9 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Natural Hair (Sulfate-free)

Written by Kassidy Ward
Reviewed by Kayla Davis

Updated on

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best clarifying shampoo for natural hair

A high-quality clarifying shampoo designed for natural hair must deep cleanse while preserving the hair’s God-given texture and natural oils.

The shampoo must eliminate buildup and residue, moisturize, and revitalize, ensuring the hair remains healthy and true to its natural state.

These characteristics are particularly important because people with natural hair tend to follow strict hair care routines. Natural hair, which is hair that has not been altered with chemical treatments like relaxers or texturizers, needs to be handled with care and specialized products. Any new product added to such routines, such as a clarifying shampoo, must not disrupt the hair’s natural oils and texture.

We’ve tried and tested a few clarifying shampoos amongst ourselves across 3a to 4c curls, obviously all-unaltered. One of us is currently doing the No Poo method. Based on our own experiences and reviews, we found shampoos with the following qualities work better on natural and unprocessed hair:

  • Sulfate-free
  • Silicone-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Mineral oil-free (No petroleum Jelly)

In short: The shampoo must be Curly Girl Method-approved.

Below, I explain why the shampoos we’ve handpicked work better and how they make natural hair easier to manage and maintain.

Without further ado, here are our top picks:

Mizani Moisture Fusion Shampoo

Mizani Moisture Fusion Shampoo details

Mizani shampoo for afro-textured natural hair cleanses thoroughly and revitalizes without leaving residue.


The Mizani Moisture Fusion shampoo is formulated for curls, afros, and relaxed hair.

What I like about this shampoo is its deep cleansing and hydration balance. Mizani refers to it as the quencher for thirsty strands, and I couldn’t agree more. From the first wash, I could feel the softness and bounce in my curls, leaving no residue behind. I also noticed less frizz after using it 3 times.

Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo details and order online info

Mizani shampoo for afro-textured natural hair is perfectly designed to revitalize and leave no residue.

Mizani is a black-owned hair care brand that makes hair tailored to the unique needs of African-American hair textures. For example, the Moisture Fusion shampoo is formulated with organic ingredients such as cupuacu butter, argan oil, and honey, which are known for their nourishing and revitalizing properties.

Most importantly, it is sulfate-free, making it a gentle cleanser for regular use. Given how effectively it works, using it once a week is reasonable to keep your hair squeaky clean and revitalized.

The only thing you may not like about this product is that the coconut fragrance is overwhelming. Maybe it’s just me. But having said that, the smell is okay per se. It’s just that it lingers.

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo is formulated for Afro hair textures ranging from type 2A through 4C. It offers a unique blend of natural ingredients. In addition to African black soap and Shea butter, it also contains ingredients like tea tree oil and willow bark extract.

African black soap, known for its natural antibacterial properties, makes this shampoo excellent for cleansing the scalp, reducing dandruff, and soothing irritation. This is especially beneficial for those with scalp conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

Shea butter, as a rich moisturizer, helps retain the hair’s natural moisture, which is crucial for Afro-textured hair types that are prone to dryness. It ensures that the scalp and hair are thoroughly cleansed and not stripped of their natural oils.

I would recommend this shampoo for those who have scalp issues or heavy product buildup. However, given its deep cleansing properties, it should be used in moderation, perhaps once every week or two, depending on your hair and scalp needs.

As I Am Curl Clarity Shampoo

The As I Am Curl Clarity shampoo is a sulfate-free and silicone-free cleanser for curls.

The key ingredients in this deep-cleansing shampoo are coconut oil, amla oil, and tangerine extracts, which cleanse and hydrate your hair without leaving a residue.

Combining these 3 ingredients, the Curl Clarity clarifying shampoo helps to keep afro-textured hair clean and optimally hydrated without compromising its virgin texture. It also prevents residue from lingering on.

Aunt Jackie’s Curls and Coils Oh So Clean Shampoo

Aunt Jackie’s Curls and Coils is a hair care company founded by Dwan Vine White.

Her mission was to create products to help black people transition from relaxed hair to their natural God-given hair texture. After going through the struggle to find products for her dense, low porosity, 4c hair during her transition from relaxed hair, Dwan quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market for people with hard-to-manage textures. So, she created Aunt Jackie’s as a small company to make products that can refresh and volumize people’s natural hair, guiding them on their journey.

Aunt Jackie’s Oh So Clean deep moisturizing and softening shampoo is designed to volumize and rejuvenate black hair. It’s also highly recommended for people who have transitioned from relaxed to natural hair.

It combines shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil to quench extremely dry hair textures and transform them into softly hydrated and easy-to-comb-out afros without caking or flaking.

The shampoo has organic earth-sourced ingredients designed to nourish, hydrate, and add vitality to natural curl textures, giving them a refreshed and volumized look.

