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19 best sulphate-free shampoos for healthy locks

Bring your mane back to life with these tried and tested shampoos

Ella Duggan
Friday 01 March 2024 14:04 GMT
Sulphate-free shampoos are becoming the norm, providing nourishing alternatives that can cleanse your hair and scalp without being too harsh
Sulphate-free shampoos are becoming the norm, providing nourishing alternatives that can cleanse your hair and scalp without being too harsh (iStock/The Independent)
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The age-old question when it comes to hair care is, why isn’t my hair doing what I want? Getting your locks to look their best can often be a struggle, especially if you have textured, coloured or damaged hair as so many of us do. Often it’s the products we think are helping our hair that are actually harming it. It’s time to look at the fine print, literally, and stop using sulphates.

Sulphates are the chemicals and ingredients added to shampoos that give you that clean hair feeling. They remove dirt, grease and other impurities, and create that bubbly lather we all know and love. But what they also do is strip the hair of its natural oil and moisture, leaving it more brittle, lifeless and likely to shed or snap.

So what do we do? Well, the good news is that sulphate-free shampoos are gradually becoming the norm, providing nourishing alternatives that can cleanse your hair and scalp without being too harsh.

We spoke to Emma Vickery, art director at Percy and Reed, who’s spent most of her career obsessing over how we should look after our hair. “Products are far more gentle and kind to the hair and skin without sulphates – any other good ingredients in the formulations are now no longer compromised by being intermixed with them,” says Vickery.

As for finding the right product for your particular locks, we’ve put a whole range of formulas through their paces. No matter what you’re looking for – from frizz-fighting to colour protection – you’re sure to find the best sulphate-free shampoo for you in this round-up.

How we tested the best sulphate-free shampoos

A selection of the best sulphate-free shampoos that we tested for this review (Ella Duggan)

Trying out a wide range of sulphate-free shampoos – from luxury salon-style buys to budget-friendly brands – we have never looked at our hair so closely before, taking note of even the slightest changes. This started by keeping the rest of our hair care routine the same so that any changes could be attributed to the new shampoo.

We took note of how the product was to use, how well it lathered up in the shower and how it made our wet hair feel. As well as the all-important scent – a good-smelling shampoo can make or break a purchase. Then we air-dried our hair as usual, making sure not to use any heat that might affect the normal condition of the hair.

Finally, we looked at how luscious our locks were in many ways, such as how soft, clean, healthy and voluminous they felt, especially taking note of the benefits the shampoo promised to provide. We also asked loved ones to have a look (and a sniff) to see what changes they noticed, which was especially helpful when analysing the back of our heads.

The best sulphate-free shampoos for 2024 are:

  • Best sulphate-free shampoo overall – Umberto Giannini curl jelly wash: £8.95,
  • Best budget sulphate-free shampoo – Faith in Nature shampoo bar lavender and geranium: £2.50,
  • Best bonding shampoo – Olaplex no.4 bond maintenance shampoo: £28,
  • Best curl-defining shampoo – Noughty detox dynamo clarifying shampoo: £5.35,
  • Best sulphate-free shampoo for coloured hair – Color WOW colour security shampoo: £12.50,

Umberto Giannini curl jelly wash

  • Best: Sulphate-free shampoo overall
  • Size: 250ml
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin B5 formula
  • USP: Bouncy, light and defined hair
  • Why we love it
    • Brings out the best in your natural hair pattern
    • Suits multiple hair types
    • Vegan and cruelty free

When we say this sulphate-free shampoo single-handedly changed our relationship with our hair, we are not exaggerating. Designed to help all hair types, the vitamin B5 formula softens and defines curls while cleansing and nourishing the follicle.

In the shower, the product has a subtle but sweet smell of floral lavender and patchouli, and is infused with hints of cardamom and vanilla. It creates a light lather that coats the hair easily.

