The best shampoos for curly hair: for types 2A to 4C

Curls, coils and kinks - we've got you covered with the best shampoos to shop.

The best shampoos for curly hair

by Ruby Barry |
Updated on

We here at heat take curls very seriously, and our top picks for the best shampoos for curly hair are here to save the day. If you're reading this, we're guessing you are blessed with curls, coils or kinks, and are looking for the best shampoos and conditioners that enhance your natural hair pattern, not diminish it. Whether you have 2A waves or 4C coils, we've got the best right here for your hair type.

Our favourite celebs, such as Amber Gill and Selena Gomez, are all embracing their curls and wearing them with pride, and we have no choice but to stan. Keep reading to not only find our comprehensive list of the best shampoos for different curls but also our FAQ section where we break down how to find your hair type, as well as your hair porosity.

So what makes a shampoo ideal for curly hair? Well, curls, above all else, need hydration. Look for ingredients such as oils (rosemary, shea coconut and so on), beeswax, manuka honey and more. Hydration gives your curls enough buoyancy to spring and bend with ease, whilst looking silky smooth and not like a frizzy mess. Pair this with a leave-in conditioner, and your curls will thank you for a lifetime.

heat's best shampoos for curly hair, at a glance:

Editor's Choice: Only Curls All Curl Cleanser, £16 on Only Curls

Best shampoo for curly afro hair: HASK CURL CARE Shampoo, £6.99 on Amazon

Best shampoo for thick, curly hair: Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo, £10.99 on LookFantastic

Let's start our guide to curly hair shampoo. With each pick, we mark what the product is best for in terms of hair type, as well as features that stand out and make us go "Umm you're coming home with me." We also look for products that are vegan and cruelty-free, and those that contain no sulphates. We begin with a product tested by our own team, the Only Curls Cleanser...

SHOP: The best shampoos for curly hair

Editor's Choice

Only Curls All Curl Cleanser 300mlOnly Curls

If you want a high-quality shampoo you have to go with Only Curls All Curl Cleanser. After we were bombarded with recommendations for the brand, our resident writer Samantha Price conducted an Only Curls product review, and here were her findings...

Our review by heat writer Samantha Price: "This All Curl Cleanser is made with a kind of hair formula that gently foams and cleanses without stripping your hair of its natural oils. Bringing the hydration back to hair, this shampoo leaves your hair feeling moisturised. It smells gorgeous, with a coconut scent and a blend of hydrating natural ingredients. This shampoo has definitely brought back my bouncy waves without stripping colour or drying out my hair...

......I finally managed to achieve fully defined waves that were free from frizz. Not only has Only Curls given me the confidence to ditch the curlers, but I've also been able to cut back on the heat damage from all of the straightening and drying. The range is free from harsh ingredients like parabens that strip the hair of that much-needed moisture. Hands down, they've been my ultimate hair saviour."

Read the full Only Curls review here

Pros

  • Ideal for all curl types (curls, coils and kinks)
  • Blend of Avocado Oil and Kukui Nut Oil naturally hydrates curls
  • Fresh citrus and coconut fragrance

Cons

  • Works better as part of the Only Curls set
  • Heat team rating
    5.0
  • Only Curls rating
    4.8

Best shampoo for curly afro hair

For afro hair, the formula of a shampoo needs to be thicker to coat the strands, as well as remove build-up effectively at the scalp. The HASK Curl Care has all these elements and more, with coconut oil, argan oil & vitamin E hydrating and protecting your texture from damage and frizz.

Our review by contributing writer Tayo Andoh: "There's nothing worse than shampoos having a stripping effect on hair and leaving it dry. This shampoo did not have that effect which is probably down to the fact that it's sulphate-free. This shampoo left my hair feeling soft and nourished - plus, it lathered up really well."

Tayo also reviews the HASK Curl Care Conditioner, stating: "I was very excited to give this a go the minute I heard that it would provide enough slip to detangle hair. I always dread my wash day as I know it will consist of piling on conditioner and attempting to make my way through all my tangles. This conditioner made this so much easier. I was able to get through all the tangles with ease. It also left my hair super soft and moisturised. This definitely will have a firm place in my wash routine going forward."

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 3A to 4C (coils and kinks)
  • Coconut oil, argan oil & vitamin E protect against damage and frizz
  • Removes build-up without stripping away natural oils
  • Great for those who live in hard water areas

Cons

  • Formula too thick for those with waves or fine hair
  • Heat team rating
    4.7
  • Amazon rating
    4.5

Best for shampoo for thick, curly hair

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo 379mllookfantastic

Having thick and curly hair is a double challenge - how can you get hydration for your curls, without building up product in your roots? The Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo comes in clutch with its ability to cleanse impurities while using its many oils and butter to add sheen and definition.

Our review by heat writer Ruby Barry: "This is by far the best shampoo I've tried for bringing out my natural type 3A hair, and I'm impressed. It smelled lovely and lathered up nicely, even after just one round of application (I usually do a double cleanse for my scalp). My hair is incredibly thick so a shampoo has to extra work hard to get the job done, and for Shea Moisture, it succeeded. I only applied one product afterwards (The Original Sprout Curl Calmer) and just by airdrying, my curls sprung up within twenty minutes and dried perfectly coiled. Stunned."

