What Shampoo Should I Buy for Curly Hair?

Or should you even use it?! Well that's another topic altogether, now, isn't it?! :) One that promises an interesting conversation, I'm sure.

But for today, let's assume that the product of choice is shampoo - now, what do you do from here?! Where do you look? What do you look for? What do you avoid at all costs??

First, I'm obviously going to answer all these questions from my own perspective (lol) so take what you will - this is my opinion! It is all based on researched fact, but then, I'll let you do your own research if you want - you don't have to take my word for it! :)

Where do you look?
In my town (Middle of Nowhere, USA) we have 2 grocery stores and Walmart. And that is all, my friends! :) So I took a gander. (should have taken a picture, that would have been much more interesting!)  Of course I found all the usual stuff. Suave, Herbal Essence, Tresemme, Aussie, etc.

Then I looked online and found Bee Mine Products, Kinky Curly, Curly Q, Original Sprout, Suki Skin Care, Aubrey Organics, Jason Naturals, Giovanni, etc, etc. (Many of which I've heard great things about, by the way!)

What do you look for in hair products?
* Well, I am shopping for Q, so I am looking for products that say they'll do something for curls!
* I am curious about "detangling" shampoos.
* I like it when they say "adds definition" or anything to that effect. I liked the idea that the product was specifically made with curls in mind. It wasn't a requirement, but I liked it.
* Marketed toward babies and kids was a selling point, too, Q is still young enough that I would like to get something that won't burn if it gets in her eyes.
* I, of course, was interested in a pleasant smell!
* and a person can't help but look at the price tag...

and then... What to avoid at all costs?!
oh boy. This is where I almost decided to throw in the towel!! Do you know how bad most of this stuff is for you?! Us? Babies, kids, teens, adults - the chemicals in most hair and skin care products are ridiculous!

First, I went to THIS list of ingredients to avoid. I just kept the page open and kept referencing it as I found a new product to try. There are some pretty obvious things, but then there are some surprises, too! Like, "fragrance: highly allergenic. contains large quantities of toxins & chemicals not disclosed. fragrance-free means that fragrance chemicals have been added to the product to mask the natural aromas of the ingredients"
and "grapefruit seed extract: synthetic preservatives triclosan, methylparaben & benzethonium chloride are usually added to preserve, however, companies do not have to list this ingredient since it is contained within the extract"

and although not from that website we also need to be aware of PhytoEstrogens - which come in many forms, natural and synthetic, and are linked to gynecomastia, early puberty, hormone disruption & fertility problems. 

Then I also checked each specific ingredient of each product I wanted to buy against the cosmeticsdatabase.com also known as the EWG (Environmental Working Group) They have a rating chart that shows the toxicity levels of many different ingredients and chemicals.   Keep in mind that many ingredients haven't been tested very much, or have "Data gaps" as they call it.

At first this was terribly daunting - but the more I did it, the more I started recognizing things and not having to look each and every one up again! That was kinda of exciting :) and a lot less work!

(I had used Aubrey Organics Baby Shampoo previously and was very pleased - but I wanted to try something different this time - just for variety :) )
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Shampoo - 8 oz

After looking long and hard and throwing some options right out the window by the second or third ingredient - I decided on this ...
Original Sprout Natural Baby Shampoo 12 oz

from their site -  "Worry Free Luxury means no natural or synthetic ingredients associated with estrogen enhancement, hormone disruption, cancer & autism such as: Lavender or Tea Tree Oils, Citrus Oils, Clove, Soy, Phthalates, Dioxanes from Sulfates, Parabens, Formaldehyde, Propylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Acetaldehydes, Styrene, Toluene, Glycol Ethers, Ethylene Oxide, Musks, Nonylphenol, Mineral or Petroleum Oils, Triclosan, Eurethane, 1-2 Propylene Oxide, Placenta or Synthetic Colors"

  I put in my order (pricey though it was - but then I got free shipping and a free sample for spending over $35! woo!) and I am sooo excited to try it out! If it's possible, I think Original Sprout has even less questionable ingredients than Aubrey!

In case you're wondering, common ingredients that you DO NOT want to see on your shampoo's ingredient list are as follows:

SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) - all sulfates (as far as I know) are just really really bad for hair. Curly hair especially. Yet it's a foaming agent so it is VERY common! Head over to naturallycurly.com to learn more about avoiding sulfates and -cones.

