4 of the Best Shampoos for Naturals and Transitioners


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?

Christina Patrice

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is 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.


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

  1. Shea Moisure shampoo and conditioner really works well for me. I have eczema and it really calmed down my itchy scalp. I usually wash my hair every week but even if I go two weeks without washing my hair, I am still fine. The shampoo lathers up well so you won’t have to use too much to feel like you have washed your hair well. I would definitly reccomend this to people with itchy scalp issues.

  2. Well, i have this hair care kit that comes with organic shampoo and conditioner designed to make hair soft, shiny and healthy especially if you use heat tools or hair dye. It also comes with a deep conditioning hair mask and an argan oil heat protectant that works miracles for frizz. You use it after a shower, it’s not oily at all and it’s actually real argan oil. The kit is called Pro Naturals argan oil system or something along those lines so look it up on their website or wherever you find it.

  3. This is a great list.

    I just want to remind people, though, that there are more natural shampoo and conditioner products out there.

    The best way to treat hair is to determine your hair type and use the best organic shampoo for that hair type. So if you have dry hair, use shampoo specifically made to nourish and moisturize your hair.

  4. I actually enjoy using the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo. It works well since I have a sensitive scalp and it can get your hair squeaky clean. I’ve tried other brand of shampoos, they either irritated my scalp or made my hair feel very brittle. I also like the Shea Moisture African Black Soap New Dandruff Control Shampoo. It gives a really good cleansing to my scalp and it doesn’t strip my hair. I try not to be a product junkie, so I stick to what my hair likes and every blue moon I’ll try something new.

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