During our many months of testing, we found that the formula managed to pick out curls, define them, free them of frizz and add shine. Even better, we found that the bounce maintained for several days and sleeps, so we were able to wash our hair less often.

We do have to say we ended up going through this product quite quickly, but at less than £10 a bottle, you certainly won’t be breaking the bank.

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Faith in Nature shampoo bar lavender and geranium

  • Best: Budget sulphate-free shampoo
  • Size: 85g
  • Key ingredients: Lavender oil and geranium oil
  • USP: Harnesses the calming benefits of lavender to relax the mind and soothe the scalp.
  • Why we love it
    • Sustainable
    • Vegan and cruelty free
    • 100% natural ingredients
    • Great for Travel
  • Take note
    • May not be deep cleaning enough for very thick hair

Now, we are aware we may lose some of you at the words, shampoo and bar. But it has to be said that our tester was also sceptical – until they tried it. This bar does a surprisingly great job at washing hair, which is what we are all here for at the end of the day, plus it boasts many more benefits. Using the bar takes some work, the advice on the box says to lather in your hands and then apply it to hair, we found it was much easier and more effective to rub the bar directly into the hair and scalp, this produced a thick bubbly lather that coated hair surprisingly well. The more rubbing and more water you use the bigger the lather.

Thanks to its lavender and geranium scent, it was one of our favourite-smelling shampoos. While it wasn’t the deepest clean we had, it was certainly sufficient and our hair felt soft. Being rid of any and all packages and made by a brand synonymous with sustainability and giving back to the planet, this one is the perfect swap for those looking for more eco conscious haircare products. Plus, it’s great for travelling as it’s long-lasting, affordable, compact, and won’t take up any precious real estate in the liquids bag.

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Olaplex no.4 bond maintenance shampoo

  • Best: Bonding shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, apricot kernel, rosemary leaf extract, banana fruit
  • USP: Repairs, strengthens and nourishes hair
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Gives coloured hair a new lease on life
    • Works over time to create healthier hair

You might have been living under a haircare rock if you’ve never heard of Olaplex. The hair restoration brand shares the same origins with many of the tech giants, starting out in a garage in California. Since 2014, the company has exploded, all thanks to its patented hair technology, spearheaded by its famous ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, nicknamed “the invention”. This ingredient allows hair to reach new heights, making colours brighter, strands stronger and overall healthier locks.

Needless to say, after trying this shampoo ourselves, we were smitten. A little bit goes a long way – one or two squirts were more than enough to make our hair feel coated and cleansed. In the shower, our locks felt smoother and softer, and the brand’s signature citrusy scent was a welcomed aroma.

Once dried, we noticed our dyed blonde hair looked brighter, with a new shine and softness we didn’t have before. And for a brand that’s considered luxurious in its formula, we thought the shampoo was pretty good value for money – especially if it saves on emergency trips to the salon.

For more recommendations, read our full Olaplex review

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Noughty detox dynamo clarifying shampoo

  • Best: Curl-defining shampoo
  • Size: 250ml
  • Key ingredients: Peppermint and sorrel leaf
  • USP: Fights product-build up and pollution to detoxify and clarify hair.
  • Why we love it
    • Super defined hair
    • Really soft but with minimal frizz
    • Affordable

To put it lightly, we were blown away by this shampoo. During the hair-washing process, we didn’t think much of the formula – it had a subtle citrusy floral smell and made a fine lather. But, the results really impressed us. Once our hair dried, our curls were so defined and frizz-free. We also tested going to bed with damp hair, which usually means we end up with slightly lack-lustre locks but not this time. Instead, our curls looked defined and springy – this definition was even good enough to enhance our hair colour which is a huge plus.

The formula itself boasts 97 per cent natural ingredients, which is always reassuring, and aims to clarify and detoxify hair from pollution and product build-up, an admirable hair mission in our eyes.

