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Keeping natural curls healthy and clean requires products that cleanse without stripping away moisture; after all, dry curls are never the goal. Finding the wash regimen that works for you, then, means there are a lot of things to consider before you turn on the shower. The first? Your curl type. "It's important you first identify your kind of curls you have. Then, find out what products are meant for you," says celebrity hairstylist and Ouidad ambassador Irinel de Leoìn. "You could be using a shampoo that's either too light or heavy for your curls, which could either cause frizz, leave build-up, or leave your strands limp."
Curls can be categorized into four specific hair types: type 1, type 2, type 3, and type 4, explains de Leoìn. There are subcategories within these types based on the width and diameter of the curl. (While there are online charts that can help you identify your own strands, if you really want to get it right, ask your hair care professional). Celebrity hairstylist Annagjid "Kee" Taylor recommends going beyond curl type and looking at your hair's moisture levels when selecting a wash. "Picking a shampoo is more about the hair's porosity than curl type. If your hair is more porous, you'll need different products than someone with less porous hair," Taylor says. "Generally, avoid any products that are drying." As a rule of thumb, steer clear of shampoos that include sulfates, silicones, alcohol, and parabens. "And look for shampoos that are moisturizing, but not overly so to avoid build-up when applying additional styling products to dry hair," Taylor adds.
How often you wash your hair should depend on how curly it is. "Textured hair is the most sensitive type, which isn't something many people know," notes Maeva Heim, the founder and CEO of BREAD Beauty Supply. "I generally suggest erring on the side of less is more-less washing and less product. Washing your hair can actually be a pretty disruptive process, so unless you have lots of build-up, you really can wash less." Taylor says to cleanse anywhere from once per week to once every three weeks depending on your coil pattern, while de Leoìn prefers to shampoo once a week and co-wash (which involves using a cleansing conditioner) whenever you need a refresh. "This infuses moisture back into the hair without causing any dryness," de Leoìn notes. With all that in mind, we asked de Leoìn, Heim, Taylor, and Anita Sun, a hairstylist at Eliut Salon, for their recommendations on the best shampoos for curly hair. See their picks below.
BREAD Beauty Supply
"BREAD is designed for coily and curly humans first," says Heim. "This product has a beautiful milky texture, is sulfate-free, and gently lathers without causing knottiness or dryness, which I think is crucial for curlier hair types." The light foam cleanser, beneficial for both your hair and scalp, contains ingredients like argan and lemon tea tree oil and aloe vera juice for a nourishing wash.
Shop Now: BREAD Beauty Supply Hair Wash, $20, breadbeautysupply.com.
Sun loves SheaMoisture's shampoos for their natural formulas that work across a myriad of curl patterns. This one boasts ingredients like shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil to moisturize the scalp, promote healthy hair growth, and prevent breakage.
Shop Now: SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo, $11.49, ulta.com.
With ingredients like tea tree and peppermint oil, this formula soothes dry, flaky scalps while also thoroughly cleaning hair; it removes every last trace of build-up. "Usually, as a curly girl, you need to add a lot of product on a daily basis," notes Taylor. "This is the shampoo that will get it all out."
Shop Now: Shear Genius Detox Bath, $23, deeperthanhair.com.
Sun is a fan of the brand DevaCurl; their No-Poo Original formula is a conditioning cleanser with nourishing additives like grapeseed and mint oil. Together, they keep curls clean and separated.
Shop Now: DevaCurl "No-Poo" Original, $13.33, amazon.com.
This is another one of Taylor's favorites: The shampoo, she says, hydrates strands while also helping them retain moisture longterm. And if you have any breakage? The nourishing wash will aid that, too, by encouraging growth.
Shop Now: African Pride Moisture Miracle Nourish & Shine Shampoo, $10.88, walmart.com.
Ouidad's Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo has moisturizing emollients like shea and murumuru butter to define and hydrate curls-and contains a special protein to seal the cuticle and keep curls from becoming frizzy. "It's meant for every curl type and has advanced technology to reduce frizz. It's like nothing I've seen before," says de Leoìn.
Shop Now: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo, $22, ulta.com.
While aloe vera aids enhances elasticity, blueberry extract strengthens and regrows strands. What's more, this wash is sulfate-free, notes Taylor.
Shop Now: Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Hair Wash, $14.99, target.com.