Sulfate-Free Selects that Won’t Break the Bank

I know I blather often about the importance of going sulfate-free. More than often. Perhaps constantly is a better adjective. But at the end of the day, here is the deal. SLS's are a cheap way to give you that foaming cleanser that you associate with being clean.

Here’s the thing: foam strips the oil and dirt from your hair and leaves a film behind. You then condition your hair to add back moisture, but your hair gets dirty and limp really fast. So you strip it and leave more film behind. Then any time you sleep on your hair, are exposed to ickies like pollution or use a product, your hair gets dirty. Thanks to the mini-fly strip like sticky film that is left behind on your hair, it’s hard to get it really clean. Then you switch to a different shampoo (with a different concentration of SLS) and suddenly your hair is AWESOME.

Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about. Breaking the cycle is the way out of bad hair days.

I realize that many of the sulfate-free shampoos I rave about aren’t cheap. Just because your wallet isn’t fat doesn’t mean you can’t have great hair days. Here are my choices for the best budget sulfate-free shampoos.


Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Shampoo
This leaves hair feeling nice and clean without the use of annoying sulfates. It’s hydrating and cleansing, leaving your hair smooth and with less frizz than you started with. Plus it contains keratin, argan oil and grape seed oil to help strengthen, smooth and shine your hair.


L’OREAL Paris EverStrong
This is always a solid choice. You may have to use a bit of oil or conditioner afterwards, depending on your hair, but it’s a great option that is usually on sale.

As I Am Coconut CoWash (Sally’s Beauty)
This cleansing conditioner is meant for ethnic hair, but if you have dry or damaged locks, it’s for you no matter your ethnicity. Full of rich oils and butters, this will make your hair feel like a million bucks without spending more than $10.


Organix Smooth Hydration Argan Oil & Shea Butter Shampoo
This is another great choice, especially if you have curly hair. It’s eco-friendly and smells fantastic!

Or, you can just do what my sister Abz swears by: straight co-washing. Co-washing is the practice of not using a shampoo, ever. She uses whatever conditioner she has laying around. Often it's something by Suave! Abz wets her hair thoroughly, applies an ample amount of conditioner, scrubs the scalp and rinses really well. She uses more products than I do (hair spray!) and doesn’t seem to ever have an issue. Her hair is wavy, shiny and beautiful. And very, very inexpensive!

Would you give up the suds or do you have a hard time getting over the feelings of sudsing? Discuss with me in the comments!

I purchased all of these products. May contain affiliate links.

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  1. I hate the smell of the Loreal sulfate free shampoos. Horrible. I absolutely loved WEN but am convinced Wen was making my hair fall out in clumps..which sucks because I loved that stuff!!

    1. I also can not stand the smell of the L'Oreal sulfate free shampoos. I tried them all and they all smelled like PineSol to me! (The EverCreme one smelled great, but was much too moisturizing cor my hair.)

  2. YOU are the most smell sensitive person I know! :-) (says the girl who has a sinus issue 24/7 and can't smell very well)

    I doubt Wen is making your hair fall out in clumps. Sometimes when you wash without suds, more hair comes out, but it's nothing that wouldn't fall out naturally. Going sulfate free, many people report more hair comes out when you scrub. Personally, I think it is similar to petting a dog v. brushing a dog.

    Or you could be allergic to one of the ingredients in Wen. I'd be curious to see if you did a patch test if you would have a reaction.

  3. I am allergic to sooooo many shampoos with natural ingredients and have to use a dandruff shampoo two to three times a week just to stop the itching. Any suggestions???

    1. Hmmm. This is a tricky question. Do you know what is causing the itchies? It could be a scalp condition (Loxy has one from time to time) dandruff or just dry scalp. Aveeno has a nice new dandruff shampoo. But if you need to moisturize your scalp, maybe you need to add some oil to your scalp prior to shampoo and use something gentle? It's best to ask your stylist what is up with your scalp if you don't already know the cause of the itchies. If it's only allergies (like that isn't enough), do you know what you are reacting too? My good friend Phyrra has issues with sulfates making her itch. Or you could be allergic to something that is added for scent. It's hard to tell! Let me know if you figure it out!

    2. Thank you!! I just bought that aveeno...someone else told me to try it too:) I have not figured it out...I know anything from Matrix/Biolage, Aveda or Back to Basics make me itch like crazy. So obviously there is something that they all use. I just avoid them. I do know that my itchy scalp can be hormonal too...something I got with with all three of my pregnancies...weird I know!!I am going to try that "as I am"...I will let you know if it works!! LOVE your rock!!!

    3. Thank you! I get why Aveda would make your scalp itch. Aveda (in my opinion) is just marketing hype. Some of the ingredient names are misleading and the actual ingredients are the same as what is in regular shampoos. It doesn't make them bad, it just makes them the same as other basic shampoos. The Beauty Brains explains it pretty well:

      Most of the shampoos you mention (I sampled ingredients, I don't know which one specifically) use sodium laureth Sulfate as the cleansing agent and have fragrances that could bother you.

      Please let me know how the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash works for you. It's got lots of soothing oils and I don't think they would irritate, but I'm not a doctor. :-) I hope it works for you! Please let me know xoxo

  4. I'd be willing to try sulfate free shampoos, but I'm totally used to feeling and seeing suds in my shampoos.

  5. When I first tied sulfate free shampoos, not having the suds really felt wrong. I thought something was wrong. But you get used to it pretty fast and it just feels good too.

  6. Haha, many complaint about the smelly things from the shampoo. Yeah, so the company need to improve the shampoo. And about allergic, please choose the suitable one.

    Ok, back to your review, as I know many fans of sulfate free shampoo always recommend L’OREAL Paris EverStrong as a 100% sulfate-free. But careful to use it with keratin-treated hair.


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