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Sukin natural balance shampoo

  • Best: All natural sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Shea butter, coconut extract, olive oil
  • USP: Naturally balances hair and provides moisture protection
  • Size: 500ml
  • Why we love it
    • Huge bottle
    • Affordable
    • Defines natural hair pattern
    • Vegan
  • Take note
    • Strand felt slightly heavy

This natural shampoo ticked a lot of boxes for us. Initially, we were impressed by the generous size, especially considering the very affordable price. The label on the bottle lists all the harmful chemicals that won’t be found in this shampoo, such as sulphates (obviously), parabens, detergents, animal derivatives, artificial colours, synthetic fragrances and many more. Instead, most of the ingredients featured would be at home in a botany book, with burdock, nettle and horsetail extracts being used to cleanse and baobab oil used to moisturise.

During testing, we found it to have a standard shampoo consistency and a pleasant mandarin, vanilla and lavender scent. The lather was extremely bubbly and coated our hair well.

The end results were pleasantly surprising, too. Although it doesn’t claim to have specific curly hair benefits, when compared to other formulas, we found our curls looked more defined. Beyond that, our hair felt simply like ours, but on a really good hair day.

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Living proof frizz shampoo

  • Best: Frizz-fighting sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Proprietary amino cleansing complex
  • USP: Smooths and stops frizz
  • Size: 236ml
  • Why we love it
    • Smells amazing
    • Reduces frizz after just one wash
  • Take note
    • Struggled to penetrate very thick hair

This shampoo has more going for it than just the sleek bottle it comes in. Once we squirted out the first blob, the shower was filled with a lovely aroma, which the brand calls “light citrus” and was probably our favourite scent out of all the shampoos that we tested.

The product lathered up nicely and our hair seemed instantly smoothed during the washing process, helping with tangles before we even got to the conditioner. That being said, despite the brand claiming the shampoo gets rid of dirt, sweat, pollution and product build-up, we felt it wasn’t the deepest clean we’ve had.

Once dried, our locks felt lighter than usual, and there was a very clear reduction in frizz after just one wash, which blew us away. So much so, that we didn’t have to apply the usual frizz-busting oil that can often lead to greasy hair or product build-up, so that was a big win for us.

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Percy & Reed I need a hero wonder shampoo

  • Best: Multi-issue sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Sunflower seed extract, antioxidants and vitamins
  • USP: Moisture balancing, colour protection, environmental defence, hair health
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Multiple tools in one bottle
    • Good for volume

Percy & Reed has been synonymous with British haircare for over 15 years, thanks to its bestselling serums and styling products. This shampoo, however, claims to be the cure for all your hair-related needs at once.

The shampoo’s shimmery, almost glittery appearance was a nice surprise, and, as for the scent, we’d liken it to the shampoos used at swanky salons, which has to be a good sign.

The bottle’s label says it will provide moisture balancing, colour protection, environmental defence and improve overall hair health. It also promises to produce a rich lather – and that it did. We were impressed with how quickly it turned into a thick, cream-like formula, and it penetrated our hair with ease, getting down to the scalp for a good clean. Once our hair was dry, it was hard to tell which of the many USPs were at work but, overall, our locks looked defined and voluminous.

As formulas go, this is a great pick for those wanting to tackle many hair-related issues at once.

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Hair by Sam McKnight rich cleanse shampoo

  • Best: For prepping your hair for styling products
  • Key ingredients: Amino acids, quinoa protein
  • USP: Nourishing, hydrating, repairing, cleansing
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Enhances styling products
    • Lovely signature scent
  • Take note
    • Had to use a lot of product to thorougly cover thick hair

Hair by Sam McKnight has been gaining popularity online for its styling products, especially its dry shampoos. To see what the fuss was about, we tested the brand’s sulphate-free shampoo. The rich cleanse shampoo is a gentle product that nourishes and heals damaged hair, as well as the scalp.

On initial use, it took a bit of work (and water) to get a good lather going. But once it did, the shower filled with a gorgeous scent. We ended up having to use a lot of the product before we felt that our hair and scalp were thoroughly covered. However, we were glad we did, as the results once dried were great – curls looked defined and frizz was minimised.

