Natural Shampoos that Work Just as Well as Traditional Formulas

If you haven’t yet tried a natural shampoo, we don’t blame you. While there’s no regulated or industry-agreed definition of what constitutes a natural shampoo, they’re typically thought to be free of sulfates (the detergents traditionally used that can be very stripping to hair). Sulfates, however, are also what make shampoos foam up—which is why natural shampoos often get a bad rap for not being enjoyable to use or effectively cleansing.

But here’s the thing—natural shampoos have come a looong way. The latest iterations are free of sulfates (and many other questionable chemicals and ingredients) but still deliver just as well as their traditional counterparts, both in terms of in-shower experience and the after-effects on your hair. Don’t believe us? Take any of our top picks for a test wash and see for yourself.

Read on for the best natural shampoos.

  • Our Picks
  • Final Verdict
  • What to Look For
  • Why Trust ishonest

Best Overall: Reverie Shampoo

For all hair types

Naturally-derived scent

Contains amino acids


This universal failsafe pick is effective on all hair types and textures, from straight and fine to coarse and curly. That’s no easy feat for any shampoo, much less one that’s this natural, free of sulfates, parabens, and a litany of other chemicals. Instead, it relies on botanical ingredients (that are sustainably sourced, no less), like amino acids from almonds and a mix of essential oils that give it its lovely scent profile.

Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Neroli, pink grapefruit, jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla | Size: 8 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Budget: Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo

For all hair types

Good value

Balancing formula

Scent is powerful

This brand is known for offering affordable natural products, and this shampoo is no exception. It’s free of sulfates, formaldehyde, dyes, and parabens, among other things. Yes, it is clarifying and great to reach for when you’re feeling like you have excess product build-up on your hair and scalp, but it doesn't strip your hair of moisture. Credit the addition of argan oil, your hair’s BFF when it comes to hydration. Bonus points for the refreshing and invigorating lemongrass scent.

Hair Type: All, oily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Lemongrass | Size: 8 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Drugstore: Native Almond & Shea Butter Strengthening Shampoo

For all hair types

Naturally-derived scent


Reviewers say it can leave a residue

Believe it, you can find a great natural shampoo at the drugstore, and this one is proof positive. From the brand that makes one of the best natural deodorants out there, this pick not only contains only 10 clean ingredients, it actually clearly details them and explains what each one is on the ingredient label. We like this strengthening pick, though there are also volumizing and moisturizing variants (each with its own great scent).

Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Almond & shea butter | Size: 16.5 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Natural Hair: Adiva Naturals Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Herbal Rinse

Good for both scalp and hair

Clarifies scalp

Herbal formula

Can’t be used as a traditional shampoo

Key Ingredients

Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice formed by when yeast mixes with the sugar of the juice. It contains acetic acid, which has antibacterial and keratolytic properties, and it also contains malic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant.

The ingredient list on this shampoo alternative is super minimal and clean. Apple cider vinegar helps to deliver a clean scalp by restoring pH levels, which in turn reduces both grease and itching. It's a good shampoo alternative, but it’s awesome to use it as a clarifying treatment in between wash days, especially on curls or natural hair.

Hair Type: Natural, curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Mint | Size: 16 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Fine Hair: 100% Pure Kelp & Mint Volumizing Shampoo

Doesn’t leave any residue

Contains certified organic ingredients

Gentle formula


We totally get being wary of natural shampoos if you happen to have fine hair. After all, even the tiniest trace of any leftover residue can be a recipe for hair that falls flat and looks greasy. Lucky for you, this product not only rinses hair clean (taking with it all the stuff that can weigh things down), but it also works wonders to boost limp hair with, yep, totally natural ingredients. More specifically, the product's namesake kelp and mint extracts invigorate and boost your roots.

Hair Type: Fine, thin | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Mint | Size: 13 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Curly Hair: Alaffia Curl Enhancing Shampoo


Minimal ingredient list

Hydrates curls

May contribute to buildup

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—curly hair is structurally and compositionally different from straight hair and therefore needs different types of products. Using the right shampoo for your curls is paramount—it's the foundation to ensure you end up with the exact style and curl pattern you want post-washing. This one is a great choice, without any silicones, parabens, mineral oil, sulfates, or artificial color. Instead, it touts raw shea butter and botanical extracts to cleanse and hydrate your curls.

Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Essential oil derived | Size: 12 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Oily Hair: Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scrub Shampoo

Foams nicely

Fresh scent

Multi-tasking formula


Consider this shampoo-scalp scrub hybrid an absolute must if you have oily hair (and/or an oily scalp, for that matter). It’s essentially a whipped shampoo that has tiny bits of exfoliating Himalayan sea salt mixed in for exfoliating purposes... it sounds a little strange, but trust us, it works. It’s not in the least bit harsh or scratchy—the salt quickly dissolves—and the result is so purifying that you could easily call it a clarifying shampoo, great to reach for whenever you really want your hair to feel extra clean and fresh.

Hair Type: Oily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Rosemary, geranium, orange, peppermint | Size: 6.7 ounces or 0.8 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Hair: Rahua Hydration Shampoo


Combats damage

Sophisticated scent


A staple shampoo for team ishonest (and previous Eco Beauty Award Winner), this is a great pick for all hair types, though it’s especially good if you have dry hair. Coconut and shea butter impart plenty of moisture, but despite the richer formula, this still cleanses and rinses extremely well. There are protein- bonding sugars in the mix, too, a major plus for combating any damage. And we’d be remiss not to mention the signature scent, a heady palo santo fragrance that we love.

