Tried and Tested by our team: The best shampoo for curly hair

best shampoo for curly hair

by Becky Fuller |
Updated on

How to keep your curls soft, shiny and hydrated

From waves to coils, if you have curly hair, you’ll know it takes real effort to keep your curls soft, shiny, and manageable. All hair types need different things to look their best, but it seems as though curly hair demands even more upkeep.

My own hair is wavy, and I have a daughter with very wavy hair too. But it’s my son (who is pictured below) who has a real shock of wild curls. His hair is his pride and joy, but it does tend to go dry. Using a hairbrush takes the tightness out of the curls too, so we avoid that, and he keeps it long in order to keep the coils (we’re both fearful they won’t return if he cuts them off!).

Finding the best shampoo for curly hair can be a difficult task, because there’s so many on offer, and what suits you will depend on what type of curl you have. Do you have very tight coils, or looser waves? Are you prone to frizz, or dry ends? Do you need a shampoo for dry and damaged hair? A lot of us (or our children) here at Yours have trawled the market in search of the best shampoo for curly hair, and we’re happy to recommend our favourites.

Best shampoo for curly hair

Best shampoo for curly hair

Cantu Avocado Hydrating Shampoo

Best shampoo for wavy hair

Monday haircare smooth shampoo

Best shampoo for taming frizz

Vita Coco Nourishing Shampoo

Best shampoo for the curly girl method

Shea moisture coconut and hibiscus curl/shine shampoo

How to care for curly hair

When it comes to curly hair there are many different ways to care for it. Some people swear by washing and conditioning every day, others prefer to follow the curly girl method, which involves only washing two to three times a week. We spoke to hair stylist Sam Ashcroft from Josh Wood Atelier, for more information.

Does curly hair need a special shampoo?

Curly hair doesn't need a special 'curly' shampoo but will always need a moisture based shampoo and conditioner because curly hair is naturally dryer,” Sam says. This is because it's harder for the natural oils from our scalp to travel down to the ends of curly hair. “I'd recommend Josh Wood Colour Miracle Shampoo and Conditioner, as well as the Josh Wood Colour Miracle Mask as they are deep conditioning,” says Sam.

Throughout our testing, moisturisation came up time and again. Like my son, our other curly haired testers are all prone to dryness if they don’t use the right products. In this article, we’re focusing on just shampoo, but don’t forget to condition your hair, either with a regular conditioner, a leave-in one, or a deep cleansing treatment. Protecting hair when styling is also very important.

What is the best way to wash and dry curly or wavy hair?

“Just make sure you thoroughly shampoo and then condition, just like other hair types,” Sam says. “I would always comb the hair through when conditioner is on. Just make sure you use moisture based shampoo and conditioner.”

Read on for our pick of the best shampoo for curly hair, as tested by the Yours team.

Best shampoo for curly hair

Yours

Our review (senior writer Becky Fuller's son): My son has had an insane amount of curls since he was about 2. He's 14 now, and his hair is still long and very thick. Because of the amount of sport he plays, and being a teenage boy, he has to wash his hair quite often. I noticed his usual shampoo was drying out the ends of his hair quite a bit, so gave Cantu a try.

He uses it in conjunction with the Cantu conditioner, and there are other products in the range too, such as curl activator cream and leave in conditioner. The shampoo smells lovely, and it doesn't leave a build-up of residue.

The main thing we've noticed, though, is how bouncy his curls are again. So many people have commented and asked what I've done differently to get it so curly again, but the answer is just that I changed his shampoo (and conditioner). It does a really good job of moisturising his hair as well - the dry crispy ends are a thing of the past.

The one thing I would say is he never brushes his hair - just uses an afro comb once in the morning to gently detangle at the back. So I'd recommend leaving your hair to dry naturally and letting those curls bounce!

Pros

  • Gently cleanses and softens hair
  • Replaces lost moisture
  • Really helps define curls

Cons

  • Better suited to tighter curls than soft waves

Best shampoo for wavy hair

Yours

Our review (senior writer Becky Fuller's daughter): My daughter has very long, thick, wavy hair. If she uses normal shampoo, it goes very frizzy and she looks like Crystal Tips (you'll get that reference if you're of a certain age!).

Hydration is key when it comes to choosing a shampoo for her. I had my doubts about this one because of its price - I wasn't sure that a £5 bottle of shampoo would be that great, but it's really worked well at smoothing her frizz and adding shine.

It leaves her hair with lovely soft waves, but it doesn't work as well on the tight curls my son has (see my Cantu review for the one he uses). She uses this in conjunction with the Monday Smooth conditioner, which helps moisturise dry ends. She also uses a heat protection spray when styling her hair.

One minor point is that the pump action bottle is tricky when your hands are wet in the shower! It's also frustrating as the pump stops working when there's still product in the bottom of the bottle, so make sure to unscrew it and tip that last bit out!

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Works well on frizz

Cons

  • Better suited to waves rather than tight curls

Best shampoo for taming frizz

Vita Coco Shampoo Yours

Our review (senior writer Becky Fuller's daughter): Although the Vita Coco shampoo isn't specifically formulated for curls, it does do an excellent job of combating frizz, which is why we like it so much.

It moisturises hair nicely without causing build-up, and also leaves a soft shine to hair. Be careful not to use too much though, as my daughter did find it made her hair look greasy otherwise.

However, the right amount of shampoo does the job perfectly. She suffers with frizz and flyaways around her hairline, and the Vita Coco tames these brilliantly. She felt (and I agreed) it softened her waves a little so they weren't as noticeable, but the trade-off was that she could wear her hair in a ponytail without a halo of frizz. So we would recommend using this if you know you're going to be wearing your hair up.

