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

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 Comments on "4 of the Best Shampoos for Naturals and Transitioners"

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Even though it’s got sul­fates in it (I’m not steer­ing away from sul­fates, sil­i­cones and all that stuff. My mot­to for my tran­si­tion is if it works for my hair, it works for my hair lol)- but Herbal Essences Hel­lo Hydra­tions, it cleans my scalp and doesn’t leave my hair feel­ing stripped =)


I real­ly like Tre­sem­me Lux­u­ri­ous mois­ture shampoo,it detan­gles my hair as I wash but its not sul­phate free :-/. We have lim­it­ed prod­ucts here in South Africa but I think I’ll go sul­phate free this year,use Dr Mir­a­cles or ORS for nat­u­rals.


I like Komenuka Bijin sham­poo. It’s paraben and sul­fate free and it has nat­u­ral rice bran and jojoba oil in it. It’s a lit­tle on the pricey side at about $27-$28 per bot­tle, but it lasts a long time. A lit­tle bit goes a long way. Lath­ers up real­ly well and it helps pre­vent split ends and dan­druff. Plus it smells real­ly good, to me at least. I’m just wait­ing for this Dark and Love­ly Au Nat­u­rale line to be more wide­ly avail­able so I can try that sham­poo and con­di­tion­er.
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I like Aubrey Organ­ics hon­ey­suck­le rose sham­poo and con­di­tion­er. No unpro­nounce­able ingre­di­ents, smells great and they don’t test their prod­ucts on ani­mals. After sham­poo and before con­di­tion­ing, I some­times use apple cider vinegar/water rin­se for “squeaky-clean” feel­ing.


I swear by Elas­ta QP’s creame con­di­tion­ing sham­poo. It’s not nat­u­ral, but it leaves my hair clean and still man­age­able when I use it. It is my favorite sham­poo, but I think I’ll try the Trader Joe’s out in the new year!