Oily Hair? These Sulfate-Free Shampoos Offer A Deep Clean Without Sapping Hydration (2023)


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by Jenny White


Originally Published:

To get your hair clean without the drawbacks of sulfates, you'll want one of the best sulfate-free shampoos for oily hair. These formulas are free of heavy moisturizers and silicones, and some include clarifying or exfoliating ingredients to deep clean your scalp. They come in a range of styles — from volumizing to curly hair shampoos — so you can still get one that complements your hair type.

When it comes to shampoos for oily hair, you’ll want to steer clear of certain ingredients in your shampoo besides sulfates — namely, heavy moisturizers that can weigh your hair down and make it look greasier, like argan oil, shea butter, and honey. You’ll also want to avoid certain silicones. Silicones coat your strands to lock in shine and prevent unwanted frizz (sounds good, right?), but some of them have a dark side. They can add weight to hair, lead to buildup over time, and prevent your hair from drinking up any hydration at all (and some hydration is still necessary). The result? Hair that’s oily at the roots and dry and brittle through the mid-lengths and ends. I’ve combed through ingredients to ensure these formulations are free of the less friendly silicones like dimethicone, cetyl dimethicone, and amodimethicone, among others.

So what ingredients do you want? It depends, but in general, exfoliating agents (as long as they’re not too harsh) and charcoal (yes, charcoal) can help clear away buildup and soak up oil. Beyond that, you’ll simply want to look for formulas that do favors for your hair type, whether you have curly, fine, or color-treated hair.

Whatever your reason for using a sulfate-free shampoo, these eight top-rated options are strong enough to clean even the oiliest of strands.


The Overall Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Oily Hair

(Video) Investigating Sulfate Free vs Sulfate Shampoos to Remove Silicones

Coming in at a mid-range price point (but in an extra-large bottle), this sulfate-free shampoo deeply cleanses oily hair, but is gentle enough for daily use. The plant-based formula uses coconut oil and bamboo charcoal to clean your scalp and remove oils, impurities, and buildup. It’s cruelty-free, color-safe, and scented with ethically sourced bergamot (which, according to reviewers, “smells amazing”). Plus, it’s made without parabens or silicones, the latter of which can weigh your hair down.

Glowing review: “I have very oily hair that needs daily washing. I have so far been able to skip a day. The scent is nice, the lather is rich and foamy, easy to rinse. It hasn't dried out my hair either, like so many other oily hair shampoos do.”


The Best Shampoo For Fine Oily Hair

For giving fine hair a volumizing boost, fans love this drugstore sulfate-free shampoo from L'Oréal. Lotus flower extract is the key ingredient that makes this sulfate-free shampoo stand out — it gently cleanses, boosts body, and infuses strands with shine. Safe to use on color-treated hair, it’s paraben- and silicone-free.

Glowing review: “So much volume. I have flat, fine, oily hair. Which basically means I have never gotten close to bouncy, flowy hair until now. This shampoo gives me like 3-4x the volume I normally have. Love it.”

(Video) Are sulfates bad? Is SLS bad?|Dr Dray


The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Curly Hair

Don’t be fooled — just because this sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free shampoo from Garnier Fructis is a budget-friendly option doesn’t mean you won't get amazing results. Designed specifically for those with curly hair, this shampoo moisturizes and prevents frizz (even in the face of humidity) with macadamia, jojoba, and coconut oils as well as glycerin and citrus proteins. And don’t be put off by those hydrating ingredients — they’re lightweight enough to not weigh even greasy hair down.

Glowing review: “My curls are back and the frizzies are almost all gone. After it dried, I curled my hair. That was about 12 hours ago and they are still bouncing and behaving. I never dreamed that I would ever be so happy over shampoo. My hair feels so soft and it looks so clean.”


The Best Shampoo For Oily Color-Treated Hair

Cleansing oily, color-treated hair can pose a challenge, but Redken’s Color Extend Magnetics shampoo is up to the task. Sulfate-free, the lightly conditioning formula uses a protein complex and amino acids to strengthen damaged hair, and it’ll keep your strands looking vibrant long after your salon visit. The one drawback? It does contain silicones, so it may weigh hair down a bit. If that’s a concern for you, you’re better off with a more straightforward formula that’s still color-safe.

Glowing review: “It actually lathers, makes my hair feel soft and clean, not oily. The others I have tried, did not lather well. I would have to use twice as much shampoo just to feel like my hair was getting clean and it still would look greasy the next day. I have red and blonde highlighted hair and the red is not fading with this shampoo. Great product!”


The Best Natural Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Oily Hair

With almost 12,000 total ratings on Amazon, and a 4.3-star rating overall, this sulfate-free shampoo from Maple Holistics is packed with natural ingredients like lemon and rosemary essential oils, as well as jojoba oil, which is a lightweight moisturizer. This shampoo will gently but effectively cleanse your hair and leave it smelling fresh, but it’ll still add some hydration to your strands. It's also formulated without silicones and is paraben- and cruelty-free.