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 2A to 3C (curls and coils)
  • Coconut oil, shea butter, rosemary oil and aloe vera hydrate
  • Hibiscus flower minimises risk of breakage

Cons

  • Runny formula
  • Heat team rating
    4.7
  • LookFantastic rating
    4.2

Best detangling shampoo for curly hair

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturising Detangling Sulphate-Free Shampoo 335mlamazon

Rrp: $15.95

Price: $12.00
Alternative retailers
Walmart$9.97View offer
Target$9.99View offer
Ulta$10.99View offer

Another issue those with type four hair may face is how to detangle one's coils without it being extremely painful and time-consuming. The Millie Organics Pomegranate & Honey Shampoo is your answer. Its extremely lightweight formula provides superior slip and conditions as well as cleansing, making your hair silky and easy to style or braid. We also love Mielle for its hair growth shampoos and other hair growth products.

Customer review: "My hair is 4c and natural and this is my go-to wash-day product. I LOVE the smell. It doesn't leave my hair feeling like Barbie hair, and it keeps my curls bouncy. It's not heavy so you can wash, condition it, and then layer it with other products. The only thing I'm not crazy about is the pump dispenser it helps make sure you don't use too much, but can be a pain."

Read our full guide to how to detangle curly hair here.

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 4A to 4C (kinks)
  • Detangles hair and conditions for ultimate slip
  • Honey and babassu oil lift dirt and oil whilst preserving moisture

Cons

  • Pump dispenser can be faulty
  • Amazon rating
    4.6

Best luxurious shampoo for curly hair

Kérastase Curl Manifesto Shampoo For Curly to Very Curly and Coily Hair With Manuka Honey and Ceramide 250mlamazon
Price: $42.00
Alternative retailers
Walmart$22.44View offer
FragranceNet.com$30.79View offer
Sephora$42.00View offer

Using Kérastase always makes one feel a bit giddy because it's so darn fancy. With a luxurious creamy texture, the Curl Manifesto Shampoo penetrates deep within the fibres, enabling optimum definition and bounce without weighing hair down. What's more, the beautiful subtle fragrance of frangipani, tuberose and musk will have heads turning.

Customer review: "After I had a perm done by a hairdresser, I was looking for a product that optimally nourishes and tames my curly hair. And this shampoo exceeded my expectations! The scent is simply wonderful and lasts all day. The consistency of the shampoo is pleasant and easy to spread. Even after the first use, my hair felt noticeably softer and smoother. The combination of manuka honey and ceramides seems to work wonders! My curls are now defined and less frizzy. The shampoo gives my head of hair the much-needed moisture without weighing it down. I've also noticed that my hair is less susceptible to frizz and stays in shape longer.

Although the price is slightly higher, any investment in this shampoo is worthwhile. It is definitely worth the money! I highly recommend it to anyone with curly or frizzy hair. Kérastase has won me over as a customer and I will definitely try out more products from this series!"

Pros

  • Ideal for all hair types (curls, coils and kinks)
  • Manuka honey and ceramide nourish, strengthen and soften hair
  • Fragrance of frangipani, tuberose and musk

Cons

  • Smaller bottle
  • Amazon rating
    4.5

Best shampoo for fine, curly hair

Davines Love Curl Shampoo 250mlcult beauty

How do you care for your curls, without greasing up your scalp? Enter the Davines Love Curl Shampoo. For our girlies with fine hair, this lightweight clarifying shampoo leaves your mane soft and light yet volumised, allowing your curls to bounce with ease. Bonus points for its refreshing yet indulgent note of green citrus scent. This is an example of a shampoo for oily greasy hair, when curls need lightweight formulas, not heavy hitters.

Customer review: "My hair’s got very loose curls/waves, quite fine, a bit dry and extremely long. A lot of shampoos designed for my hair type seem to weigh my hair down a lot, but this shampoo is both adequately clarifying and moisturising. It defines my curls nicely without costing them in oil. I’ve knocked a star off because I’m not a huge fan of the smell and it’s extremely strong - I can smell it on my hair days later."

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 2A to 2C (curls)
  • Noto almond extract filled with hair-strengthening proteins and moisturising healthy fats
  • Davines’ signature ‘shape definer’ smooths hair and makes it controllable

Cons

  • Strong fragrance

Best budget shampoo for curly hair

OGX Coconut Curls Shampoo For Wavy and Curly Hair 385mlnotino

Sometimes, ya'll, we just wanna save some cash. With the OGX Coconut Curls Shampoo, you can do just that. At under £5 on Notino (an unheard-of price in this cost-of-living crisis), this shampoo will help enhance natural softness whilst defining curls and taming frizz. OGX also has great purple shampoos that are great for curly gals.

Customer review: "I've never liked my natural hair - I've always been put off by how much of a frizzy mess it is, but this shampoo tamed it wonderfully and made my curls actually look nice and spirally/wavy, rather than frizzy and messy! People have been asking me in disbelief if it's my natural hair and I've been getting oodles of compliments on how nice my curls look. Absolutely amazing! I am a complete convert. I use this product with the matching conditioner and then styling milk afterwards, which I would recommend as a trio."

