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.
Petrut is “obsessed” with the Curl Manifesto line from Kerastase, including their shampoo.
“It delivers hydration that curly hair needs with Manuka honey, ceramides, and glycerin,” explains the hairstylist. “Together they give the hair more strength, definition, and bounce.”
Another favorite of Petrut, this luxe shampoo “is designed for thick hair, delivers moisture and a little de-volumization, leaving hair smooth and sleek.”
This deep conditioner contains shea butter, olive oil, and more to nourish hair, as well as hydrolyzed vegetable protein to reduce frizz.
This versatile shampoo can be used on all hair types (1A-4C) and builds up to a rich lather sans sulfates.
Along with the namesake almond and avocado, shea butter and vitamin E make this conditioner feel like a hug for dried-out strands.
You won’t miss the bubbles with this low-lather shampoo; it’s made with a Healthy Curl Complex that helps strengthen and define curls after just one wash.
The complementary conditioner has a rich, treatment-like consistency to hydrate and help with detangling.
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).
This budget-friendly option was recently reformulated to remove the sulfates and parabens.
The conditioner was also reformulated, and both products feature rosehip oil to nourish curls without weighing them down.
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.
If you prefer a creamy lather, this beloved formula delivers—and a little goes a long way. Plus, the coconut and hibiscus scent is fantastic.
With coconut oil, shea butter, mango seed butter, olive oil, and silk protein, this conditioner has loads of the ingredients Petrut recommends for curls (and then some).
This ultra-gentle formula lathers only slightly to cleanse wavy to coily hair without stripping away precious natural oils.
Both the shampoo and conditioner contain rice amino acids to seal the cuticle (preventing frizz), and the conditioner also has softening almond oil.