The 10 Best Natural Hair Products, According to Experts and Reviews
Many women have made the decision to go natural (translation: to wear hair the way it grows out of the scalp without any chemical straighteners like relaxers or perms), choosing to embrace their natural kinks, curls, coils, and waves. Because this requires extra time, patience, and a slight learning curve when it comes to choosing ingredients and products, going natural is not a trend or phase, but rather a lifestyle (and an adventure!). Keep scrolling for expert tips, plus the best natural hair products you'll want to add to your routine.
What role does your scalp play in having healthy, natural hair?
Scalp health is of absolute importance to achieving and maintaining healthy hair, says Hope Mitchell, MD, founder of Mitchell Dermatology in Ohio. Having a nutrient-rich foundation (aka your scalp) is critical, and when your base is blocked by dead skin, oil, sweat, or product buildup, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria—not to mention negatively impact the quality of your hair and its growth (more on that in a bit).
Your hair naturally creates oil, otherwise known as sebum, which comes from sebaceous glands in the skin of your scalp. Sebum helps to moisturize and protect your skin from infection. But, sometimes, you can have an overproduction or underproduction of sebum, which can result in an unhealthy scalp, notes Dr. Mitchell. Plus, when you have grime and excess oil building up around the follicle opening (read: where your hair grows out of), it can clog the follicle and stifle the hair root, causing folliculitis. Folliculitis can lead to inflammation of the hair follicles that result in infection, shedding, and hair loss.
Similarly, the use of too many products can lead to buildup, meaning flakes, a greasy scalp, and heavy, weighed down hair. Product build up on the scalp can also prevent the penetration of active ingredients into the follicles to perform the treatment tasks indicated and make it more difficult to cleanse the scalp and hair properly and effectively, explains Dr. Mitchell.
Another cause of an unhealthy scalp? Your scalp harbors organisms, such as malassezia (a type of yeast). With overgrowth of this yeast, you can develop a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which can have symptoms including redness, scaling, and itching, says Dr. Mitchell. While you might think oiling up your scalp is a simple solution, adding occlusive products will just worsen the condition, she warns. Her recommendation? Try using a medicated shampoo with zinc pyrithione, which has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, to reduce the overgrowth.
Does having a hair care routine matter?
An irritated scalp can also be caused by reactions to products or simply not cleansing your hair enough—so picking the right products and establishing a routine is crucial. Do you typically invest in your skincare regimen, making sure you give your complexion the TLC it deserves, but completely skip over scalp health? Treat your scalp as an extension of the skin on your face, advises Syracuse-based curly hair specialist Shakera Kemp, also known as The Cuse Curlfriend. You need to cleanse, exfoliate, and hydrate your scalp, just like you would your face.
Kemp recommends washing your hair every 5-10 days, depending on if you're prone to sweating, exercise regularly, or live in a congested area. She also cautions against using too many products at once, and says to instead keep it simple by selecting a shampoo, conditioner, and go-to styling product. More pro tips: for a "wash and go," Kemp uses plant-based gel, and for braids and twist outs, she opts for styling foam, because it allows flexible hold for manipulation-based styles.
Contrary to popular belief, those with natural hair should avoid heavy oils, since oils weigh down and coat the hair shaft, and repel water on wash days, says Kemp. You should also refrain from weekly deep conditioning—using it only as a "problem solver" when hair is super dry. On that note, skip the homemade conditioning concoctions you whip up in your kitchen (we see you avocado), as food has molecular weight that cannot be broken down by your hair, due to the fact that it lacks saliva and enzymes, like your mouth, to metabolize it, adds Kemp.
The best thing you can do is learn what works for your scalp, and be kind to your hair. Cleanse your scalp gently with warm water and an alcohol- and sulfate-free shampoo, suggests Dr. Mitchell. Why is this important? Sulfates can strip the scalp of its natural oils, leaving it dry and itchy. Also, consider daily scalp massages to evenly distribute natural oils. And remember your hair needs water for hydration, so grab the spray bottle and spritz those tresses, she adds.
Embracing and learning to care for your natural hair is a personal and enriching process that allows many women, and men, to truly love themselves the way they are, and fearlessly share that with the world. Keep scrolling for the best natural hair products to get you started on your journey.
Best Budget Shampoo: Camille Rose Sweet Ginger Rinse
The ginger root and aniseed oil in this formula work to naturally cleanse, clarify the scalp, and hydrate to relieve dryness and promote hair growth. Plus, the addition of cassia and castor oil leave your curls feeling extra moisturized and soft—ideal if your hair tends to feel dry. And at just $12 a bottle, you can achieve gorgeous locks without breaking the bank.
One reviewer on the brand's site wrote: "This is my new favorite shampoo. I have fine, dense 2B/2C hair and this is perfect for me. My hair feels so moisturized after washing and it helps encourage wave formation and volume. Usually my hair is more flat on the right side of my head, but it looks so much more even when I use this. It also smells great!"
Best Clarifying Shampoo: AG Hair Natural Balance Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo
This product is formulated with over 98% plant-based and naturally-derived ingredients, including organic apple cider vinegar that naturally closes the hair cuticle for additional shine and organic argan oil and aloe vera, which both work to smooth and moisturize your strands. One Amazon customer with 4C-textured hair, claims it's "super moisturizing," and "excellent for any type of hair," including their own.