Our main takeaway from this shampoo is that it allowed our hair to be a perfect canvas for our other styling products, which went on easier and performed to the highest of their capabilities.

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Nécessaire the shampoo

  • Best: Treatment-style sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, biomimetic peptide, green tea extract
  • USP: Support hair growth, help hair look fuller and healthier
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Like medicine for your scalp
    • Helps to encourage hair growth
    • Good for treating dandruff
  • Take note
    • No smell
    • Have to use daily

This bottle looks so chic, it’s almost intimidating. Its cool package is not the only difference here, as this product is designed to be used daily on damaged or distressed hair. Calling itself a scalp serum, this formula uses ingredients well-known in the skincare world to freshen up your scalp. Hyaluronic acid, one of the biggest trends in skincare in recent years, is used here to hydrate the scalp with the aim of encouraging and supporting hair growth. It also uses the anti-inflammatory properties in green tea extract to help reduce itchiness and flakiness.

When we used the shampoo, we were impressed with how well the water-light serum reached our roots, even through our often impenetrable thick hair. Curls looked defined, especially towards the roots, and we definitely received a compliment or two on how good our hair looked. That being said we were a little disappointed that after one night’s sleep our locks lost their lustre a bit. Perhaps this lends itself to being an everyday treatment rather than a typical shampoo.

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Moroccan oil smoothing shampoo

  • Best: Argan oil sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: Argan oil and argan butter
  • USP: Frizz fighting, softening and smoothening
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Smells lovely
    • Well-known hair care ingredients
    • Highly concentrated formula so it goes further

By now, most of us are well aware of the powerful hair-perfecting properties of using argan oil. And no one knows this more than Moroccan oil founder Carmen Tal, who discovered the benefits in 2008 after her own hair nightmare was saved by an argan oil hair treatment. Her hair was restored and the brand Moroccan oil was born.

This shampoo uses a combination of argan oil and argan butter to help smooth and soothe frizzy and unruly hair. It’s also a great choice for those with naturally oily-prone hair who would be hesitant to use the oil in its concentrated form but who still want all the benefits. The scent of this shampoo is one we’d happily wear as a perfume, and we loved the bottle’s turquoise pop of colour in our shower.

The smoothing shampoo special blend is designed to restore the depleted amino acids that are vital for smoothing and strengthening hair. It does all this while attempting to align with your hair’s natural keratin production, and for all those fellow frizzy-haired sufferers out there, you’ll know how important keratin is for smooth, sumptuous locks.

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Kevin Murphy scalp spa wash

  • Best: For a clean feel
  • Key ingredients: Micellar water, celery seed extract, rose water, coconut oil
  • USP: Clean, balance and promote a healthy scalp
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Left our hair feeling super clean
    • Good for penetrating thick hair
  • Take note
    • Could go through the product very quickly

Kevin Murphy is a well-known and well-trusted luxury haircare brand that sets itself apart from competitors by applying the same philosophies as skincare to your hair. For starters, we loved the packaging of this shampoo and would happily display it in our bathroom. We also happened to be fans of what’s inside the bottle too.

With a loose, milky-like consistency, we found the shampoo to feel very moisturising and calming on our scalp – we were impressed by how easily it penetrated our thick, curly hair to get there too. Because of this, it could be a great product for those who struggle with product build-up – a common problem when using a shampoo that isn’t cleaning hair or reaching the scalp well enough. This shampoo could also help with those battling oily hair, as it uses micellar water to dissolve the impurities that make the hair appear greasy.

Our one small gripe is that due to the shampoo’s loose consistency, and the added instruction to rinse and repeat when using, we found we ended up using a lot of product for just one wash, making it quite a pricey option in the long run. But that said, out of all the shampoos we tested, this one left our locks looking the cleanest, which resulted in additional shine, too.

