4 of the Best Shampoos for Naturals and Transitioners

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By Christina of The Mane Objective

Yeah, I said it. Shampoo. Although many naturals swear by co-washing and various clarifying rinses, you can’t deny the cleaning power of a good shampoo. These days, there are many viable alternatives to your OG sulfate shampoos that leave your hair and scalp clean, without totally stripping them stark naked of essential oils. Here are some of my favorite shampoos, and my best use scenarios for each. Even though most of the shampoos on here are sulfate-free, it’s always necessary to follow up any cleansing session with a regular or deep conditioning, depending on hair’s needs.

1. When your scalp is feeling flaky…
Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo ($10-12)

I’ve recommended this particular shampoo several times over for those suffering from scalp conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff. It is one of those few legitimately sulfate free (you won’t find any derivative of a sulfate on this label) shampoos that does a great job of clarifying hair and scalp. Plantain enzyme, salicylic acid, and tea tree work to combat those flaky conditions, while willow bark and black soap cleanse and detoxify the hair. The light banana scent and dark brown (nearly black) coloring of the shampoo may be off-putting to some, but I’ll be gosh darned if it doesn’t get the job done.

2. When you’ve got a serious case of ‘The Buildups’…
Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo ($3.99)

This shampoo is one of the few that produces the squeaky clean feeling on hair that is sometimes necessary — especially during these cold winter months when we slather on the heavy creams, butters, and jellies. If you’ve perused shampoos lately, many manufacturers are seeking alternatives to the dreaded SLS — or at least less-potent forms. So when you come across no “lauryl/laureth sulfates” on the Tea Tree Tingle bottle, Trader Joe’s isn’t lying (thank you Jesus…you know I love me some TJ’s) — they just found a less-harsh and coconut-derived formulation known as C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate. Without getting too in-depth with the science, let’s just suffice it to say that the sulfonate cleanses hair and scalp by helping water to mix with oil and dirt so they can be rinsed away. This shampoo definitely has a tea tree and peppermint smell to it, which I find pleasant and not overbearing. I also love the cool and light tingle I get when it sits on my scalp for a few seconds.

3. When you’re going to flat iron or blowout…
Ion Straightening Shampoo ($6.49)

I recently rekindled my love affair with this old favorite. Back in the day before I began my consciously natural journey, this shampoo was a staple when it came time to straighten my hair. Note: for OG Sally’s customers, the straightening line used to be hot pink — now it’s orange. After I began transitioning, I did away with the shampoo because it contained sulfates. A few weeks ago I went into Sally’s poking around for something to try on my upcoming straightening session, and I heard the Ion bottle say, “I know you want me”. And as a matter of fact, I did. With a change in color label also came a change in formulation. Instead of straight up Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, they changed to Sodium Myreth Sulfate, which is somewhat less drying to hair. It didn’t dry out my hair, but my hair definitely felt light and clean. Personally, when I’m going to flat iron my hair, I feel like the less oil and whatnot left behind, the better. I’d rather have silicones and other heat protectants shielding my hair, than have penetrated oils cooking inside the shaft. But that’s just me though… Anyway, this shampoo doesn’t relax or straighten the curl pattern any — all it does is allow the heat to straighten easier. In fact, when using this shampoo, I realized I cut my blow-drying time in half, and my flat ironed hair was more sleek. Reunited (every 3-6 months, lol), and it feels so good…

4. When you just feel like using shampoo…
Alaffia Everyday Shea Vanilla Mint Shampoo ($10-12)

Sometimes, you just want some suds in your hair for that “clean” feeling. I understand. The key to safe shampoo cleaning is finding one that doesn’t contain any sulfates or harsh surfectants. The Everyday Shea Vanilla Mint Shampoo uses liquid shea butter soap and saponified shea butter to cleanse the hair. It has a wonderful minty fragrance, and contains coconut and lavender essential oils. Sounds great, right? And to a certain extent, it is. But there is a little bit to be known about this product, and it took a little sleuthing on my part. To read up on the additional info on Everyday Shea, click here. But suffice it to say, this shampoo worked well to cleanse my hair and scalp, without it feeling overly drying. Plus, I love the super short ingredient list (when compared with other shampoos). And at $10 for a 32oz bottle, it’s a great bargain. P.S. — use it as a body wash too!

