environmentally friendly, as all that extra water doesn’t have to be shipped across the country, and financially friendly, as a single full sized bar can give you over 80 washes. Their cute little mini shampoo bars can give you 10 washes, which is great for travel or trying out new scents.
4. Pure Nature Argan Oil Deep Hydra Nourishing Shampoo
Ever since the incredible moisturizing powers of argan oil were discovered by the market, it seems you can’t shop for any shampoo without seeing at least three different argan oil products, half of which contain only the barest traces of actual argan oil.
Pure Nature manufactures one of the best shampoos for Black hair when it comes to argan oil shampoo. This is because unlike some other brands, Pure Nature uses a high percentage of argan oil in their formulation, making the shampoo actually deserving of the name Argan Oil shampoo.
Argan oil has been known to be good for the hair and skin for nearly 500 years, but it’s only in the last decade or so it’s really gained momentum in the marketplace. It’s the combination of biocompatible fatty acids and antioxidants which make it so good at restoring lost shine, with the fatty acids replacing lost moisture and the antioxidants preventing the oil from breaking down.
Although this product is great for all hair types, it is important to note that it is not curly girl friendly. The presence of silicones prevents it from joining the CG approved list, as these can build up in your hair over time and aren’t removed by CG friendly shampoos. If you’re not looking to join the curly girl club and are looking for a deeply moisturizing shampoo, this is well worth a try.
The Best Shampoos for Oily Hair
Oily hair can be a real downer, leaving your hair looking lank and dirty even if you’ve washed your hair in the last 24 hours. It’s a constant battle to keep the grease at bay without damaging your scalp and hair.
The good news is, your hair might not be oily after all. Earlier we briefly mentioned cold water buildup, which is a reaction between the natural oils on your scalp and hair and the minerals in cold water, such as calcium and magnesium. This annoying film can cling to the strands of your hair, looking just like oil does, but not washing away in the shower. So if you find your hair looking “greasy” mere hours after washing, it’s likely not your oil production at fault.
1. Bread Hair-Wash
If you have a sensitive skin facial cleanser at home (and if you don’t, get one!) you’ll be familiar with the smooth, slippery feel of a non-soap wash, as well as the softness they can bring to your face, removing excess grease without drying your skin out. Bread’s hair-wash is the shampoo version of one of those facial cleansers, removing excess oil without stripping the hair of natural shine.
This shampoo has been formulated with argan oil to help replace lost moisture in frizzy ends, and aloe vera to soothe the scalp. Although this product is advertised specifically for curly and coily hair, satisfied customers of all hair types have left five star reviews wherever Bread is bought.
The one thing we’re not sure about is the packaging. Although we appreciate that soft packaging allows for more effective storage and transport, trying to twist the screw cap on a flexible bag while in the shower is a little awkward. You might want to save your last shampoo bottle and fill it up with this instead.
2. Handmade Heroes Drop Dead Gorgeous Dry Shampoo
Now, a dry shampoo is not a replacement for a proper wash. But if you find you absolutely cannot find the time for a shower, this kaolin, cocoa, and charcoal dry shampoo can help soak up that excess oil and keep you looking on top of things for a little longer. It also smells minty fresh, helping you feel revived.
This dry shampoo is synthetic dye free, but it is coloured with charcoal and cocoa so it won’t leave white residue on your hair. If you have lighter colored hair, they also do a “sun seeker” variation which won’t stand out either. Both variations are made from all natural ingredients, and are preservative free and paraben free. There’s nothing in here that should interfere with the curly girl method, either.
One thing many dry shampoo users have issues with is using too much dry shampoo. Yes, we know it’s tempting to try and smother the oil away, but using too much powder makes it clump up and cause visible residue. Instead apply a dusting of powder to your roots and comb it through, then repeat if required.
3. African Pride Moisture Miracle
You may be surprised to see a moisturizing shampoo recommended for oily hair, but it’s important to keep all of your hair well hydrated or else face dry, frizzy ends. African Pride’s Moisture Miracle does a great job of cleansing away excess oils while still leaving your hair silky soft.
Part of the way it manages this is with the inclusion of honey, a humectant which pulls water from the air and helps stop your hair from drying out. In this case, it really is hydrating your hair, instead of just replacing lost oils. That’s not to say it doesn’t also restore shine – a touch of shea butter restores oils to any dry patches without adding oil to your scalp.
Although honey can help moisturize your hair, if there isn’t any water in the air, it will pull it from your hair instead. So if you live in a dry location with low humidity, you want to skip shampoos that contain honey. This shampoo also isn’t suited for fine hair, as it can be too drying to those fine strands. If you have type 3C, 4B, or 4C hair, this product will likely do wonders for you.