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Palmers moisture boost shampoo

  • Best: For coconut lovers
  • Key ingredients: Tahitian monoi and coconut oil
  • USP: For dry, damaged or coloured hair
  • Size: 400ml
  • Why we love it
    • Yummy coconut smell
    • Very affordable
  • Take note
    • Can cause some frizz

We all know the Palmers, although many of us will probably associate it more with body butters and lip balms, the brand is more than 175 years old and is credited as one of America’s first skincare companies. So when we picked up its shampoo, we weren’t sure what to expect, but found ourselves pleasantly surprised.

The iconic coconut scent is instant and, of course, delicious. When wet, our hair felt instantly smooth and nourished – it was so soft to the touch despite our curly hair usually being on the knotty side when washing. Once dried, our locks were the softest they’d been in testing. That said, the soft nature of the hair unfortunately lent itself to a frizzier quality than usual, so we would probably recommend this shampoo to our non-frizz-fighting friends. Lucky them, as we couldn’t help but smile every time we caught a hint of coconut in the air.

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Ouai thick hair shampoo

  • Best: Sulphate-free shampoo for thick hair
  • Key ingredients: Avocado oil, shea butter, marshmallow root
  • USP: Manages big hair that is prone to frizz
  • Size: 300ml
  • Why we love it
    • Detangles
    • Fights frizz
    • Conquers thick hair with ease
  • Take note
    • Scent may not appeal to everyone

If you’re someone with thick hair, we’re sure you’re used to rolling your eyes when seemingly every single shampoo advert promises thicker, more voluminous hair. So you can imagine our excitement when we saw the multitude of options Ouai offers – from thick to thin, detox to dandruff – there really is something for everyone.

We tried the thick hair shampoo, containing avocado oil and shea butter to calm frizz, and marshmallow root for those tangles that thick hair knows far too well. We found the scent to be slightly reminiscent of a grandmother’s perfume. But the upside is that the product was very thick and cleansed our hair thoroughly with a creamy lather – the word “luxurious” came to mind several times. Despite this deep clean, hair didn’t feel stripped or dry at all, but instead had a lovely shine to it.

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Color Wow colour security shampoo

Colour wow-shampoo-indybest
  • Best: Sulphate-free shampoo for coloured hair
  • Key ingredients: Japanese amino acids
  • USP: Clean and healthy hair using ingredients often found in skincare
  • Size: 250ml
  • Why we love it
    • Colour protection
    • Reduces product build-up
  • Take note
    • Thick hair will need two applications

The clue is in the name with this shampoo, Color WOW is synonymous with giving colour-dyed hair the best treatment possible. This shampoo is designed specifically to promote hair and scalp health, encouraging hair growth in even the most thoroughly dyed hair. It also claims to be leagues above other shampoos by being 100 per cent clean, leaving zero residue or ingredients behind on the hair. In other words, it gets in, does its job and goes down the drain, leaving your locks build-up free.

The product itself has that lovely salon-shampoo smell without being overpowering, and the thick, jelly-like consistency lathered up really well. It did slightly struggle to completely coat our hair, but managed it just fine with a second dosage. Hair felt positively polished and clean in the shower, and once dry, it had a matte finish – not in a dull way but in a clean way. We couldn’t keep our hands off our locks, they were so light and soft, like all the nasty oils and dirt that would often weigh our hair down were gone.

This is a great shampoo for those trying to get their colour-damaged hair back to its natural balance.