Alaffia EveryDay Coconut Shampoo

Alaffia hair products are highly effective for African-American hair thanks to their volumizing base ingredients, which include shea butter, coconut oil, and African black soap. Their products do not contain sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, silicone, parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, petrolatum, or synthetic colors. They are the purest hair products around that are also vegan and 100% biodegradable.

Alaffia’s EveryDay Coconut Shampoo removes impurities from your hair and scalp with its invigorating lather. The shampoo leaves your hair refreshed and revitalized. The Alaffia conditioner can be bought separately to give your hair more slip if it tangles a lot, making hair a lot easier to manage and style after washing.

Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo

The Kinky Curly Come Clean shampoo is a sulfate-free product that helps to clean, refresh, and volumize hair while maintaining the integrity of various curl patterns. This shampoo gently scrubs without stripping and drying out the hair.

The Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo contains mandarin fruit, Marigold flower, white willow bark, sea kelp, phytic acid, and citric acid as its main ingredients.

Note: This version is an all-new and improved formula that is excellent for hard water as it removes minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the hair.

Although the shampoo does contain mild sulfates, there are no paraben, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances, making it an effective formula to refresh the hair and increase volume.

Overall, the Kinky Curly Come Clean shampoo is best for naturals who struggle with hard water buildup in their hair. It is the only clarifying shampoo for natural hair we’ve found that has chelating agents, allowing for a refreshed, volumized look post-wash.

Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Carol’s Daughter, a black-owned haircare brand born in Brooklyn in 1993, makes hair products for all curl types. They call their products “The Cupid for Curls” because they volumize and refresh every curl pattern.

Their products are specifically made for 2A to 4C hair types, and they even have a curl guide to help you pick the correct shampoo that will work for your hair texture. If you’re not sure which clarifying shampoo to use on your afro-textured hair, use their curl guide to get recommendations.

Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture and Shine shampoo is beloved for its ability to soften, moisturize, and revive dry, brittle hair while also volumizing the strands and refreshing the scalp.

The ideal hair care routine involves using a moisture shampoo for healthy-looking hair that not only cleanses but also helps to strengthen your tresses.

The shampoo contains the main ingredients of black vanilla, aloe vera, sweet clover, calendula, rose extracts, and shea butter. There are no sulfates, parabens, petrolatum, or mineral oils in its formula, which makes it a product worth considering if you’re practicing a natural hair care routine focused on preserving and strengthening your hair.

Carol’s Daughter Moisture and Shine is an excellent clarifying shampoo for black hair that deep cleanses, moisturizes, and softens the hair with high-grade natural and organic ingredients that won’t compromise the hair texture. It can be seamlessly assimilated into your routine, supporting your natural hair journey.

When we tested the Black Vanilla shampoo, its luxuriously rich texture and consistency made it stand out. The pleasant, indulgent scents of black vanilla and other aromatic ingredients made the washing experience soothing, invigorating, and a pleasure to use every wash day.

Without any sulfates or irritants, this gentle moisturizing hair cleanser is safe for natural and color-treated hair. It is precisely the type of product you want to include in a comprehensive hair care routine to protect and strengthen your hair.

Alikay Naturals Moist Black Soap Shampoo

Alikay Naturals is a unique shampoo made with raw black soap, plantain skins, and tea tree oil to cleanse the hair while maintaining moisture levels.

Plantain skin or plantain peel contains many beneficial compounds such as tannins, saponins, flavonoids, vitamins, zinc, and natural enzymes that exfoliate the scalp to remove dead skin cells. Plantain skin is a highly effective purifying cleanser for the skin and hair.

Due to the lack of sulfates, the Alikay Naturals shampoo doesn’t lather well. It has a very thin and watery consistency, which you may have to get used to. But it does leave the hair squeaky clean and moisturized.

Avlon Affirm Moistur Right

The Avlon Affirm shampoo is a rich-foaming, sulfate-free clarifying shampoo designed for black hair to eliminate dirt and residues without stripping.

The shampoo contains argan oil, royal jelly Pequi, Buriti oil, and keratin as its core ingredients to maintain optimal moisture balance while strengthening the overall hair fiber elasticity.

The Avlon Affirm shampoo can help people with curly hair who struggle with breakage and damage due to previous chemical treatments. It’s an excellent add-on to your existing hair care routine to strengthen your locks.

The only downside is that the shampoo does not strictly pass the Curly Girl Method test due to some mild surfactants present in the formula. So, use it sparingly only to give your curls a thorough detox and strength boost when needed.

Importance of Using Clarifying Shampoo for Afro-Textured Hair

natural and afro hair products needs

Afro-textured hair, known for its unique characteristics, often presents a complex interplay of factors like porosity, density, and curl patterns. These factors significantly influence how the hair absorbs and retains moisture, responds to products, and overall hair health.

Porosity Levels, Buildup, and Moisture

According to the Dominican Hair Alliance, some textures have super low porosity, high shrinkage, and a more dense appearance, like 4c hair. When the hair has lower porosity, its cuticles are tightly packed, making it challenging for moisture and products to penetrate, leading to product buildup on the hair’s surface.