These shampoos got me through 2012. What are some of your favorites, and why?

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Christina Patrice

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is a BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.


47 thoughts on “4 of the Best Shampoos for Naturals and Transitioners

  1. I also like the conditioner that is made by Shea Moisture and available at Target for cleansing my hair. I alternate it with other products like WEN and a combination of conditioners I have left over.

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  2. I love using black soap. It gets all of that old oil off my hair. Plus, it makes my hair fill so light when I flat iron it!!

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  3. I am 6+ months into my transition. I started out using the gold label Shea Moisture products. Although they are great, they didn’t agree with me. I have extremely sensitive skin so the fragrance made me break out. I have since switched to Jane Carter products and my hair absolutely loves them. I wonder if my hair needs/products will change when I’m completely natural…any thoughts?

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  4. How black women can avoid fibroids and Ovary Cyst

    1. Do not go to a University Hospital where they do Research. You dont want to be a guinea pig.

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    7. Avoid bpa in bottles.

    8. Check your water supply and try to drink natual or pure water if possible.

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  5. I personally find that some shampoos that are sulfate free actually have left my hair feeling more stripped than any sulfate shampoo I have ever used. A sulfate free alternative that is more economical is liquid Castille Soap. You get a big bottle that last a long time since you don’t need much for it to be effective.

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  6. Dani I agree with you my hair feels so dry and stripped especially with sulfate free shampoos. I am currently on the hunt for a new shampoo that doesn’t strip my hair and makes it feel like straws!

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    • I use sulfate free and was receiving the same results…dry hair. A friend of mine told me I have to deep condition my hair after using the sulfate free products. My hair much softer now and I do not have to worry about the dryness.

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  7. There is a shampoo at Lush called Curly Wurly and it has chunks of coconut in it. Its a hassle to get it out sometimes, but it makes your hair feel SO soft.

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  8. I have a question, so when your transitioning you don’t use shampoo?? Bc I’m really new to this I started transitioning in Dec. So I’m still learning a lot of different things and I’m trying to see what works with my hair and what don’t oh and is it bad to use a bunch of different hair products even if it’s all natural things?? Please help thank u :)

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    • I’m transitioning too I started in October, I still use shampoo just not that often. Since I’m in Afghanistan my hair gets a lot drier than normal.Shampooing my hair makes it harder to get the moisture back in. I became a PJ (product junkie) out here, for me it’s fine for now. I use all the products that I buy to see what works best for me and my hair especially in this climate. I say that now is the time for you to see what works for you. Mske sure you use what you buy so youre not wasting your money. One product may not work well w/ one but great w/ another. Good luck.

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  10. Pingback: A Sulfate Free Shampoo for All Tress Types: 7 Best Shampoos for Dry to Oily Hair - EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion : EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion

  11. Hi,I been transitioning since June or July, I brought a shampoo and it’s name is Ology Sulfate free shampoo, I would like to know is this a good product to use,I would also like to know if Box Braids is a good protective with extensions, I’m new to this I would like some advice. Thank You

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  12. I’m transitioning since 1/15/14 and my scalp gets very flaky in the winter so that Shea moisture will do me good. Is there any more Shea moisture products you can recommend for me?

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  13. Hello Christina!

    Thank you very much for sharing this list. I will definitely check them out. Just like you, I would also recommend the products made by Shea Moisture. My favorite organic shampoo is actually Shea Moisture Raw Shea Retention Shampoo. I have been using this product for almost a year now and I am really satisfied with the result. My hair looks healthy and strong. I would recommend that we use organic shampoo for our hair.

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