Pros

  • Does a great job of taming frizz and flyaways
  • Delivers a nice shine

Cons

  • Not specially formulated for curls

Best shampoo for the curly girl method

Shea moisture coconut and hibiscus shampoo Amazon

Rrp: $11.15

Price: $8.79
Alternative retailers
Target$3.49View offer
Walmart$10.97View offer
Ulta$12.49View offer

Our review (SEO strategist Ella Croft): This shampoo was one of the first products I tried when I first started trying the curly girl method and I still continue to use it. From the first use it made such a difference to my hair.
It is cleansing but also gentle, it doesn't give my hair that awful squeaky, stripped away feeling, and it leaves my curls feeling moisturised, defined and frizzy free! I love to use this as my regular shampoo, but once every two weeks or so I do like to use a more clarifying shampoo that does a bit more of a deep clean.

Pros

  • Great for regular use
  • Leaves curls moisturised

Cons

  • May need to give hair a deeper clean every so often

Best shampoo for coloured curly hair

Josh Wood colour miracle shampoo Amazon

Our review (senior writer Becky Fuller): My own hair is wavy, like my daughter's, but not as long. It is also coloured, and I'm very keen on protecting that as I spend a lot of money on it! I've not used the Josh Wood Colour Miracle shampoo for very long, but it has definitely given my hair a noticeable shine. The blonde doesn't look brassy either, which can often happen with hydrating shampoos.

It smells lovely and leaves hair really soft. My waves are more wavy! I'm also using the conditioner, and a little goes a long way. Overall, I'm really happy with both products and feel they're worth the money.

Pros

  • Revives colour as well as hydrating dry hair
  • Very pleasant, lasting fragrance

Cons

  • More expensive than others we've tested

Best shampoo bar for curly hair

Ethique shampoo barEthique
Price: £12.00

ethique.co.uk

Our review (SEO strategist Ella Croft): This is my favourite shampoo bar out of all the shampoo bars I've tried, after use my hair feels clean and not weighed down, leaving my curls defined and smooth.

I took this bar on a 5 month trip and it was still going by the end! You really don't need much product to get a really good lather. The only downside is when it gets very small it breaks apart easily which makes it hard to use - but this is the same for all shampoo bars!

Pros

  • Defines and smoothes curls
  • Lasts a long time

Cons

  • Breaks apart when it gets very small - but this is true of all shampoo bars

Best moisturising shampoo

Faith in Nature shampooAmazon

Rrp: $13.39

Price: $12.72
Alternative retailers
Walmart$8.40View offer

Our review (Commercial content writer, Piper Huxley): I have type 2C hair, which can get a little dry and screams out for moisture. I love Faith in Nature's Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner - as it is full of organic, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.

This shampoo helps my hair feel truly nourished and my curls to activate. My hair has never looked better. It smells great - and hydrates (as well as cleanses) my natural curls, and tames the pesky frizzy bits, too. The bottles are 100% recyclable, but, I like to head to my local refill store for refillable shampoo if I'm running low to reduce plastic waste. Paired with the Leave-In Moisture Milk and Curl Maker Jelly from Camille Rose, my hair routine is a dream.

Pros

  • Helps activate curls
  • organic, vegan, cruelty-free ingredients

Cons

  • Slightly thinner than other shampoos - doesn't affect quality but be aware when pouring

Best shampoo for promoting hair growth

Aussie shampoo Miracle Moist Yours

Our review (staff writer Akhila Thomas): I have been using the Aussie Miracle Moist Shampoo for almost 4 months now and as someone with long curls, I have seen visible improvements. The rate of my hair growth has always been slow and with curls, it takes even longer for the difference to show.
Since using this shampoo paired with the conditioner from same brand as well, I can see that my hair has grown by a couple of inches. The texture of my hair is usually dry and I feel the moisturising effect of the shampoo could be better. But it does lather quite well and does the job of cleaning your scalp quite well. It also comes with a pleasant smell and the fragrance stays until the next day at times

Pros

  • Promotes hair growth
  • Lasting fragrance

Cons

  • Moisturising effect could be better

FAQ’s

How do I bring out my natural curls?

Sam says: “The best way to define and lift curls is with a moisture based shampoo, conditioner and leave in mask. Also get a good curl defining gel or mousse, whichever works for you.”

What’s the best way to combat frizz?

Sam shares the following top tips: “The best way to combat frizz is to put product into your hair when it is dripping wet. I always recommend my clients to leave their hair products in the bathroom so the minute you come out the shower and washed your hair, you put the products in straight away.

The hair is instantly drying and if you are prone to frizz, it can frizz up very quickly. Putting the products in straight away will limit this.”

What are the different hair types and how do I find out which one I am?

“Rather than focus on types, I recommend clients focus on texture,” Sam tells us. “This is because there are many different types of curls, and one person can have more than one curl type on their hair. For texture, if you have afro hair, then your curls aren't as defined naturally, so you would need more tailored products for that hair type. If you have other curl types, I'd opt for light weight products as your hair doesn't need as much hydration.”

Sam Ashcroft is a hairstylist at Josh Wood Atelier

Becky Fuller is a senior digital writer for Yours.co.uk. She is also a fully qualified personal trainer and strength coach, specialising in fitness and wellbeing for over 50s. Prior to joining Yours, Becky was a fitness writer for Saga, and a freelance entertainment and theatre journalist. Becky is passionate about helping people to move well and discover the many benefits of strength training.

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