Glowing review: “This shampoo for oily hair was effective at removing oil and grease easily. It works really well so you don't even have to leave it in for a few minutes before rinsing. Its effects seemed to last longer than other shampoos because by late in the day, my hair was still oil free. I'll also mention that it has various oils such as jojoba, so that helps the ends of your hair stay really soft.”

(Video) 10 Best Sulfate-free Shampoos 2018


The Best Charcoal Exfoliating Shampoo

Although it’s a pricey option, the Briogeo Scalp Revival shampoo is perfect if you’re dealing with excess oil and a dry, itchy scalp. Along with lightweight coconut oil to cleanse, it uses vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators to rid your scalp of buildup, and charcoal to absorb oil and impurities. Plus, peppermint, spearmint, and tea tree oils soothe scalp irritation, reduce flakes, and leave you feeling refreshed and cool. Free of silicones, sulfates, and parabens, it’s 95% naturally derived and vegan and cruelty-free.

Glowing review: “I have a very oily scalp, but sometimes my hair tends to dry out on the ends. I usually use this treatment once a week. I massage it into my scalp and let it sit for a few moments and then wash out. I will follow it up with a clarifying shampoo. It smells so good and I can definitely tell a difference in my scalp and the number of days I can go without washing.”

(Video) I'm obsessed with this DIY rice shampoo bar 😍


The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar — & The Most Eco-Friendly

Designed for oily, normal, and fine hair, this shampoo bar is an eco-friendly pick that does away with plastic packaging, leaving behind a 90% smaller carbon footprint that liquid shampoos and bottles. Even better, one bar is equivalent to two to three bottles of liquid shampoo. The silicone-free formula makes use of cleansing agents enriched by antioxidant-packed green tea, natural plant proteins, and juniper berry oil. To use, simply massage into damp hair in circles, then work into a lather and rinse.

Glowing review: “I have normal/oily hair and I have only been washing it once a week. I found this bar actually you may have made my hair less oily during the week. I will definitely be buying another one when this bar runs out.”


The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For An Itchy Scalp

Rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar is the beauty insider secret to clarifying and balancing excessively oily, itchy scalps (and making your hair look next-level shiny) — but this Aveeno shampoo is a much more appealing option than dumping straight-up ACV onto your scalp. In addition to vinegar, this contains colloidal oatmeal to soothe itch and irritation (including itch and irritation associated with conditions like dandruff and scalp psoriasis), while betaine softens and conditions hair without weighing it down. And, no, it doesn’t smell like salad dressing; reviewers rave about the fresh, slightly minty scent.

Glowing review: “WOW, am I impressed! From my first use, the maddening itch and [...] flakes have all but disappeared! I don't use the word "amazing" unless I'm really, truly amazed - this shampoo is amazing. To top it off, I like the fragrance and my hair is super soft without even using conditioner. I can't remember the last time I was so pleased with a product.”

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Why is my hair greasy after using sulfate-free shampoo? ›

It feels oily at the roots, like you didn't just wash it this morning. Don't worry - this is absolutely normal and very common! Your hair is going through an adjustment period as it adapts to your new, sulfate-free regimen. If you're like most Americans, you've been using sulfate-based products for years.

Which sulphate free shampoo is best for oily scalp? ›

Top 8 Best Sulfate Free Shampoo For Oily Hair In 2022
  1. Best For Oily Scalp:Maple Holistics Degrease Moisture Control Shampoo. ...
  2. Best For All Hair Types:Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo. ...
  3. Best Anti-Dandruff:Lemon Sage Oily Hair Shampoo. ...
  4. Best Vegan:Tree To Tub Soapberry For Hair. ...
  5. Best pH-Balanced:TBH Kids Shampoo For Oily Hair.
14 Oct 2022

Why is my hair greasy no matter what shampoo I use? ›

Greasy hair after washing may be due to a person's hair care routine, an overproduction of sebum, environmental factors, or underlying health conditions. People may be able to stop hair from becoming greasy as quickly by using a gentle clarifying shampoo and lightweight, non-greasy hair products.

What are the problems with sulfate-free shampoo? ›

However, some users of sulfate-free shampoo have noticed the following problems: Heavily tangled hair. Dry, itchy scalp. Oilier, sticky hair.

What are the cons of sulfate-free shampoo? ›

However, suds are not necessary to clean hair. Some people report experiencing greasy hair after using sulfate-free shampoos. The cleansing agents and ingredients in sulfate-free shampoos are mild, like decyl glucoside or coco glucoside, and so they don't always clean hair thoroughly to remove buildup.


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