"I was looking for a clarifying shampoo because my hair needed it badly. I was about to buy another one, but asked the girl at Ulta her opinion, since I am no expert. She recommended this one, for natural hair, since that is what her stylist uses for her natural hair, too. The price made me hesitant, but OMG, I am elated I tried it. It smells good, lathers extremely well, and my hair was very clean, but not stripped. As recommended, I did follow up with a moisturizing shampoo as well, conditioned and deep conditioned. I will not use it every week, only as needed, but it is definitely part of my hair arsenal now," noted another shopper on Ulta's site.
Best Hydrating Shampoo: Heavenly Halo Herbal Hair Tonic & Soy Milk Deep Hydration Shampoo
Packed with good-for-your-hair vitamins and nutrients, this is an ultra-hydrating cleanser that removes impurities, softens strands, improves shine, and provides lots of slip for detangling. If you're a curly girl with dry hair, this offers the right amount of hydration to boost the health of your locks.
"Some hair products dry my hair out and cause it to get more tangled than usual," shared a reviewer on the brand's website. "This shampoo always makes my hair bounce back to normal. My curls are hydrated, shiny, and not over-stripped whatsoever. Love it!!"
Best Hair Mask: Cantu Txtr By Treat Strengthen + Restore Moisture Mask
Infused with hydrating shea butter, soothing spearmint oil, and nourishing canola oil that helps prevent split ends, this masks gives tresses a big punch of moisture. It also contains baobab and watercress extracts to strengthen strands and minimize shedding, which is great for those concerned with thinning or hair that lacks volume. Plus, it's made without silicone, mineral oil, or parabens, making it safe for sensitive skin types.
One fan said: "This deep conditioner is hands down the best I have ever used on my fine, low porosity, bra strap length curly hair. Honestly, I cried at first use because I have spent a small fortune on searching for my "holy grail deep conditioner," only to be let down over and over again. I apply this after using the Apple cider vinegar shampoo (love this too) and place my hair in six big twists; I cover with a plastic bag and sit under a heated dryer for 30 minutes, and when I rinse, my curls are defined, soft and super shiny. My manageability is insane!"
Best Conditioner Overall: AG Hair Natural Boost Conditioner
Just like the AG shampoo, this conditioner is formulated with over 98% plant-based and naturally-derived ingredients. It combines coconut and rosehip oil, mango seed and shea butter, olive leaf extract, and organic apple cider vinegar to detangle, smooth frizz, and seal in moisture. Also worth noting: This conditioner is gentle enough for all hair types, including color-treated strands.
"I've had natural hair since the late 90s. Until last year, I always thought my hair was extra dry and I used mostly products containing butters and oils. I was always buying new hair stuff because the stuff I'd just bought wasn't "working." The purchase of this shampoo and conditioner helped change my life and hair game. After a year of doing 1-hour wash and go's weekly, clarifying with the proper shampoos when my hair needs it, using botanical gels, etc., my natural hair is in the best shape it's been in.... ever," reported a shopper.
Best Budget Conditioner: Camille Rose Moroccan Pear Conditioning Custard
Moroccan pear, cherry kernel extracts, jojoba and coconut oils gives hair a dose of moisture and vitamins for hydrated, shiny-looking locks. Not to mention, multiple reviews noted that it smells amazing—just like fruit loops!
"Fantastic product!" raved a customer. "This makes my hair feel incredibly soft! After using this product, my hair has barely any tangles. My hair type is 3b/c to 4a with varying hair types in different sections."
Best Curl Stimulator: Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic Stimulator
If you're looking for a hair styling product that can tame frizz while stimulating curls, look no further than this gel, specifically made for kinky, curly, and wavy textures. It features aloe vera to moisturize and treat dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and even hair loss caused by these conditions. Just finger comb the product, section by section, on soaking wet hair, and either diffuse or allow to air dry.
One reviewer wrote: "Love this gel for my type 4 natural hair! I started doing the 30 [day hair] detox for no oils/butters and I'm amazed at how moisturized my hair feels days after using this product! I get great definition and reduced frizz! It takes awhile to air dry but worth it!"
Best Mousse: The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam
Whether you have textured curls or sleek straight hair, this mousse provides shine, volume, and the perfect amount of hold that doesn't feel crunchy or heavy. The natural humectants and silk protein in the formula also help to keep hair hydrated and resist humidity.
"This mousse is the bomb.com!" raved a shopper. "I twisted my thick 4C hair on a Friday night. Left the twist in for two days. I took the twist down on Monday morning and my twist out has been popping since then. I am so glad I have found this mousse. Today makes five days of having the twist unraveled and it still looks good. No frizz. Just popping."
Best Gel: Innersense Organic Beauty I Create Hold Styling Gel
Featuring all natural and organic ingredients to protect strands and add shine, this styling gel boasts aloe and honey, which help to achieve shape, definition, and a firm hold that still allows hair to feel soft-to-the-touch.
"Hands down my new go-to gel for styling my wash and go along with the other products I use. Was introduced to this product by a stylist that did how to videos during the start of the quarantine period. Thankful for the knowledge of this product," said a customer.
Best Hair Butter: Carol's Daughter Coco Creme Coil Enhancing Moisture Butter
This buttery styling cream is made with sweet almond and coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax to define, add shine, and moisturize dry curls and coils.
"Just amazing!!!!! I've been looking for something like this for so long and I finally found it. This leave-in conditioner is perfect for my curls, it softens and moisturizes my hair and the smell [is] OMG just divine!!! I'm proudly going to say that this is my new creme and I will be trying more of their other products for sure," reported a fan.
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