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Act + Acre cold processed stem cell shampoo

  • Best: Science-backed sulphate-free shampoo
  • Key ingredients: H2 Grow Complex, caffeine, hyaluronic acid and apple stem cells
  • USP: Cleanses and hydrates the scalp to promote thicker, fuller hair.
  • Size: 296ml
  • Why we love it
    • Backed by science and hair experts
    • Easy-application pump
  • Take note
    • Expensive

If you’re looking for a shampoo that helps hair growth, follicle stimulation and promotes generally healthier hair, all backed by some pretty serious science, then this may just be for you. Helen Reavey is a former backstage hairstylist for Sam McKnight and stylist to stars such as Harry Styles and Alicia Keys. She created this brand due to her frustration with “ordinary shampoos”, finding they focussed on removing grease and dirt, but in doing so neglected or even stripped the scalp. The scalp is, according to the brand, the secret to perfect hair, controlling how voluminous, shiny and healthy the hair will look.

This shampoo uses apple stem cells and caffeine to unclog and protect hair follicles and remove impurities from the scalp, which in due course prevents thinning and shedding, resulting in fuller, thicker and better-looking hair. The science behind it is backed up by clinical studies produced by Princeton Labs.

When we tried the product, it left our hair squeaky clean – quite literally making our wet locks squeak. Unsurprisingly, the foamy lather had no issue getting to our scalp, although we did use a big pump in doing so. The shampoo has a very subtle spiced scent, which produced ideas of an apple in a laboratory somewhere. Once dried, we noticed an instant shine to our locks, though we reckon the true benefits of this product may take more than a couple of washes.

This product is on the pricier side, so would suit those looking to invest in a science-backed luxury shampoo to boost their hair health and growth.

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Provoke touch of silver brightening purple shampoo

  • Best: Purple sulphate-free shampoo
  • Size: 200ml
  • Key ingredients: Violet and blue pigments
  • USP: Brighten colour and remove brassy tones
  • Why we love it
    • Hair looked less brassy after just one wash
  • Take note
    • Could feel a little stripping on the hair

Don't be alarmed by the colour this shampoo comes out – purple shampoos use purple pigments to neutralise yellow and brassy tones. This is because, on the colour wheel, purple is the exact opposite of yellow and proves that opposites really do attract. Provoke’s touch of silver does just that, at a very affordable price.

The shampoo itself is strong, smelling and looking. While we quite enjoyed the floral soapy smell others may find it a little overpowering, and be warned your shower will turn purple, but only temporarily.

The shampoo lathered well and coated strands easily, it did feel slightly on the stripping side though. Once dry our dyed locks were noticeably less brassy, so this shampoo is a really great hair pick-me-up for between salon appointments. It did not help with frizz however so we’d recommended using this shampoo just for its colour-enhancing benefits, which we loved especially given the price.

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OGX argan oil of Morocco sulphate free shampoo for dry hair

  • Best: For all hair types
  • Size: 385ml
  • Key ingredients: Moroccan Argan oil
  • USP: Strengthens, nourishes and protects all hair types
  • Why we love it
    • Suits multiple hair types
    • Very affordable price

A very recognisable bottle, OGX prides itself on being more gentle on the hair than other high street brands and therefore of course this shampoo is sulphate-free. At such an affordable price, we found this formula to be remarkably nourishing, although it does come out in big blobs so watch out. A little goes a long way and our hair was coated in a bubbly lather within moments.

The shampoo is said to be suitable for all hair types and the addition of argan oil moisturises and strengthens the locks. During testing, we found that our hair kept its shape and definition well despite a sweaty workout and several nights sleeping on it. While using this did not leave our hair feeling the softest, it certainly was not stripping or drying.

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Monday hair care repair shampoo

  • Best: Affordable keratin shampoo 3.5/5
  • Size: 354ml
  • Key ingredients: Keratin, vitamin E, coconut oil and shea butter
  • USP: Deeply nourishes and protects dry and damaged hair
  • Why we love it
    • Packaging looks great and is efficient
    • Good way to get keratin
  • Take note
    • Had to use a good few pumps

How we love a shampoo bottle with a pump, they are just so much more civilised than squeezing the life out of slippery bottles. This shampoo from hair care brand Monday was one of our favourite packaging, especially considering how affordable it is. It also comes with some impressive ingredients given its price too. Keratin (a golden child of hair care ingredients) and vitamin E are used to enhance the fibre in moisture creating a silky concoction for your hair, and shea butter and coconut oil follow to support the formula and make sure the hair looks soft.