Hair Type: All, except oily | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Palo santo | Size: 9.3 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Color-Treated Hair: Innersense Color Awakening Hairbath

Available in three sizes

Citrusy, essential oil-derived scent

Strengthening formula


Sulfates are one of the biggest culprits for color-fading, so generally speaking, going with a natural shampoo is a great move if you dye your hair. Not to mention that natural shampoos are gentler and less damaging on your hair, and the healthier your hair is, the better your color will look. But this one is especially great, given that it not only won’t strip your shade but is also full of ingredients such as coconut and pumpkin seed oils to both protect and enhance your color at the same time. Plus, it works on all textures, too.

Hair Type: All, colored | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Citrusy | Size: 2, 10, or 32 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Thinning Hair: Avalon Organics B-Complex Biotin Thickening Shampoo


Certified organic and EWG verified

Gentle, soothing formula

Doesn't lather well

This is a great option for anyone dealing with thinning hair (as well as another top-notch, affordable drugstore pick). Credit the addition of proven ingredients such as biotin, saw palmetto, vitamin E, and protein to boost hair's body, leaving it thicker and fuller. As far as the natural formula goes, it’s so natural that it’s both certified-organic and verified by the Environmental Working Group.

Hair Type: All, thinning | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Citrusy, herbaceous | Size: 32 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Shine: WOW Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo


Learn more

Helps promote healthy hair growth

Clarifies scalp

Can be drying

This fan-favorite relies on 100% raw and natural Himalayan apple cider vinegar, which among other things, acts as a reset for hair and scalp. It removes build- up and color-dulling minerals from hard water, so your hair is left looking shinier than ever. As a bonus, it also contains saw palmetto, a plant-based extract that can do great things for your scalp when it comes to promoting healthier hair growth.

Hair Type: Oily, thinning | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Essential oil derived | Size: 16.9 ounces | ishonest Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

For all hair types

Environmentally sustainable

Fun to use


Sure, this could be considered a “dry” shampoo... but not a dry shampoo in the traditional sense. You simply mix a small amount of the plant-based powder with water until it turns into a luscious lather, similar to that of a traditional shampoo. It contains softening aloe and marshmallow extract and has a delightful floral scent. Plus, one bottle lasts as long as four shampoo bottles and is made from totally recyclable packaging, a major environmental boon.

Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Rose geranium | Size: 2 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What Our Editors Say

Best Shampoo Concentrate: Everist Waterless Shampoo Concentrate

For all hair types

Environmentally sustainable

Great for travel


Another great pick that also takes into consideration the environmental factor, this waterless formula is three times as concentrated as regular shampoo; the small, travel-friendly bottle lasts as long as a regular bottle. How to use it: Take anywhere from a 0.5-inch to 1.5-inch strip of the product (based on your hair length) and combine with water to transform it into regular shampoo. It works great for all hair types and textures, too, an attribute confirmed by many happy reviewers.

Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Bergamot, rosemary, sage | Size: 3.4 ounces | ishonest Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

When it comes to team ishonest natural shampoo favorites, we can’t go past Reverie Shampoo (view at Sephora) for its ability to cleanse all hair types effectively. It’s nourishing but light and smells beautiful—clean and fresh but not too fragrant. For dry, brittle, or damaged hair, we also can’t go past Rahua Hydration Shampoo (view at Amazon). The formulation is clean, sustainably sourced, and it’s super hydrating thanks to coconut oil, shea butter, and the brand’s signature rahua oil. And yes, you can find a great natural shampoo at the drugstore; the Native Almond & Shea Butter Strengthening Shampoo (view at Target) is proof positive.

What To Look for When Buying a Natural Shampoo

Hair Type

Taking your hair type into consideration is always important when buying shampoo, especially if you’re looking at a natural formulation. Dry, damaged, or coarse hair types can benefit from nourishing ingredients like shea butter or coconut oil, whereas fine and oily hair might like to look out for clarifying additions such as witch hazel. But keep in mind, it’s not one size fits all!


For Reverie founder and hairdresser Garrett Markenson, his clean hair care line was about “combining skincare methodology with haircare to achieve incredible results.” He believes that our hair care should repair problems, not mask them, so incorporating effective, natural, nourishing botanical was a bit of a no-brainer. The way Reverie approaches this is by way of a “never list” of ingredients. There are over 1,500 inclusions, but some of the most notable ones are silicones, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan, micro-beads, PEGs, artificial fragrance, DEA, TEA, petroleum, mineral oil, and synthetic dyes.


If you’re transitioning to a natural shampoo for the first time, it’s important to be open to a slightly different hair washing experience. For example, silicones can be responsible for that silky hair feeling, and sulfates can give you that satisfying, foamy lather. Many natural options will be formulated without those, but with time you (and your hair) will adjust. However, if you finish a shampoo and you’re still not satisfied, we suggest trying something new.

These formulas contain fewer potentially questionable chemicals, but also, because they’re sulfate-free, tend to be gentler on hair. And that’s a major win for those with dry, damaged, and/or colored treated hair especially.

Yep, all hair types can use natural shampoos—especially because there are many different formulas geared to all different types, textures, and hair needs. The key is just to make sure you choose a formula that’s right for your hair since not all natural shampoos are necessarily considered equal.

Why Trust ishonest

ishonest contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She's tested countless shampoos—both traditional and natural—over the years, so she is well versed in the process.

Read more on: shampoo