On the other hand, hair with high porosity has gaps or holes in the cuticle, allowing it to absorb moisture quickly and lose it just as fast. This can lead to dryness and frizziness.

High-Density Hair Traps More Dirt and Buildup

Density refers to the number of hair strands on the scalp. Afro-textured hair can be deceptively dense; even fine strands can create an appearance of volume due to their texture. High-density hair can trap more products and sebum near the scalp, leading to buildup.

Tight Curl Patterns are Susceptible to Buildup and Dirt

Afro-textured hair often exhibits a tight curl pattern, which naturally leads to more tangles and knots. The curls and coils can make it difficult for natural oils from the scalp to travel down the hair shaft, often resulting in drier ends. Moreover, the curls and coils trap products and dirt more easily than straight hair.

Because of this delicate structure and susceptibility to buildup, deep cleansing and clarifying are essential to remove product residue and ensure the hair can absorb and retain moisture.

A clarifying shampoo essentially unblocks the moisture passages of the hair while also maintaining optimum hair and scalp hygiene.

Benefits of Deep Cleansing for Hair

benefits of hair clarifying routine and a clean reset

Clarifying shampoo removes product buildup and residues, a common problem for people with afro-textured hair. By removing layers that clog the hair’s cuticle layer, a clarifying shampoo makes the hair more responsive to moisture, therefore preventing dryness. It ensures your hair care products can work effectively.

Clarifying shampoo also helps maintain good scalp hygiene with antibacterial ingredients that neutralize bacterial growth.

Read more: Benefits of Clarifying Shampoo for Hair and Scalp.

Buying Guide

When shopping for a natural hair-clarifying shampoo, look for these qualities:

  • Sulfate-free: Sulfates are harsh chemicals that strip and dry the hair. They’re found in many shampoos and can also be labeled as sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or even simply “SLES.” Look for a shampoo that doesn’t include these ingredients on the label.
  • Moisturizing: Look for ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and essential oils that provide deep moisturizing abilities to make the hair soft.
  • pH-balanced: You may hear this referred to as “pH balanced” or just “pH.” It refers to how acidic or basic the shampoo is—and if you have natural hair, you want something that’s not too alkaline. Remember that most cleansers aren’t going to be extremely basic or acidic; they are somewhere between those two extremes. If possible, try to avoid clarifying shampoos that are high in pH. A lower pH shampoo will promote a more natural shine and lock in moisture in the hair by sealing the cuticles.
  • Color-Safe: It must be good for color-treated hair (if you have colored hair).

Usage Instructions

Here is a step-by-step guide for how to use clarifying shampoo on natural hair:

  1. Wet the hair thoroughly: Before applying the clarifying shampoo, saturate your hair with water. This will help the shampoo distribute evenly throughout the hair.
  2. Use a small amount of shampoo: Start small and work it into a lather. Avoid using too much shampoo, which can dry the hair and cause breakage.
  3. Massage the scalp: Gently massage the shampoo into the scalp, using your fingers to work it through the hair.
  4. Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the hair thoroughly, making sure to remove all of the shampoo.
  5. Deep condition after: After using a clarifying shampoo, it’s essential to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment or a leave-in conditioner to restore moisture to the hair strands. This can help to keep the hair healthy and hydrated.
  6. Follow the usage frequency instructions: Although it’s recommended to use it once or twice a month, read the product’s instructions to make sure you’re not overdoing it.

How Often to Use

Use a clarifying shampoo at least once a month for natural hair. This frequency helps remove buildup without overly stripping the hair of its natural oils.

The exact frequency can vary based on the individual’s hair type, the products they use, and their daily hair routines. Some may find the need to clarify more often, while others might do so less frequently.

Pay attention to how the hair feels and reacts. Following up with a deep conditioner after using a clarifying shampoo to restore moisture is highly recommended. Please do not skip the conditioning part.

Are You Clarifying Your Hair?

Clarifying shampoos may sound harsh, and often, the first thing that comes to mind is sulfates.

But not all clarifying shampoos are designed to strip the hair. Brands create many alternative options that care for people with afro-textured hair and their unique needs.

If you’re not deep cleansing your curls regularly for fear of dryness or damage, you may be compromising them with product buildup overload, which can impact growth in the long term.

Try one of the clarifying shampoos we recommend and see the difference it makes!

It will make your hair easier to manage and style, encouraging better growth and curl definition.

About the Author

Kassidy WardKassidy Ward

Kassidy Ward is our curly girl expert and has been following the Curly Girl Method for over 3 years. She's tried just about every product and technique out there to get her curls to cooperate and is always on the lookout for new products to try.

She's also a sucker for free products, which is why she's relentlessly reaching out to manufacturers with her unique persuasive skills. 9 out of 10 times, she wins!