We frequently have customers in our store and online asking us if the shampoo and conditioner they're using matters if they want great curls.
The short answer is: yes. The long answer requires a bit more information.
How are curly shampoos and conditioners different from other ones?
Curly and textured hair is naturally drier than straight hair because the oils from our scalp can't easily travel down the lengths of our hair due to all those bends and coils. We also don't brush as often, so we're not helping distribute those oils ourselves. Most shampoos and conditioners that have been formulated especially for curly hair contain more moisturizing ingredients and fewer harsh cleansers (i.e. sulfates) that can strip those necessary oils. This is by far the biggest difference we've noticed between brands that have created curly hair-specific shampoos and conditioners and those that claim to be for everyone.
Products like co-washes (conditioner washes) are almost exclusively offered for curly hair. These are usually heavier in moisturizing ingredients than a standard shampoo and some don't contain any cleansers at all. If you're looking for a co-wash that will still clean your hair, we recommend the Curlsmith Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash.
Why a curly shampoo is an important part of your wash day routine
Have you ever noticed that it is popular in the curly communities to see how long you can go without washing your hair? We are not fans of this trend and think you should wash as often as you need to, whether you're using a shampoo, co-wash, or alternating between the two (which we also recommend if you're co-washing). Infrequent washing may suit your hair if you were using a "regular" shampoo, but it can irritate your scalp in the long run.
Many curl-friendly shampoos are very gentle. If you are shampooing a few times per week, you won't be stripping those important oils and sebum that would be washed away with a "regular" shampoo.
Additionally, most curly shampoos do not contain drying alcohols or sulfates. These ingredients can dry out our curls quickly and make it hard to keep our hair adequately moisturized (especially if you live in a dry climate like we do here in Calgary).
Some of the most popular gentle cleansing shampoos we offer at Curl Warehouse are:
- Jessicurl Gentle Lather Shampoo
- Inahsi Naturals Soothing Mint Gentle Cleansing Shampoo
- Miribel Naturals Creamy Hair Cleanser (one step up from a co-wash - not recommended for hard water)
- TreLuxe Curl Renew & Restore Gentle Cleansing Rinse
One stipulation about using a gentle shampoo as your regular cleanser is that you will likely need a clarifying shampoo every few weeks. These are slightly stronger, sulfate-free shampoos that remove additional build up your gentle shampoo may not be able to get through. Some of the most popular clarifying shampoos with our customers are the Malibu C Un Do Goo and Inahsi Naturals Soothing Mint Clarifying Shampoo.
Curly conditioners have many benefits over other conditioners
You may hear people refer to conditioners as having "great slip." We have a blog post about slip that you can read here. This essentially means that a conditioner contains ingredients that make the hair feel slippery like seaweed when you run your fingers through it with the conditioner applied. If you detangle in the shower, we highly recommend a curl-specific conditioner because they are often very slippery! Our favourite slippery conditioners are the Inahsi Naturals Soothing Mint Moisturizing Conditioner, Uncle Funky's Daughter Richee Rich, and the LUS Brands Love Ur Curls Detangling Silicone-Free Conditioner.
Every time you wet your hair, you are drying it out. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true. Ensuring you're adding a moisturizing conditioner each time you get your hair wet is important to keeping your curls flexible and moisturized.
Curly hair is susceptible to being frizzy. A common cause of frizz is a lifted cuticles, which can be improved with a good conditioner as it will smooth out your individual hair strands. Also, conditioners are meant to stay in your hair even once you rinse them out (read more about that by clicking this link). A good conditioner with curl-friendly ingredients can help keep your hair moisturized and frizz-free until your next wash day.
One other thing to keep in mind is that silicones aren't the bad guy they're often portrayed to be. They provide excellent thermal protection if you're blow drying or diffusing, and they can also give frizzy hair a sleeker finish. Water-soluble silicones are most often recommended - and used frequently in conditioners marketed for curly hair - because they'll rinse out easily when you next shampoo. However, many silicones will still rinse out with a good clarifying shampoo like Malibu C Un Do Goo. If you think silicones might be what is missing from your routine, you could try the VERB Curl Conditioner or Richee Rich from Uncle Funky's Daughter. Both of these conditioners are formulated specifically for curly hair and contain silicones.
Let's face it: most of us don't have a lot of time to deep condition regularly. I certainly don't. A conditioner formulated for curly hair can help keep your hair well moisturized even if you regularly skip the deep conditioner.
Worried about too much moisture from a conditioner? One of our favourite tricks for fine-haired or low-density wavies is to use a leave-in conditioner as a rinse out. They're slightly lighter than a typical rinse-out conditioner but still provide the curl-loving ingredients you'll need. We often recommend TreLuxe Untie the Knot or Bounce Curl Moisture Balance Leave-in Conditioner for this purpose.
A quality shampoo and conditioner provide a better base for your styling products
If you think about your hair as a work of art, your shampoo and conditioner prep the canvas for your styling products. They ensure it is clean and primed for the next step while maintaining those necessary oils and improving the overall manageability and flexibility of your hair.
Your other products won't work nearly as well if your hair is stripped of moisture, tangled, or frizzy, which are often complaints we hear from customers who are using products that weren't specifically designed for their hair type.
Do I need to use shampoo and conditioner from the same brand to get good results?
Sticking with the same brand for your shampoo and conditioner takes some of the guess work out of figuring out what will work best for your hair, but it is not necessary. We will often recommend a shampoo from one brand and a conditioner from another if we think you'll benefit from them via email or in person during a product consultation.
Does my shampoo and conditioner have to be formulated for curly hair to work?
The shampoo and conditioner you choose don't necessarily have to be specifically designed for curls to improve the overall health of your hair. This is especially true if your hair is not dry, coarse, or is weighed down easily or low density. Those extra moisturizing ingredients we talked about may be too much for your hair. Equally the cleansers may not be strong enough if you're prone to product build up.
Using products from a great brand like Innersense Organic Beauty, who offer a variety of shampoo and conditioner combinations for all hair types, can improve your results with all of your products by taking care of your hair from the root to the tip of each and every curl. Using a product designed to improve your hair's health with high quality ingredients, rather than just wash or condition it, can also provide a great start for your styling routine.
Will a curly shampoo and conditioner make my hair curlier?
No. It may make your hair healthier, which will help bring out the best in your curls. But a shampoo and conditioner alone will not make your hair curlier than it is naturally.
In summary, your shampoo and conditioner do matter if you want to get the best out of your curls because some formulations are designed to cater to the specific needs of curly or textured hair or overall hair health. This is important to get amazing results every time you wash and style your hair.
If you're looking for the right combination of shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, feel free to reach out to us any time via email at email@example.com or visit us in store for a product consultation.