"Not only does it [SLS] act as a penetration enhancer (allowing other potentially toxic ingredients to slip into your bloodstream), but according to the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews”,  research studies on SLS have shown links to...
  • Irritation of skin and eyes
  • Organ toxicity
  • Development / reproductive toxicity
  • Neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicological, and biochemical or cellular changes
  • Possible mutations and cancer
If you visit the SLS page on the Environmental Working Group’s (a non-profit public-interest research group known for making connections between chemical exposure and adverse health conditions) website, you will see a very long list of health concerns and associated research studies. In fact, you will also see their mention of nearly 16,000 studies in the PubMed science library (as well as their link to that list) about the toxicity of this chemical.
So look for it in your hair care products. It also goes by a
number of different names including sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium dodecylsulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium salt sulfuric acid, A12-00356, Akyposal SDS, Aquarex ME, and Aquarex methyl."  - From the Mercola article mentioned below.

Anything that ends in -cone - see above comment about SLS!

parabens -  petrochemicals, estrogenic, carcinogenic, allergenic

petroleum (petrolatum, mineral oils, vaseline) - acne producing, may be carcinogenic, causes long term dry skin, respiratory toxin

propylene glycol - linked to Cancer, developmental reproductive toxicity, allergies, irritation of the skin, eyes or lungs, enhanced skin absorption, and more!

Cocamidopropyl Betaine - Known human immune system toxicant

... just to name a few!

Of course, we really don't know the amount of each ingredient in our products (except that they are listed in order from most to least on the label). I just try to make sure that each ingredient in the product has a low rating from the EWG and that the overall rating of the product (when added together in my head) doesn't get higher than about 3 or 4.  -- But that's just MY system! :)

For more resources and articles sharing the dangers of common hazardous ingredients found in our hair care products and other cosmetics follow these links:

Articles Database -Ingredients in Hair Care Products: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Ely Organics - Children

Original Sprout - List of health studies!

Mercola.com - STOP using your shampoo until you read this!  (in my opinion, he undermines what he says by ending it with trying to sell his own product, but then, I guess they all are, really. This one is just more obnoxious to me.)

UPDATE --- I'm on a roll! What I thought was going to be a very limited selection of products has actually increased at an incredible speed! Since ordering from Original Sprout, I have found 3 more companies I'm interested in trying products from! WOW!!  I would love to do some reviews for you - but we'll see what happens. :)  The new-found companies are - Just Natural Skin Care (and Hair!), Ely Organics, and


  1. I have extremely curly hair, and my daughter is shaping up to be the same. I say NO SHAMPOO FOR CURLY HEADS!!! Ever since I stopped using shampoo 6 years ago, my curls have been silky, frizz free, easy to detangle with a wide toothed comb, easy to style, and soft, soft, soft!

    My method: I use -cone free conditioner to wash my hair by using friction-- a little conditioner and a massage with my fingers, then rinse. I don't always condition again afterward, but when I do, I use a -cone free deep conditioner and leave it on while I do the rest of my shower routine. Then when I am done showering, I squeeze water out of my hair, and I use Japanese camellia oil as my only styling product (applied wet in the shower). I pile my hair loosely on top of my head with a microfiber towel (called "plunking" or "plopping," check YouTube for videos), and that is IT. I let it dry up like that and the result is perfect, gorgeous ringlets every time!

  2. Have you checked out naturallycurly.com? They classify your curl by size and hair texture. You can read about shampoos etc by hair type.

    For example, I have very fine corkscrew hair (sort of like your daughter's) about the diameter of a glue stick. I've found shampoo doesn't really affect the end result much, though it can strip out my color faster. I buy cheap moisturizing shampoo and save the bucks for the conditioner and styling lotion.
    (I like the old formula Humectress and ISO Bouncy Curls.)
    Sadly, my DD did not get my curls. I think they skip a generation - my paternal grandmother had them last.

  3. Aimee! I agree! (we've since posted more in depth about No 'Poo Hair care and Co-washing, if anyone is interested, browse around a bit and you should find it pretty easily! Also, Aimee did an interview for us! Lots of great into there, too!)

    Hi Laurie! Yes, I love naturallycurly.com Especially the forums!! You can find their link on my links page! <3 There is a treasure-trove of information there.

    There are actually two main types of determining curl type. Happy Girl Hair has a great post on the two .. http://www.happygirlhair.com/2010/06/good-to-know-curl-pattern-types.html

    Thanks for the product recs, I'll have to check them out. As you can see I'm very picky about ingredients, so that's my main concern when it comes to products. The "cheap" stuff often has poor quality ingredients (as in cancer-causing and full of estrogens, etc.)

    Thanks for visiting our site! and hopefully you can find some styles you like for your daughter, even though she didn't get your curls :)


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