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 2A to 3A (curls)
  • pH balanced formula
  • Banishes frizz from thick and thin hair

Cons

  • Chemical-heavy ingredients list
  • Boots rating
    3.5

Best anti-frizz shampoo for curly, coloured hair

Coco and Eve Super Hydrating Shampoo 250mlcoco & eve

Those of us curly girls who have messed around with bleaching and colouring in the past know the heartbreak of your curls never being as bouncy as they were before. Never fear - the Coco and Eve Super Hydrating Shampoo is a perfect shampoo for coloured hair that has rave reviews on its ability to revitalise lost curls and bring them back to life.

Customer review: "Love it!! My curls aren’t nearly as frizzy, and I can tell the spiral shape is more defined after using this. I’ve only had it 2 weeks but I’m excited to see how my hair progresses after using it for a longer period of time!"

Pros

  • Ideal for all hair types (curls, coils and kinks)
  • ResistHyalTM Hyaluronic Acid technology hydrates 26 times more
  • No silicones or sulphates
  • Infused with fruit enzymes for a super clean wash 

Cons

  • Coco and Eve rating
    4.8

Best shampoo for curly hair with itchy scalps

Matrix Total Results A Curl Can Dream Manuka Honey Infused Shampoo for Curls and Coils 300mllookfantastic

Used by Love Island winner and all-around icon Amber Gill, the Matrix Total Results A Curl Can Dream Manuka Honey Infused Shampoo is a perfect dandruff shampoo for those who have scalp build-up and can't stop itching. Formulated with softening manuka honey extract, the nourishing treatment reveals glossy hair that retains your curl pattern.

Customer review: "Most of the shampoos leave my scalp either dry and flaky, or oily. This shampoo cleanses hair after even a week without shampooing, without leaving my scalp flaky. The smell is so warm and comforting."

Pros

  • Ideal for hair types 3A to 4C (coils and kinks)
  • Used by celebs such as Amber Gill
  • Cleanses scalp - gets rid of itching and dandruff
  • Manuka Honey preserves curl pattern

Cons

  • Not SLS free
  • Too heavy for fine hair/type two waves
  • LookFantastic rating
    4.7

How to find out your hair type/curl pattern

There are four main hair types: type 1: straight, type 2: wavy, type 3: curly, type 4: coily/kinks. Each of these hair types is then broken down into letters to further differentiate them. Curly hair can be type 3a: soft curls, 3b: curly or 3c: tight curls. From Healthline's in-depth analysis of each hair type, we can see the difference in curl pattern below. Where do you sit on the table?

Credit: Healthline

The types of curly hair you can have...

Type 1 - Straight hair

Curl and waveless. Easy to manage but tends to be the oiliest, because the natural oils from your scalp can easily glide down the hair shaft causing your hair to appear greasy.

Type 2 - Wavy hair

From beach waves to defined waves. Forms an ‘S’ shape in the hair and the stronger that is, the curlier the hair. It can sometimes be mistaken as frizzy hair as it can easily lose shape if not using the right products.

Our guide to caring for 2B hair is here.

Type 3 - Curly hair

The most common curly hair type. The curls are more defined and springier. Known to be dryer as the natural oils find it harder to travel down the shape of the hair shaft. This type needs proper curly hair products and shampoos for dry hair.

Our guide to caring for 3B hair is here.

Type 4 - Coily/kinky/afro hair

Can sometimes have a mind of its own, but with the right products and practice the tight, zig-zag curl pattern can grow and stay healthy looking. It is the most fragile hair type and is prone to tangling.

Our guide to caring for 4C hair is here.

What is hair porosity?

Your hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and maintain moisture and products. It is dependent on the number and size of gaps or tears in the cuticle layer – your hair’s protective layer. These are caused by heat damage and/or chemical treatments. The bigger the gaps and tears the more porous your hair is.

On the other hand, if the porosity levels are low that means the gaps and tears are a lot smaller, resulting in moisture and products not being absorbed and maintained as easily. It can cause products such as dry shampoos to sit on the hair and cause a longer wait time for the hair to dry. Ultimately medium porosity is the ideal level as the moisture is absorbed and doesn’t escape quickly. It’s the easiest porosity type to manage. But do not fear as porosity levels can be reversed with the correct haircare.

Tip: Find out your porosity level by laying a few strands of hair in a bowl or glass of water for a few minutes. If the hair sinks, it has high porosity, if it floats, the porosity is low and if your hair sits in the middle this is medium porosity.

Different hair types can have different levels of porosity. It’s usually down to genetics or hair damage, but luckily this can be changed. If your hair is coily or curly use hydrating and nourishing products to combat further damage. Lower porosity is generally more common in straighter hair. So if this is you, there will be a lack of moisture being absorbed into your hair. To avoid this, stay clear of heavy products and use a sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner. Find out how often you should wash hair here.

Ruby Barry is a Product Writer for heat, specialising in fashion and beauty. The team has nicknamed her "dupe queen", as there's not a product in the world she can't find a cheaper alternative for.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us