The Best Shampoos for Dandruff
Dandruff is a mostly harmless but incredibly annoying condition. If you have dark hair, even the smallest flakes of dry skin tend to jump out at you in the mirror, which can make you feel self conscious. Don’t worry, those flakes are far more visible to you then they are to anyone else.
Other than the flakes of dry skin, dandruff can annoy you with a persistent itch. Scratching the area only makes things worse, but what else are you going to do? In this case, the best cure is prevention. Dandruff can be successfully treated with a number of medicated shampoos, the tricky part is finding one that doesn’t strip all moisture from your hair.
There are different types of medicated shampoos for dandruff, and some brands which are effective for one person won’t work on another person. That makes recommending dandruff shampoos difficult! The following list gives you a starting point, but don’t be afraid to try something new if none of these do the job.
1. Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo
We couldn’t stop ourselves sneaking another Shea Moisture product in here. They have such a wide variety designed for Black hair that only having two recommendations in this list is an achievement! Their African Black Soap anti-dandruff shampoo does an amazing job at removing the oily buildup at the roots of your hair, but doesn’t dry out the rest of your hair and scalp.
The key ingredients here are the African black soap and tea tree oil. African black soap is made using the ash of various locally grown plants, utilizing their high mineral content and alkalinity to create a soap with antibacterial properties. When combined with tea tree oil, this creates a potent anti-dandruff treatment. Shea Moisture have also added willow bark extract, a natural source of salicylic acid, to help soothe the scalp.
A mixture of shea butter, jojoba oil, and Argan oil helps keep the scalp hydrated and replaces some of the natural oils lost during washing, while bamboo charcoal acts as a gentle abrasive. Don’t confuse bamboo charcoal with activated charcoal – the goal here isn’t to absorb harmful chemicals. Bamboo charcoal is meant to massage the scalp, with the very fine, high-silica particles breaking up dead skin cells.
You want to really massage this shampoo in to get the best results. Luckily, it’s designed for low porosity hair, so it’s a bit easier to get it right into the roots. If you find you’re having trouble, mix the shampoo 1 : 1 with warm water and apply to dry hair, making sure to massage it well. And yes, amazingly, this is curly girl friendly.
2. Neutrogena T/Gel 2-in-1
Here’s one for those of us with aging hair. As you age, your hair can begin to thin, making it more prone to frizz and breakages. Adding a harsh anti-dandruff shampoo to the mix might rid you of the dandruff, but leave you with coarse, dry hair. By using Neutrogena’s T Gel 2-in-1, you can cut down on some of the harsher cleansing agents while still getting the benefit of an anti-dandruff shampoo. This shampoo does contain sulfates, so be aware that it is not curly girl friendly.
T Gel contains pyrithione zinc, an antimicrobial compound which inhibits the growth of dandruff. In order to apply this to the scalp, it’s necessary that all oils are removed from the surface of your skin, so the anti-dandruff compound can get where it’s needed. That makes this shampoo very effective at removing buildup! We advise following up with a tea tree oil containing conditioner, which can replace those lost oils with antimicrobial ones.
3. Selsun Green Anti-dandruff Shampoo
You know how we mentioned that the trouble with dandruff shampoo is that it strips the natural oils from your hair? Yeah. This is one of those. You only want to use this if you have oily hair to begin with, and we don’t advise using it on coils or tight curls at all. Also, this is definitely not curly girl approved.
However, the dandruff-ridding ingredient in these shampoos, selenium sulfide, really does help decrease the severity of dandruff or even stop it altogether, and the menthol scent cools and refreshes the scalp. Rinse your hair out with cool or lukewarm water for maximum anti-itch bliss.
Unfortunately, dandruff can keep coming back, so even if you find that your dandruff worries disappear after a couple of uses, keep using this shampoo once every week or so to keep the itch at bay. And remember, it can take a couple of washes to get all the dead skin off, so keep trying any anti-dandruff shampoo for at least a month, unless you find it’s turning your scalp red or your hair into a bird’s nest.
While we hope one of the shampoos in this list will give you the shine and softness you’re looking for, it’s always important not to give up if you don’t find something that works. Now you know your hair type, it’s much easier to identify shampoos made specifically for you, increasing the likelihood you’ll find the right combination of hair products that your hair needs.
As always, follow up your shampoo with a good conditioner, and take the time to love your hair. It’s part of what makes you, you, and that makes it worth caring for.