When using it on our hair, we had to use a few pumps to get our desired lather. But once it did we got a thick bright white bubble going that felt great on the hair and scalp. Once our locks had dried, we noticed a slight sheen and it was certainly soft. The more you use this product, the better the results will be. But for that price, size and amount of keratin, you can consider us fans.

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Giovanni smooth as silk shampoo

  • Best: Vegan sulphate free shampoo
  • Size: 250ml
  • Key ingredients: Grapefruit, apple, aloe extracts and Vegetable proteins
  • USP: Revitalises unruly hair, whilst controlling frizz and flyaways to reveal sleek, smooth locks with improved manageability.
  • Why we love it
    • Vegan and cruelty free
    • Recyclable
    • Smells amazing
    • Good for frizz and flyaways
  • Take note
    • Slippery bottle
    • Not the best lather we had

This is another great affordable sulphate-free shampoo – it’s packed with hair-happy ingredients that soothe dry and damaged hair, control frizz and add shine. It uses grapefruit, apple, aloe extracts and vegetable proteins to help build stronger hair follicles. Those fruits also give the shampoo a really unique and lovely grapefruit scent. It’s also totally vegan and cruelty-free, infused with natural botanical ingredients, plus the packaging is recyclable too.

After washing our hair, we noticed it did have a nice sheen to it and frizziness and flyaways had reduced. Our one gripe is as nice as the bottles look, the angular shape does make it a particularly slippery bottle to squeeze in the shower.

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Sulphate-free shampoo FAQs

What are sulphates?

Essentially, sulphates are chemicals used as a cleaning agent in products such as shampoo, shaving gel and shower wash. It’s what causes the foam when washing your hair, which, for most people, tells them it’s doing its job of removing dirt. But, for certain types of hair – such as curly hair – using sulphates can be damaging, and it can even cause skin irritation for some.

What does a sulphate-free shampoo actually do?

Sulphate-free shampoo works much like any other regular formula but the ingredient list is where you’ll find the most differences, due to the lack of sulphates. While they might sound harmless, sulphate ingredients can cause the scalp’s natural oils, which help to keep strands healthy, to be stripped away, and they can even cause some skin irritation.

Is sulphate-free shampoo good for hair?

Some people prefer their shampoo to be foamy, in which case sulphate-free shampoo might not be for you. But there are a lot of benefits to be had from staying clear of this chemical, such as reducing frizz and scalp irritation, as well as leaving hair softer and better conditioned, while it can also help curly hair stay intact.

How can I tell if my shampoo is sulphate-free?

The majority of the time, if a shampoo is sulphate-free, it will say so on the packaging. But, if you want to be extra sure, the best thing to do is double-check the label for the two most common sulphates found in shampoos: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Should I use sulphate-free shampoo on hair extensions?

This is largely dependent on whether your extensions are made from synthetic hair or natural hair. If it's synthetic hair, you should use a clarifying shampoo that will help remove the build-up of products, grime and smells. However, if they’re made from human hair, a sulphate-free shampoo is best, as it will be gentler on strands.

The verdict: Sulphate-free shampoos

The defining, frizz-fighting and softening benefits of Umberto Giannini’s curl jelly wash shampoo mean it’s a great pick for anyone with a slight texture or curl to their man. The Olaplex no.4 bond maintenance shampoo gave us soft, shiny, defined curls and lots of compliments. Close behind is Living Proof’s frizz shampoo, which did exactly as it said on the tin, or rather bottle, defeating any frizz in sight and leaving us with a gorgeous smell we’ll keep coming back for. We were also blown away by the capabilities and natural ingredients of Sukin’s natural balance shampoo, especially as the size is so generous for less than £6.

Want more treats for your tresses? Check out our round-up of the best shampoos for grey hair

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